Recently, I had a client up in our office who had a particularly unique perspective.
He was acutely aware of the fact that small business internet marketing had become the time-consuming priority that it is today, but was also visibly mourning the death of the days that he simply didn’t have to worry about all this.
He stated things rather simply to us, “What do I even do? How do I improve internet marketing for my business?”
Truly, I empathize with this perspective.
How Do I Improve Internet Marketing for my Small Business
You, too, may remember the days when simply having the best website design was enough to market your business online.
But if you’re not competing with the “dominant-level” marketers in your industry, you can expect to be left in the dust. Though it may be frustrating, it’s no reason to surrender.
With this in mind, I Googled the keyword ”how do I improve internet marketing for my business” (like maybe my clients do) and came across a myriad of tips.
All of them were great articles with amazing tactical tips, but none of them really addressed what it meant to be a true dominant-level internet marketer.
These were some of the titles I came across:
- 8 expert internet marketing tips for small businesses
- 25 ways to increase internet sales
- 5 tips to improve your internet marketing
- Inbound marketing case studies
I have a hunch that most people search for marketing tactics because they think it all fundamentally boils down to simple tactics.
However, I’ve found by talking with business owners and marketing managers that full-fledged online marketing strategies and sales systems (read more about sales prospecting tools here) for small businesses are what people truly need.
Methods of Online Marketing
But before even getting a strategy in place, we have to see what methods of online marketing they’re using. For example, a local SEO strategy may be a better fit for a local plumbing company instead of something similar to an eCommerce seo strategy or product marketing strategy.
And, more importantly, what level are they using them at?
I’d like to walk you through some simple questions you can ask your small business marketing and sales team.
The confidence and thoroughness of their response will help you determine which level of marketing you are functioning at.
In order to have the best internet marketing you’re capable of, there are several categories of questions that you should walk through with your entire team.
But the first question you should be asking is, how do we define a lead for our business?
I walk through this set of questions with all of our new clients before a single digital marketing tactic is executed.
Strategic Questions to Ask
- Do we have sales and revenue goals for our sales and marketing team – what are they?
- Who are our top 3-5 competitors?
- Do we all understand our core differentiators?
- Who are our IDEAL clients and target buyer personas?
- What is our core marketing strategy?
- Does everyone understand our vision, mission, value, and purpose?
- What is our core marketing message (not tagline)?
- What marketing automation tools are we using today?
Tactical Questions to Ask
- Do we have a marketing plan?
- How often do we meet to review performance against the plan and strategize next steps
- What content do people who visit our website download most often?
- Do we have a good mix of outbound and inbound marketing?
- When do we meet to discuss results and plan next steps?
Sales Questions to Ask
- How long is our average sales cycle?
- What is the LTV (Lifetime Value) of our clients?
- What are our weekly, monthly, and quarterly sales/revenue goals?
TIP: In a previous post, “How to Hire an Outsourced Marketing Agency and Grow Your Small Business,” I discussed the importance of having qualitative goals (achievements your team obtains) and quantitative goals (metrics you can measure against) as you begin to grow in your marketing capabilities.
After asking these questions, you should be getting a picture of how sophisticated your business’ marketing is.
Each level builds on the previous one. The following outlines some basic operating realities of the various levels of small business sales and marketing teams.
Effective Online Marketing
The effectivity of your small business’ internet marketing can be measured by more than just a look at your company’s bottom line or your Google Analytics dashboard.
Whether we’re cultivating a strategy for inbound marketing or internet marketing, we walk our clients through our unique 3-tier system of categorization that shows them exactly where their business’ marketing system is at today. This also shows where growth needs to occur in order to be effective at online marketing.
These are our three categories of marketing; which one do you think best describes your business?
Every business started has had to invest in marketing, at some point, if they want to grow.
But, the most successful companies I’ve seen are the ones where the owner was able to do it as efficiently as they could for as long as they could.
The following statements are indicators that your business is at the beginning stages of formalizing your marketing and sales systems.
- We have a website that attracts visitors, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to sales
- We have little to no systems or rhythm to our marketing, but it feels like we need it
- Typically we run a single campaign at a time (usually just email)
- We get a lot of our business from a referral, so don’t feel the need to invest in marketing
- We have a basic analytics capability to see marketing and sales performance but don’t feel we need anything that sophisticated
- There is no way to correlate our internet marketing efforts to sales
- Multiple people chip in on marketing when they can and sales are likely done by 1 person
- We have some testimonials, but they’re not featured on our site very well (if at all)
- We don’t see much competition or don’t know who our competitors are
TIP: Look to see how often you meet to discuss marketing. The frequency that you meet (weekly, every-other-week, monthly, quarterly, annually) will determine how fast your business is moving through change. The faster the rate of iteration and growth in your marketing, the faster business will learn how to grow. Click here to learn more about us and our process.
At this phase, you’ll also want to make sure you start tracking your marketing expenses and the revenue you’re generating from your efforts. Piesync has a great Wave vs QuickBooks comparison guide to help you quickly find the best accounting tool if you aren’t using one already.
When you find that the following statements are true of your company, you will begin to realize that achieving growth goals as a business is going to take an investment and focus in marketing, moving you toward sophisticated marketing.
- We have a marketing plan
- Our website is critical to our internet marketing efforts and getting predictable lead volumes, but we are feeling like we need an upgrade
- We have an SEO expert on our team
- We have invested in marketing automation and a CRM, and are meeting on a regular basis to review performance
- We have added outbound marketing at a basic level
- We run a few campaigns across a few marketing channels and we know how those channels perform for us
- We have several testimonials and case studies to share
- We are starting to get awards and/or recognition for our work
- We are able to see more data from analytics and are focusing on marketing and sales KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
- Sales are engaged in a collaborative process with marketing to “close the loop:” this helps us define our marketing strategies and how we iterate
- We have a content and marketing calendar
- We are beginning to understand more about our competition and are learning how to position against other competitors offerings and value
Dominant small business marketers tend to be leaders in their geographical area. Below are some indicators your business has moved into dominant-level marketing.
- We review our marketing plan quarterly and consistently update it annually
- Our website has a modern design, is critical to our marketing efforts, and is a resource for sales conversations
- We have shopped our competitors
- We have marketing automation running and integrated with a CRM and are meeting regularly with rhythm
- Typically, we run multiple campaigns at once and understand multi-channel marketing
- We have several years of awards/recognition to share
- Our company’s leaders are speaking at events and looked upon as thought leaders
- Everyone is clear on sales/revenue goals
- We know our acceptable cost per lead and sale
- We are easily able to get sales performance numbers and review it together with marketing
- We believe we can scale our business by replicating marketing and sales processes that we are confident generate revenue
Hire a Marketing Agency or DIY?
At every level of marketing, your small business team can ask the question, “Do we do this ourselves or hire an agency or consultant to improve internet marketing for our small business?
Before you hire a marketing agency for your business, you’ll want to read more about the Pros and Cons of Outsourcing to learn how to set your expectations when hiring outside help.
Notice that it’s not just your ability to perform tasks, but it’s how you and your team think about their work and collaborate with one another to run successful digital marketing campaigns.
Questions to ask yourself if you are thinking of hiring an agency.
- What should we budget for outsourcing our marketing to an agency?
- What work will the agency be responsible for and what will we need to be responsible for?
- How often do we meet/have a call to discuss progress and challenges?
If you’d like to talk more about what your small business can do to improve internet marketing, you’re welcome to give us a call.