As the world of marketing changes around us, it can be tempting to just take action: put up a new website, dip our toes in the waters of blogging, try out the latest social platform. In fact, that's what many companies I've consulted with have done.
The result was that they were not getting anywhere near the benefits that connecting with potential customers online can bring. Why? Because they took what they believed to be shortcuts without mapping out a destination.
Lately, I've been called in by more companies that recognize they're going in circles online. They want to understand how to chart a better course. What they're learning is that going back and adding some fundamental, strategic steps to their marketing journey is the key to planning far more successful tactical efforts.
Here are five steps that may seem like the long way around to boosting your online marketing. But guaranteed, if you stop and take them, you'll get to your objectives much faster than if you ignore them.
1. Create Buyer Personae: It's surprising how many businesses haven't analyzed their best customers to identify the qualities and motivations they share. Who among us wouldn't want to attract more of our most enjoyable and profitable customers? The process of understanding our best customers' buyer personae can be very enjoyable. Give each buyer persona a name. Then, when you're creating content, choosing social media platforms or making other marketing decisions you can do so with your buyer personae in mind. Will this messaging appeal to them? You'll be able to answer 'yes' or 'no'.
2. Analyze the Competition: Online marketing is relatively new and it's highly likely that your competitors aren't any farther ahead than you are. We're all very visible online and marketing moves that used to be private are now knowable. But most companies are unaware to what extent. Knowing the quality of your competitors' online marketing before they know yours will reveal incredible opportunities for you to leapfrog them. If you find they're ahead of you, you'll have a roadmap for improving your marketing for the competitive environment. You will also see where your products and services stand apart so that you can better position them in the competitive field. Go to www.marketinggrader.com. Grade your own company first. Just type in your website url and your email address to get a detailed assessment of your online marketing. Then repeat for each competitor. You'll be amazed at what you'll learn.
3. Identify Key Messages: Now that you know who you're speaking to, and what will attract them to your products and services compared to your competitors', write a list of messages that will appeal to them. Having a key message list will keep your communications on track and consistent.
4. Perform Keyword Research: Keywords are the words that your buyer personae use to find products and services like yours. They are often not industry buzzwords. You need to know these search terms so that you can optimize your website and content for them. They create a path to your website or blog when search engines are seeking relevant responses to queries from your buyer personae. Google has a free keyword research tool. Or perform a few Google searches on terms related to your business and at the bottom of the first results page, Google will offer a list of 'related searches'.
5. Optimize Your Website and Content: Once you have a list of the keywords actually used to search for your products or services, you can optimize your web pages and blog posts to let search engines know that your pages are relevant to their interests. You can read a series of posts, beginning here, that address various aspects of search engine optimization, SEO.
Once you've taken these five steps, you'll have a compass in place for your marketing and your best customer prospects will have a short-cut to your website and online content.
What online marketing strategies have worked for your company?
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The image is from the Flickr photo stream of Patrick Hoelsy under Creative Commons license,