Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to create a business than right now. Creating an e-commerce business may seem simpler than creating a brick-and-mortar business, but it still takes work. The most complex part for most online businesses is online marketing.
Online marketing does two things for your business. It tells others about it and it creates a path for searchers to follow to pay you for whatever it is you’re offering. We call these promotion and funnel creation respectively.
To understand online marketing, we have to break it up into different parts. Not every business will need every part, but we’ll explain why you might want to consider having it for your own business. These parts all work together to create the powerful brands and marketing power you see in today’s businesses.
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Every online business has a marketing funnel. It’s the process that someone follows to learn about your site, your brand, your offering, and to give you money for it. Even if you only have a website and have no other marketing than your site, there is still a funnel:
- Someone sees your site in a search or types in your web address.
- They read your website and see a product they like.
- They are faced with payment options and your final sales pitch to buy the product.
- They buy, and you get money.
This is the classic AIDA method of sales. You get their attention through a search or because they hear about your site. You interest them with your website content and products, building their curiosity until they reach a point where they have to make a decision. Your final sales pitch then tips them over into action and they give you money for your offer.
This process of moving people through these stages is called conversion, and there is a whole discipline of improving funnels called conversion rate optimization that can improve the number of people who buy from you over time. Raising your conversion rate is the surest sign that your marketing is working, and you can use it to calculate the ROI of your marketing spending.
Funnel structures can be described as stages that match the AIDA model, usually called top, middle, and bottom. The top of the funnel attracts attention and stokes initial interest. The middle of the funnel builds that interest and points them in the right direction. Sometimes that direction is away from your business if they’re a poor fit for you! The bottom of the funnel is where you push them to decide and take action. All the online marketing strategies you’ll encounter will fit into one or more of these stages.
Search Engine Optimization
The most common way people will find your website is through a search engine. It is your main promotion tool, it’s the most common, and it’s free. In web-speak, finding your site through a search engine in the non-paid results is called “organic search.”
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the art and science of making your site look good to search engines so that they’ll rank you higher and make your site appear in searches that are relevant to your audience’s needs.
Good SEO placement, ideally within the top three places in Google, will give you a huge competitive advantage. It solves the problem of getting noticed. It is a top-of-the-funnel marketing strategy because the goal is to get the attention of the searcher.
It’s a near-certainty that search engines will find your site and rank it given enough time, so this is one side of online marketing you’ll have to deal with.
Another way of promoting your site is to pay for ads that will show to people at the moment they’re searching for something relevant to your ad. It is how Google and Facebook make their money. Pay-Per-Click advertising, often called PPC, is a great way to turbocharge the amount of traffic to your site.
However, two things have to be in place for it to work. First, you need to have a funnel built already. There is no sense in driving extra traffic to your site if you cannot handle the orders. Second, PPC does require an investment. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you will pay your ad network a certain amount of money. The amount you pay per click depends on many factors that we’ll get into in another article.
PPC is strictly for the top of the funnel. If the rest of the funnel is poor, you can waste a lot of money getting traffic that doesn’t convert. This can put your business in jeopardy. Just like a turbocharger in a car, PPC has to be used wisely.
Email marketing has come a long way from the days when all commercial email was spam. Good email marketing is the most powerful mid and bottom-funnel tool you can use. Done well, a large portion of your revenue can come from just sending an email to your mailing list. The key here is creating an email list that contains high-quality addresses.
For those of you familiar with traditional marketing, email marketing is the online equivalent of direct marketing, but better. People must ask to sign up to receive marketing messages. This means that the people you email are already a warm lead. They are usually interested in what you have to say. This makes it much easier to pitch an offer to them, especially a higher-value one.
If you have a knack for this, email marketing may be the only kind of extra marketing you need after funnel creation and SEO. It’s that powerful.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others to promote your brand, connect with customers, and generate sales. These sites can be used for all parts of your funnel, but it is mostly used for mid-funnel marketing.
The great advantage of this method is that it allows your audience and your business to enter into conversation with each other. You can learn things about your audience that you would not be able to otherwise. You can also address any concerns or problems they have when they arise.
There are two big mistakes that people make with social media marketing. The first is treating it like a billboard. There needs to be a dedicated person willing to post content, check the replies, and respond to them on behalf of your company.
The second mistake is to try to make a presence on all the platforms you can find. It is best to stick to one social media platform, the one where your audience is most likely to hang out and focus on making that one work well before adding any others. Trying to be everywhere at once quickly leads to problems that we’ll talk about in another article.
Content marketing is the use of things like blogging, writing articles and e-books, creating infographics, making videos or podcasts, and similar activities to inform and intrigue your visitors and promote your products.
There are many content marketing strategies, depending on the type of content you’re posting, the needs of your audience, your competition, your niche, and what your goal is. Some don’t require much posting at all. Some require quite a lot.
The general goal of content marketing is to create trust in your business. Good content gives something valuable to the reader. That makes them feel good about your brand and raises their curiosity. Over time, this can build into a feeling that they need to buy something from you in exchange for all the value they’ve received through your content.
Content marketing can fit anywhere in the funnel. If you like to write, speak, or make videos, it’s a great way to market your business. However, it can be slow to start and it is much harder to measure the ROI of content marketing than other methods.
Analytics and Monitoring
One of the most important advances in marketing today is how easy it is to gather data about people’s online behavior. This data is the secret to why online marketing does so well compared to traditional marketing. With data, properly interpreted, you can see how your marketing is working. From there, you can gain insights into what needs to be done differently to improve your marketing.
This data gathering and analysis is known as analytics. An individual category in an analytics package is called a metric. There are a lot of free and paid varieties of analytics packages. One of the most common is Google Analytics, which is free and easy to implement. Facebook has its own free package for its social media platform.
You don’t have to be a data scientist to understand them, but you do need to know which ones are best to use to measure your particular marketing campaign goals. There are dozens of different metrics and each of the marketing types above has their own unique ones. If you choose the wrong ones, you could be optimizing for the wrong result.
One metric that every company has to use is the conversion rate, which we mentioned above. This is the percentage of people who visit a page and take a particular action. Let’s say you have a page with a free download in exchange for an email address. The conversion rate will be the number of people who downloaded divided by the number of people who didn’t take your offer.
So, if 1000 people visit your page over a month and 100 of them give you an email address, that’s a 10% conversion rate for that part of your funnel. You can also take the number of people who converted and figure out the cost per lead. Combine that with your average sale amount per customer and you can find out if your marketing is paying for itself or not.
It is important not to try to follow too many metrics, especially if you’re new to this. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. Focus on the most important ones for your goals. Because there are so many different goals, a little Google research can help here. Just search for “analytics for <goal>”, without the angle brackets and you’ll turn up a lot of info.
Here are some general pointers that with any kind of analytics can save you money and heartache.
- Metrics need to be measured against some sort of standard, known as a baseline. Without a baseline to compare your changes to, you won’t know how much and which direction a particular metric has changed.
- Some metrics are updated immediately, while others take time to change because they are dependent on other metrics or for a certain amount of time to pass. Take this into account when you make changes or report on your marketing so you can set reasonable expectations.
- Be clear about exactly what your chosen metrics represent in terms of the funnel and your customers. Know what a change up or down means and what might could drive that shift. That will help you strategize for future changes.
You Need Online Marketing
Businesses have more tools than ever before to get their products out in front of people and make the buying process as smooth as possible. Customers demand a smooth path to purchase when they’re ready to buy. This means you have to build clean and solid funnels to succeed in today’s marketplace.
Even if your website is well designed, if you have no other marketing then you are at the mercy of the search engines for promoting your site. All the techniques we’ve talked about will help you break out of that bubble and promote your business.
You don’t have to do it all on your own. There are many online marketing firms you can hire to help you run your marketing strategy or give you advice. You don’t have to be an expert marketer to succeed with this, but you do need to know a little. We’re in the process of creating detailed posts about the subjects here, so if a particular subject interests you, keep an eye out for updates.