What Is An Online Marketing Strategy?

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What is an online marketing strategy?

Sometimes people’s eyes just glaze over when I talk about online marketing strategy. Perhaps they’re thinking ‘I have a website and I’m on Twitter, what else is there?’ Or perhaps it’s just one of those big fuzzy terms about which people have a vague concept but no real clarity.

Well here’s what I’m talking about when I say ‘online marketing strategy’. It’s essentially a roadmap for how you market your business. It’s not just about being on Twitter or Facebook, those tools are just a couple possible pieces of the puzzle. Your strategy is a long-term plan for your online marketing that utilizes the relevant tools for your specific business and most importantly  – all the parts work together to achieve your business goals.

WHY you need an online marketing strategy:

1)   To help you identify where you should be spending your time and efforts
2)   To help you stay on track with your business development
3)   To establish benchmarks to measure your effectiveness
4)   A well laid out plan will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the task of online marketing
5)   Likewise your plan can provide inspiration when you’re not sure what to do next.
6)   If you have a staff, everyone needs to be on the same page – laying out a clear strategy will help.
7)   Consistency in your efforts and messaging is key and having a roadmap will help you achieve this instead of blindly fumbling along.

What does an online marketing strategy include?
This is quite a vast topic, but here are some of the main components to consider. You should write down or document in whichever way makes sense to you, your ideas about the following in order to create your plan for reference.

GOALS
What do you want to achieve?

1) You may want to break this into short, mid and long- term goals.
2) These will vary according to your exact business but they could be based around increasing traffic, increasing sales, increasing email subscribers, developing a community, and increasing awareness of your brand etc.
3) Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, relevant and not completely outlandish.

TARGET AUDIENCE
Who are you trying to reach?

The internet can help you pinpoint your desired client/customer but you have to know where to look and who you’re looking for.
1) Who is your target audience? Be specific. “Everyone” is not a valid answer here!
2) Build a profile of your desired customer so that you can start to pin down how to target them.
3) Where can your target audience be found online? Identify the key communities where you believe your audience is hanging out online. What specific social networks do they use? What blogs do they read? Where do they shop? What are they searching for? Do you have clear competitors that are attracting your audience?
Make sure to keep a running list of all these communities on file for your reference.

TOOLS/TECHNIQUES
How will you reach your target audience? Which online methods will you be using?

There’s a plethora of tools and techniques contained within the umbrella of online marketing, and I’ll try and compile a more complete list of those for a future post. Meanwhile here’s a few things to consider:

Do you have a content strategy?

1) What type of content will you produce to attract your audience? Is video going to be key? Will it be ‘how-to’ blog posts?  White papers relevant to your industry? What content will work for Facebook vs. for Twitter? Are you representing your company on social networks in a way that is consistent with your goals and brand?

2) What outlets will you use to distribute your content? Social networks? Article marketing? Your website? Will you have a blog?

Is your current website working as effectively as it should?

1) Are you attracting enough search engine traffic?
2) Are you collecting email addresses and communicating with subscribers?
3) Does your site effectively communicate what your business is about and have clear calls to action for site visitors?
4) Are you collecting and analyzing web site traffic data?

Do you have a monthly advertising budget and if so how will you spend it?  Banner ads? Pay-per-click ads?

Will you need to create time-sensitive promotions to be incorporated into your overall marketing? E.g. holiday promotions or other seasonal items. Take these into consideration when planning your strategy so you have plenty of set-up time. Will such promotions require a different strategy in themselves?

Are your offline efforts in coordination with your online efforts? Make sure they support each other.

TIME

1) How much time do you, or your team have available to allocate to online marketing? How will you be spending this time? The more specific you are with what tasks you set out to perform each day and how much time you want to spend, the more effective you will be. Also see my post on 9 Time Management Tips For Social Media.

2) Set realistic goals for the time you will spend doing marketing each day and stick to it. If you have limited time, be sure to focus on the tasks that you feel will have the most impact.

TRACKING

Based on the goals you have laid out, you should have an idea of what metrics you will be tracking in order to determine the success of your efforts in meeting those goals.

1) You will need to have a system and schedule in place for taking note of and reporting on those metrics.
2) Will you be looking at the figures monthly, weekly?
3) Do you have established benchmarks already, or will you need some time to establish those first?

TWEAKING

So your marketing plan is underway and you’re tracking all the numbers. You will also have to check in with your plan and your goals every so often and see if things are going as planned or if tweaks need to be made. Perhaps you need to re-allocate your time based on your findings, or throw out some tools and try new ones. Your strategy is not set in stone – it should be an organic, adaptable tool that responds to your business needs.

When first starting out with your strategy, you should give yourself probably 3 – 6 months before making judgments on progress made since it can take a little time to get things rolling. After that initial period you might want to check in with your strategy and goals every quarter, or whatever you feel is appropriate. Just don’t let it get stale. When taking stock of your strategy you may also want to consider whether you are making the most of your own, or your team members’ talents. Make sure the tasks people are responsible for are suited to their skill and interest set in order to get the best out of them.

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