Your business has countless options for running successful marketing campaigns at any given time.
This is not an exaggeration.
You could publish blog posts, send newsletters, tweet all day, or spend thousands on PPC ads.
And each of these choices also contains within it even more micro-choices:
- Which images or targeting options to pick for your ads on Facebook
- Whether to develop your blog content in-house or to outsource the writing
- Choosing the right subject headlines for your emails
- Which pricing model to go with: CPC or CPI?
These may seem like daunting questions to all but the most experienced marketers, which is understandable, as it is very easy for new marketers to get bogged down with all the details.
If you are just getting started with online marketing, it can prove to be quite confusing listening to all the different and often conflicting advice about how to run a successful marketing campaign.
The truth is actually quite simple:
Marketing is strategic, which means that in order for you to succeed, you need to have goals that are highly focused.
The secret lies in having a framework that is replicable and scalable.
This is true whether you are a beginner or advanced marketer. If you jump in without a plan and start running without direction then you will just end up wasting your valuable time and money.
The first step you can take toward successful online marketing is to understand your business’s exact requirements and goals. You must possess laser focus and relentless self-discipline.
In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the lessons that the most experienced marketers in the world took years to learn so that you can get started and move your business forward while saving precious time and money.
Read on to find out how to build foundations that will help you jump light years ahead of everyone else when you are just getting started with your online marketing campaigns.
Build A Marketing Machine
Average marketers think in terms of campaigns. They spend all week pushing out a campaign and then starting all over again the next week.
While you can find some level of success with this, it will only take you so far.
If you want to take your marketing to the next level, then you need to think in terms of ‘systems’ and start building a marketing machine so that you can experience explosive growth.
1. Start With Your Customers
Successful marketing begins with your customers. This means that each of your marketing strategies should begin with your customer base.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is using your product?
- What do those people value?
- What do they feel?
- What are the products they are currently using?
- What is it going to take to convert them into paying customers?
Before crafting your online marketing strategy, you need to have a conversation with some of your existing customers. Find out how they discovered your product or service. How did they transform from prospects to customers, and what do they value or care about?
I’m willing to bet that the answers you will hear mostly have to do with stories of how your particular business, product, or service solved their most pressing problems.
Whether it happens online or through an offline medium, marketing is all about human relationships.
The bottom line is that they won’t even remember how they found your business, and at the end of the day, it won’t make much difference to them whether they came across your company through a friend’s referral or by clicking on a Facebook ad.
Put Yourself In Your Customers’ Shoes
Now, I want you to take off your marketer hat for a second and channel your inner consumer.
Try to think about how you first found some of your favorite brands, products, and services. Even though it may be a company that you do business with on a daily basis, odds are that the only thing you really remember now is that they helped you solve a problem that you had.
So, it doesn’t matter how robust a business’s online marketing presence is – they could be active on social media, have a brilliant email marketing campaign, and be constantly retargeting their customers through eye-catching Facebook ads with some of the products that they think customers will love.
If there isn’t a human-to-human connection at the heart of their marketing spend, then they are just wasting time and money.
Don’t fall into that trap when getting started online. You need to set up the right systems to build genuine bonds with the buyers that you are trying to reach.
And the level of success that you are going to experience is going to be directly proportional to your ability to choose the best channels to achieve that end goal.
2. Create Customer Avatars
The next step you need to take is to develop your buyer personas or customer avatars.
These are the demographic, behavioral, and psychological characteristics. As you have seen, this process of steps to take when getting started goes contrary to the advice offered by some gurus who think that it’s best to just jump in and start testing to see what works and what doesn’t.
In marketing, you need to know exactly who you are marketing to. There’s nothing like ‘one-size-fits-all’ customers.
The people who make up your buyer group will be highly diverse, with unique needs, preferences, and personality traits.
You need to reach every single one of those customer segments with your online marketing initiatives. And the first step to doing that effectively is by developing customer avatars.
Ask The Following Questions To Help You Get Started:
- What are the typical roles of your customers?
- What are their job titles (if you sell B2B products or services) – eg, IT manager, CEO, marketing manager, etc? For consumer brands, examples could include wife, husband, mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandfather, etc.
- Do those people have any authority in the decision-making process? – If so, do they consult with others?
- Who has the final say?
Pinpoint your customers’ key personality traits so that you can understand their personas on a deeper level.
Some Of The Demographic Characteristics Include:
- Job Title
- Location (city, suburb, or rural)
Their Key Professional Attributes:
- What are the responsibilities associated with their job?
- What are their highest job priorities or responsibilities in their direct area of influence?
- What are the top issues or problems that they are facing that your business can help solve?
- What are a few of the perceived barriers to the problems you listed above?
- What actions might they have taken already in an effort to solve their main problems? And so on…
Marketing is a lot like public speaking.
Although you’re speaking to a large group, you need to determine the best way of connecting with your audience on an individual level.
This comes down to understanding the people who make up your audience as well as the problems that brought them to you.
When you complete your customer avatars, imagine them as individual people rather than groups.
Try to move away from the traditional marketing research frameworks which compartmentalize people into pre-existing, standardized categories. What this means is that you need to lose the cookie cutter and ensure that your customer segments are unique to your own business.
Begin with real conversations concerning your prospects and customers, and step forward with an open mind. Don’t make any assumptions about anything.
The results may surprise you and drastically alter the overall course of your online marketing strategy.
3. Know The Buyer’s Path To Sales
It’s not enough to simply know your customers. You also need a good understanding of how their behaviors, values, and personality traits translate into sales for your business.
A great place to start, even if you don’t have a complete marketing strategy in place, is to identify the areas where you’ve already established strong connection-building efforts.
Address some of the following key questions:
How do most prospects find your business – is it through word of mouth or referrals?
When choosing your marketing initiatives, you must go with what is already working.
For instance, if you see a huge growth due to professional or personal references, then you might want to implement a formal referral program to provide an incentive for more connections.
What are the initial questions your customers are asking?
Once you know the questions they are asking, get the answers to those questions and incorporate them into your business’s marketing messages, value propositions, and sales pitches.
Do your best to anticipate the information that your prospects are searching for.
This is a great strategy that will help you immensely when it comes to building strong, mutual connections with your audience:
- What is the decision-making process for making a purchase?
- What kind of follow-up questions are your customers asking?
- Who are the stakeholders involved in conversations about your business?
This is a process that will happen incrementally, over time. Make sure that your marketing materials guide your prospects through each stage.
How long does this process last?
This is an important question, and in addition to knowing how long the overall process lasts, you also need to know how much time each stage takes.
Any marketing campaign that you embark on should be measurable to allow you to assess its return on investment (ROI).
But, this call has to be made at the right time because measuring too early means that you may not have adequate amounts of data to really understand your campaign’s success.
Conversely, measuring too late may result in your business losing money by not responding quickly enough and keeping failed campaigns running much longer than they should.
For best results, you simply need to be realistic about your timing for each initiative and do your best to ensure that you don’t risk making your decisions too early or too late.
Other Things To Consider:
- What are some of the most common reasons why sales don’t take place?
- Is it the cost?
- Lack of fit between prospects’ needs and your product or service?
Customers can drop off at any stage of the buying process. This happens, but you need to address the problem areas that you identify.
This will give your company the chance to maintain engagement with prospects for much longer.
4. Evaluate Your Business’s Conversion Funnel
This concept is among the most important in online marketing.
It is basically your buyers’ paths to product sales. Conversion funnels differ from one business and user segment to the next, and most businesses have multiple conversion funnels.
All you have to do is to visualize and understand your customers’ behaviors at each stage of your marketing. A small portion of your site visitors will move on to reach your last marketing goal, but the majority won’t.
Customer drop-off at each stage of the conversion funnel is normal and to be expected. But you must understand why it happens, and do your best to minimize it.
Use sales journey diagrams as tools to help you piece together a comprehensive view of your customers’ psychology, and their path to sales.
Don’t copy diagrams from other businesses – yours needs to be unique to you.
If you have a sales team and a marketing team then they can develop this in tandem, but if you are a single blogger, online business owner, or entrepreneur, then you will have to wear both hats.
Remember, these funnels are just as much about logical decisions as they are about emotions, so make sure that you pay close attention and evaluate both.
So What Are The Key Takeaways?
Your marketing success begins with your customers. Before you launch a campaign, do your research and make sure that you really understand your customers and what they want and need.
Prioritize their needs and values, but even beyond that, you need to understand the buyer’s path.
So pay attention to your business’s conversion funnel, and ignore those marketing ‘gurus’ whose advice is to ‘just start testing’. While that may seem easy to do, it’s actually an over-simplification that will cost your business a lot of time and money in the long run.
What you need is a plan, then you can start testing. Use this article to create a plan that completely revolves around your business’s prospects and customers and you’ll set yourself up for huge success in the future.
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Updated: Originally published September 8th 2018