If you're the owner of a small service business, having a solid Internet marketing plan in place can both increase your name and brand recognition locally in your geographic area, as well as expose you to a whole new set of potential clients throughout the world. If you have a business plan or vision that is written, you only need to integrate this Internet marketing piece into that existing plan. However, if you are like many of my clients, you carry your business and marketing plans in your head without bothering to commit anything to paper.
Here are ten considerations you need to make as you complete your Internet marketing plan:
1. Objective of Internet Marketing Plan: What do you want to accomplish by using Internet marketing? To find new clients? Provide services and info to existing clients? Sell services or products? Educate your target market or your staff about your product or service? Create an online community for your target market? How much money to have to spend each month on this Internet marketing plan? Having a goal and budget in mind will make your marketing more effective.
2. Marketing Funnel: The most successful online business owners have a marketing funnel (think of it as an upside down triangle) through which they "funnel" clients. The process begins from the wide top of the funnel, representing low-cost products or free give-aways, and moving clients down through the funnel to the narrower portions which represent gradually increasing investments from the clients from your higher-priced products and services. What products and services do you currently offer? Are they at varied price points that would create a funnel effect? What plans do you have to increase your product or service line? Will those new offerings plug gaps in your marketing funnel?
3. Your Competition: Knowing and understanding where you stand among your competitors can you help you strengthen your marketing message. Do a keyword search for the terms someone might use to find your business online. Write down the URL's of your top 5 competitors. How popular and relevant are their sites? You can check their traffic ranking with Alexa, http://www.alexa.com/#traffic, as well as see what other sites link to them. Does your competition offer something unique? Where are the gaps in the service or product offerings?
4. Target Market: Instead of trying to marketing to everyone (the shotgun marketing approach), find a clearly definable target market that you can easily describe and locate. Are they male or female? What age group? What industry? What socio-economic group? Where do they hang out on- and off-line? What do they read? To what groups and associations (real and virtual, personal and professional) do they belong? How much money do they make? Can they easily afford your product or service? What keywords are they using to search for businesses like yours online? (Note--you can do keyword research with free downloadable software, http://www.GoodKeywords.com).
5. Solution to a Problem: The reason that someone will buy your product or hire to you to provide a service is to solve a particular problem that they have. What problems and issues plague your target market? How does your product or service solve that problem? How does your solution differ from that of your competitors? What makes you uniquely qualified to provide the solution to their problem?
6. Branding Your Business: Your domain name can either help you be memorable or cast you into a sea of "brandless" solutions. At a minimum, you'll want to buy both your personal name as well as the name of your business in the .com version, if it's available. Then buy the .com versions of your product names and program names. If you use a full-featured domain registrar, you'll be able to point and mask these domains to internal pages of your web site, or use them as stand-alone sales letter pages.
You may also think of problems faced by your target market or solutions that you provide and buy domain names in the .com version of those as well. Internet marketer Dean Jackson brands his ebook on how to stop a divorce by owning the domain name, StopYourDivorce.com, This is a compelling solution to his target market -- men who have been ignoring their wives' complaints of marital dissatisfaction and come home one day to an empty house and a note telling him that she's filing for divorce.
7. Assess your website. Your web site should be visually appealing, with one primary font for the text and a simple primary color scheme, along with an easy-to-navigate layout, and readily identifiable buttons to link to other pages in the site. Your content should focus on and address the problems of your visitors and how your product or service can help solve their problems. Rather than listing the features of your product or service, detail the benefits they'll gain from purchasing your product or service. People rarely buy features -- they buy benefits. Don't depend on your web site designer to write your content -- that is best done by you, as you know your business and your target market better than anyone.
Present a clear call to action that is clearly shown on every page of your site. In an online business, your primary call to action should be getting the visitor's name and primary email address by asking him subscribe to your ezine or by giving him access to a free ecourse, special report, audio recording, or ebook. Lastly, provide an abundace of readily available information to demonstrate your expertise (articles, blog posts, free downloads, giveaways, contests). Your visitor is always asking WIIFM (What's In It For Me) -- make your web site about your visitor, not about you.
8. Online Business Management Technology: Do you have access to the appropriate services and technology that will help you sell your product or service online? At a minimum you'll need a merchant account (permits you to take credit card payments) that includes a virtual gateway (enables you to process transactions online) and a full-featured shopping cart that will permit you to sell both physical and electronic products and create a series of autoresponders to follow up with buyers and non-buyers alike. Depending on your marketing plan, you may also want to investigate email newsletter distribution services, online appointment setting services, stand-alone autoresponders, blogging software, article submission sites, online press release distribution services, website content management services, and links exchange management services and software.
9. Internet Marketing Strategies: How will you create traffic to your website? There are countless ways to do this, including: pay-per-click purchases (in which you buy a keyword at a search engine and pay for placement on that search engine for that keyword and pay for each visitor who clicks on that link and is sent to your site); organic search engine listing ranking (in which your site comes up at the top of the non-sponsored listings on a search engine by having keyword rich descriptions in the page title and page desciption meta tags and then optimizing each page for no more than 3 keywords in the first 250 words on a page); well-written email newsletter that is published on a regular basis; submission of articles on topics related to your target market to article submission directories; regularly post entries to a blog aimed at your target market, full of content discussing issues related to that target market; series of podcasts containing interview with experts of interest to your target market; ongoing series of teleconferences containing value-added content for your target market; submission of online press releases with new tips information for your target market; exchange relevant links with others in different industries with the same target market;
10. Building a Team: You'll never be able to do this all alone. The most successful business owners don't even try. You need to add experts to your team who are great at what they do so that you've got the time and energy to go out and do what you do best -- selling your products and services to your target market. Some great experts to add to your team include a virtual assistant or online business manager, an online business coach, a web site designer, a graphic designer, a writing expert (editor, ghost writer, proof reader or copy writer), a bookkeeper, and intellectual property attorney, to name a few.
To conduct a successful Internet marketing campaign, you need to integrate your plan into the overall marketing plan/business vision that you have for your service business. Some businesses will thrive off Internet marketing alone; however, for most, Internet marketing simply complements and enhances your offline marketing strategies.
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