Guest Post by Eric Jacobson, Operations Manager at Crest Media Internet Marketing, Inc
In internet marketing, one of the most clichéd and often used analogies to marketing is the concept of a race, and with good reason. Marketing is an incredibly competitive long-term endeavor for which all business owners must plan. It’s something that, even when business owners become frustrated by little to no return on investment, they must continue going for the life of the business. For the initiated marketer and business owner, this may all sound like common knowledge - you need marketing in order to put your brand in front of its potential client base and, naturally, you should plan on marketing your products and services for as long as you plan to offer them.
For first-time and small business owners, however, "indefinitely" is a long time to be doing something one doesn't fully understand and may not see an immediate ROI where immediacy is a primary concern. Getting back to the race analogy, SMBs jumping head first into digital marketing can feel a lot like they're being thrust into the Indianapolis 500 with little more than a Segue and a learner's driving permit.
Getting Back in the Driver's Seat with Your Budget & Goals
The solution to this problem for first time SMBs is not to simply outsource digital marketing to a low-cost agency, forego any thoughtful research, spending, or creativity, and then hope for the best. This is what we've come to describe as "riding the brakes" on one's marketing: to invest as little as possible, while expecting some grand results in an unrealistic amount of time. Mind you, this is not an advocation to spend money one doesn't have on their marketing, but rather to learn about the larger concepts, strategies, and verticals of internet marketing before making any decisions on how to best segment a potentially tight marketing budget.
Having said that, a small budget coupled with low understanding of how internet marketing works can be exceptionally dangerous. Every business owner should be well-engaged with their marketing agenda, no matter what that agenda entails. If the budget is small, there's no excuse to also skimp on time, research, and understanding; being proactive and at least learning about the larger marketing concepts and strategies is the best antiseptic to the sting of small budget constraints.
Finding the Best Route for Your Business
It is an unfortunate reality, but new SMB owners who have no prior experiences with internet marketing will need to experiment with different types of digital inbound marketing strategies in order to determine what will work best for them. Search and search marketing is the cornerstone for most digital marketing campaigns, but beyond that, what else can the new SMB owner do to generate leads, traffic, and search ranking, when competing against firms with an established digital presence? For example, when implementing a social media campaign, we’ve suggested many clients need to think about which social properties to use: On what channels do the competition use? How often do they generate content? What types of content seems to work best for them? Do they rely solely on organic content creation and social growth, or do they also use paid social ads?
We would equate all of this to mapping out the best driving route for a race, around (and ultimately past) one's competition. Too many new and small business owners do not realize until it’s too late that this should be happening before the business - and its digital presence - is even fully launched. Drivers and racing teams have the track memorized before the green flag drops; so should every new business owner. Thoughtful and reputable marketing agencies and consultants can make some sensible recommendations, but no two businesses will benefit equally from identical campaign strategies. This is why observing, predicting, and circumventing competitors' marketing strengths and weaknesses should be an essential part of the marketing strategy.
Making Full Use of the "Pit Crew" & "Garage"
The adage that a driver is only as good as their pit crew is true for good reason. Races are won when teams come together, using the right tools, timing, and crew members in the right capacities. It also happens to be directly applicable to internet marketing. A business owner is only as successful as they are capable of finding and utilizing support tools and resources. This is where the time issue comes back into play; it’s critical to researching and acquiring the right tools.
Internal staffing and external consultation are both essential for new businesses to get technical and strategic assets for their marketing to run at full speed. The new business owner with limited budget who wants to make sure their marketing is going to be done right will need to learn how to scale what resources they do have at their disposal to the most comprehensive strategy possible. A small "360 degrees" campaign is better than one just utilizing SEO or PPC. Races aren't won with essential tools or team members missing from the equation.
Even with the help of full service marketing agencies, consultants, or internal staff, business owners will better understand their own goals, expectations, and available resources when examining strategy alongside the data and recommendations made by such personnel. How much of any business owner's time and resources invested in things such as social media, branding, content development, and email marketing will depend largely on the channels producing consistent, if not consistently improving, results. Essentially, both the driver and the pit crew should know which tools to use and when in the course of the campaign.
Losing a Few Laps in Order to Win the Race
Businesses that have no prior experience with comprehensive search marketing will often feel like the first-time driver in the race that's afraid to "go fast", and that's understandable. In fact, "going fast" might not even be an option for many new businesses. Uncertainty associated with unknown marketing channels can be intimidating and tiresome to a business owner who has barely grasped the basics of search marketing, but needs immediate results. Having said that, the age of not exploring a marketing channel because one doesn't understand it, and not understanding certain channels because they’ve never been explored, is over. SMBs need to plan ahead, try all strategies, and study results before they focus the largest segments of time, resources, and budget towards which strategies and channels work best, with others on standby in at least a limited capacity so that they can be readily integrated when or if needed. New businesses may not win every lap in the race, but only with a strategy that considers and accounts for everything they'll ever encounter can business owners really expect to win the race.
About the Author: Eric Jacobson is the Operations Manager at Crest Media Internet Marketing, Inc, with 9 years of SEO and web development experience to his credit. When he's not working closely with the SEO team and his company's clients to help actualize internet marketing goals, he spends his time in Southern California, researching new marketing strategies; writing, recording & performing music; and going to movies and concerts with his fiance.