What do you think the most important ingredient to a successful internet marketing strategy is?
It's going to sound a bit silly and basic, but you'd be surprised how many business owners and marketing professionals don't really think through what's necessary to successfully market a business online - so that their website actually generates new business.
So, what is this absolutely critical factor? Drumroll, please: YOUR TIME!
In a previous post I argued why it was important to plan your internet marketing strategy before launching or relaunching your site, and how very few web design firms are equipped to build a website so it's capable of generating business for their clients.
If you want to avoid spending a lot of money designing or redesigning a website that won't help you generate much more business than your existing one, you should ask a series of questions when interviewing potential employees or firms who you might hire to help you.
If you're a small or mid-sized business and you truly want to turn your website into a lead generation machine, there's basically 3 techniques available to you:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Pay Per Click Advertising
- Blogging & Social Media Marketing
It's almost impossible to completely outsource these activities to a firm that does not know your business, market, customer and products intimately. In other words, people within your company are going to need to be intimately involved in the process of online marketing. So, the first question that I'd ask any prospective internet marketing firm is, "What will you need from me in order to successfully increase the number of leads our website generates month over month?"
A website design and development firm is typically going to just say, "We need content, colors and artwork." Wrong! Don't hire these guys.
Here's the right answer: YOUR TIME!
Why time? The internet isn't like traditional advertising where you hire a designer to produce an ad and you pay a media company to get the ad in front of eyeballs.
"But, what will I be spending time doing?" , you ask. Let's take a look at each of the internet marketing techniques above.
Search Engine Optimization Requires Your Time!
Most people still think SEO is something their web designer does once. Companies that committ to doing ongoing SEO reap ongoing rewards. To do SEO successfully, you should continuously do 3 things: 1) find more keywords that will bring you relevant traffic 2) create more content focussed on those keywords 3) build links that support ranking higher for those keywords in search results. Who knows your business, your customers, your market, the problems you solve, the solutions you provide - better than anyone else? Hopefully you.
Aren't you the best one to find the keywords your prospects would type at google? Aren't you the best one to produce content that's relevant to your prospects?
If you haven't done link building beyond directory submissions, you won't understand this. But doing link building well requires your time too. Trust me. If anyone says that they'll get you 100 new links per month and they don't ask you for press release ideas, article ideas and a list of the leading bloggers, forums and trade publications in your industry, do not hire them.
Pay per Click Advertising Requires Your Time Too!
This one doesn't take a lot of time. But, the time you spend managing your search engine pay per click advertising campaigns is critical if you want the best possible ROI. PPC advertising is probably the most efficient form of advertising ever created. But, it's not efficient unless you spend time constantly improving its efficiency. If you're new to this, you should read this primer on running ppc campaigns . Suffice to say, I probably speak to atleast one prospective HubSpot client each week who has no idea what the ROI on their ppc spend is. Some of them even spend 10s of thousands of dollars per month.
Would you hire a salesperon and not monitor how much profitable revenue they produce? Would you not tell them what an ideal prospect looks like before they start making calls? Would you let them guess what a good positioning statement should be when they get in front of a prospect? Would you not train them on what problems your product solves and what questions to ask? Would you not help them devise a presentation to a prospect? If all these things sound silly, why isn't it silly to let someone who doesn't know your product, service or market as intimately as you do... pick keywords to bid on, write ad copy, design landing pages, monitor conversion rates and measure ROI?
Blogging and Social Media Marketing Requires A Lot of Your Time!
This should be obvious. In fact, the most common reason businesses don't start a blog is because they "don't have the time" to regularly write on it.
If you do make the really really really smart decision to start a business blog, you should find a company to help you that truly has experience writing their own successful blog. Blogging for business isn't really something you can advise someone to do without doing it yourself first. Too many marketing professionals think blogging is the same as writing press releases or articles. It's not. It's about hosting a dynamic conversation with your market. It requires a mix of writing, sales, networking and marketing skills if it's going to be done successfully. Not to mention the importance of knowing a lot about your business and the challenges that your customers face.
As far as social media marketing goes, I'm not sure how you'd even begin to outsource that completely. The value of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Twitter is that you can connect and interact with prospects and clients. All of your sales people and marketing people - heck.. all of your employees - should be actively engaging with the market through these sites. Outsourcing this would be like outsourcing sales.
Measuring Results and Improving ROI Requires Your Time!
We haven't even talked about how blogging and social media marketing can support search engine optimization. We haven't talked about how you can use PPC advertising to refine your SEO keyword strategy in order to maximize conversion rates from both.
There's a lot to internet marketing that requires your time. If you want to do it successfully, you should seek professional help to get you focussed on the right stuff first and make sure you don't make mistakes and waste your time.
But it should be obvious now, I hope, that it'll also be a fairly significant investment of your time to pull off successfully.
If that's the case, it's only natural that you should ask your potential help, "How are we going to measure internet marketing success?"
Answer: You'll need the right online marketing analytics tools to measure what marketing activities, keywords, social media activities, ppc campaigns - actually generate new business. You'll, of course, need some time to evalute your success periodically, so you can constantly improve your internet marketing results.
"So, How Much Time Will I Need?"
That'd be the appropriate question for you to ask after the company you're interviewing tells you that "time" is the most important criteria to your soon-to-be-realized internet marketing success.
If they answer right away, don't hire them.
Unfortunately, there's no standard answer to "how much time you'll need".
To generate leads from the internet marketing techniques listed above, there's a lot of factors that go into figuring "how hard" it'll be. Anyone that actually has experience doing these things successfully would do
to determine how much time investment and time lapse will be necessary before any amount of success is achieved.
A safe is answer is, "The more time you put it into, the more business you'll get from it."