How Complete is Your Digital Strategy?
You have a great web site, right? It’s relatively new (tastes and technology change and so should your web site – about every two or three years). It’s vibrant, compelling, a complete representation of your brand. You’re proud of it.
But now what? How are you going to get people to come to your web site? This is your digital strategy. No matter how great your web site is, it’s a waste of money if no one visits it. Ice cream in the desert is a good idea. People in the desert would buy ice cream, even pay a premium for it, but you need a road to your ice cream stand. You need pathways to your web site.
And the pathways, the channels, you have to lead people to your web site is your “digital strategy”. And just as the more roads leading to your ice cream stand, the more channels you have to your web site, the more traffic you are going to get.
There are four channels you should consider having in your digital strategy: traditional, search, digital advertising, and digital marketing.
This channel comprises your print, broadcast, telemarketing and networking activities. While for some companies and industries, this is “old fashioned”, you should still consider this as a powerful method of directing people to your web site. This could be as simple as having your web site address on your business card. It also includes any catalogues, sale flyers, radio and television ads, possibly billboards, sports team sponsorship, etc.
One of the difficulties with traditional marketing, compared to digital marketing, is the difficulty of quantifying the effectiveness of your efforts. If you do a television ad, a newspaper ad, and have a telemarketing campaign, and you have given out 100 business cards, when someone comes to your shop and buys your products, how do you know which of your efforts, if any, resulted in the sale?
Thus your strategy for the traditional channel should consider which channels are you going to pursue, how much are you going to spend, and how are you going to measure the effectiveness of each? And while many of the old fashioned techniques have been replaced by digital equivalents, this channel should at least be considered as part of your strategy.
Search Engine Marketing
Also called “Search Engine Optimisation” or “SEO”. This is making your site attractive enough to appear in the search results, typically for Google, in as high a position as possible, preferably on the first page – the top 10 results – or ideally, in the top three position. The two things to remember about search results are: 1) like the Olympics, after the first three places, no one cares, and 2) the best place in the universe to hide a dead body is page two of Google search results.
While a lot has been written about SEO, there are really only four things to remember:
1) There are no shortcuts; in order to rank well, you must have a great web site.Optimising a poor web site is like putting icing on a mud pie; while initially attractive, the user will not be satisfied.
2) Keep your expectations realistic. Of course you want to rank at the top for the most valuable keywords, but so does everyone else. And some of your competitors are willing to outspend you, and some by a lot, to get those rankings.
3) Search marketing is not an event, it’s a campaign. Optimisation is not a “set and forget” process. Google changes its rules for ranking about twice a day, 500 times a year. Your customers are changing what they want, what they are expecting, what they like all the time. And your competition is not standing still. Keep your site up to date, vibrant, compelling, and most importantly, useful to your site visitors.
4) Your focus must be on “conversions”, visitors who become customers. Rankings are worthless unless people come to your site, and visitors to your site are detrimental if they don’t become customers. Think of it this way: which would you prefer: 100 people coming into your shop asking questions, wanting service, where only five people buy your products, or 20 people coming and 10 purchases?
When you are selecting someone to manage your search marketing campaign, be sure you ask these questions:
- Are you able to optimise the user experience as well as the site content?
- Do your reports include rankings, traffic, and conversions?
- How will I know you are doing a good job? (The answer should include all three, rankings, traffic and conversions.)
- Do you consider your job to cause the results or just report on them?
Search marketing is using search engines, typically Google, to send people who don’t already know you to your web site based on what they are searching for. Digital marketing is communicating with people you already know about because they subscribed to your newsletter, sent you an enquiry, purchased something from you, returned a warranty card, Facebook, connected with you on social media, or left their business card in a fishbowl next to your store cash register.
Some say it is seven times easier to sell to an existing customer than find a new one, so this aspect of your digital strategy is one of the most profitable. The key here is to be of service to your existing customers. Have your newsletters be interesting and valuable, not just a sales brochure. On social media, be sociable. Don’t just promote yourself. Comment on others’ posts. Refer to others in your posts. Interact with people who comment on your posts. The more you are social, the more you can promote yourself. It’s all about you, your followers will unfollow you in droves.
If you don’t already have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, get one and use it so you know who you have communicated with and about what. Your customer database is one of your most valuable resources. With a good CRM kept up to date you can fine tune what you send people. If they have purchased maternity clothes, wait a few months and send them a special for infant apparel. If they have purchased a piece of equipment, remind them to renew the warranty or get the machine serviced. If they have asked for some information, have a process to send them what they need immediately if possible. And keep track of everything. If you don’t know your customers, you cannot be of service to them.
Where search marketing is serving people you don’t know who are looking for your service and digital marketing is serving people you already know, digital advertising is paying someone else to send people to you. The most common form of this is Google “Pay per Click” ads at the top and bottom of the search results. Other forms are social media and banner ads.
In order to be successful with digital advertising, you must have a great web site. You are paying for every visitor to your site. If they don’t become a customer, if your web site does not serve them, if it is not vibrant and compelling, and easy to use, you have lost that money.
Digital advertising is the most flexible channel. You use the parameters to make the channel as wide or focused as you want. You can let it run 24 by 7 by 365 nationwide if you want, or you can turn it on only between 5 pm and 10 pm Monday through Friday for people only within 20 km of downtown Brisbane. It can achieve results not available in search marketing, which is much slower. Suppose you had a Mother’s Day special. You could never get search marketing to rank you well only for the three weeks leading up to Mother’s Day and then not appear again until next year. But with digital advertising you can.
This channel is, for most, the most complicated channel to manage and you will almost certainly not want to manage it yourself. You should engage someone who knows how to get the most return for your investment, which keywords to select, how much to offer for each, what your daily or weekly or monthly budget should be, what pages you should direct your users to, what results you should measure, and how you should change things next month based on this month’s results. You should ask your provider these questions:
- How will you choose the keywords and the budgets?
- What results will you measure?
- What reports will you provide?
- How will we know you have done a good job?
- How often can we change the campaign based on the results we get?
It all starts – and ends – with a great web site. Nothing else will do. But once you have a vibrant, compelling site that your visitors find useful and valuable, the job is to get people to come to your site. You have four channels:
- Traditional marketing – and while taking a smaller role than in years past, should not be ignored
- Search marketing – to bring people who don’t know you yet to your great web site based on what they want and are searching for
- Digital marketing – communicating to people who you already know about to provide valuable information, offers, and to be of service to your existing customers.
- Digital advertising – paying someone else to send people to your great web site
The point of all of these is conversion from visitor to customer. It’s not rankings. It’s not traffic. It’s growing your business.