I don’t know about you but I am often lured by the latest bright shiny object when it comes to marketing. Whether it’s the latest tool for streamlining my social media or a new plugin on WordPress for speeding up my website. It could be the new video options on Facebook cover photos or an easy gif creator on Canva. There are so many distractions which can take us away from the fundamentals.

When I talk to marketing managers or business owners about online marketing, it’s usually about one particular aspect such as Twitter, blogging, email marketing, image creation, lead magnets. Rare is it that the someone says: ‘Amanda, I need a plan.’ So when it comes to helping businesses get to grips with the potential value of online marketing I always start with strategy and leave the tactics until we’ve honed the basics.

Online Marketing Strategy – objectives

Strategy is big picture thinking and at one level is hard and at the other it’s deceptively simple. I start with understanding the businesses overarching objectives. What are your goals for this year and next year? To increase turnover by 20%, to raise prices by 10%, to lower costs by 15%, to develop new products, to open another branch. Whether they are big goals or incremental changes, knowing where you want to get to provides a sense of purpose to your business.

Define your value proposition

Secondly: What is your core message? For example: A swim school might have the following core message – “We teach non-swimmers how to be safe in the water in an enjoyable, relaxed environment where children learn to swim at their own pace encouraged by professionally qualified staff.” The reason for writing this message out in one sentence is that it describes to someone who knows nothing about the swim school a clear picture of their value proposition. A parent will know exactly what they are buying for their children. Compare this with another, equally valid (but rather scary) proposition: “We train children to pass all the ASA swimming badges in 3 terms using a disciplined, highly structured approach resulting in swimmers who are competition ready.” The tone of your value proposition underpins all your marketing messages both online and offline.

The importance of customer journeys

With this in mind I recommend carrying out a review of the customer journey. How do customers find you and where did they look along the way? They may tell you that they were recommended your service by a friend, but I expect they checked your website (even if only for your telephone number or address). They may have then clicked through to your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles and also might have read your latest blog post. Unless you ask your customers, you will never quite know which elements of your online marketing assets are being viewed and taken into consideration when evaluating your offering.

When helping clients I will examine their existing customer base in detail, evaluating the relative importance of the different elements of online marketing. Is it Google search which is most important or posts in Facebook groups? How important is email marketing or reviews on directories? All this information build a complete picture of how the customer journey can be improved.

This research will also improve our understanding of our ‘ideal client’ or customer avatar

Let’s look at example:

I’m looking for an accountant:

  • I meet an accountant at networking every month.online marketing
  • I know a couple of business owners who use their services so I ring them up to ask for their thoughts
  • I look at their website.
  • Then I do a google search ‘accountants St Albans’
  • Once again I look at the website and read their ‘About us’ pages and click through to their LinkedIn profiles.
  • I then go onto a local Facebook group and ask for recommendations. People post a few links to other accountants’ Facebook pages, so I check them out too.
  • I make a shortlist and one hasĀ a guide to online accounting packages, so I download that which is really useful as I’ve been thinking about streamlining my bookkeeping…..etc
    You get the picture.

So for a small business analysing the customer journey is a key part of helping to map out what needs to be included and improved upon when is comes to Online Marketing.

In the next blog post I am going to look at how you might find useful insights for your Online Marketing Strategy by looking at your competitors.