You’re probably going to go out of business tomorrow if you don’t start some sort of online marketing right now! Marketing your business online is totally the most important thing in the world, *even* more important than the beating of your heart. Hundreds of cute kittens aren’t going to get loving owners because of you and children everywhere are going to miss out on dessert this evening. All because you’re not marketing your business online.
While this might seem like over-the-top hyperbole, it’s the message that a lot of digital marketing agencies send in their marketing.
But is online marketing the be-all and end-all to all of your marketing concerns? Can internet marketing deliver a positive ROI, or is what you’re hearing just a bunch of spin from digital marketers trying to lure prospects into signing up with them?
Well, as is often the case in life, the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no”, it’s a more complicated maybe.
When Your Only Tool is a Hammer …
… every problem looks like a nail. It’s a classic saying but it really illustrates the point we’re trying to make here.
A lot of internet marketing companies fall into the trap of believing that internet marketing is effective regardless of the products or services being promoted or the demographic being targeted.
It says here that online marketing isn’t always the answer.
Other internet marketing companies would faint at the mere suggestion that online marketing isn’t the most important thing ever, but we’re not like other internet marketing companies. At the outset of an opportunity we take time to consider if online marketing is the right platform for our client’s business to use.
And while it sucks to watch a business opportunity walk out the door because online isn’t the best way for some businesses to market themselves, we don’t want short-term customers that will end up cancelling their services and leave with a bad taste in their mouth because we couldn’t deliver satisfactory results.
There are a few things we think about when we’re collaborating with our customers to determine whether digital marketing is right for their business.
Who is Your Buyer and Where Do They Hang Out (Online)?
The first thing we think about is who a prospect’s ideal buyer is and where they are likely to hang out when they’re online.
This is where the buyer persona portion of our online marketing planning phase comes in: by understanding exactly who we’re trying to market to, we can identify if they’re likely to look online for the products and services they’re looking for. Sometimes buyers will head over to Google and search for things they’re looking for, and sometimes they’ll reach out to their social networks for recommendations.
If you don’t know who your buyer is or where you are likely to find them online then you’re essentially marketing in the dark and hoping for the best. We expect a little (okay, a lot) better than that for our clients.
Where Can Online Marketing Support Your Sales Process?
Every business has a sales process it follows when selling products and services.
Some can be very quick. Tim Horton’s, for example, has a very short sales cycle. When people want a coffee, they don’t spend weeks and months researching, identifying possible providers, requesting proposals and checking references before buying a coffee, they just in their car and go buy a coffee.
Other businesses have a much longer sales process that includes all of those steps listed above and many more and can stretch across months, and sometimes years.
You absolutely must understand your sales process, because once you do then you’ll be much more successful in identifying where your online marketing can support that process, and get a prospect from one stage of the buying cycle along to the next.
For a lot of new and small business owners, the goal of their online marketing is to build credibility. They get introduced to a prospect – maybe at a networking event, through word-of-mouth or through a mutual connection – and one of the first things that prospect will do is check them out online. The seller’s online presence must establish them as a professional and credible business worth further engagement. Typically the next step in that type of sales process is for the seller to talk to the prospect on the phone or to arrange a meeting – but this is simply the next step of the sales process.
In this situation it’s unlikely that the prospect is going to buy simply because of the seller’s online marketing, but the purpose of the online marketing platform is to establish credibility and to get the prospect through the preliminary exploration phase and into the next level of engagement so the sales process can continue.
Other businesses are able to facilitate their entire sales process with their online channels. Think of Amazon: a buyer wants something, they search it on Amazon, make sure the product is what they’re looking for, read glowing reviews, add it to their virtual shopping cart and head to the checkout to buy it. The whole process is done online without the buyer ever directly engaging the seller. If your business is like Amazon’s then you have a much different sales process and your online marketing strategy and execution must be tailored accordingly.
Contrary to what a lot of other online marketing agencies might have you believe, internet marketing isn’t the be-all and end-all for amping your sales and marketing. If you are thinking about marketing your products and services online, make sure that you understand who your buyer is, where you might find them online, and what your sales process is. Only then can you gear your efforts towards finding that potential customer and moving them through your sales process.