It’s useful to understand the principles behind online marketing whether you’re sub-contracting your online marketing to a 3rd party expert, or doing it all in-house.
Part 1 – Setting the Foundations
In this, the first of a series of related posts, we explain how to set the ‘foundations’ right before actively engaging in online marketing for your product, service, company or organisation.
You’ll need a website
It goes without saying that, to compete online, you will nearly always benefit from having your own website. That’s not always the case, of course. For instance, you may simply have an eBay or Amazon-based business which doesn’t require one. However, for pretty much everyone else, a website is crucial as a marketing tool. After all, it’ll represent your online ‘shop window’ to the world and is the obvious place people will start looking for information about your products or services before making a buying decision.
Your website must be mobile-friendly
These days websites simply must be mobile-friendly, i.e. display your content at a legible size in user-friendly manner on mobile phones. Otherwise you will lose a significant portion of potential online traffic right off the bat. This is because Google, the most important and dominant of all search engines, demotes the search rank of non mobile-friendly sites specifically in searches from mobile devices and that is a bad thing because mobile searches now represent a large and ever-growing proportion of all online searches, even overtaking desktop searches in many countries. We should also mention that online search engines are potentially the richest source of website traffic and enquiries, gaining you a regular stream of qualified leads if you get your online marketing right. So the message is simple: don’t fail at the first hurdle; your website simply must be mobile-friendly nowadays, or you will lose out. You can test whether your site is mobile-friendly by tapping its URL into this tester and clicking ‘Analyze’. You’ll get the answer in just a few seconds.
Firstpoint Print can help to design and build you a mobile-friendly website should you require professional help. We use a web architecture which is search-engine-friendly, mobile-friendly and allows you to control your own content should you want to do so. It is also an ‘open source’ platform which means that we can add all manner of bells and whistles (e.g. e-commerce, booking systems etc.) without it costing you an arm and a leg because such modules already exist as plug-ins written specially for the platform, so can be easily bolted on.
Make sure your website includes an integral blog
As well as being mobile-friendly, your site should ideally include an integral blog. The full reasons for that will be explained later, but suffice it to say that you’ll be missing a trick if you decide to run with a website which does not incorporate a fully-functional blog. There you can announce news, useful information, tips, tricks, new product launches, competitions and lots more. Firstpoint Print’s website design & development service incorporates a blog facility by default and it is a cutting-edge system which is both easy to use and search engine-friendly. It also includes an ‘RSS’ feed which, without getting too technical, simply helps your content to be found and automatically ‘syndicated’ around the web, spreading your message to a degree on auto-pilot.
On-line marketing starts off-line – think print!
First, though; let’s first get some more basics in place. You have your website and, we’ll assume, a decent website domain and hosting to house it on (if you need help with that, simply let us know). So now you need to tell people where your website is. At the very least, you should make sure that your website is clearly signposted by printing it on all your sales and marketing literature and corporate stationery. So don’t forget to include its URL (domain address) on your letterheads, compliments slips, business cards, brochures, flyers, leaflets and any other pieces of ‘physical’ marketing collateral — exhibition and display stands included. And don’t forget to include it adverts, mail-shots and, most importantly, in your email signature, where you should also make the web address clickable. Otherwise each one of those corporate pieces is a wasted marketing opportunity, bearing in mind that many people will want to check your business out before picking up the phone — so don’t give them any reason not to contact you.
So take a quick audit of your marketing pieces and business stationery to check people can easily find your website address. Or, alternatively, let Firstpoint Print do a free audit of your marketing literature for you. If anything needs updating we can help with the artwork and any design updates and get your printing optimised.
So let’s now assume you have your sparkly mobile-friendly site with integral blog, you’ve now signposted it in all your sales and marketing materials and it’s all running nicely and looks the part whether you view it on a desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone. Pat yourself on the back; this is a very good start because the most fundamental foundations are now in place.
Starting the online marketing process
However websites don’t simply market themselves. Just because you have a website doesn’t mean it’ll be seen by many people online unless you do something. But what, exactly, do you need to do in order to get some decent online traffic? It comes down to ‘customer engagement’ and we’ll explain that, and a whole lot more, in the next part of this blog series. So watch this space as we’ll be publishing Part 2 in just a few days. There will be quite a bit to do and the good news is that, time permitting, you may be able to do much, if not all, of it yourself if you think it out carefully and follow some simple but important rules.
A word of warning
If your marketing budget stretches far enough to allow for some professional help, then that may be a good idea but only if the online marketing supplier comes highly recommended. Our advice is to avoid ‘online marketing’ and ‘SEO’ companies who contact you out of the blue, usually by email, often from offshore. Many simply use old online marketing and SEO tactics which no longer work or, worse still, tactics which might do long-term harm to your online presence (I say that as an SEO professional who has had to clear up their mess on several occasions). If they were as good as they say they were, they would not need to bombard us all with emails in order to get some work — it would come to them naturally! So if you get professional help, make sure it comes highly recommended and can be backed up by proven facts, testimonials and suchlike.
That’s it for Part 1. In Part 2, later this month, we’ll cover ‘How to engage with your target audience‘ because that is the real key to online marketing success. Watch this space …