Having just started to use internet marketing in our own business and trying to bring together all the different components to deliver a set of desired outcomes, we have discovered it is not a simple task. We have created a huge amount of online content from websites, blog sites, micro-blogging, and social media network participation. But and it is a big but, how do you convert all this activity (or lack of it) into a coherent message that brings visitors to your target online content and transcends to registrations and / or sales?
To be honest we have been merrily creating web content, accounts on twitter, Facebook pages, blogs and regularly posting but without paying specific attention to the direction or the message. This has been a conscious choice on our part as we were not ready to join everything up yet, so we just started by increasing our online profile until we were set to go. I think this is one of the big hurdles for most people entering Internet Marketing at any level is… why am I doing this? Why am I posting content onto Blogs, twittering, when no one is visiting anyway? I’m not reading my other 1000 followers tweets, so I am sure they are not reading mine! If I’m the only one ready what I’m writing I’d sooner not bother! 2 Blog posts a day, why? for what? What am I going to say? What difference will it make?
We expect those new to Internet Marketing to blindly accept that ‘you should get a blog, you should use Twitter and join Facebook… trust me… you will see the benefit, later on everything will be much clearer…’
Here then is the issue… of course signing up to these services, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linked in or any other social media platform is not in itself going to make any difference to a business. Just the same as printing some leaflets for a mailshot and leaving them in the garage, or attending networking meetings and not talking to anyone, these won’t make much impact either.
The facts are that Internet Marketing is a complex business. It performs the functions of building individual’s profiles and credibility, Brand awareness and product / service sales via one medium. Each of these areas requires different techniques, services and strategies online, but you can’t go about this in a half baked, apathetic manner. Internet Marketing has the ability to transform businesses, enable small companies to compete with the ‘big boys’ and build new enterprises from nothing but not by making one blog post a week, the odd twitter tweet now and then and complaining that sales haven’t increased yet!
So what is the reality? The reality is this, that Internet marketing provides the ability to reach 100,000’s of people and quickly, but it won’t happen without effort… A LOT OF IT!
Most Small Business’s are owned privately, very often by the entrepreneur who found a niche, designed a new product or took advantage of an opportunity. These individuals are often technical people and suffer from the old ‘Feast and Famine’ syndrome that finds refuge in Micro and small businesses. When we’re in Sales mode we are extremely busy, when servicing customers, prospects dry up… then we’re found scratching around for business again which happens, eventually, months after we needed it.
Now typical business owners don’t think of themselves as sales people and will readily admit they don’t like this part of the business and yet without it the business can’t survive. I’ve heard many a business owner admit they are not sales people, ‘I’m basically too honest to be a sales person’ as if a sales person’s role was to somehow convince someone to buy a product they don’t need and don’t want. Well, let us now separate Marketing from Sales.
Marketing is encouraging people to consider your products and services… visitors if you like, whereas Sales is the matching of the customers requirements to your offerings. At no point in this is there any persuasion or manipulation… better still, much of this sales process can be automated with Internet Marketing. Marketing requires an audience to market too… sales requires us to provide information, substantiate our offering and provide a method to engage with us.
You will hear this time and time again with the Internet Marketing crowd… ‘the money is in the list!’ and if we are to market successfully then having a list to inform on a regular basis is absolutely essential. If we apply this to offline marketing, most of the hard work in sending out a mailshot was creating a quality list of people in the first place… our target audience! If we are to engage the services of a Direct Marketing company for a telephone campaign… at some point before this a list must be found, either from an existing database or bought from an organisation specialising in such Lists, the higher the quality the better.
So let us now see what relevance our Online – Internet Marketing activities have in identifying a target market. Consider Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, Blog subscribers and Registrations for an ezine or other regular communication… what are these?
They are lists of course! lists of people who in some way have connected with you and are probably comfortable to receive correspondence from you or your business. Herein lies the secret then behind why we should bother at all to seek people out, follow and be followed. List building… and the good news is that it can be quite good fun too!
Now in our business we have 5 main products offerings… some of these products have an overlapping potential audience, others do not. It may be necessary therefore to have multiple accounts for Twitter and / or a separate Facebook page for the different audience. Already you can see that if we are to manage, maintain and post for each product on a regular basis (desirable) then this is a substantial amount of work.
One of the difficulties that some of my colleagues have with building a large list of friends or followers is, ‘How can you possibly keep in touch with all these people?, I struggle to stay in touch with my immediate relatives’ and for sure, personally corresponding with 60,000 people is not viable… but this is not the point.
These social sites represent a massive network of interconnected people, you are not necessarily communicating on a 1-2-1 basis (although you can do this) but rather are broadcasting what you want to say to everyone who is connected and often to their immediate connections as well!! Suddenly we have the ability to get a message to a very large audience with a single post.
Now… most people certainly with Twitter won’t see your post, and a good many won’t in Facebook or Linked-In either, however this is not an issue. It is not our problem to worry about who will see our posting or not, that is not our responsibility and we should avoid getting attached to the outcome. Our role is to provide the information (post), that is it… Now there is a magic number in marketing and sales this is 3%. This little number is very important. It is the recognised average response rate in a cold market… sometimes it can be more, often less. If we sent out 1000 mailshots then it would be acceptable to set a benchmark of 30 as the number of positive responses. This is about the same % that I have experienced in responses to click-through’s on Tweets and Facebook postings. Taking these numbers if we tweeted with a follower list of 30,000 then we could expect around 900 visits. We have absolutely no idea which ones will click the link… or tell a friend or retweet, however the figures can be quite staggering… Imagine if you worked with other ‘Big List’ owners and offered a percentage to tweet to their lists… and you did this 3 times per day… the number of visits could become very large indeed.
The lists provide us with a ‘potential market’ for our products and the purpose of this article is not to go into the detailed techniques for building lists, only that it should be very high up on the list of priorities. So how much time, money and effort should be put into this exercise?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of a business, the ideal customer profile and many other factors, clearly a restaurant has a different set of requirements to someone selling a digital product (such as an ebook) globally. The first thing is to decide an Internet Marketing strategy which is complimentary to the business, once this is defined then the activities required become much clearer.
Once the basic Architecture of the marketing is defined then comes the work and the Investment. If I look at our business as an example, we have invested in three key areas, Colateral, People and services. Lets look at what is involved in each of these -:
We have 5 blogs, 6 websites (some complex, some a single page), 7 Twitter accounts, Facebook (4 Business Pages), Linked-In, Ecademy, Hub Pages, StumbleUpon, Squidoo and other online social networking accounts, all these had to be set up, populated, and now managed on an ongoing basis. This is not something which can be done in 20 minutes per day. We have to work all of these resources on a regular basis to keep ourselves in the ‘Public eye’.
We have invested in 1 full time person, plus both myself and another member of staff allocate 3 or 4 hours per day to Internet Marketing activities. Firstly staff require training to use the tools that enable us to work our internet marketing, including analyze results. These resources manage our social networking sites, engage with our contacts frequently, update profiles as things change and post new content constantly. This cost alone is over $3000 per calendar month, developing and building our online presence.
We utilise a number of ‘helper’ services which are online and rented monthly, these include subscriptions to some Business Networks, Shopping cart and checkout services, Databases that contain sign-ups for ezines and regular communication, Membership platforms, Blogging services and many many more. None of these services are hugely expensive month on month but vital to continue our Online Marketing activities.
Business Internet Marketing – Taking an offline business and using Internet Marketing techniques to increase sales utilises many of the techniques and tools that conventional Internet Marketing has developed and built over the past 8-10 years. We have all heard the stories of individuals with no overheads generating large monthly incomes without setting foot outside their door, but Internet Marketing is moving into a new phase, one where Offline Businesses will seek to engage the Internet to work for them.
I speak with many Micro and Small businesses on a regular basis and most are oblivious to Internet Marketing and what it could do for them, whether this is because no one has yet bothered to show them, or there is a fear and reluctance to dance with the unknown, or a bit of both perhaps. One thing is for sure, Business Internet Marketing will be deployed by every business over the coming 10-20 years and it is set to be one of the largest markets worldwide.
As we saw with offline marketing in the past where we had PR, Advertising and Marketing agencies, so we shall see the emergence of similar businesses offering Business Internet Marketing services. Traditional companies in this marketing space will need to evolve and offer a completely new range of services The print industry went through a similar metamorphosis some years back, when pre-press production moved entirely to computers and revolutionized the marketplace.
As the Internet Marketing industry matures and the ‘Get Rich Quick’ mentality fades, successful Internet Marketers will bring a wealth of experience and begin to offer professional Business Internet Marketing solutions to Small and Medium sized businesses. Not shackled with the conventional trappings of offices the Business Internet Marketers will manage a network of global outsourced resources to deliver high quality, low cost Internet Market solutions. The services will include the whole range of activities from setting up infrastructure services such as Blogs or Shopping carts to transactional activities such as managing Twitter accounts, searching and posting tweets, finding / posting suitable blog posts, even writing articles and sending email campaigns.
Without doubt we are on the edge of yet another evolution with the Internet. Some larger companies, such as IBM and Dell have already woken up to the power of using the Internet and Social networking to engage with a global audience, small businesses have been busy surviving the recession… but as the recovery gathers pace, I am sure that Business Internet Marketing will become an attractive proposition for many.