Marketing is evil
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “marketing”. What feelings get stirred up inside you? A lot of people have developed a real disdain for marketing, so much so that even hearing the word “marketing” makes them bristle. Why do you think this is? It could be because we associate marketing with advertising, with being sold to, and with sleazy salesmen cold calling us when we are obviously eating dinner right now and we’re definitely not interested so please take me off your list, thank you very much!
When people ask me what I do I tell them I’m a web designer and an internet marketing expert. Then I get that look that says “Oh, you’re one of them.” Them. The bad guys. The evildoers. But I know that’s not the truth. The truth is that I help businesses to grow and to thrive and to become the awesome thing they were always meant to be. I do this using freely available, non-sleazy marketing strategies that have been proven to work.
Marketing is not advertising
Let’s be clear about what marketing is and is not. First off, marketing is not advertising. There can be elements of advertising in your overall marketing strategy, and I’ll mention a couple of these later in this article, but advertising and marketing are not one and the same. According to the Google definition, advertising is “the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services.” Marketing, on the other hand, is about creating a valuable product or service that people truly need, creating strong relationships with your target audience that fosters likability and trust in you and your brand, and then selling that product or service to that audience. Marketing isn’t just the lifeblood of your business, marketing IS your business.
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Now that we know how important marketing is, let’s discuss 5 digital marketing strategies that will help grow your business.
1. The email list
The email list is probably the most important digital marketing strategy in use today. Email is still the best way to directly communicate with your audience. Getting an email from someone is very personal and it’s probably the best way to get a two-way conversation going. Think about it. Would you be more apt to write a comment on a blog post or to answer an email question that was sent directly to you? Communicating via email is a great way to build personal relationships with your audience and those relationships will help keep your business thriving.
Email marketing strategies
Get free stuff here
All the experts agree that you should be collecting email addresses via your website from day one. But how do you get someone to give you their email address? A great way of encouraging visitors to sign up for your email list is to offer them something of value in exchange for their email address. Write an epic blog post or article and turn it into a free guide, a how-to manual, or an ebook. You could send them a coupon or offer a discount. The idea is to give your audience something of value for free that they can truly use. They’ll be more than happy to give up their address for something they feel will be helpful to them.
Feed your audience
Another great email marketing strategy is to integrate your blog’s RSS feed with your email campaign. What that means is that every time you publish a new blog post, an email copy of that post will be automatically sent out to your entire list. How awesome is that? Setting this up takes a bit of upfront work, but it isn’t all that complicated. First, you definitely want to be using an email marketing service like MailChimp, AWeber, or Constant Contact. Next, figure out your blog’s RSS feed URL. For example, mine is http://www.focus5design.com/feed/ After that it’s just a matter of creating an RSS-driven email campaign with your service provider. MailChimp has a great tutorial here.
Autoresponders are our friends
Autoresponders are simply emails that your create ahead of time and that get sent out automatically when someone signs up for your list, or on whatever schedule you define. Autoresponders are ideal for following up with your audience on a regular basis. You can send them an email a week after downloading your awesome ebook asking them what they thought of it. You could setup an autoresponder to go out once a month just asking your audience what’s on their minds. This is a great way to get inside their heads, to really understand their problems. And it’s only when you understand their problems that you can truly help them.
One last, but very important thought
Be consistent. Consistency is the key to steadily growing your business, so make sure you are showing up in your target audience’s inbox on a regular basis. About once a week is usually good. Much more than that and you risk being annoying and sounding like one of those sleazy marketing evildoers.
Next to your email list your website is the most important factor in all of your digital marketing strategies. It is the central hub that all of your external marketing points to. In a recent post I discussed the importance of effective website design. The gist of it is that your website has to look good, offer great content, work well, and be easy to use. It also has to be optimized for search engine visibility and to help with search engine rankings. This is what is meant by the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But with the way Google keeps changing their search algorithms, it’s getting difficult to get ranked high in search engine results pages (SERPs) using traditional SEO methods. Gone are the days when you could just sprinkle some keywords around your website and be ranked number one.
Content is (still) king
SEO is still very important, but instead of just focusing on search engine optimization, let’s think in terms of content optimization or content marketing. The number one thing you can do to start getting ranked high in SERPs is to create awesome content on a regular basis.That’s it. If you have tons of great content out there all focused on what your target audience finds helpful, your SEO job gets pretty easy.
Now that you’re creating lots of great content, you still want to make sure everything you produce is optimized. There are some awesome tools available to help you do this. One of the best is the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, and it’s totally free. WordPress SEO analyzes your content as you write and offers tips for creating better headlines, using keywords properly, writing better meta descriptions, including image alt tags, and lots more. The WordPress SEO plugin is an essential tool for every WordPress installation I do, but I’m not the only one who thinks so; it has been downloaded more than 8 million times!
SEO is a huge topic and you can get as granular in your approach as you choose, but the easiest way to get off to a good start is by creating a slew of great content and optimizing that content using something like WordPress SEO.
3. Be everywhere
Another great digital marketing strategy that has been proven to help grow your business is to be everywhere. It’s great that you have a blog and you are sharing lots of valuable content, but if you really want to grow your business you have to be everywhere. Keep creating great content, sending those emails, and sharing on all the relevant social media platforms, but there are a few other things you can do to get your ideas and your name out there and reach some unexplored segments of your target audience.
Be where your audience is
A great way to get lots of positive exposure online is to frequent the places where your target audience hangs out. Find the user forums, Google+ communities, Facebook groups, etc. relevant to your target audience and participate in the discussions. For example, if you are a plumber you could find some groups or forums where people ask questions about their plumbing problems. As an experienced plumber, you could offer tips and suggestions that would be extremely helpful to that community. Your professional advice would make you a resident expert.
Live and in person
Another way of being everywhere is to actually be everywhere. Attend local Meetups and seminars relevant to your business, participate and make connections. Can’t find something in your area? Create it! Start your own Meetup, seminar, or conference. Make yourself the keynote speaker or invite other professionals in your field to share their expertise.
Paid advertising should never be your only marketing method, but it can be a very helpful component of your overall digital marketing strategy. Google AdWords (those ads you see at the top of SERPs) account for almost 65% of all clicks on search results pages, as opposed to 35% for organic, unpaid results. Google AdWords campaigns are pay-per-click (PPC), you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. They are also fairly easy to setup using keywords as triggers for displaying your ads.
Facebook ads are another easy way of getting your message out to your target audience. You can get pretty specific on who sees your ads, so you can be sure you’re targeting the right people. For example if you can have your ads only show up on pages of women between the ages of 30-35 who live in Cincinnati, OH and have Pilates listed as one of their interests. Cool, huh?
5. Measure it
If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it
You need to be constantly monitoring your methods to see what’s working and what’s not. Only by inspecting the results will you be able to make improvements to your processes. Google Analytics is a must for measuring user behavior and activity on your website. Facebook also has a pretty decent analytics tool that shows how your posts are performing. Paid services like Sprout Social gather all of your social data and display tons of great metrics to help you see how you’re doing everywhere, all in one easy-to-use dashboard.
Hot, hot, heatmaps
Other usability tools like ClickTale and Crazy Egg show heatmaps of where visitors spend the most time on your site, how far they scroll, where they click, etc. This is invaluable data for making your website easier to use and to literally see where your visitors are getting stuck or dropping off.
Another useful method of measuring your digital marketing effectiveness is with split or A/B testing. Split testing is simply offering two slightly different versions of the same thing and seeing which one works best. For instance, your website has an email opt-in form asking for a user’s name, email address, and a blue button that says “submit”. You could create a second opt-in form with a red button and show that version randomly to half of your visitors. Which one was clicked on more often? Blue or red? Another example is to divide your email list in half and send out two versions of the same email, each with a different subject line. Which one was opened more often?
Your digital marketing strategy shouldn’t be set in stone, it should be dynamic. Put some of these proven practices into use, see how they work for you, and then course correct when necessary. Marketing isn’t evil, it’s just business.
What did I miss? What digital marketing strategies have worked for you? What questions do you have? Take a moment and share your comments and feedback below. I’d love to hear from you!