Over the last decade or so I think it’s true to say that some small businesses have toyed with online marketing rather than jumping in completely. But now the world of online marketing is becoming so dominant that’s not really a policy any business can afford to stick with any more. It’s not a fad, it’s not going to go away! Plus, some of those old tried-and-tested offline methods just don’t work anymore.
So is it time to consider whether you should move over mainly, or even entirely, to online marketing?
Here’s a handy procedure to follow if you’re thinking about making the move from offline marketing – like press advertising, direct mail or leafleting – to some of the many forms of online marketing:
* Identify what offline marketing doesn’t work …. and decide what to do about it.
Many clients I speak to have been using press advertising successfully for years and now find it brings little or do response. You might decide to drop it entirely. If you do, I’d suggest you run some tests to make sure it really is time-expired first.
* Identify what offline marketing still works.
Some still has a lot to offer, so there’s nothing to stay you can’t retain it. For example, direct mail can still be very effective for some products and particularly for business-to-business …. and it’s easy to test if it is still effective. Some methods, like fairs and exhibitions, can work even better – they seem to fit in very well with the new ‘social’ way of marketing today.
Instead, look at ways you can enhance these offline methods with the addition of online marketing tools.
* Appraise what you’re currently doing online.
Chances are, if you’re like many businesses, you just set up a website years ago because it was the ‘thing to do’ and haven’t done much with it since. So maybe it’s obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.
If so, think about whether it’s worth trying to revamp your website . Or whether you should start afresh with a completely new one that can accommodate your online marketing.
So what new methods of online marketing should you consider ?
Blogging is probably the easiest and most effective form of content marketing. It’s easy enough to add a blog to many websites, or start a standalone blog. You will need lot of content – and regular content – for it to make it really effective though.
* Set up an online store
Depending on what your business is, you could add an online store to your website. This can work well alongside blogging, where posts can serve as reviews (a great form of content marketing).
* Sell on online sales platforms
Again depending on what you’re selling you could sell online without the need for an online shop. eBay and Amazon are the most well known online sales platforms but there are now lots of others to choose from too.
* Email marketing
If you do nothing else in the online world I’d suggest you do this! Opt-in email marketing where you collect the email addresses of prospects, or existing customers, so you can mail them as and when you wish to is one of the cheapest and most effective forms of online marketing. All you need is a list, some regular content, and you’re off.
* Social media
Social media is perhaps the most exciting kind of online marketing. (If only because it’s still very much uncharted territory.) The most important thing to realise about social media is that to get results calls for a lot of effort, a lot of content, and – although it seems to be a way of pushing your message out to the world – it needs a lot of time to build up a following.
Everyone is using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube but there are now so many other tools available – many of them very niche and specialist – which might suit your business better.
The next stage
Don’t think of online marketing from the point of view of ‘it’s there …. so we should be using it’. Think about which methods will be the best fit for your product or service and the way you like to do business.
Once you have an idea of what online marketing methods to try I’d suggest a budget-based approach, rather throwing money at it until it works. Decide how much you’re willing to invest in it per month or over the course of the year. Set up a testing campaign for your new online marketing method so you can see and monitor the results – the same strategy that made sense with offline marketing for decades. The whole idea of online marketing is that it should provide you with a better return on your investment, not worse.
Mark Hempshell is a freelance copywriter and content marketeer based in Wakefield. You can read more tips and ideas for improving your marketing on Mark’s regular blog.