This article is intended to be used as a high level overview for businesses and traditional marketers to better understand what to expect when planning an internet marketing strategy or when hiring somebody for internet marketing.
Ever heard of the "Project Triangle" model? It illustrates the likelihood that a project will complete on or before the allowed time, on or under budget, and to meet or exceed the required scope. I'd like to use this model to help us discuss some internet marketing strategies that a company might execute. Specifically, I'm going to show you how their efficacy is directly tied to the amount of time and money invested, and when it's okay to cut corners.
The sides of the triangle are: Fast, Good, Cheap. Choose any two. In most cases, when you choose to emphasize any two sides (one corner) of the triangle, any benefit from the third side will be excluded or diminished.
For example, if you're building a home on a deadline, it can either be on-time, inexpensive, and low quality or it can be on-time, expensive, and well built. If you want the on-time and well-built qualities, it won't be cheap. On the other hand, if you want it to be on-time and cheap, the final product will be low quality. Let's apply these principles to internet marketing strategies.
Fast + Cheap Internet Marketing (not the most effective)
- Facebook Fan page or other social media - Setting up an account is often fast and cheap, but the less time you spend, the less effective your presence will be. Building up a strong following on social media is typically cheap and good, but it isn't fast.
- Emails to existing customers - I'm assuming you have an existing customer database that you're not using, which a lot of small businesses have. You can set up a free, or really affordable, email marketing account through BombBomb (video email) or MailChimp.com. This is a great way to stay in touch with your current customers or to bring in old customers that you haven't seen in a while through promotional or informative email campaigns. (Note: Be sure to talk to somebody about CAN-SPAM compliance if your customers haven't opted in to receive email updates).
- On-page SEO - Altering your title tags and headings can be really quick and easy, depending on the complexity of your business offerings (and the complexity of your CMS). Perform some simple keyword research using Google's Keyword Tool and go to town.
- Black Hat SEO - You can hire an agency in India to execute a link building campaign for a few bucks, but don't expect it to get you to number one for highly competitive terms. (Don't forget that a real SEO firm will help you with your conversion rates, trends, and overall campaign and website improvements ,but they aren't on the fast and cheap list).
- In-store Promotional Signs - Here's an easy way to drive traffic to your site: QR codes or posters in your store or on the back of your business cards. Just don't forget to give people a compelling reason to visit.
Fast + Effective Internet Marketing (not cheap)
- Pay-per-click campaigns - PPC search engine marketing can be extremely effective, but it sometime takes a little time to make the right adjustments. This is one of the fastest and most effective strategies that I've implemented. It may be difficult for some business to swallow the concept of paying for each click, but once you get the ROI formula dialed in with a strong conversion rate, it's worth every penny.
- Piggy back on other audiences - When I sayI say this, I simply mean leveraging somebody else's channel, traffic, market share, etc. There are endless possibilities here, from Groupon, to online media sites, to throw backs in somebody else's email newsletter. As with any marketing campaign, the goal here is to long-term acquisition: up-sells and bounce back offers can help you capitalize on this traffic. If you're not extremely well prepared and careful, Groupon can turn out to be the most expensive small business loan you've ever drawn up.
- Hire writers to create content - This is blogging the easy way, not the cheap way. If you've got it in your budget, I would recommend utilizing professional writers to compliment and expedite your editorial calendar.
Cheap + Effective Internet Marketing (not fast)
- Social Media - This is the category in which social media belongs. Many small business owners hear that Social Media is effective, they hear that it's free, and they get really excited. The reality is that social media campaigns are a big commitment. They don't run themselves. It takes strategy, creativity, and strong offers and/or calls-to-action just like any form of marketing. The trick with social media is that you have to continually deliver perceived value to your fans or you'll lose them.
- Email Marketing - You can build strong email lists through in-store efforts, social media, or lead capture and subscription forms on your site or blog. Typically this takes time and creativity. You have to "dangle a carrot" and give people something of value to get them to volunteer their email address. It may be a white paper or a video series or even something as simple as a coupon.
- Blogging - One of the best website traffic building and SEO techniques out there. The catch is that you have to actually create useful, informative content. The most effective bloggers write with humans in mind first and search engines in mind second.
- Social Networking - I have several friends in the (heavily regulated) financial services industry. Because of the regulations by which they are constrained, they can't blog freely or even email freely. Every bit of content on their personal web pages has to pass through several layers of underwriting. The solution: LinkedIn. com. They now use a thorough and highly targeted referral strategy with their clients using LinkedIn.com. But, guess what? It takes time.
The Most Effective
The most effective strategies are blended campaigns that use pay-per-click, social media, email, and search engine optimization to drive traffic to landing pages with focused calls-to-action and well constructed lead funnels. We use A/B testing of various layouts, messages, headings, or offers to scientifically measure the most effective content.