Warning: if you’re not trying to take over the world, you may find this post boring. It’s geared mainly for those obsessed, got-to-get-the-word-out types. If you’re one of them, you know what I’m talking about. You have a business or a cause you’re passionate about and want to spread the word far and wide.
If this is you, read on. You will need to know as much as possible about internet marketing because…well, because that’s how the world communicates these days.
This post is going to be a bit intense. We’re going to jump right into it and are going to be talking about the rock-bottom strategies underlying internet marketing. To fill in the basics, check out Part 1: Introduction and Part 2: Definitions earlier in this series. If you’re up to the challenge though, read on.
First, why strategy?
Why do we care about a strategy in internet marketing? Because without it, the whole thing is confusing as hell and you get no results, that’s why.
Internet marketing requires a certain mindset. You have to know what you’re shooting for and how it all fits together. Once you know get the overall picture, you can fill in the details and it’s way less confusing.
Without strategy, we’re just wandering around yelling into the wind. With strategy, we’re a laser beam. Or a katana. Or a light saber. Bam. Exactly.
We’re a light saber.
The Basic Strategy
Hold onto your hat and try not to blink. I’m going to drop a lot of stuff really fast. If you need more info, write me and let me know.
There are core truths about internet marketing. Here is one of them.
The basic strategy of internet marketing is to contact people on the web, get them to visit a website, capture their identity, interact with them more and more and then, eventually, get them to buy.
That’s the simplicity of it.
All marketing gets people to buy something. If what you’re doing on the internet isn’t oriented around getting people to eventually buy, it isn’t marketing. It might be public relations. It might be that vague and ambiguous animal known as “brand awareness.” It might be hanging out with friends and having fun. Then again, it might be something else entirely (like wasting money).
As for marketing though—it sells something. Period.
There are many ways to do internet marketing. However, no matter what approach you’re using, it will inevitably include involve the following steps:
- Make contacts with people on the web.
- Get them to visit some website where they can be become educated on who you are.
- Capture their identity.
- Interact with them to get them ready to buy.
- Sell them something.
You could practically write a book about each one of these. We’re not writing a book (although at this point, I probably should be!), so we’ll just leave it at that. Just know that every method of internet marketing is just achieving those basic five points above.
Introducing “Inbound Marketing”
As I said, we’re going to get meaty. You can’t get meaty without dropping some big words, right?
Most internet strategy centers around this concept of “inbound marketing.” It’s not the only way of using the Internet for marketing, but it’s one of the best—particularly on a budget and without massive technical knowledge.
“Inbound marketing” is a relatively new term, coined in 2005, and describes a whole new phenomenon occurring on the web right now. It could be defined as: “those marketing techniques—primarily on the Internet—which cause prospects to willingly reach out to you in order to do business or interact in some way.” This is sometimes also referred to as “permission marketing.”
Inbound marketing is often contrasted with “outbound” or “interruption” marketing, which are sort of derogatory terms for standard marketing techniques which reach out and grab a person’s attention. “Interruption marketing” could be defined as “methods of marketing designed to grab someone’s attention when they were looking for something else.”
Classic examples of interruption marketing are billboards and TV commercials: The guy is driving down the road and is bombarded by a billboard announcing a new beer he should drink. Someone is watching TV and now their show is interrupted by a commercial telling him to eat Wheaties or something.
It interrupts him. That’s why it’s called “interruption marketing.”
The Basic Idea of Inbound
The entire concept of inbound marketing is that people are constantly looking for information of some kind. We all do this. We go on Facebook and check out interesting or funny posts. We Google “how-to” articles when need to figure something out. We search for cars and hotel when we travel. We check out reviews of restaurants on Yelp before going out to eat. Movie times, directions, advice, recommendations, etc.—you get the idea.
If your business has the information the consumer is looking for, you’re the one they find and do business with. Wow. Hallelujah. OMG. A customer literally tracked YOU down. Kind of the reverse of what you might expect. Cool, right?
So, inbound marketing is basically the subject of being visible enough that people can find you and do business with you. Sounds easy, but it doesn’t happen naturally. You have to make sure you’re actually out there where they can find you. This is accomplished by a million different methods: making yourself visible on search engines, writing blog articles, publishing videos, registering your company in online directories, etc.
Entire books have been written about this, so we’re definitely not going to cover every aspect of it here. But this is the basic concept.
Tracking so far?
If you feel like you’re missing basic definitions, see this earlier blog post on definitions. If not, let’s roll on.
The “Death” of Interruption Marketing
A word of warning: people often dramatically announce the death of interruption marketing—declaring it doesn’t work in the 21st century and that people no longer respond to traditional marketing methods.
This isn’t true.
It’s been said for at least a decade now and is still being said. “Interruption marketing” (such a distasteful name for legit techniques), still has a solid place in marketing and generates massive sales every day. (Ever heard of a Super Bowl commercial? What about postcard mailings?) Traditional advertising and public outreach methods are as effective as they ever were. They just have to be used correctly.
Why Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing has one major advantage over other methods: it’s almost free.
Whereas you have to pay for ads, mailings and commercials, it costs nothing to write a blog. Search engines will rank your site for nothing. Connecting with potential customers on social media is free.
Because of this, it’s possible to do a ton of marketing and really expand for very little money. In some cases, you can heavily outperform traditional advertising methods. This is because the people hooking up with you WANT to be connected. They’re interested.
Thus, you end up building a community or a following around your business. And that’s always rad no matter who you are.
The Marketing Plan
How does all this fit together? I’ll try to bring this out of soaring esoteric philosophy back down to the grass underfoot and the sand between your toes. Let’s talk about your marketing plan.
So we’re all on the same page, first let’s define “marketing”:
Marketing is just a series of communications to potential buyers which help people understand your services, want them and then decide to buy them.
In that context, you can see that “internet marketing” is just another method of reaching out to people. It isn’t something different or mysterious. It’s just marketing. It’s just communication. It fits in with everything else you’re doing. It’s part of your overall marketing strategy.
Most people don’t have a marketing plan, so real quick I’m going to touch on how to create one. This is a list of questions that will help you figure out yours. Make a full list for each of the following:
- What do you sell?
- Who buys this sort of thing? We’re looking for basic categories of buyers. Preferably use real statistics from past sales, not just ideas of who might buy.
- What problems do your buyers have, which your services solve? What are their personal concerns about these problems?
- Where do your buyers go to find solutions to these problems? (In other words, where would a person who needed your service go to find someone like you?)
- What is the outcome or end-result benefit these prospective buyers want? What is their real-world desire? (Not the desire you think they should have.)
Based on the above, your marketing plan should be simple:
Go to wherever your buyers can be found and communicate to them. Get them to understand that you solve their problems that they will end up with the outcome they want. Tell them to buy from you. Done.
A Million Ways to Mess It Up
There are a ton of ways to mess up a marketing plan. Some really simple things to keep in mind are:
- First of all, not everyone is your prospect. You don’t market to everyone. You only market to the types of people that are potential customers. It makes no sense for veterinarians to market to kids. Market to the parents—they pay the bill. Likewise, don’t market toys to parents. Market them to kids. Kids will make their parents buy the coolest new thing. The parents just want to buy whatever makes their kid happy.
- You actually have to go to where your prospects are. If you sell steel to large factories, you don’t send a postcard to every house in the neighborhood surrounding your plant. You fly to factories and meet with purchasers; you go to industry events and make personal contacts. You don’t advertise beer in a health and wellness magazine. Get the idea? Go to where your particular buyers are.
- Look at marketing from your prospects’ point of view. Don’t sell them using your reasons they should buy—use theirs. As a professional, you may have very valid points. But what are THEY trying to solve? A dentist may be concerned about oral health, but the patient just wants a pretty smile. Dig?
- When working out a marketing plan, go off statistics and past track record. You need real data, not opinion or hope. If your marketing plan isn’t working, then you’re dealing with an incorrect assumption. Go back and look at the hard data. Statistics tell the truth.
Pulling It All Together
I realize we’ve been dense in this blog post. If you were looking for fluff and light reading, you just got hit with a brick.
But it was a good brick, right? 😉
Let’s tie this together and wrap it up. How does inbound marketing fit into your overall marketing plan?
Well, you certainly aren’t doing inbound marketing for its own sake. You would only do it because that’s where your customers are. Otherwise, you shouldn’t do it!
Your customers are somewhere online, and they’re looking for something. This is totally unique for each type of business. You need to find out where they are and what they’re looking for, then provide them with whatever that is.
Are they on LinkedIn? Are they on industry forums? Are they wandering around Facebook watching funny vidoes on Wimp.com and Upworthy? Different types of customers will be in totally different places, looking for totally different things. This is the core of your inbound marketing strategy. It’s essential that you figure this out.
And when you do, you can be right there, providing them with exactly what they’re interested in—making you the obvious choice to do business with.
We’re going to get down to business in the next segment and talk about practical applications—real-world methods of using the Internet in marketing.
The method we’re going to discuss is hellaciously workable. It’s used all over the place and is a basic example of nearly everything going on out there…but remember that it’s still just one method. As the disturbing and utterly non-sequitur cliché states, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
So stay tuned to learn one of the most basic ways you can do internet marketing to get real leads and sales, for next to no money and with little technical skill.
Check out part Part 4 of this series: The Tools of Internet Marketing.