With 2009 coming to a close, small business owners are eager to ring in the New Year – new opportunities, new budgets and high hopes for 2010. And as you might guess, the vast majority of small business owners plan to use website marketing to bolster the bottom line. Will it work for your new or young small business? Maybe, and maybe not. Here’s why.
To begin with, website marketing requires a lot more than a website. What’s essential?
- Website Marketing Plan
- Development of a small business website marketing plan requires: industry knowledge (current trends, marketing research), strategic planning, financial management (budget), team management (human resources) and a clear understanding of what it will take to implement your plan (basic, if not advanced, technical skills).
- Things to consider:
- MARKETING EVENTS CALENDAR (2010): Prepare a schedule of major industry events such as trade shows (local/national), PR events, seminars, speaking engagements, etc. Determine in order of priority the most important half dozen or so for your business (certain businesses will have a few dozen).
- LEAD CAPTURE: What online resources do you plan to use to capture leads before and after each event? Do you intend to create specific website content for each event? You said yes, right?
- MARKETING CAMPAIGNS: Have you planned out the resources required to implement your marketing campaigns for each event? Consider what it really takes to implement email marketing, social networking, press releases and similar tactics such as blogging and article marketing. Website marketing requires IT support, graphic designers, and copy writers for each event as well as post event follow-up marketing.
- SEGMENTATION – TARGET MARKETING: Have you created a contact and prospect list for each event identified? Known as list segmentation and target marketing, it is key to successful website marketing. List development and management is often neglected by small business owners new to online marketing.
- LIST MANAGEMENT: Review your customer list as well as your social network connections and determine if the majority are within your target market. If not, grow your list as well as your network by specifically targeting key players that have the ability to drive new business and referrals. Also, determine how you’ll manage your list? Your email client, such as MS Outlook, is probably the wrong answer.
- CONTENT MANAGEMENT: Over stated but not something you want to forget, “Content is King.” Regular website updates are mandatory for marketing online. And, it almost always requires technical resources that often overwhelm the average small business marketing department.
- TECHNICAL SUPPORT (IT): Understand the need for IT support and graphic designers as well as the usual marketing copy writers. Also, understand your sales people are not website managers. Asking them to do so is a misuse of their talents so make sure you have the right people doing the right job when it comes to website marketing.
- SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO): The most important thing to understand about SEO is “you must be persistent.” SEO is an ongoing process, not an event. There are numerous SEO strategies and the costs can range from a few hundred a month (limited expectations for growth) to tens of thousands (shopping cart sites with high ticket items that require lots of website traffic). Search engine optimization is often beyond the technical skills of most small business owners; get help when you need it. Sure, you can “do it yourself” but in most cases the skills require an expert to be truly successful. Think of website traffic like putting gas in your car – stop adding gas and you’ll sit on the side of the road where you’ll watch the traffic go by.
- Financial Management:
- BUDGET: Does $3,000 or $5,000 per month sound like a lot to you for website marketing? If so, think about it. That figure is equivalent to $36 – $60,000 per year, which probably isn’t enough to hire the appropriate staff with the skills needed to successfully grow your business online. And remember, everyone it seems is planning to grow their business online in 2010.
- VENDORS – OUTSOURCE: To rise above the competition, you’ll need to get the appropriate help or spend a lot of your time each day as a “website marketer” instead of as a business owner. Do what you do best with your time. If it isn’t website marketing, then consider outsourcing.
- Online marketing budgets vary greatly depending on the industry and business revenues. Contact us for assistance with the budgeting process if you don’t already have specific numbers in mind for your plan.
A few quick tips:
- You can use most any magazine editorial calendar appropriate for your industry as a planning guide. I’ve owned and worked for a few publishing companies. The major publishers put a lot of time and energy into their editorial calendars – no need to recreate the wheel. For local events, check with the chamber of commerce and city magazines as well as last years blog posts; many publishers have maintained blogs for several years now and you can review their archives. Also, ask your mentors, vendors and business colleagues as well as your competitors websites.
- Learn from others that are already successful. A business colleague and personal friend publishes the “Rich Niche Group” blog. A significant portion of his blog posts are interviews of successful entrepreneurs; learn from their experiences. Here’s an example and a link for you: “We originally had visions of building a little bit of a client base, selling to AOL, and retiring in the Caribbean. Well, we were a little late for that, so we had to opt for Plan B which was to buckle down and build the business.“ Dale Coyner, Serial Entrepreneur, Founder of Communicast and Open Road Outfitters.
- Email marketing software that is hosted online can be used to cost-effectively manage a small business contact list. Use a software program that allows you to add custom fields to the database. Also, you can easily add new prospects to your list just by opening up a website browser and accessing your list and/or your newsletter subscription form.
Are you preparing your 2010 Website Marketing Plan? Share your ideas in the comment section – thanks.
By Greg Magnus
AIM Custom Media