For those still debating its necessity or downplaying its impact, online marketing is no less essential than it was and is in the legacy marketplace. It’s easy to sympathize with those who resist it, as there’s a lot of fluff out there and misguided digital marketing can cost lots, deliver little, and comes with a bucket of jargon that is anathema to people who just want to concentrate on their core business. Make no mistake, however, being online without polished online marketing merely caps your income.
How to go about it, then?
It begins with tech. It’s remarkable how many companies big and small are still erratic in their online marketing because of simple tech issues. If you’re the kind of entrepreneur happy to avoid a tech-heavy office, contract IT out! For in-depth guidance on choosing your outsourced IT team, check out How to Select the Best IT Support for Your Startup Company | Computers In The City to find the best in your area. Hodgepodge forays give lousy results. Consistency is key in online marketing, just as in land-based operations. For online, that means having good tech and good systems. In other words, benchmark IT. Anything less is simply going to show in poor results.
Unsurprisingly, online marketing is also a topic that has a copious library available – you guessed it — online. A valid approach to dip your toes into the water is to do a basic search for “online marketing explained.” The practice is well laid out, well populated with resources, and those most skillful in the space will reappear in a variety of searches, precisely because they’re good at getting eyes onto their message. Don’t equate that with them being the best study options, though; there’s more to it than that.
First off (and on that point) – discount the universities. It’s a global phenomenon that institutions of higher learning are most frequently, shamelessly selling their logos for cash. It’s a sad, modern reality that the average university course is run by a third party that gives kickbacks to the institution, and the course is often rubbish, or at least nothing you can’t glean online for free. Search for online reviews and you’ll soon see that most students past and present figured the cost was worth the badge, but they acknowledge that the content was mediocre at best.
This might suit freelancers and others who want to attract customers to their online marketing skills with a recognizable name on their certificate, but those in search of true competence should spend some time on reviews. Avail yourself of the phenomenon of people openly chatting online, and the genuinely good courses will pop up again and again. Those remaining returns on the search are then worth looking over. Also look at detailed articles explaining it from the ground up, look at courses and the modules offered, and within an hour or two you’ll have a good feel for what the practice entails. Online marketing really is a topic that lends itself to an autodidactic approach.
As copious as the available free intel is online,are the gurus and ‘experts’ who’ll tell you all about it — assuming you pay for their offer, of course. Very much like forex traders who are selling training to the layman, online marketing fundis who are pitching to those who would learn the skill need to be vetted on the back of their results. Nine times out of ten, studying through a reputable online learning portal like Udemy will be money far better spent than succumbing to the glitz of the gurus. Gurus are very good at selling themselves, but it doesn’t mean they’ll pass that acumen on to you who are selling products or services. Take their free stuff and primers, and research the rest for yourself. Study elsewhere if you still feel you need to encapsulate it all.
Of course, many individuals (and companies) are not looking to acquire online marketing skills beyond a basic understanding, but would rather contract the practice out.
The practitioners: spotting a good one
Moving away from those who would teach others – and assuming you’re in the market to contract out your online marketing – remember that online marketing is something that is amenable to a formulaic and modular approach. Ideally (and this is eminently possible), a company will begin a foray into online marketing and see some results reflected in its figures; results that justify further spend on the effort. Thus,a company can come to a point of effective and detailed online marketing having justified its now extensive reach (and associated costs) by an actual increase in income.
Bear this in mind when evaluating practitioners, as those who sometimes appear bland are as often sitting on some impressive figures. They’re plodders, but plugging away at online marketing is an essential practice. It’s work. Online marketing is often given over as the meteoric route to mega riches by the gurus, but the reality is that it’s most often gradual, constantly evaluated and consistent work. Just because an online marketer lacks personality doesn’t mean they can’t produce some stunning results.
By the same token, most legacy ad agencies who are now ‘digital’ agencies are winging it. They cost a fortune and very often contract the work out to freelancers who actually know what they’re doing, making a mint playing middleman. As a rule of thumb, if an ad agency is now also a digital agency, they’re posers. There are always exceptions, but online marketing is a detailed, specific focus. Again, ask to see the results before being dazzled by their glitzy premises. Genuine digital agencies are usually a small cluster of a few people who live and breathe online life only.
Good online marketing practitioners are methodical, paced, and consistent, just like successful forex traders. They also don’t really care for the client’s emotions or personal opinions, but rather employ analytics to determine success. If something works, they’ll repeat it again and again. Boring? Maybe. Does it make sales? Yes.
Marketing has never had it so good, so stay up to speed
The ability of online marketers to really know and target consumers is phenomenal. Indeed, online marketing intel is the stuff of fantasies for legacy marketers of the past. For the price of some preliminary homework, business’ ability to target pre-qualified consumers is at an all-time high. Targeted ads are a mainstay, and they’re generally going to land well with anyone under 40. However, they’re just as likely to rub up around half of the older demographic the wrong way. There’s a fine line between pleasing consumers with relevance and presenting as a snoop. As an example, Google ads aren’t as clever as people believe. Someone’s casual search for online gaming might be because they hate it and want to launch a campaign to stop it, so showing them subsequent ads for online casino bonuses will only infuriate them. Figure out who you’re talking to and refine your approach accordingly.
Things change, often within a decade or less. Skype was de rigueur but now more online conversations are Zoom-based, and for no apparent improvement (although technically Zoom ‘works’ better). Don’t follow your own preferences and emotions – follow the figures that tell you what you need, what you need to say and where to go to find clients. This was as true in the legacy arena as it is online. Just because you’re on WhatsApp and – apparently — so is the whole world, sothis makes you feel like you’ve got yourmessaging channels covered, doesn’t mean you aren’t losing millions of eyes on Telegram. If your personal tastes happen to coincide with your business objectives, fantastic, but when potential income doesn’t coincide with your preferences, follow the figures, not your own adamance on the issue.
In those dry patches – and there will be moments when all of your marketing efforts just feel ‘flat’ – remember, it’s work! Slow, methodical work. Avoid flash in the pan derailments of a methodical campaign unless the reasons for it are backed by a logically accrued history and emergent, consistent current results. Much like the forex and stock markets, the ‘next big thing’ is often half complete hype and then genuine value. Once you’ve mapped out an online marketing strategy that you feel is comprehensive and can be pegged to anticipated dividends, don’t forsake it – those platforms are unlikely to disappear overnight just because something else is rising for a certain demographic in that moment.
Heads up – here comes money!
Taken as a whole and with few exceptions, it’s generally a good idea to balance your marketing spread across many platforms, with a focus on a few. Use analytics, and you’ll soon see where you get your best responses – and then make those platforms or methodologies the focus ones. When you’re sick, visiting your doctor often subjects you to a process of elimination and, really, when you think of how complex the human body is and how generic symptoms of varied illnesses can be, you can’t begrudge the doctor a measure of initial chin rubbing to eliminate the most likely causes of your discomfort. Online marketing can often be reminiscent of that process.
This isn’t to say that after months of guessing at success, you should still retain the services of an online marketer who hasn’t provided any.But online marketing is often a combination of many lines in the water and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a few with irresistible bait that can land a weighty catch. A comprehensive online marketing approach will generate a combination of some negligible returns along with some exciting ones. It’s indicative of an approach that will carry online marketing success ever higher. Be sure and follow the Inbound Marketing dictates that currently define online marketing’s feeder funnel. It’s the gold standard for a reason.
Furthermore,don’t over promise and under deliver! If anything drags ecommerce down, it’s the appallingly absent after sales service that typically accompanies it. Online marketing above all needs to deliver a message that is achievable! Again, just as with the legacy arena, bad reviews are repeated more often than good ones, and most likely because they’re cathartic for those doing the moaning. Except that online, reviews don’t simply blow away in the wind – they’re there for anyone who cares enough to research you to see, for along time if not indefinitely. There are no clear statistics on the issue, but it’s likely that two or three lousy reviews of your product or service will make prospective clients turn away – wouldn’t you in their position?
Finally, there is a new wave of online consumers coming to terms with ecommerce for the first time, thanks to the coronavirus lockdown. Possibly as many as a billion or more of them. Ecommerce is set to boom! If you’re aiming at them, be reassuring, keep it simple, and don’t assume everyone has been online for decades – at least a few hundred million haven’t. Don’t be shy to spell things out – even those who fancy themselves ‘born online’ welcome self-explanatory headings and simple subsequent protocols.
Roy Castleman is founder and managing director of EC-MSP Ltd., a London-based IT support organization focusing on small and medium-sized businesses. An experienced consultant in disaster recovery, he has accreditation with such companies as Microsoft, HP, and Cisco.