New to online marketing? Don’t worry—it’s not as scary or as complicated as some would have you believe. We’re not saying it’s easy. In fact, it definitely takes a while to master this particular type of marketing. If you’re working with a reputable online marketing company, it’ll certainly be easier. But even then, as with every new endeavor, there’ll be a lot of bumps and falls along the way,
However, once you successfully pull off your first online marketing campaign, you’ll find it’s totally worth it.
Check out our quick rundown of online marketing and working with an online marketing company, beginner-friendly edition.
ONLINE MARKETING: Definition & Overview
The New York Times bestselling author, influencer, and top marketer Neil Patel describes online marketing as “any effort to spread the word about your company that uses the Internet to reach people.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Online marketing—or internet marketing—is all about using the internet to reach out to other people in a way that grabs their attention and makes them want to gravitate towards you.
This is what differentiates it from old-school, foot-in-the-door marketing. You don’t need to constantly chase down anyone and everyone who looks like they’d be even remotely interested in your product; you wait for them to come to you.
Hunting vs. Fishing
With typical outbound marketing—especially traditional outbound marketing—you’re a hunter. You’re chasing each and every lead that comes your way, and you’re doing so pretty aggressively. To be blunt, there’s a lot of fast-talking and forwardness involved.
Where do you think the stereotype of the greasy Used Car Salesman came from?
With online marketing—especially inbound online marketing—you’re more of a fisherman. You’re simply letting the fish come to you. There’s a certain finesse to it and a certain level of knowledge required. Sticking to the metaphor, you need to know what bait to use, what times are best for fishing, which pond or area to fish in, and so on.
However, the catch of the day is ultimately worth all the pre- effort done.
Both hunting and fishing yield results. At the end of the day, there’s food on the table. However, the difference lies in the execution, preparation, and measurability.
TURNING PROSPECTS INTO CUSTOMERS: 3 Important Stages
Online marketing is one of the best approaches you can use to turn cold prospects—or people who are completely unaware of your brand—into warm clients. There are tons of internet marketing strategies that can attract, engage, entertain, inform, and—eventually—convert prospects.
But in order for you to understand how these strategies work and how an online marketing company can put them to use, you need to understand the three basic stages that prospects go through in online marketing: awareness, evaluation, and conversion.
- Awareness. A lot of entrepreneurs and business owners like to say that they’re not selling products or services. They’re selling solutions.
It’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact that people still need to buy their solution. And people won’t buy a solution unless they’re searching for one. And they won’t be searching for a solution unless they know they need one for their problem.
See how it all lines up?
The first stage of turning prospective customers into actual customers is awareness. If you want your target market to subscribe to your products and/or services, you need to make them realize that they need it. You can do this by creating content like blog posts or social media videos that resonate with your intended audience.
- Evaluation. The second stage happens when your prospect is fully aware that they have a problem, and are now actively searching for a solution. They’re essentially evaluating their options to determine which would work best for them. Now, keep in mind that their options could include you and your competitor. In fact, their options could involve multiple competitors—especially if your niche is rather saturated.
To help steer prospects towards your solution, create content that highlights the benefits of your solution, and why it would suit them better than others would. Some examples: product demos, testimonial videos, product comparisons, and genuine video reviews.
- Conversion. Now that your prospects know they have a problem and they’ve realized that you are, indeed, the best solution, they’re ready to buy. When you reach this stage, you’re at “the moment of truth”.
This third and final phase is where you successfully convert what were once cold prospects into warm consumers. To do this, create content that will eliminate any doubts or hesitations once and for all. Remember, customers aren’t customers until they buy something. So design things like product pages, user manuals, or how-to videos that can walk a consumer through using your product, step-by-step. You can also use testimonials here and satisfied customer reviews.
As long as it paints your product in a positive light and proves that your solution does indeed work, don’t be afraid to use it in the conversion stage.
Related Content: Understanding Sales Cycle Stages and Lifecycle Marketing
CHOOSING YOUR PROSPECTS: 3 Approaches to Internet Marketing Strategies
stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it definitely goes hand-in-hand with SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing. The two can be mutually exclusive, but you might run into an online marketing company that offers both digital marketing services in bulk. Before you get confused, here; the definitions of each can help point out how they’re different and where they’re similar.
Search Engine Optimization is when you implement a number of strategies to organically boost your website’s SERP (search engine results pages) ranking.
Search Engine Marketing is when you pay to achieve that.
You know how, when you search for something using a search engine like Google, you always choose from the top results on the first page? You rarely, if ever, choose the results towards the bottom of the page and you practically never click over to the second page?
That’s the theory behind search engine optimization and search engine marketing. You ensure your target market can find you by appearing as the most recommended result when they search for a specific term or key phrase related to their problem.
How it Works. SEO optimizes your pages and content using things like keyword usage, keyword placement, layout, meta data, social media, social engagement, and the like to get you on Google’s front page. It’s all very extensive, very organic, and it can take anywhere from a few months to almost a year to happen – depending on how competitive the market is and how well you execute the optimization.
SEM does the same thing, essentially, but it bypasses the waiting period and guarantees you a spot in Google’s top SERP results when you pay to appear for specific key phrases. The more competitive the keyword, the higher the price you pay.
Why it Works. The beauty of SEM is that you only pay for the number of actual hits. So it’s not like paid advertising where you pay thousands of dollars to run an ad that may or may not appear to the people who need to see it. With SEM, you only pay for the actual unique visits.
Take Note! We weren’t kidding when we said that competitive keywords come at higher prices. It’s very, very normal for some of the more saturated markets to have keywords that cost upwards of $100 per click. There are even some keywords that can go as high as $600 per click! So SEO/SEM is a great marketing strategy, but we highly recommend using it only if you’re sure you can immediately recoup what you spent.
Related Content: What Is SEO And Why Is It Important for My Company’s Website? [FAQ]
II. SOCIAL MEDIA
Social Media Marketing is essentially a marketing strategy that uses popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to reach their intended audience.
How it Works. There are four parts of social media marketing that, as a whole, contribute to the overall success of the campaign. In no particular order, these are social listening, social influencing, social networking, and social selling.
- Social Listening is largely focused on brand-consumer engagement and reputation management. This requires you to constantly monitor your social profile for any form of engagement—comments, shares, questions, approvals, etc.—with your existing network.
You also need to make sure you respond to the engagement or deal with it appropriately to ensure your brand’s reputation remains wholly positive.
- Social Influencing also has to do with your reputation, but it is less dependent on your audience’s opinions and more reliant on you. As the name suggests, this part is where you establish your authority in your chosen field. Through the content you create, the products you offer, and the way you market, you must establish your brand as a reliable business—and yourself as a certified authority figure in the industry.
If you fail to do this, you lose the trust of your current consumers and your potential customers.
- Social Networking is imperative if you want to create a viable network of existing industry authorities and brands that you could, potentially, partner with. There are a myriad of benefits to having connections with influential individuals and businesses in your industry. Partnerships, as we mentioned earlier, is one such benefit. Collaborations, product exchanges, affiliate earnings, and plain old mentoring are other great examples. After all, not everyone has to be a competitor.
- Social Selling is basically sales that were initiated or closed through social media channels. For example, platforms like Facebook and Instagram have a “Shop Now” button that allows visitors to purchase your products directly through the platforms checkout feature. This cuts down on the checkout process and, by extension, greatly minimizes the risk of customers changing their mind and abandoning their carts.
Why it Works. Social media, for better or for worse, will always be relevant. Whether the platform caters to more specific groups of people or it’s a more generalized network, you’re pretty much guaranteed an active arena.
What does this mean? As of July 2019, Facebook has an estimated 2.7 billion users. Twitter has reported roughly 69 million users in the U.S. alone. If you’re active on any of these platforms, the chances of you connecting with these millions (or billions) of users are far better than those businesses that aren’t.
Talk about your competitive advantage
What’s more, typical internet marketing strategies like encouraging brand-consumer engagement, creating social buzz, collaborating and advertising through influencers, and running targeted ads are much easier to do in a controlled environment like that of a social media platform—especially since these strategies use features that the platform already implements (like comment sections, the like/dislike buttons, the share option, etc.).
And one last thing? It’s all free. Yes, some features—like featured ads or in-depth analytics—need to be paid for. But any reputable online marketing company will tell you, it is very, very possible to get a social media marketing campaign running without paying for anything on the platform.
Take Note! If you want to unlock the full marketing potential of different social media platforms, you will have to pay for some of the more extensive marketing features. The good news is that a lot of networks offer comprehensive services specifically for businesses, like analytics, demographics, targeted ads, and the like. And since social media networks are so widely accessible, you’re pretty much paying for a sure deal.
Related Content: Why Social Media is Important to Inbound Marketing
III. CONTENT MARKETING
Content Marketing—in the online/marketing digital marketing sense—is when you use digital mediums to create and distribute content that your audience may find relevant. Depending on the type of content created and the reason behind its creation/distribution, these pieces of content can achieve different marketing results.
How it Works. Publishing content is basically giving your audience relevant and timely value—especially if said content has been thought out, researched, and put together properly. Now, content for web marketing comes in a dozen different forms. Here are five of the most common:
- Blogs/Articles. These are essentially textual content focused on a specific topic or topics within a certain niche. They are regularly updated and are typically written to be informative and entertaining. The voice of these blogs/articles will depend on the brand/company running them.
- Audio-visual content usually made for on-the-go consumption. This type of content caters to the more visual/kinetic audience that prefer entertainment and engagement. The social media platform YouTube is best known for hosting this type of content.
- Images/Graphics. These are purely visual pieces of content that are perfect for delivering short, punchy messages. Images and graphics work great as either standalone social media posts (more on this later) or supplemented with text. For example, an infographic that accompanies a blog, or a brand ad that accompanies website copy. They’re also perfect for catering to an audience that absorbs information better through visuals.
- Social Media. This basically refers to any type of content (audio, audio-visual, visual, or textual) that is distributed via social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. Previously, we mentioned that images/graphics can also be considered standalone social media posts. The best example of this would be Instagram posts; think quote cards, progress photos, or promotional videos that endorse your brand.
Social media content can also refer to Facebook and Twitter posts (as in, just textual/status posts), social media videos, social media polls, “stories” (i.e., Facebook/IG/Snapchat stories), and more.
- Audio/Podcasts. Lastly, you have audio content—i.e. content that works best for on-the-go consumption (like videos) and for audiences that take in information better through audio. Podcasts are the best example of this. They recently gained traction mid-2000s and have since proven to be a go-to medium for a lot of people looking for portable entertainment.
Why it Works. Industry giant Google has actually named content as one of the top two most important factors they consider for ranking results. Websites that regularly put out relevant, valuable, or high-quality content have a better chance of scoring a higher rank since they are better received by audiences.
So if arguably the biggest search engine is saying that they consider content to be pretty important, then there must be some merit to this. And there is.
People hate being sold to, but they love content. They love being entertained. They love learning about things that actually matter to them. They love watching videos while waiting in line, scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feed while waiting for a meeting to start, and reading randomly recommended articles before falling asleep.
Content gives value, and people are generally more open to consuming content than they are to falling for an obvious advert or sales campaign.
Take Note! Content—regardless of what form it takes—is a generally oversaturated niche. You’ve got hundreds of thousands of brands publishing blogs, producing podcasts, curating social media posts, and running active YouTube channels. Be prepared to put a lot of effort—read; time, research, trial and error—into making your content stand out.
Related Content: What is Content Marketing? [FAQ]
MARKETING FOR DUMMIES: 3 Best Practices for Marketing Online
1. Always Tell a Story
One of the biggest reasons advertising and marketing campaigns fail is because they’re obvious sales pitches. No one likes to be told where and how to spend their money, and so they shut these pitches out. If you want a successful marketing campaign, tell a story. Purchases are driven by a mix of logic and emotions, and the best way to score a sure sale is to appeal to both. Storytelling does this in a way that is both powerful and practical.
2. Always Optimize for Mobile
Technology has undoubtedly connected the world. Communication is easier and more extensive now than it’s ever been, and mobile technology is more accessible now than it was fifteen, twenty years ago.
What we’re trying to say is that everyone has a smartphone, tablet, or some type of mobile device with which they can access the internet. In fact, recent trends and statistics suggest that they prefer using these mobile devices over traditional desk-bound PCs. So if your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re not catering to a huge portion of your market.
Whatever marketing strategy you and your online marketing company choose, make sure the campaign is optimized for mobile consumption.
Related Content: Does My Website Have to Be Mobile-Friendly?
3. Define Your Target Market
A successful marketing campaign entails knowing who you’re selling to. If you don’t know who should be buying your product, the consumers won’t know, either. You need to always clearly define your target market before attempting to market your products.
This definition will help you understand them better, and will consequently equip you with the knowledge you need to successfully sell to them—i.e., how to reach out to them, how to grab their attention, how to communicate with them, how to build a relationship with them, and so on.
Related Content: How to Clearly Define Your Target Audience In Digital Marketing
As you can see, the online marketing basics are pretty simple and straightforward. In fact, the whole concept behind online marketing is straightforward: use online media and online platforms to reach out to — and connect with — your target market.
As long as you get that, then you’re on the right path. And if you’re working with an experienced online marketing company, you’ll have an expert to further guide you and keep you from straying.