Most companies start internet marketing by searching for an internet marketing services provider. They may get lucky and find a good one. But most companies are going to end up hiring a firm that only possesses half of what is required to make a client successful.
If you'd like to be one of the lucky ones, you should learn how to detect a good internet marketing services firm from a not-so-good one. Make sure the strategy that your web design and internet marketing firm presents to you covers the following 4 pieces of a successful internet marketing strategy:
Internet marketing starts with data. I was speaking with a small business owner the other day and I told her that I would take a look at the data from our analysis of her site. She asked me, "How do you have any data without looking at my webstats?". That's a logical question.
But, I'm not taking about traffic logs. I'm talking about data that is culled from the web about your website, your competitors' websites, search engines, blogs and social media sites.
Your website isn't an island on the web. A lot of factors determine whether you're likely to get much traffic from search engines, other blogs and social media sites. A good firm will be able to estimate how much traffic you can get without looking at what you get now. They should also be able to tell you how much work it'll take to get that traffic.
This is the main reason why the HubSpot team created our free Grader tools including Website Grader and Twitter Grader . Although website grader will tell you what mistakes you're making, there are a bunch of tools included in HubSpot's internet marketing software that give much more actionable information to aid with keyword research, on-page seo, off-page seo and social media marketing.
But there is other data you should look at, too. If you plan to do a lot of pay per click advertising, you should start your research with Compete or SpyFu . If you're looking for more advanced social media data, check out Techrigy , Radian6 and Nielsen Online .
If you're interviewing firms to design your website or plan your internet marketing strategy, they should be presenting data to you that helps you start calculating the traffic, leads and sales you'll get from internet marketing.
What software will power your website and internet marketing? You must ask this question of any internet marketing services firm you're interviewing. Very few firms have this figured out. There are still way too many web designers creating websites by hand coding them from scratch. And there are way too many websites that aren't built on an internet marketing platform. Most design firms will start pitching you by showing you mockups of pretty websites. Push back! Tell them that you know that the software is ultimately what's going to enable an ROI.
What software do you need? We're obviously a bit partial here. At some point, I will write a blog post called, "The Idiots Guide to Recreating
HubSpot's Internet Marketing Software
". But, suffice to say that the software that powers your website should include all of what HubSpot's software includes. Don't just stop with a
content management system
. Make sure you can
launch landing pages
and edit the right spots on your pages to do SEO. Make sure you have a
package that knows where your leads are coming from. Based on my experience, it's very beneficial if your SEO analytics tools gather data from your analytics package and your customer relationship management integrates with your landing pages.
Depending on your circumstance, there are some other tools you should consider. If you run a very high volume site, you should consider a high end analytics package like
. You should definitely start email marketing. For small businesses, you should consider simple email marketing tools like
. If you're a larger business with lots and lots of leads to nurture, you should consider tools like
. But, you should use logic to govern your software selection. Askyourself, "Will the software give you all the tools you need to controlthe traffic you want to attract, the leads you need to generate, and the sales you want to make?"
In a post a few months back, I argued that "time" is the most important ingredient in your internet marketing strategy . I still believe this. There is nothing about internet marketing that requires an advanced degree. If you have the right data and right software in place, all you really need is an interest in writing and the analytical skills required to read a graph. These skills are usually possessed by your average 11th grader.
However, if you're going to outsource your internet marketing to a firm, you should find a firm that has a stable of writers at their disposal; a quant or two on staff to plot your strategy; and a grunt or two to help with your repetitive social media and link building activities. Also consider hiring a liberal arts major out of college or a journalist. Just make sure they can read graphs.
No matter who you hire, give them the data and software they need. Then, measure them based on their ability to generate leads for you. If you're the expert at your business, your product, your customers' challenges... don't expect them to work in a vacuum. Whether you staff internally or outsource, you'll need to guide their activities, motivate and inspire them and teach them about your business. Just like hiring any new employee, don't expect them to produce leads in a vacuum. Internet marketing isn't magic. There are no such things as magic internet marketing skills. Or
SEO pixie dust
Since a well executed internet marketing strategy requires your time whether you outsource, do it yourself or hire someone, "lack of time" isn't the best reason to outsource. However, a really good reason to outsource certain inbound marketing tasks is because the web is a network and your network is probably not on the web. A good internet marketing services firm has been creating content, building links, leveraging social media sites, blogging, etc for themselves and their clients for years.
For example, I have 700 readers on my blog, 500+ connections on LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter, know lots of webmasters and have built 1,000s of links. If you could hire me to help you with your internet marketing, it'd be like hiring my sales coach to work a room with you in Central MA. If you were to walk into a networking event in Worcester, MA with Rick Roberge , you'd meet a lot of people very quickly. If you walked in alone, you might not get to talk to anyone worth talking to. The same thing applies on the web. Working with a firm with a similar network online as I have, can help you make progress much quicker. Without their help, and the help from their established networks on the web, you'd be the new guy in the room for awhile. Working with a firm can help you build your online network much quicker. Your firm's network will come in handy when launching your blog and building your readership, establishing credibility on social media sites, and sourcing content and building links for SEO.
This may be obvious now, but you'll be much more successful if you can connect online with your real world clients, suppliers and networking partners. If you can get your whole network blogging or using LinkedIn effectively, you'll stand a much better chance of success yourself.
As you can imagine, PR firms that have "taken to the web" are usually the best at building online networks. They have the right skills. Web developers are usually not so good at this stuff.
Data + Software + Skills + Network = Internet Marketing Success
Are you successful online? Do you have all 4 bases covered? Or did you skip one? What data do you use? What software are you using? What skills did you build internally? What tasks are you outsourcing and why? Are you building your network online? Moving your network online? Did you hire someone to help you with building your network online?
Share your experiences in the comments.