The access is unfettered, but not only is the market saturated, marketers have to deal with an increasingly disillusioned, skeptical public whose ability to discern the difference between desirable, relevant content and disguised or blatant advertising grows savvier by the day.
Online marketing gives anyone the ability to reach limitless consumers with nothing more than an internet connection. The access is unfettered, but not only is the market saturated, marketers have to deal with an increasingly disillusioned, skeptical public whose ability to discern the difference between desirable, relevant content and disguised or blatant advertising grows savvier by the day. In order to be effective marketers need to package and create their content in a way that serves their purposes and appeals to consumers. It’s a difficult, grueling balancing act, but one that can be aided by certain skills and philosophies. Here we’ll explore what it takes to identify an appropriate audience, build a marketing blueprint, strategy, define your product/brand, draw attention to your content and turn an audience into customers.
These tools will be helpful whether you’re trying to start your own business, develop an existing one, build a personal brand and built in audience, or simply build online marketing skills for a future endeavor. Keep in mind throughout how you’ve felt when bombarded with online content that didn’t appeal to your interests. No matter your professional background, this guide will give you a foundation to use in all future marketing endeavors. The order in which you build these skills is entirely dictated by your particular business, and what stage you’re at in building it.
1) Identifying and Catering to an Audience
Before you can do this, you have to know what you do, what problems you solve, and how to communicate this in less than a paragraph. Practice the 30 second pitch, both to better understand your business/brand yourself, and how you communicate it. Now that you know what you have to offer, first ask yourself, who do you believe will be best served by it? What are their habits and interests? How will their lives be improved by what you’re presenting? Depending how far along you are in your endeavor, you may want to invest in a CRM (customer relationship management) system in order to analyze date about anyone you’ve reached out to/or has already visited your content or platform. If you have a CRM, you can compile hard data about your audience. Another resource is Google Analytics, which lets you track where traffic is coming from, what content performs best, which keywords are drawing the most attention, and much more. If you don’t have an existing platform, you’ll have to work off of your own analysis and guess work on who your audience might be, which is a fine place to start.
Either using hard data, or your own beliefs/analysis, filter the larger populace into groups based on income, age, gender, geography, and how these factors increase or decrease interest in what you’re creating and/or contributing. Remember that while these factors give a helpful outline, they’re not definitive. Access breeds greater interest, and the democratization of consumption in the Internet era is an exceedingly blooming phenomenon. Limiting yourself by demographics can help focus your message, but more importantly than that, are the hopes, imagination, pains and unmet needs of your audience. Start talking to people you know and don’t know about their lives, what you offer, and what they find compelling or off-putting about it. Take careful notes on these conversations, and create profiles that help you figure out what kind of personality is excited by what you do. If you have actual customers, survey them. If you think a survey would be invasive or annoying, consider offering something to entice participation. Information that helps you refine and improve your outreach is invaluable. Then, test your findings against traffic measurements, interest of new respondents, even what you offer. Here’s a good resource for this process.
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2) Build Your Marketing Strategy
The first factor in a marketing strategy is cost. How much can you spend? Even if your marketing budget is very small, getting a good return on that investment will allow you to continue, and you should have a consistent strategy that you’re building on independently. Spending money on marketing can manifest as social media ad buys, commercial productions, hiring experts to create content, and more. Marketing was classically criticized by businesses as an imprecise method that costs lots of money, with indeterminable direct results. Now, online marketing is so ubiquitous because of its successful track record. Using analytical tools, it’s possible to chart the direct effects of your outreach.
Here’s how to make sure you get a return on your marketing strategy. The same way you asked yourself who you are and what you do, set clear goals for your marketing mission. Is it to raise awareness? Draw new customers? What is the biggest objective you want your marketing effort to achieve? If you’ve done previous online marketing campaigns, use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure how they’ve performed, and compare your current campaign. You could use Google Analytics to measure your conversions, social media network analytics to measure engagement or a tool like BuzzSumo measure content marketing results, or all of them. Central to your strategies’ meaty substance are what you worked on in skill 1: who your audience are, what they want, and how and why you meet those needs. Study your competitors, and see how they market towards your target audience. Make sure that your approach has multiple avenues to draw and capture potential customers/audience members. Engaging social media posts, SEO articles with popular keywords related to your brand, focused email lists/blasts, video content and ad buys are all tools that can be integrated to help build your marketing strategy. Then use the same measuring tools you tracked previous campaigns with to maintain consistency. Most importantly, chart the direct traffic and sales conversions from the aspects of your marketing strategy they came from. Make sure to stay within your budget so you can get maximum ROI. And most importantly, be open to tinkering with your strategy as much as possible once you measure its strengths and weaknesses.
3) Define Your Brand’s Story
Knowing who you are and what you do is just part of defining your brand. The story of what you’ve created can be manifested in many ways. It’s why you exist, it’s what inspires your work, it’s subtle but succinct. It can encompass aesthetics and content that represent the spirit of what you’re creating without necessarily spelling it out. It’s focused, digestible and appealing to your audience. You can start by gathering yours and others content that you feel represents you. Making a mood board of what influences you, and what you see as your contributions is a great place to start. While many messages can be used to define your brand, you should be able to describe it in three words or traits. Once you’ve done that, ask yourself, how do these traits appear when you reach out to your audience? Where are they represented in your content?
Your brand definition should encompass the aspects of your venture that you find most unique and appealing to your audience. It should address your customer’s needs, and fulfill them. And most importantly, it should be clearly separate from your competition. Sometimes it’s best to borrow from influences outside of your sphere, to voice and discover the spirit of what you offer in a different arena without mimicking the identity of your competitors. Your brand definition should be less focused on you than those you’re trying to reach. They’re the stars of your brand’s definition, and you are a vehicle that delivers what they were already looking for. As a species, we’ve evolved to tell our stories, so this should come naturally, just make sure it prizes the yearning of your audience. Your brand’s story should be natural and riveting, and should never feel like an ad, sales pitch or marketing scheme. It’s honest, clear and conversational. Brainstorm keywords, images and representations of your work, then build from there.
4) Draw the Right Traffic
Having a product, brand or web presence is not a strategy to draw traffic. And even if you are taking measures to draw traffic, it’s meaningless if the people who visit aren’t going to become paying customers, or patronize what you offer in an engaged, mutually beneficial way. As always you need to ask yourself, who do I want to reach? Where do these people congregate on the Internet? Are people likely to get value out of what I offer more likely to congregate on Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? These are important questions that will dictate how you look for and lure traffic. You’re likely to have your content in one place, which is good. A central location for what you’re offering is an important landing spot for what traffic can come. Now you need to find audiences that are larger than yours, and make a significant connection between other platforms and yours. You can advertise on social media platforms, share branded content with a larger publisher, or draw outside interest from other platforms in what you’re doing by reaching out to individual tastemakers, bloggers, reporters, etc.
Try to look at the people who visit your platform as free and paid. Free traffic comes from people who found what you’re offering on their own, whether from other members of your audience, social media, content you’ve put out there, or places that have covered what you’ve done. Paid traffic comes from people who responded directly to ads/sponsored content, essentially anything you put money into that led to new visitors. Free traffic isn’t better than paid traffic. Both require time (and thus money) to cultivate. Paid traffic can have the downside of costing money, and potentially luring people who aren’t interested in what you offer, and don’t convert to patrons. However, the right paid placement can result in a lot more traffic than your efforts through PR, SEO, social media, blogging, video marketing, email lists, etc. Striking the right balance between paid and free traffic-driving will be an ongoing balance, but one thing you should have on your mind throughout is inbound marketing. This buzzword means one thing: marketing that pulls people in rather than feels shoved at them. This is engaging content that’s relatable, has something in it for them (think give aways) and is otherwise a no-brainer to explore further. You’ve been putting yourself in the position of your audience. What would they (or you) see that’s related to what you do that would make you excited to learn more? Focus on creating real value, to the people who want what you offer, and you’ll be generating the right traffic in no time.
5) Monetize Traffic
For some, this will mean turning visitors into customers. For others, it will mean converting visiting traffic into repeatedly visiting traffic, and monetizing those page views by another means. Regardless of your business model, taking a curious, or potentially reluctant audience and convincing them to enjoy what you do, return to it, and/or patronize it (for best results, repeatedly) is key to a successful, sustainable marketing effort and lasting business. You’re looking to shepherd your audience through a process of awareness, perusal, conversion, loyalty and advocacy for your brand. Over the course of that process, people will drop out. For some it won’t be the right fit, or their current financial situation will block them from patronizing your business. Things like this happen no matter what, but there are things you can do to affect your conversion rate, and maintain those you convert. For example, no one should be dropping out because you seem untrustworthy.
You should prioritize customer and prospective customers needs. Figure out where they’re coming from, and set different expectation/tailor marketing accordingly. For example, a returning customer won’t have the same level of skepticism that someone who clicked on an ad will. and priorities. Think back on the process of awareness to advocacy, and build different marketing tools for each level. Someone who’s only aware should be treated gently, and given pertinent, useful, low-pressure information. Someone who’s showing interest, perusing, or is in the process of conversion should be pushed slightly harder towards loyalty and advocacy. Make sure your marketing messages build on each other, and make sense. You want a cohesive approach, not one that confuses or turns off potential clients. You can also take a different approach, if you’re not selling anything directly, and focus on selling ad space to monetize increasing web traffic. In this model, honing in on what draws your audience to your website, and making sure to provide that for them will translate into profits. A good resource on different ways to do that can be found here. Obviously, there’s a lot to online marketing, but here are skills that will help you, whether you’re starting a business, working for someone else’s, or building a brand or web presence for yourself or others.