There are few truths in an uncertain world, but here is one of them: Without leads, your business will go under — no exceptions.

This fact is why I, and many other marketing professionals, have a job today. Gone are the days of throwing your name into the phone book of your choice in your area or putting your number on the side of a truck and watching the phones light up. In today’s ever-evolving world, the complexity of marketing seems to grow every day.

Notice the use of the word “seems.”

We have found that the influx of new and shiny marketing tools often leads to a couple of things: mixed results and/or frustration. Lots of frustration. This seems to be multiplied when it comes to the wild world of internet marketing.

My job in life is to help you avoid frustration in your marketing, and I want to spend the next few minutes with you, outlining a plan that you can use to get a handle on your online marketing efforts.

The first thing that I want you to do is look at what has gotten you to where you are. In other words, what makes your phone ring now. Whatever those areas are, don’t forego them just to try something new. If direct mail has worked well for you, don’t quit it to free up budget to try something else. My grandfather always had a saying: “Dance with the one that brung you.” PawPaw probably wasn’t thinking about marketing, but it certainly fits here. By identifying the areas that are working, you can conversely identify the areas that aren’t. At this point, you can begin to earmark areas of your marketing budget that are expendable, and you can begin to add things to your marketing matrix once you eliminate the underperforming areas.

Next, take an inventory of your current online marketing efforts. This includes your social media presence, your email activities, your website, and any other digital marketing you may be doing. Put them in a hierarchy of importance. That metric is determined by you and your goals. You could rank them based on performance, with emphasis in investing more into the high-performing areas, or you could rank them based on the areas in which you are personally interested or want to see more testing.

Any metric you use is fine to create this list, but you must have metrics. Which leads me to the next point …

You must measure results.

With all areas of your marketing, tracking results is a cornerstone of success. Fortunately, one of the great aspects of online marketing is that there are typically tons of data points to review. Sometimes that data can be a little daunting. Clicks, likes, shares, impressions, views, visitors, CTR, bounce rates, organic traffic, keyword rankings, open rates, unsubscribes, etc. You get the point. If you are looking at this list and thinking that I’m just making up stuff, you’re not alone, but I assure you that each one of these metrics is a real thing and tells a very important story. Not the whole story, but an important one nonetheless.

I will warn you that a lot of online marketing reps will convince you of their success by pointing to these metrics. If you find yourself in a conversation with a sales rep that promises that you will get at least 100,000 impressions each month by using their service, great. What does that mean for your bottom line? Unless those impressions are converting, they mean absolutely nothing. By converting, I mean an “impression,” i.e. a person, actually clicks your advertisement and visits your site. Further, they contact you, or “convert” into a lead. That is the only metric that matters. If your online marketing is producing a ton of impressions or clicks or visits but very little in the way of actionable leads, then something is broken in your lead funnel. A lot of the time, the issue is with the content of your website. If you grab a prospect’s attention with a great service offer, but then after they click they find themselves on a page with no easy way to contact you and no additional information, they then bounce (remember that one from the metrics list) off the page and return to their search. By return to their search, I mean they go to your competition, and you’re left with a really great “impression” and an awesome “click” that did nothing for you other than cost real money.

Now that you know what to look for and what to measure for success, I want to give you advice on what an effective online marketing plan looks like. First, the budget for your online marketing should be approximately 40 percent of your overall marketing budget. The areas that this would cover are your website (including building and maintaining it), pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO.

Once you have the budget, put a simple funnel in place. A funnel that we recommend looks like this:

  • Offline piece (postcard, letter) — Send to your own customers and prospects;
  • Email — This goes to your current customer base;
  • Social media post — Post to Facebook, Twitter, etc. and possibly assign budget toward boosting; and
  • High-performing landing page – This can be a part of your existing site or a separate page.

These parts will be consistent in look and offer. They will all point to the same place: your website, which will contain a high-converting landing page that makes contacting you easy. That’s it. If that funnel sounds too simple, and you want to add to the complexity, that’s fine. Add whatever online media components you want to the list, but keep the message consistent, and send it back to that high-performing page on your site that converts.

No matter what the funnel looks like, measure the results and keep the basics in mind. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or confused about any of your online marketing efforts, take a step back and think about the basics. Ask yourself, “Are these marketing dollars lighting my phone up?” If that answer is anything other than “yes,” you need to reevaluate and optimize. Optimization is key as you work through your marketing plan; each campaign should perform marginally better than the last.

Publication date: 10/8/2018

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