Marketing for small- to -midsized businesses is daunting. As with all great endeavours, there are no shortcuts to achieving digital marketing success. In this blog article, former VP of Sales at HubSpot and currently the CEO of Databox, Pete Caputa, shares the fundamental factor leaders tend to miss that can help turn a website into a lead generation machine.
What do you think is the most important ingredient to a successful internet marketing strategy?
It’s going to sound a bit silly and basic but you’d be surprised how many business owners and marketing professionals don’t really think through what’s necessary to successfully market a business online so that their website actually generates new business.
So what is this absolutely critical factor?
Drumroll, please: your time.
In another post, I argued why it was important to plan your internet marketing strategy before launching or relaunching your site and how very few web design firms are equipped to build a website so it’s capable of generating business for their clients.
If you want to avoid spending a lot of money designing or redesigning a website that won’t help you generate much more business than your existing one, you should ask a series of questions when interviewing potential employees or firms who you might hire to help you.
If you’re a small- or mid-sized business and you truly want to turn your website into a lead generation machine, there are basically three techniques available to you:
Search Engine Optimisation
Blogging & Social Media Marketing
It’s almost impossible to completely outsource these activities to a firm that does not know your business, market, customer, and products intimately. In other words, people within your company are going to need to be intimately involved in the process of online marketing.
The first question that I’d ask any prospective internet marketing firm is, “What will you need from me in order to successfully increase the number of leads our website generates month over month?“
A website design and development firm is typically going to just say, “We need content, colours, and artwork.“
Wrong! Don’t hire these guys.
Here’s the right answer: your time.
Why time? The internet isn’t like traditional advertising where you hire a designer to produce an ad and you pay a media company to get the ad in front of eyeballs.
“But what will I be spending time doing?“ you ask.
Let’s take a look at each of the internet marketing techniques above.
Search Engine Optimisation Requires Your Time
Most people still think SEO is something their web designer does once. But companies that commit to doing ongoing SEO reap long-term rewards.
To do SEO successfully, you should continuously do three things:
Find more keywords that will bring you relevant traffic
Create more content focussed on those keywords
Build links that support ranking higher for those keywords in search results.
Who knows your business, your customers, your market, the problems you solve, the solutions you provide better than anyone else? Hopefully you.
Aren’t you the best one to find the keywords your prospects would google? Aren’t you the best one to produce content that’s relevant to your prospects?
If you haven’t done link building beyond directory submissions, you won’t understand this. But doing link building well requires your time too. Trust me. If anyone says that they’ll get you 100 new links per month and they don’t ask you for press release ideas, article ideas, and a list of the leading bloggers, forums, and trade publications in your industry, do not hire them.
Pay-per-Click Advertising Requires Your Time
This one doesn’t take a lot of time. But the time you spend managing your search engine pay-per-click advertising campaigns is critical if you want the best possible ROI. PPC advertising is probably the most efficient form of advertising ever created. But it’s not efficient unless you spend time constantly improving its efficiency.
If you’re new to this, you should read this primer on running PPC campaigns. Suffice to say, I probably speak to at least one prospective HubSpot client each week who has no idea what the ROI on their PPC spend is. Some of them even spend tens of thousands of dollars per month.
Would you hire a salesperson and not monitor how much profitable revenue they produce?
Would you not tell them what an ideal prospect looks like before they start making calls?
Would you let them guess what a good positioning statement should be when they get in front of a prospect?
Would you not train them on what problems your product solves and what questions to ask?
Would you not help them devise a presentation to a prospect? If all these things sound silly, why isn’t it silly to let someone who doesn’t know your product, service, or market as intimately as you do pick the keywords to bid on, write ad copy, design landing pages, monitor conversion rates, and measure ROI?
Blogging and Social Media Marketing Requires a Lot of Your Time
This should be obvious. In fact, the most common reason businesses don’t start a blog is because they don’t have the time to regularly write on it.
If you do make the smart decision to start a business blog, you should find a company to help you that truly has experience writing their own successful blog.
Blogging for business isn’t really something you can advise someone to do without doing it yourself first. Too many marketing professionals think blogging is the same as writing press releases or articles. It’s not. It’s about hosting a dynamic conversation with your market. It requires a mix of writing, sales, networking, and marketing skills if it’s going to be done successfully. Not to mention the importance of knowing a lot about your business and the challenges that your customers face.
As far as social media marketing goes, I’m not sure how you’d even begin to outsource that completely. The value of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Twitter is that you can connect and interact with prospects and clients.
All of your salespeople and marketing people — even all of your employees — should be actively engaging with the market through these sites. Outsourcing this would be like outsourcing sales.
Measuring Results and Improving ROI Requires Your Time
We haven’t even talked about how blogging and social media marketing can support search engine optimisation. We haven’t talked about how you can use PPC advertising to refine your SEO keyword strategy in order to maximise conversion rates from both.
There’s a lot to internet marketing that requires your time. If you want to do it successfully, you should seek professional help to get you focussed on the right stuff first and make sure you don’t make mistakes and waste your time.
But it should be obvious now, I hope, that it’ll also be a fairly significant investment of your time to pull off successfully.
If that’s the case, it’s only natural that you should ask your potential help, “How are we going to measure internet marketing success?“
Answer: You’ll need the right online marketing analytics tools to measure what marketing activities, keywords, social media activities, PPC campaigns actually generate new business. You’ll, of course, need some time to evaluate your success periodically so you can constantly improve your internet marketing results.
“So How Much Time Will I Need?“
That’d be the appropriate question for you to ask after the company you’re interviewing tells you that time is the most important criteria for your soon-to-be-realised internet marketing success.
If they answer right away, don’t hire them.
Unfortunately, there’s no standard answer to how much time you’ll need.
To generate leads from the internet marketing techniques listed above, there’s a lot of factors that go into figuring how hard it’ll be.
Anyone that actually has experience doing these things successfully would do keyword and competitive research to determine how much time investment and time lapse will be necessary before any amount of success is achieved.
A safe answer is, “The more time you put into it, the more business you’ll get from it.“