Online Marketing – 10 Steps to Start

At a workshop on how to lay the groundwork for a business’s online marketing plan, Matt Harris of Medium Well presented the key steps to take when increasing a company’s online presence. For those who missed it, below is a video followed by a summary of the key points.

1. Build Your Website

Once you have your brand, you need a website to showcase it. The important thing to remember is to treat your business website as a piece of real estate. Don’t use any subdomains or Tumblr-esque websites, where your URL is part of another site. This doesn’t inspire confidence in your brand, as it can come across as tossed together. Get a unique URL and build your website from there, so it stands tall on its own.

2. State Your Mission

It’s important to figure out what your company’s brand is, since this will influence almost all its actions. To do that, three questions need to be answered:  1) What’s the mission you’re trying to accomplish?  2) What are your business’s core values?  3) What makes you different from other companies offering something similar?

Answering these questions, will help you solidify your “unique value proposition,” which is the driving force behind your brand. It’s who you are, what you’re trying to do, and what sets you apart. Include a logo, tagline, and webpage that summarizes your business to reinforce your brand.

3. Define Your Markets

Once your website is up and running, you’ll need to regularly add more info about what you offer. Define your vertical markets and the specialized products or services you offer to each of them. While it’s tempting to go with a broad appeal for an extremely large audience, when marketing online it’s better to focus on a more specialized niche due to the sheer amount of competition. Elucidate what specific solutions you’re offering, and which specific audiences they apply to. As your online activities evolve, you can continue to target audience groups in more specific ways.

4. Have a Strong Call to Action

Adding calls to action is very important and often overlooked in many online marketing efforts. You need to know what actions you want online visitors to take, and then encourage them. Do you want more visits to the company blog? More subscribers to an email newsletter? Comments and reviews on your services? Links to your site from other websites? A phone call to your office? Once you define the most appropriate call(s) to action for your business – those that will positively help your company in the end – add them throughout your site so people see them often and easily.

5. Publish Content

Once your website is published, it’s important to make sure its pages and content are updated and presentable. Add new text, images, product info, blog posts etc. as often as you can. To regularly upload new content, you’ll need a reliable Content Management System (CMS) that makes it easy to edit and publish new work – without having to involve any technical help.  The CMS we recommend the most is WordPress, due to its ease of use and  flexibility.

6. Stake Your Claim in Directories

In addition to your website, it’s important to find directory sites and claim space on them. Yahoo Local or Yelp are popular examples, but every specific business likely has directories dedicated to them.  These are static pages that people will stumble upon while looking for services like yours. After you’ve created your profile in broader ones, look for more specific ones and create accounts there as well.

After your accounts are created, it’s important to develop your profiles beyond the basic contact info, to inspire confidence that you’re well-established. Include business details, a logo, a recent photo, and other pieces of information as each site allows.

7. Get Social

Once your website is up and running, and your directory profiles are complete, move on to social media profiles. These focus more on engagement with your audience instead of simply broadcasting to them, so there’s a lot of potential to expand your online presence. It’s extremely important to develop a social media strategy that focuses on specific results, and continually evolve. Some considerations:

  • First: how will your social media relate back to your company’s mission?
  • What platforms will you focus on the most? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumble, Instagram, or another? Find out which one (or two) your target audience uses the most and focus mainly on them. It’s best to use a few well, rather than spreading yourself too thin and attempting too many.
  • What are your goals for social media? To help your customers be better informed? To get them more involved via campaigns or contests? To give a unique, inside look at your business? Answer common questions? Find out which goal(s) will serve your business the best and design a strategy to fulfill it.
  • How will you budget it? Social media accounts need care, commitment, and time to grow in order to get results. Make sure those who are managing your accounts are actively adding relevant content and engaging with audiences.

8. Find and Follow

Even after completing all the above, your business can’t do it all alone. Find important leaders, publishers, and innovators (and even competitors!) in your field on social media and other online platforms and follow them. Keep track of the big topics of conversations in your industry so you’re not left behind, and be sure to join in the discussion through blog comments and social media messages. Over time, you’ll help establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.

9. Join in

A big part of your online presence will be interacting and communicating with your audiences, so find ways to include them conversations. This will help build customer loyalty to keep them coming back to your business, not your competitors’:

  • Ask for feedback on a topic, and use it for writing one or several blog posts
  • Hold a Google+ hangout or Twitter chat to bring people into an actual conversation and start building relationships
  • Something as simple as asking questions and being receptive to their answers
  • Anything else that will make your audience want to take part
  • Consider holding a contest or giveaway

10. Track Progress and Modify Strategies

Lastly, you need to use analytics to see how well your online activities are doing at bringing ore traffic and business to your site. Google Analytics is used the most often, since it’s easy to set up and lets you follow basic measurements such as how many people visit your website, which pages they go to, how they’re getting there, and how much traffic specific posts get. This is all essential to finding what does and doesn’t work so you can fine-tune your strategy.

With these ten steps, you and your business will be all set to begin expanding your online reach. If you’d like to add any steps or best practices that you’ve found helpful, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section!


Additional Resources

Presentation – Online Marketing: 10 Steps to Lay the Groundwork