This will be another year of exponential growth for online marketing. Start the year with a commitment to add rich content and consistent sharing of that content to your current strategy. Here are 5 tips that will sharpen your online marketing focus:
Create your content library
Content is your online marketing starting point. Without content, you can't create a customer base online. The trick is to have rich content that people will read, and then to be able to store it somewhere that is easy to access–your content library.
To create content, use the Twitter principles: You want online engagement with people who can become customers or business partners. But your “conversations” with them can't be all a hard-sell, or they'll disengage. Online communities want to work and converse with people they like and trust.
You want online engagement with people who can become customers or business partners
So think of your content as multi-tiered: You can share personal experiences that relate to your business. You can browse the web and find choice nuggets created by others that will resonate with your target audience. You can comment on industry trends or breaking news related to your business. And you can promote your products or services, and those of your strategic partners, which they will appreciate.
Before you launch your new, aggressive online marketing plan, have enough material in your library so you can switch your focus to sharing it rather than having to constantly create new material. And make sure you're covering all those topic area bases so that potential customers come to see you as a person, not just a marketing machine.
Determine where your target audience engages online
You've upgraded your online content and it's ready to be shared. Now, use it efficiently. Online marketing works best when you set some boundaries around who you want to market to and how you want to reach them. If you're selling a better bike helmet for kids, you're not very interested in email blasts to defense subcontractors.
Rather, you may want to target mommy bloggers and online bike retail shops. If your service has a defined local focus, set up your search engine optimization on your site to maximize the turf you're targeting.
If you are marketing to potential business partners, you want to target those businesses that regularly use a service or product similar to yours. Get a list of key contacts at those companies, and find out where those businesses go for online news and information.
Thanks to search engines, list experts, search engine optimization and blog rolls, the web can be a powerful tool for focusing your marketing and finding the leads we can convert to customers. But you need to identify your target audience, and their sources of information, to harness the web's full potential.
Share that content with your audience
Once you have content, and you know where your target audience spends time online, start to share that content. You'll want a sharing strategy, because online engagement works best when you share content over multiple platforms. Every online medium has its own frequency standards, but consistency is what underlies any online strategy.
A starter kit might include posting one to two blog posts a week on your business blog; two Tweets daily; three Facebook posts a week; a weekly email blast to a very targeted list; and a bimonthly query to an online news site that your potential customers might visit. Include a blog post from your content library with the query, and offer to contribute a monthly post.
Don't be discouraged if you can't keep up with your schedule. It can take time to achieve these goals, and you may either need to scale back or hire a service to help you share your content. But don't let a week go by without sharing content. Online marketing works, it will build your business, if you commit to it.
Unleash the power of LinkedIn
Use your LinkedIn account for networking with new business in mind. LinkedIn is all about business, so approaching your connections about doing business together is not only OK but expected. You can send a message to anyone with whom you are connected.
Most people get far fewer messages on LinkedIn than emails in their various inboxes, so they tend to read them more carefully. Use the content you have created to post your thoughts and share relevant news with your LinkedIn connections. You don't have to do this often, just often enough to show that you're active on LinkedIn and that this is a place where people can connect with you–and your business.
Caution: Don't pester people, just let them know you respect them and would like to do business with them if the opportunity arises. LinkedIn is not about mass mailings, it's about cultivating one-on-one relationships in a safe online environment.
Update your website for mobile customers
You can no longer assume that most of your potential customers will visit your website from a computer. Once you have launched your online marketing campaign, those who are intrigued by it may decide to check you out when they have a few moments of downtime, say while waiting for a flight in an airport or at their daughter's soccer match. They will be viewing your website on a tablet or smart phone screen, and your website better be optimized for these devices.
If you're building a new website, make sure you spend the extra bucks for mobile viewing. If you're upgrading your existing site, choose a site consultant with a track record for customizing websites for phones and pads. These requirements change regularly, just like search engine optimization. The money you budget for regular upgrades will come back to you many times over once your online marketing strategy is connecting you with the people you want to connect with.