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If you've ever wondered how to create an online marketing strategy this post will provide you with some clear guidance as to where to start, what to analyse and how customers may arrive at your site or those of your competitors.
The first place you should start when developing an online marketing strategy is an analysis of the online marketplace. This process will also help you to identify any potential partners and affiliates that may be able to promote your product and to identify the potential range of search terms which may need to be purchase in a pay per click (PPC) advertising campaign.
Here are the main areas you should research thoroughly in your marketing place:
You may think this is obvious but it is imperative that you consider each of the segments that may consume your product or service and understand its buying behaviours, purchasing drivers, likely decision makers and what online media channels they engage with.
An example of customer segmentation for a business services company could be:
• Self-employed or freelance workers
• Sole traders
• Limited companies with less than 10 employees
• Limited companies with over 10 employees
Each of these business will have different behaviours, drivers etc. as previously mentioned. You may also want to consider how internet savvy these segments are, their lifestyles, demographics etc.
Make a list of each of your customer segments and try to categorise them as best you can.
Search Engines used in your market
Make a list of each of the search engines that are relevant in your market. The main ones are typically Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you have a global business you will need to make a list of the key search engines by region such as Baidu which is major search engine in China and Yandex in Russia.
Once you've made a list of the popular search engines it is advisable to consider the most popular and important keyword phrases in your market and the potential target audience for each keywords and key phrases.
As you develop your online business it is also worthwhile to track the amount of traffic your website receives for specific keywords and phrases against the market potential.
If like most businesses, Google is a major search engine used by your market then Google's Keyword planner can help determine how popular specific keywords and phrases. The tool will also provide you with some ideas for any gaps in your keyword directory as the tool also generates keyword ideas for you based on some simple filters i.e. product or service type, the landing page URL, market segment, location etc.
It is also worth tracking how many of your visitors are searching with your brand name and URL. This is a good testament to the strength of your brand and customer loyalty e.g. in the personal insurance sector many customers are simply searching for the name of their favouring comparison site rather than entering a specific term such as "cheap car insurance".
Potential Online Partnerships and sources of Traffic
There may be many websites in your marketplace capable of referring traffic to your site, either for free or from a paid advertisement, or acting as a paid affiliate where you reward them with a percentage of commission per sale.
Make a list of the various businesses in your sector in the following categories:
Niche news and Media websites
Make a list of all the news and media sites that your target audience may have exposure to. For some businesses mainstream media may be appropriate of for others they may be very niche and followed only by your customer segments.
Once you've done this reach out to the editors to set up a meeting. There may be several angles for your business to consider (depending on your budget) such as paid advertising, running a feature on your product or if you are an expert in your field there could be the opportunity for you to write articles and even become the expert when the publication needs some advice.
Trade bodies or industry associations
Depending on your sector there may be a number of trade bodies or industry associations serving your target market. When you have made your list, consider for each the potential for advertising, editorials etc. as already mentioned in news above. In addition the trade or industry association may become a valuable promotor of your business in return for an affiliate partnership and/or some form of value added service to its members such as a discount or tailored product or service.
Social Media Channels
I would recommend searching for your current and prospective customers on the most popular social media channels and record which channels your customers are active in e.g. do they target their own customers via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. If you can get a feel for the most popular channels used by your customers then mirroring this with your own online marketing campaigns in the same channels is likely to be successful.
If you trade business to business it is definitely worth considering LinkedIn as a method of engagement and prospecting, you may be surprised just how many of your business customers use this channel. LinkedIn is a useful sales tool as you can develop a pipeline of decision makers and send them an Inmail to introduce yourself plus lot more. This is a vast subject in its own right and will be covered in future posts.
Price comparison sites are springing up in many different sectors e.g. moneysupermarket for financial services products, Gocompare for insurance, uSwitch for energy and telecoms. If there are any comparison services in your sector it is certainly worth considering listing your product on them as they are likely to control a significant amount of the search traffic in your sector. The comparison sites are generally paid per sale but there are also many that are paid per lead sent to your business.
Affiliates gain revenue on a commission share basis or a fixed amount from the business whom they refer traffic to. This is an important source of customers and you should consider building relationships with as many as these as possible - these could be bloggers, other businesses operating in your sector but not competing, people who network in your sector and some of the other channels already mentioned.
If your business has a digital product such as software, application or how to guide it may also be worth listing this as a product on the various affiliate networks out there such as ClickBank. as their members may actively promote your product in return for a commission if it fits their own niche.
Bloggers & Forums
These are generally individuals although some of the major authority blogs often run as a business with several contributors. Some niche blogs may received hundreds of thousands or even millions of visitors per month e.g. in the digital marketing and tech space Mashable.com has several million readers and is valued at several hundred million dollars.
It can be relatively simple to find the bloggers in your space, simple open Google and type in "Sector Name" Blogs and you will see a list of them. Have a look at a few and you will soon get a feel for how prevalent they are in your market by the number of posts they have, how regular they post and how many comments they get.
You can also use the same process to find online forums which may serve your sector where people gather to talk about the sector, review products, share ideas etc.
I would definitely suggest finding the main bloggers and forums and engage with them. You can do this for free by commenting on their blogs and forum threads although add value to them by commenting with useful insight or adding additional questions. Often these blogs will allow you to add your own website link to your signature or avatar so when you comment or post your brand is getting coverage and may result in free traffic back to your blog.
Just remember to always think about what value you are adding before interacting and your could get your comment seen by tens of thousands of people in your niche and this audience will only grow. For example a few years ago I wrote a blog post for business blogging site and it has received over 35,000 views and this number continues to steadily grow. All it cost me was a couple of hours of writing time.
Once you've pulled together your lists you will start to get a clear picture of what your online market place looks like. I would then suggest for each of the various websites listed in each category using the following free tools (both will have advanced paid for features):
Sharedcount.com -If you go to the site and type in the URL it will tell you how many social shares and likes a website is getting across the mainstream social channels.
Compete.com - which will show you how many unique visitors and ranking for a specific website.
Both of these tools will give good indicator of the quality of a potential partner based on their levels of engagement and search traffic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I hope this post proves useful to you and welcome any feedback once you've commenced developing an online marketing strategy. If you haven't already please subscribe to my blog to receive updates on future posts.
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