We build websites, all day, every day. And I think we do one heck of a job. Our clients love our work and send us lots of referrals. Does this mean that each one of those websites instantly made our clients millions? No, of course not.
The other day I was discussing with a client their struggles with attracting qualified traffic and getting conversions. They were doing some PPC and a little content marketing through their blog… but were convinced they weren’t doing these things the best way possible.
They are the leader in their industry. They have better prices than any of their competition. And their clients love them. So, what’s the problem?
They don’t have an integrated online marketing plan.They’re dabbling…
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- They haven’t done any real keyword research; they make educated guesses.
- They know their clients but haven’t mapped any of these efforts with the client experience.
- They create content but distribution is sporadic at best.
None of their efforts were tied together in any real and meaningful way. And none were fully mapped to the user experience or to any conversion goals… the only goal was to get more leads.
They could have thrown in the towel convinced that none of it was going to work. Instead they were smart enough to realize it was time to change (cue Peter Brady). They saw glimpses of the power of online marketing, but needed a better strategy.
As we explained to them, when engaging in online marketing, there is a process you should follow when developing a solid plan…
Define Buyer Personas
Know your audience! Take some time and build your buyer personas. The power of a well crafted buyer persona is incredible.
Adele Ravella, founder of the Buyer Persona Institute defines buyer personas as “an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned from direct interviews with real buyers.”
The key word here is example. These are examples of real clients. With these highly defined examples, you will have a quick reference guide to compare all of your content and marketing efforts against.
Check out our post on Buyer Personas for more on this.
Do a content audit! You need to know what you’re working with.
Make an inventory:
- good content you already have
- content you need to create
- sources of inspiration or validation
- who will manage editing and creating content
- how each piece of content maps to your buyer personas
Content can come from lots of different places. For more on this, check out our post Content Marketing: Are You Wasting Good Content?
Review Owned Media Channels
Assess your owned media channels! Owned media is at it sounds, the media properties that you own – your website, blog, newsletter.
Do you have a website? Is it designed with your buyer personas in mind or is it a brochure stating how great you are? Here’s a hint, it should be the former!
Your owned media is your home base. This is where conversion happens. A good guide for developing a solid home base is our series What Makes a Good Website.
Review Social Media Channels
Assess your social media channels! Where are your personas spending their time? Are they using all of these channels? If not, consider spending less time where they aren’t.
Or find out what kind of traffic these channels are sending to your website by looking at your Google Analytics or other statistics.
If you don’t have a way to track where your traffic is coming from, stop what you are doing and ask your webmaster about adding Google Analytics to your site’s code.
Simply posting to social channels because they’re there can be a huge time suck. Time is money. Don’t waste it.
Look at Your Competition
What about your competition?!? What are they doing with their owned and social media channels? How could you do it better? How are they doing in the search results? Can you beat them at this game?
Sometimes you might need some tools and/or a professional SEO to help with an accurate review of your competitors online. Here is a great article on competitive SEO analysis from marketing automation powerhouse Hubspot.
Develop a Content Strategy
Everything you do will relate in some way to your content strategy. Content is a broad term that gets overused. For the purposes of this article, I will define content as the following:
- Content on your site’s pages like About Us or Our Approach
- Owned media like blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics or other images
- Curated media such as posts from industry websites you share with your audience
This content will be the backbone of your online marketing strategy. Knowing what content you can create or curate on a regular basis will help you outline the specific strategies for your owned and social media channels.
It will also help you to track and tweak your shared media strategy. Shared media is as it sounds, your owned and curated content that is liked, shared, plussed, tweeted and so forth. Tracking shared media will show you which content is working and which is not. The signals on these social channels also help with your SEO, at least in terms of your owned media.
Managing content is much easier with an editorial calendar. The calendar can be very specific as to what content will be created, by whom and where it will be promoted.
Or it could be vague with a general outline of content topics needed for each month allowing your team to be more agile in creating this content. You can be more topical or even employ a newsjacking approach.
Here’s my issue with paid media… it’s often used as a shortcut to build quick and easy traffic. This costs you a bunch of money without any long term plan for keeping and growing the traffic it may or may not send.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you own a sandwich shop. One day you decide to offer free sandwiches to the first 100 people who come in. Great idea!
But, you give away 100 sandwiches and collect no information, offer no reason for that person to return, don’t encourage them to rate their experience or share on social channels. You’re just giving away free food.
Do you see all of the lost opportunities for future growth? And you’re out a bunch of free food. This is like paying people to visit your website with no plan for what’s next. That’s pay per click with no strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, pay per click, Facebook ads, sponsored posts, and other advertising opportunities can be incredibly powerful. But think through the user experience making sure you map goals that are tied to these campaigns… conversions!
Identify your Conversion Goals
Conversion is the point where a visitor becomes a fan, client, colleague, supporter, cheerleader or whatever you want them to be. You transform them into something that is useful to your business by offering them something that is useful to them.
For example, you’ve written a very useful eBook with great tips your potential clients would love. You could post this on your site as a free download. But that would be a waste of that little book’s potential.
Instead, try giving the eBook to anyone who signs up to your newsletter or registers for a webinar you’re hosting.
Conversion should be a strategy that is fully intertwined in everything you do. I’m not advocating turning everything into a sales pitch. You need to provide the user a valued experience. But, at the same time, make it easy for them to do business with you.
If you aren’t thinking about conversion with each piece of content you create and publish, you’re missing an opportunity to grow your business in some meaningful way.
Have a Plan!
Online marketing is science, sales, creative, and communications. It’s also a discipline requiring some sort of a plan. Even if it is just a loose set of ideas in your head, always think through the user experience… what they want, how they’ll want to get it, how you’ll give it to them, and what you can expect in return.
When in doubt, ask for adult supervision. It’s easy to make mistakes that can be quite costly. There are tons of resource out there, including this blog and our newsletter. Seek the information available, know your audience, and market for them!