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Breaking Into Online Marketing in 2014

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Brian Parsons. An account manager for 180Fusion, he has had over 8 years of experience with the lead generation process, link building strategies, paid search campaign implementation, and ultimately bringing success to any campaign. 

It may seem hard to believe that in 2014 we could be having a discussion about breaking into online marketing. The Internet has officially been commercialized since 1995; Yahoo is turning 20 and Google is a Terminator away from becoming self-aware and establishing “world domination”. However, as an account manager, I work daily with small business owners who have yet to grasp the full value that online marketing can provide to their business.  For those who fall within that category, here are some statistics to keep in mind: 89% of US consumers use search engines to aid in making purchasing decisions, 61% of the US population own a smartphone, and a whopping 98% of the US population utilize some form of Social Networking Platform.  The good news: it’s never too late to dip your feet into the online marketing waters. Some may have jumped in without a plan and found themselves drowning. For others, a lack of understanding has left you sitting apprehensively on the sidelines. If you find yourself in either of those camps, fear not! Here are some important questions you should ask yourself (any business large or small) to get on the path to online success:
How much should I spend on marketing?

The first thing that any company should ask themselves before determining where to spend their online marketing budget, is “What is my budget?” All too often, business owners are short sighted in allocating a marketing budget because they make business decisions with their personal wallet, and not realistically budgeting with a business mindset. According to the US Small Business Association, a good general rule of thumb is that if you do less than $5 million a year in annual revenues, you should allocate a minimum of 7-8% of your revenues to marketing. While this rule will not apply across the board, it will give one an idea of where to start. For many startups, the initial budget may go as high as 20%.

 

How do I know how much to spend online vs. traditional offline channels?

Now that you’ve established your total marketing budget, what percentage of this should go toward online marketing? Much of this will depend on the location of your business. An online-only business will want to devote a heavier portion of their budget to online advertising channels. If your business resides in a physical location, but is supported by an online property, you should ask yourself what role the online property plays. Does your site exist for taking orders, or is it merely a digital brochure of your offline business? For hybrid businesses that exist both on and offline, it is recommended that you spend 29% of your total marketing budget in online channels.

Where should I allocate my marketing budget online?

Your unique needs will determine what online channels make the most sense for you. A good place to start is to ask yourself what your online objective is.

  • What action do you want the user to take when they visit your website?
  • Are you soliciting direct sales as an e-commerce site?
  • Do you want to generate leads through a RFQ form or .pdf download for follow up? Do you want users to sign up for your newsletter?
  • Do you want the visitor to place a phone call?
  • Do you merely want to be available to point users toward your physical location?

There are a lot of different ways to answer this question, but your objective will determine which online marketing channels work the best for you. An excellent checklist of online marketing channels can be found here.

How much time can I afford to devote to achieving a positive ROI?

For established businesses looking for a boost to their bottom line that already have an existing revenue stream, longer-term solutions such as Search Engine Optimization can provide the best ROI, but require some patience. A typical campaign requires a minimum of 6-8 months, but can take longer depending on the level of competition and scope of the program. A national campaign will typically require more time to see a return than a local campaign. A local SEO or Google Places campaign will limit your audience to local customers, but can achieve organic ranking in less than 120 days. This type of campaign is usually limited to those who service a limited geography. For those businesses needing an immediate ROI, SEM (Paid Search, Display, or Social ads) can be turned on or off instantaneously. This allows businesses to both win quickly and also to fail quickly. A Paid Search campaign can also be used in conjunction with A/B or Multivariate testing campaigns to optimize one’s website for higher conversion rates.

Who owns my brand?

An important question that business owners and marketers should ask themselves is who owns my company brand. Are you a reseller of other brands, or are you the face of your brand? For most service companies and manufacturers, you are responsible for your own brand. It is only through your own efforts that people will be made aware of your products or services. A strong emphasis should be placed on Display Advertising, Video Advertising, Remarketing and also engaging your audience through Social Media Channels. If you are a reseller, you may or may not have the luxury of piggy-backing off of the name your products already carry. If you are fortunate enough to be in that position, you will need to have a robust Search presence to take advantage of branded search terms for the products you sell.

Ultimately there are many additional factors that may determine which online marketing channels are right for your business. For some businesses a more holistic approach that incorporates several different online marketing channels will make the most sense. If you need help creating an online marketing strategy for your business, consultants at 180fusion are available to help you develop an online marketing program tailored specifically for your type and size of business.

 

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