Online marketing is equal parts science and art. Find out how to do it better! 

I know the world of online marketing can be daunting for the average Sarasota/Bradenton based small business owner. Heck I am a marketing professional and I still get confused once in a while.

Most of the time small businesses have no idea how to get noticed online so they start asking their “marketing friends” and inevitably hear that it’s easy, just start a blog, get on social media and SEO (search engine optimize) everything! The problem is that if you do not have a firm understanding of how some of this stuff works then your ad-hock online marketing can actually do more harm than good.

While I firmly believe you should have a blog, you should be on social media and you should be optimizing your content for search I also know there has to be unity in your message and everything should be done with the end goal in mind. That being said I will introduce you briefly to inbound marketing and then tell you what not to do when jumping in to the world of online marketing.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is essentially the practice of attracting people to your message as opposed to trying to pound it in their heads with annoying advertising or any other form of interruption based messaging that companies are using these days. (Think direct mail, TV advertising, Billboards, etc) Want to see inbound in action? Check out this infographic on inbound marketing.

Why your company should be considering inbound marketing

Most inbound marketing strategies are based online and built around a closed loop marketing system that drives traffic back to your website where you can then track, analyze and modify your marketing efforts based on those results.To truly be effective as an inbound marketer you have to leave your old school mind at the door and put on your creative hard hat and be ready to try some things that might take you out of your comfort zone.

In order to market your business effectively these days you have to look at your advertising in the eyes of your consumer. They are bombarded with annoying messages all the time so it has to be your job to simplify your message and start finding ways to drive engagement online. Inbound marketing is like the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare, slow but it always wins in the end. You see, inbound marketing is about creating trust with your audience and educating them on the product you offer and the value of doing business with your company versus the competition. .

We have to watch our image on social media so we schedule all our posts!

Forget about stuffy offices, too tight ties, annoying bosses and take a second to really connect with your audience through social media. If you are scheduling all of your social media posts in advance or outsourcing your social media you might be missing a great opportunity to interact with your audience in real time. People can tell when your messages are canned and lame! Why not empower some of your staff and allow them to post random moments of office life online. Let the world in to your work space and let them in to what goes on behind the curtain. You would be surprised what a simple little picture of a couple co-workers making a funny face, an intense board meeting or a goof up at work can do for a company online.

Social media is about interacting with people in real time. Don’t be scared to loosen up the tie a bit and show the world that you are human. Social media is real and happens in the moment, don’t be afraid to insert a little levity or humor in to the lives of your social media audience.

We use our company blog as a press release platform and online brochure!

Wrong! Many companies think having a blog is a great idea and they would be right if only they understood the power of blogging as an inbound marketing tool. Are you using your blog just to sell your products or services? Good luck with that. People hate looking at visual advertisements, let alone reading 600 words about why they should buy your product. Consider using your blog as a source of knowledge and information for your target audience. Find creative ways to write articles about relevant topics and sprinkle your product in once and a while. A blog should be used to drive traffic to your website, not as a primary sales tool!

Video marketing is too expensive!

I agree, fully produced videos can be expensive and there is a place for them in online marketing but that does not mean that you can’t take a video on your phone and post it on Facebook  That monthly birthday celebration that everyone pretends to be excited for just so they can get out of work would make a great short online video clip. If you don’t know how to do it, find the youngest person in your office and task them with director, producer and let them go to town. No editing needed and all it cost you was a couple minutes online! Great for sharing on Facebook or twitter. Don’t forget to encourage your staff to share the video with friends and increase your online exposure.

Thanks for your business card, prepare to be spammed!

I wrote a whole article on why your email marketing sucks and how to fix it so I wont dig in to this too deeply but there are right ways and wrong ways to build an email list. Not to toot my own horn but I regularly get an above average email open percentage (43.6% on average compared to 17.6% industry average) mostly because we only send out relevant and interesting content.

You can not presume that just because someone gave you their business card that it is ok to put them on your email lists for everything you do. If you want to put them on a list that goes out once a month or a company update list that’s fine but your regular email marketing should only go to people who want to hear about what you are sending otherwise you are diluting the value of your offer and probably being ignored when you do send something relevant out to your lists.

Don’t be scared to try something new

Don’t worry about stepping outside of your comfort zone when trying things online. The internet is a forgiving beast (unless you are a celebrity with a sex tape) and the success of your online marketing will never hinge on the results of one single thing you do. The goal just has to be to do a lot more things right than you do wrong, understand what does go wrong and fix it before doing it again!

Other than that, subscribe to some credible blogs that are relevant to what you are trying to do and happy marketing.

Have any internet marketing horror stories you would like to share? Think I’m a total idiot and can’t wait to tell me? Leave it all in the comments section! 

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