If you’re on this website, chances are you’re looking to up your online marketing game. Whether you’ve already jumped into the digital marketing universe or are reluctantly conceding for the first time that this whole “world wide web” thing appears to be sticking around for a while, you’ve likely arrived at the conclusion that there is a lot more to marketing your business online than simply owning a website.
It’s easy to get lost in the maze of tools and tricks of the trade, so in this 3rd module of our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business, we’ll break down the hallmarks of a successful online marketing plan into 7 basic components that you can implement into your own ongoing marketing strategy (or hire someone to do for you). Keep in mind that you can apply these principles whether you are building a website for the first time or are looking to improve upon an online presence that you already have in place.
You’re probably thinking, “well, duh, of course a marketing plan needs to have objectives.” Yes, but the reason I included objectives is so that you can be confident that you are creating the right objectives. It’s not enough to have the general objective of selling more products or increasing revenue. A successful ongoing digital marketing plan will include the following three categories of objectives.
These objectives are related to how many people you want to get to visit your website. When creating your traffic objectives, you’ll want to include KPIs and well-defined goals, not vague ideas. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are numerical metrics that are used to track the progress that you are making toward your specific objectives, and tracking them will go a long way in helping you to determine whether or not your marketing strategies are working.
Examples of key performance indicators include: sales revenue, lead-to-customer ratio, organic traffic, social media referral traffic, email click-thru rate, and the list goes on and on. Your KPIs will vary depending on your business model and marketing needs, but the point is that your traffic objectives need to be specific and trackable.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you own a restaurant in Redmond, OR. One of your traffic goals might be to receive 300 visitors/month to your website by a certain date. One KPI you might want to measure could be the number of “clicks” from organic searches (e.g. people typing “restaurant Redmond OR” into Google) as measured by Google Search Console over a 30-day period.
Think of this as the architecture of your website. Content objectives define the kind of content you want to have as part of your online marketing plan, whether that be on your initial website build, in your emails, or on social media. Again, be specific. Do you want certain images or videos? Blog articles? Downloadable documents?
Before you wantonly throw up a website, add a new blog post or open a social media account and stare at empty space, you would do well to determine the nature of the content you would like to include. Continuing with the restaurant example, one of your content goals might be to provide a copy of your menu on your website. If you have a Facebook page for your business, you could set your content objective as creating 3 unique posts per month. For more on the specific make-up of your content, see # 4.
Once you’ve gotten visitors to your website and expose them to your exceptional content, you need them to actually do something. Conversion objectives represent the actions you want visitors to take. Perhaps you want more people to sign up for your newsletter or make a donation or purchase online. As with your traffic objectives, create goals with specific numbers that you can track to see how you are doing in reaching those goals.
If you are the restaurant owner in Redmond, your conversion objectives would likely include an increase in the number of customers entering your restaurant, or perhaps a measurable increase in the number of take-out orders. However, keep in mind that these objectives need to be trackable, so if one of your objectives is for customers to visit your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to focus on the measurable micro-conversions that will likely occur as a direct result of your online marketing efforts before they walk through your door. This could mean that they sign up for an email list or click a designated link to receive a coupon.
Core Job to Be Done
Finally, succinctly describe the principal goal of your business by describing what end-benefit it provides to it’s customers. Try to whittle it down to its most basic form, ideally a sentence or two. Your business statement might include more than one objective (i.e. customer service, employment opportunities), but try to focus on most the important one(s).
The core job to be done isn’t just your core product or service, it can actually go much deeper than that. Think of the job to be done as the need that is being satisfied through what you offer. For example, when we did the strategy for Thai Fresh Gardens (a restaurant here in La Grande), the core job to be done that we formulated was “Provide a unique dining experience to Union County residents so customers can have high quality social engagements outside of their home, while enjoying a good meal.”
You can even put the job to be done in the perspective of your target personas. One of our personas for Thai Fresh might have said, “As a wife who is working part-time, when I am looking for a better dining experience, I want to have a great experience with one of my closest friends, so I can get up to speed with her while enjoying a nice meal, without spending a ton of money.”
2. Competitor Research
One of the easiest ways to enhance your marketing strategy is to find out what your competitors are doing in the digital realm. Yep, we’re asking you to spy. You probably already know who your primary competitors are, but if you don’t, you can always find out by doing a quick Google search of keywords related to your industry.
Check out a sampling of your competitors’ websites or social media to gauge what types of marketing they are doing online, if at all. Next, make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. Different aspects of competitor websites you can focus on include: branding, call-to-action, tone, messaging, voice, quantity/quality of content, mission statement, navigation, etc.
Then think about: What could you emulate? What could you avoid? For example, you may see that a competitor has a really well-written mission statement right at the top of the homepage. On the other hand, maybe you find a website with no discernible call to action, leaving visitors unsure what to do next. Make a note of these observations so that you can do the job even better on your own site.
3. Persona Development
A really important key to developing a successful online marketing plan is figuring out who your target audience is. You may have a large variety of customers, but you’ve probably got a good idea of who your typical customer is. Based on your knowledge of your customer base, create your “typical” customer profile. I would suggest coming up with at least three distinct profiles. Go all the way and have fun with this! Make up a fictitious name and a short backstory about the persona, including their demographics (age, gender, location, education, socioeconomic status, etc.).
Then ask yourself, “what problem are they trying to solve that drew them to my business?” Think about the many objections they have to converting, the media channels they might use, and the pages on your website they are most likely to be interested in. If you’re having trouble getting started, Hubspot and Xtensio have free tools that can help you create your personas.
Even though persona development can be fun, your personas need to be based on real people, not people you envision might use your service or buy your product. If you’re a small business with a limited data set, here are some places you can find real customer data quickly:
Google Analytics. You can use the “Audience” tab in Google Analytics to get some additional insight into your target audience. You may want to look at where they reside geographically, what type of device they are using to access your site, and of course, what pages they seem most interested in.
Talk to your best salespeople. Your salespeople have tens if not hundreds of interactions with real customers every week. Quiz them on what trends they see and what objections your potential customers have.
Survey your current customers. This might take the form of real, 15-30 minute interviews with current clients. Our favorite question is, “why did you almost not buy?”
4. Content Strategy
There are two types of content to be included in a good marketing plan: static and ongoing. Static content is the content that is always on your website and will likely undergo few changes over time. Websites following web design best practices will typically include the following types of static content: homepage, about page, product/services pages, and contact page. Additional content types will vary depending on your particular industry and conversion objectives.
On the other hand, ongoing content refers to new content that will be added to keep your site up-to-date and engaging, and to drive traffic. This can be in the form of blog articles, landing pages, videos, podcasts, email newsletters, infographics, how-to guides, and so on.
When creating content for your site, you must consider the following:
1) Voice. This refers to the tone of the content and will be based on your target audience and brand. For example, if you are offering legal services, the tone or “voice” of your copy should be professional, not humorous or filled with trendy terms. You’ll also want to avoid jargon which might confuse your visitors. On the other hand, if you are a fashion company targeting 18-25 year-olds, you’ll want to avoid a stodgy tone and are free to be creative and use wit and slang if that fits your brand.
2) Message. Considering the overarching message that ties all the content together will help you to stay focused on the specifics of what you are trying to communicate. To help guide your message, you can employ the PASTOR strategy. This acronym, developed by the uber-successful copywriter Ray Edwards, represents the following point you’ll want to address in your content: P=Person/Problem/Pain; A=Amplify the problem; S= Story/System/Solution; T=Testimonials, O=Offer; R=Response.
Using this formula can make your content creation easier and more successful. Start by identifying the problem that your target persona has that can be solved by your product or service. Next, you’ll want to amplify the problem by highlighting the possible consequences your customer will encounter if they don’t find a solution to their problem.
For example, if you own a painting businesses and your target persona’s problem is that his house needs a paint job, then one possible consequence of him not repainting his house could be a decrease in the home’s value. Don’t be shy about pointing this out to your potential clients!
Now is the point at which you present the solution to the problem. At this point you’re not presenting your “pitch” per se, you’re simply identifying the answer that will solve their dilemma. As you can see, if you’re following the P.A.S.T.O.R. formula, you’ll essentially be writing a narrative that includes all the elements of a typically storyline – an introduction, conflict and resolution.
Providing testimonials (T) is always a great idea, as visitors to your website will be eager to know how others fared when purchasing your product or service.
Finally, provide a clear call-to-action that will give your potential customers the opportunity to respond to the offer you just presented to them. This is typically in the form of a button with directives like “Call Now,” “Subscribe,” “Get Started,” and so on. Make the call-to-action visibly prominent so that your visitors don’t leave your website unsure of what their next step should be.
5. Publishing Calendar
Unless you are abnormally gifted in the memory department, you probably don’t go to the grocery store without a list of items to buy and a plan of how you are going to use them. In the same way, the best marketers use a publishing calendar to plan what types of content they will be publishing and when.
Create a list of the types of content you want to publish along with a list of topics or titles for those articles, social media posts, email campaigns, podcasts, etc. Then make a calendar with clearly defined dates and/or timelines for when and how often you want to publish your content.
Not sure what topics to address? Research what people are looking for by browsing the web to see what kinds of questions people are asking and what are the current talking points or issues related to your industry. If all else fails, simply ask your customers what they would like to know.
6. Conversion Tracking
You might be doing a double take at this point since I already covered conversion objectives, but it would be negligent to leave out the specifics of conversion tracking. By conversion tracking, I am referring to the technical execution of elements on your website to measure the progress you are making toward your conversion objectives.
Depending on your digital marketing strategy and KPIs, you will need to employ different means to track your conversion rates and analyze the performance of your marketing efforts. Common actions that can be measured include contact forms submissions, downloads, and purchases made.
However, there is a lot more to conversion tracking than the obvious actions I just mentioned. Thanks to programs like Google Analytics, you can even track how many people visit your website and which pages they view. We’ll cover these types of online tools in more detail in a different module, but for now, the important thing to take away is that you’ll need to make sure you implement conversion tracking strategies into your digital marketing plan.
The most important point of this exercise, believe it or not, is to make sure you don’t have too many calls-to-action on each page. One – or at maximum two – calls-to-action will prevent your users from becoming overwhelmed with the options you present to them.
7. Keyword Research & Mapping
This component is extremely important, so don’t stop now! Even if you follow the above strategies and create a killer online digital marketing plan and excellent content, it won’t do any good if no one can find you. I can’t stress this enough.
As you’re aware, search engines use keywords to locate content that people are searching for. Accordingly, you’ll need to do some research to figure out what keywords your audience is typing into search engines. The first step is to start a list of your products or services, essentially whatever you think that your potential customers are searching for.
For example, if you are a hair stylist, your list will include words like “haircut”, “hair stylist, “hair salon”, etc. If you want to expand your list, try typing keywords related to your industry into the Google search bar and let Google autofill the rest to see what people are searching for. You can also look for ideas by typing your principal keywords into Google and scrolling down to the bottom of the results page to the “Searches related to” section. Consider using various iterations as well, such as “haircuts for men” in addition to “men’s haircut.”
There are some wonderful (and free!) tools online that you can use to aid you in this process. Both Ubersuggest and Google AdWords Keyword Planner will give you suggested keywords related to your original keyword ideas, and they will generate reports on expected traffic and competition for your chosen keywords.
This is hugely important, as you need to be aware of which keywords are highly competitive so that you can opt for those which are within your reach to rank for. This is also where long-tail keywords come in. Long-tail keywords are phrases with three or more words that make up the entire search term.
For example, “hair stylist for kids in Redmond, OR” is longer and more specific than simply “hair stylist,” which is very general and, therefore, more competitive and difficult to rank for. The more specific your keyword, the less competition you will likely encounter.
In addition, notice that the keyword above is location specific (Redmond, OR). Adding your location to your keyword can go a long way in making sure that the right audience finds you, especially if you expect to do all or most of your business locally.
Now that you have a list of keywords that you want to rank for in search engines results pages, it’s time to apply them to your content. The best method for this is what is known as keyword mapping. Keyword mapping is exactly what it sounds like: creating a map for how your keywords and related content will fit together on your website. There are various ways to do this, and it typically involves a spreadsheet.
Now, if the mere thought of launching Excel or Google Sheets makes you lose your lunch, do not fear! Moz has an excellent video that explains keyword mapping using a good ol’ fashioned whiteboard and markers. I highly recommend that you check out their video for a detailed explanation of how to create a keyword map to plan out your content: https://moz.com/blog/build-content-keyword-map-for-seo-whiteboard-friday
If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry – it totally is! Developing a successful online marketing strategy is a ton of work, but, unlike other risky and expensive business investments (like commercials or billboards, wink wink), we promise that this will be worth it. And, if you have any questions, you can always give us a buzz or leave a comment below.