We’ve been expecting you.
Your training is about to begin. Follow me.
(Massive oak doors slowly creak open, revealing a stone floor dimly lit by glowing torches lining the walls. Battle cries and the sounds of clashing weapons roll like waves off a crowd of black-clad students flipping and hurtling around the room.)
Wow. That was awesome. I always wanted to say that.
Welcome to the newest installment in the series called “The Fundamentals of Internet Marketing.” Earlier posts discussed definitions and strategy. To bring you up to speed, it might help to read Part 1: Introduction, Part 2: Basic Definitions and Part 3: Strategy.
In this post, we’re going to talk about how to actually use the different tools of internet marketing to generate leads—the right way to use social media, how a blog works, the way these fit in with your company website.
My goal here is to get intensely practical. I want to get out of theory and see how all this fits together in the real world.
In internet marketing, there are a few extremely important tools you’re going to use over and over again. These are:
- Your company website
- Company blog
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Search engines
There are many more, but we’ll just stick with the basics for now. Each of these tools has an exact use in internet marketing. You can’t use them for something they aren’t supposed to do. Each has a role in the entire marketing picture. If you want results, you have to use them correctly.
Let’s have a look at each one.
In this day and age, every company in the world should have a website. This is your “real estate” on the Internet—your public face. This is how people “visit” you.
If you analogize it to the physical world, your website is like your physical location or storefront—a place uniquely yours where people can come to visit, check out your products and buy stuff.
In most cases, this is where you collect leads, make sales and get your phone to ring. It’s where the money is made.
The goal of the company website is get visitors to convert—to sign up, to buy stuff or to contact you so you can close them. Everything has to be set up to ensure that visitors are funneled into a conversion. There is an exact art to doing this, by the way. It takes good strategy and an understanding of both your customers and how people use the web in general.
The goal isn’t just to have a pretty address on the web, but a real sales tool that turns visitors into leads and sales. It goes without saying that, if you’re not getting leads or phone calls from visitors to your site, you need to do something about it—like rewrite it.
Your blog is like your online newsletter. It’s what keeps people coming back to your website. Much like a hard copy newsletter, it reminds people that you exist. They might have interacted with you months or years ago, but likely they’ve now forgotten. How to keep yourself in the forefront of their mind?
The trick to a blog is that, like a newsletter, in order for people to read it, it has to contain information they’re actually interested in. It can’t just be sales talk. You’ve got to write articles that are actually valuable to your prospects. Educate them. Entertain them. Interest them.
Remember, your prospects have problems. You make money by helping them solve those problems—(sellling them the products services of your business).
Your blog needs to give away free, valuable information about your field of expertise. It has to help people. Think of your blog like the articles in a magazine or newspaper, not the ads. If you’re a plumber, write a blog about fixing leaky faucets or unclogging drains. If you’re a lawn care company, write about maintenance tips.
You’ve got valuable information. I guarantee it. Share it. That’s what goes on your blog.
SUPER BIG IMPORTANT POINT ABOUT BLOGS: You also have to have “ads” on your website that people see when they visit your blog.
People will not buy from you just because they read your blog. They will read your blog and then go back to whatever they were doing. The solution for this is to put “ads” on your website next to your blog. These ads direct people to the products and services on your website, or to your “contact” page.
The idea here is that the people who are interested enough to read a blog about your particular field are also probably the same people who are interested in buying stuff from you. They probably wouldn’t be reading an article about cleaning fish tanks if they weren’t a pet owner. In other words, your blog readers are likely also your prospects.
Advertise to them.
If there was one single important point in internet marketing, this might be it. You’ve got to have big, attractive ads visible to blog readers which aggressively encourage people to find out about your services and buy from you. If you don’t do this, you won’t make any sales and the whole thing breaks down.
Your blog posts themselves are NOT ads. They’re helpful articles. But you’ve got to have the ads on the side or nobody buys anything, capisce?
Let’s say you’ve got a company website which actually gets conversions when people visit and a good blog which gives them a reason to come back over and over. Cool. But how do we get any to see it?
People won’t read your blog simply because you wrote something. How would they even know you’ve got a new post? You have to tell them.
This is a major use of email marketing.
As an analogy, if your blog is a newsletter, email marketing is your mailing list. No matter how cool your newsletter is, if you don’t mail it out, no one will ever see it.
The mechanics are: You’ve got a blog built into your company website. You regularly publish new posts and email them out to your list. These emails hit your prospects’ inbox. They open them and are interested. They go to your website to read your blog. They see the ads on the side of your website and interact with you. You make sales.
Now, there’s a lot to this subject called email marketing. There are different types of emails you can send. There are different ways to get people to open emails. There are mistakes you can make which cause people to unsubscribe from your list. A whole book could be written about this one thing. However, these are the basics.
One warning: one of the biggest mistakes in email marketing is just pounding your list with advertisements. Soon, when people see it’s you, even if they don’t unsubscribe, they just automatically delete it. Really good marketing emails aren’t considered spam. People look forward to them. And when it’s time to buy, the people sending these emails are probably the ones whose name your prospect is going to remember.
We’ve got the company website, the blog and the email list. Awesome. But now do we add anyone to the list to begin with?
We have to meet them first, right? How do we meet them?
One way is through social media. I’m not talking about epic rope swing/people playing piano in a lake/train station flash mob social media. (Not that I’ve ever stayed up entirely too late watching those videos or anything…. So what. Shut up, ok?)
No, I’m talking about get-out-and-actually-connect-up-with-potential-customers social media.
The idea behind social media is to make contacts—to introduce yourself to people and encourage them to introduce themselves to you. On a massive scale. Constantly.
If email is your company’s “mailing list” and the blog is your company’s “newsletter,” then social media is broad public contact—the trade show, the industry event, the networking meeting. This is your open house. This is knocking on doors.
When you go to a trade show or meet people at a networking event, you probably collect their business cards. Later, if you’re smart, you add them to your mailing list and send them your newsletter, which gets them to buy stuff from you.
If someone went to a networking event and handed someone your card and immediately tried to close them to buy, they would probably run away. The same is true in social media. You don’t sell via social media. You don’t advertise. You make connections. You meet people.
Social media isn’t about sales; it’s about networking.
How do you think about social media? How do you act? The same way you would at a networking event or a trade show. You are polite, listen to others and talk. Most importantly, you make contacts! You get to know people and collect their cards, giving yours out as well.
Done right, social media can be massive. You can spread your name far and wide, hooking up with people you you never knew existed. You begin finding yourself with opportunities you never would’ve dreamed of and interested prospects you’ve never even met.
Social media works like a bomb if it’s used correctly: to network and gather new identities.
Can’t forget the old standby, right?
A fantastic way to get traffic to your website is to rank well in search engine results. If people are searching for your product or service, you’d like to be the one they found right? This is search engine marketing.
Keeping to our analogy, if our blog is a newsletter, email marketing the mailing list and social media a massive networking event, then what are search engines?
You can think of search engines as the coolest phone book or directory known to man.
When people search for a product or service on the web, they are a hot prospect. They are looking to buy. You just have to make sure they find you instead of someone else.
The only problem with this is that learning about search engine marketing can feel sort of like walking around the Louvre. It’s such a big subject and there’s so much to look at that you can easily get lost and end up just wandering around.
So, let’s keep it simple here.
The key to search engine marketing is making sure you’re “visible.” Get your name out there. Search engines can only rank content someone actually put on the Internet. Obviously, if it isn’t there, it can’t be ranked. The basic idea is to ensure that you have made yourself very visible to someone looking for your type of business.
Set up social media profiles for your company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. (Google+ is particularly important for small businesses. This is what Google uses in displaying local search results. If you have a Google+ profile for your business, you’ll show up way higher in local search than if you don’t.)
Register your business in online directories related to your field (Lawyers.com, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Healthgrades, etc.). Make sure you’re on sites like Super Pages and Yellow Pages.
The easiest way to find out where to put your business is to search for your competitors. Where do they show up? Act like you’re a prospect. What sites show up? Make sure your business is on there too. Suddenly, you’re ranking in the search engines.
How to Apply All This
While we’ve covered a lot of ground, the truth is we’ve really barely scratched the service. Internet marketing is a whole field that is really easy, but has a lot of moving parts. There are experts who monitor the newest developments every day. They read about Google algorithm changes the same way a teenage girl follows celebrity gossip.
If you just set up your internet marketing system the way I described above, you’ll get results. You can totally do this on your own and for very little cost. Really. It’s totally possible. You’ll get great results. All you have to do is study a bit and get familiar with the tools.
However, if you’re a busy owner of a small business, you may not have the time or inclination to mess with all this. Your time may be better spent elsewhere than messing with the mechanics of a blog or the nuances of social media.
In this case, you’ll need to hire professionals to do it for you. Only problem is there is still a lot of snake oil out there. Who do you hire? What do you have them do?
There are certain jobs and specialties in internet marketing. You need to know about each so you can know who to hire for what. Or, if you’re a DIY sort, you can know what type of skills you’re going to need in order to make it happen.
Seeing as we’re now over 2,000 words, we’ll pick the rest of this up in the next post.
Stay tuned for Part 5: The Skills of Internet Marketing.