Online marketing is a non-negotiable part of the marketing mix for any business these days, and startups and small businesses are allocating an increasing amount of their marketing budgets to online pursuits.
While it’s certainly easier for an established multi-million dollar firm to invest in the broader online marketing landscape, a startup or small business will enevitably find themselves trying to decide where to spend their precious budget. With a limited amount of resources – time and money – your digital marketing efforts should be focused in the right direction to yield effective results.
In this post, we’ll cover the basic blocking and tackling of digital marketing and visitor conversion. We don’t cover all the possible tactics and channels, just those proven methods most likely to get a result. If you master these then you can broaden your scope, but first you want to get the basics right…
Setting up Google Analytics
Analytics are tools that provide you information on your website’s visitors and the effectiveness of any online marketing and acquisition activity. This information will be the foundation of your online marketing strategy.
For this reason you should start by ensuring you have a company Google account. Use this account to set up Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console. Once that is done, you can link your Adwords, Analytics and Search Console accounts to get a complete overview of user behaviour on your website.
Google Tag Manager is useful for adding the Google Analytics code to your site and also make it easy to add retargeting tags to your website. You can sign up to the Facebook and Twitter advertising platforms and add the retargeting tags to your site to up your audience building game. More information on doing that here and here.
Limitations and Considerations
Analytics will provide you with a lot of useful information, but tracking your conversion goals involves a lot more. A big obstacle, especially for businesses whose main trade is offline e.g. a clothing store or real estate agency, is that while you can gather many leads online, most conversions will happen offline. This makes it difficult to evaluate your online conversion rates.
The two mainstream workarounds for this are call tracking systems and loyalty programs:
- Call tracking. This works by substituting the contact number of the company with a tracking number. It can identify the origin of the call before redirecting to the actual number. Most commercial call tracking platforms will integrate with Google Analytics and this is especially helpful to keep track of conversions.
- Loyalty systems. Multi-channel retailers use these systems to connect to their customers. They provide the existing users with incentives to log on to the site and connect their loyalty number. This allows the sites to monitor online to offline behavior and track the products browsed and bought by the customer.
The Buying Cycle
OK, with your essential analytics set up we can now start looking at your marketing. To do this we ought to start thinking about it from the customers perspective. What does the buying cycle look like in your industry?
When talking about the buying cycle, it’s important to look at it from a customer’s perspective. We can identify the elements that make a successful conversion or sale by examining the broader aspects of industry practices. The process starts when the customer becomes aware of the problem they have. Once they have identified their problem, the customer will research options or solutions, which will ultimately lead to sale or conversion when they’ve found the solution that addresses their problem.
From a business owner’s perspective, the acquisition framework can be categorized into three stages – Prospecting (awareness), Engaging (considering options), and Converting (convincing them we are the answer). Let’s step through them one at a time:
When searching for potential customers, two modes of operation can be followed to reach the potential prospects early in the buying cycle. These two modes of operation are:
Search (intent driven)
We call it intent driven acquisition because a searcher signals his/her intent by making a search query. You can reach these potential prospects either through the organic search ranking or through paid search advertising.
Initially, as the customers become aware of their problem they start searching on Google in order to seek answers and get help regarding the problem. The key factor that can help your site stand out is the capability of the website to analyze what the problem is and the relevancy of the published content.
Organic (non-paid) Search
Moz’s SEO Beginner’s Guide is an excellent option to start with if you want to learn about ranking well in the organic search. However, it ultimately depends on knowing which keywords are being used by the searcher and making sure that the content being delivered focuses on the intent of the user throughout the buying cycle.
Paid Search Advertising
The same formula applies here. In order to drive traffic to your site you need to provide your target audience with high-quality content that addresses their questions. But in paid search, the website can be shown in the top searches by paying for placement, that is we get to choose what keywords we appear for.
Paid and organic search together can drive traffic more than any one of these options can. Like organic search, paid search is a science and art that can be learned from many platforms available online.
Discovery (interest driven)
The intent driven acquisition has been used for many years to drive traffic to the site. But in the past few years interest driven acquisition has also become possible through social advertising on the Google Display Network (GDN), Facebook, and Twitter.
If you have limited resources, GDN and Facebook advertising are good options to focus on, that is if your target audience does not have an affinity towards other ad networks like Twitter or linked in. A recent report in New York Times stated that 85% of all the ad dollars will go to Google and Facebook.
Facebook knows a lot more about the interests of the people and hence advertising to a specific demographics or a specifically stated interest is very much possible. GDN tools enable the users to target a certain demographic and advertise on the sites that are related to the specific topic which is likely to be of interest to the target audience.
If you are looking for brand development then broad interest based targeting is great for you. It is easy to target people based on the level of interest they have in a certain topic related to the product. In addition, building brand recognition in the customers and positioning your message to capture their interest will help the next time when they are in the market.
Similar to search advertising there are many things you can learn to run it efficiently. Start by selecting interests and demographics that are closely related to your topic. Over time you will learn how you can make your display campaign better and more effective. If you want to step up your game you can visit Think With Google and learn more about it.
The second phase of this framework is engaging potential visitors through the web search engine. It is important to convince them that your product is the solution to their problems. For the sake of searching the suppliers and comparison of products, potential customers will use Google to find the best available option to them. Due to this, the search engine is an effective way to acquire qualified traffic to your website.
Researching the keywords used by the customers is a very important task, the flow of traffic depends more on the keyword than it does on the organic or paid search ads. Customers in the consideration phase will be on a lookout for comparisons or alternatives of a certain product. So it is important to keep researching what the customer is interested in and the content that is being provided to them should be relevant to their search. Organic searches can drive traffic faster to your site if you know most of the questions that customers are searching for and the content should be in line to deliver a paid search campaign.
Some general content that can help in driving more traffic to your site can be comparison pages or product reviews and this can be applied to any type of site or business. It is also important that visitors see reviews on the product and testimonials of satisfied customers. What this does is it gives a type of social proof to the visitor which takes them further into the consideration phase.
One such tool that can help you find who, where, when, why, and how asking about the product is AnswerThePublic.com. This site provides you with all the possible answers it’s like a gold mine for FAQ’s related to your site.
If you have been successful at attracting qualified traffic to your site in the initial phase of the buying cycle then you need to re-engage the customers who have moved forward into the consideration phase.
Re-marketing can have some negative feedback in some cases. This is because it is done in a very poor manner. The customer who visited the site doesn’t want to see the same banner everywhere as it becomes annoying for them overtime. The key here is to use the remarketing technique without the customers getting annoyed. Here are a few guidelines which can be of assistance if you are looking forward to re-engaging your customer.
- Being clearly specific in your re-targeting is of the essence. This is especially true if you have a wide range of products. It’s important to re-market only the ones that the visitors were interested in.
- Offering extra value during the remarketing stage is vital. Once the visitors have gone through the ads and haven’t bought it then chances are that they are still evaluating their options. They haven’t yet decided if your product is the best fit. You can add value by advertising special reports consisting on an industrial comparison, highlighting the prominent features that your product has to offer. If you think that the price offered for the product is an irresistibly good value for money then you can attract them back using a time sensitive offer.
- Limiting your remarketing is probably one of the best things to do. Set limits to the number of times a person sees your remarketing ad. Setting limits can stop you from annoying people who are not interested in your product.
- Re-marketing other channels like Facebook pages or Twitter account is probably a good idea. If you are looking forward to growing your social following then this would definitely help. Although the organic search on Facebook is not the way it used to be but never the less, it is better to have a strong base of followers.
Building a Database
It is important to leverage this to your advantage. Maintaining a database of the customers is necessary to re-engage them. Having them subscribe to your newsletter would keep communication channels open between you and the customer. As you know, this channel is more or less free and not using it to your advantage would be a waste.
Needless to say, this is a difficult job to pull off. Here are few tips that can help you in leveraging your database effectively:
- Think critically about the content that you will deliver to the customers. Is newsletter a type of thing that you can deliver to your customers and is it tempting enough to get their attention? If not, then it’s not a good idea to do so because it would not be effective. You can provide content that is based on industrial information or something that is time sensitive. Whatever the case may be, make sure that this is done with regularity.
- Using relevant lead magnets or incentives to entice the subscriber can also give you a positive response. But make sure that the incentives you are giving are not very flashy. For instance, an iPad or an iPhone would attract poorly qualified sign-ups. Attracting too many poorly qualified subscribers would only make things more unclear and difficult to manage. It’s better to have few qualified, subscribers than to have many unqualified ones.
This is the last phase of the buying cycle and by this time your customer is fully aware of the problem and is convinced that what you are offering is the best option they can get to solve their problem.
Many marketers are influenced by the competitors and short buying cycles. This puts you in a position where you need everything to give you an upper hand over the competition and to optimize your sales till the time customers have checked out. There is a lot more that you can do to this end through digital channels. Let’s look at each one individually.
In the buying phase, customers would be more compelled to search for keywords like discounts or cheap rates and price related terms. This can be true for certain markets whereas for offline purchases terms related to store location will be important.
Keeping the persona of an ideal target customer from your industry in view can help you in figuring out content that is most appropriate and would convert your sale at this final stage. To do so you need to optimize your product pages for terms that are buying related. Optimizing pages is a surefire way to help you increase organic and paid traffic at the same time.
As you probably already know, organic ranking depends on the relevancy of the content to the searched term or a topic. Optimizing the landing pages on your website is necessary for effective and efficient paid search advertising. The point to be noted here is that the search engine would access the relevancy of the keyword to the content on the landing pages. Content that is more relevant would improve your marketing campaign and would also lower the cost that you have to pay for traffic.
Re-marketing can have a positive effect in the buying stage. For instance, if you were browsing through Amazon looking for a product and then you noticed the same product was being marketed on Facebook. This is because Amazon is aware that most of its customers use Facebook and due to this they are running a re-marketing tag through Facebook to give a subtle reminder to the Amazon customers that they have not checked out. They are aware of the customer’s buying patterns and they know that people don’t always buy the product the first time they see it on the actual site. So they give a nudge by marketing the same products on Facebook.
Conversion rates of these remarketed ads are phenomenal, this is the reason we mentioned it earlier in the article. You can also use the same strategy to increase your ad conversion rate and build a re-marketing audience on Facebook. The purpose of this is to re-filter any opportunity that might have slipped away initially. But beware – using this tool too aggressively could scare away potential customers.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Marketers and marketing agencies are often guilty of wasting time filling up the top of the funnel and not considering maximizing opportunities with the traffic they already have. For instance, let’s assume that you have 1,000 visitors and your conversion rate is 2%. That makes a total of 20 sales. What if you could increase the sales to 2.5%? That would lead to 25 sales and 16% increase in the sale revenue.
It is beyond the scope of this article to provide guidelines on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) as it is a huge field and there are specialists and companies that specialize in nothing but CRO. It should be a constant ongoing focus. Although, if you need more information we recommend VWO’s post on Conversion Rate Best Practices and Hotjar’s 3 step guide to improving conversions.
Like CRO, attribution is a huge topic. But the point that needs to be understood here is that it would not be right to attribute the sale to the recent click, as this would be underestimating the value of all online channels to your business. Simply put if Google Analytics reports that the sale was from the paid search this doesn’t mean it was from the main channel. There are chances the customer came across your ad through a link on the social media site and later on from there they saw your paid search ad. Relying solely on the last click attribution can cause you to make wrong decisions on where to spend your marketing budget.
Google Analytics generates incredibly in-depth reports if you are looking forward to understanding the conversion funnels in the business. Log in to Google Analytics and go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths. Here you will see the channels through which your customer came through before getting converted to a sale. Your customers will always have visited more than one link. This holistic view should be kept in mind when making the budget for online advertising.
Creating the Flywheel
Online commerce promises the ability to track and monitor the complete process so that you are sure about what needs to be done. Like anything, it is not an easy job but, with the power to act promptly because of analytics and good attribution, you can make better decisions about marketing spend and actually connect the marketing amount spent to sales.
Wrapping It Up
In this article, we have briefly given you some insight into how small and medium business owners can use some simple and effective techniques to increase their earning and make their business’ web presence felt in the market. You can visit the links for more information if you’d like.
We discussed the buying cycle in depth along with its three stages – Prospecting, Engaging, and Converting. Applying these stages step by step to the visitors is probably the best thing to keep in mind when marketing your business through an online platform. In addition to this, we mentioned how you can drive traffic organically, through paid search advertisement or both and discussed some traffic engagement techniques through popular channels.
Finally, we also briefly covered a few practical tips on how to get up and running with analytics right from the very beginning. You can learn these by starting from the basics and with constant testing and filtering, you will be able to understand what works exceptionally well for your business.
How different is your digital marketing approach? Do let us know in the comments section below.