Whether 2015 closed with a bang or with a whimper, 2016 is here and your competitors are ready to hit the ground running with their online marketing efforts—are you?
If you’re using the same approach you’ve always used, you probably won’t see much success—especially if you’re in an even mildly competitive industry. Online marketing success comes down to three things:
- solid tactics
- lots of hard work
- an effective strategy
Most people, believing the myth that online marketing is easy, give up after not seeing immediate results. Many work hard but fail because they use outdated or ineffective tactics, while others work hard and use solid tactics, yet still fail because they don’t have an effective strategy.
I’m going to help you avoid that by sharing seven online marketing tips to help you kick ass online in 2016.
Stick to an online marketing schedule
When you let your own online marketing efforts slide, it tends to snowball into an avalanche of excuses about why other things are more important. Before long, you’ve stopped all marketing efforts, have fallen off the map, and no one remembers who you are.
Marketing isn’t something you do when you have spare time—you need to treat it just like you treat the work you do for your customers.
If you want to achieve results online, you have to set aside a reasonable amount of time on a regular basis. Write a blog post or publish a podcast episode every week. Engage on social media every day. Send an email newsletter every month. You get the idea…
We use Basecamp at Spartan Media to manage both client and internal projects so that nothing slips through the cracks, but if you don’t need all the features it offers, Google Calendar will work quite nicely. Trello is another option that has both a free version and a paid version with additional features.
Prioritize tasks based on importance
It’s easy to get sucked into email, phone calls, social media, or about a thousand other things that don’t move you any closer to your goals if you let it happen—but you don’t have to!
It’s a simple matter of identifying your goals, scheduling the time necessary to perform the tasks needed to accomplish them, and then being disciplined about not allowing that time. to be interrupted. Close your email. Put your phone on do not disturb. Ignore the fire alarm. OK, maybe don’t go that far, but do focus only on the task at hand.
You will complete your goals a lot faster, and over time, you’ll teach people to respect your boundaries by not replying to every email or phone call the second they come in.
If you haven’t read it yet, The 4‑Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris has loads of awesome information on this area.
Start a podcast
Podcasting today is what blogging was about 10 years ago—early adopters will become online powerhouses in just a few years. Blogging has been saturated for quite a while now, but podcasting is just starting to gain mainstream traction.
Instead of slugging it out for one of the top 3 spots in Google’s search results, doesn’t it make more sense to tap into an online marketing channel where you’ll face far less competition?
Online marketers who consistently publish useful and engaging podcast episodes can earn a spot on their audiences’ smartphones when they subscribe to your podcast, and if you think about how most people today are attached to their phones, that’s pretty damn big! Especially considering that there are already more mobile devices than there are people in the United States!
On a related note: I’m starting my own online marketing podcast, Kick Ass Online, this January. I’d love if you could join me! Subscribe and I’ll email you when the first episode is published.
By podcasting, you are creating exposure for your company, developing your expert status, and teaching others. While the first two benefits are obvious, most people overlook the impact of teaching others.
If you’re thinking “I don’t have time to teach others” then you’re looking at it all wrong. One of the things I learned while training US Marines in my younger years was that teaching others hones your own skills. You retain information better because you are constantly sharing it, you’re exposed to different perspectives, which leads to new ideas, and you develop better ways to explain things.
To get started, you’ll need a quality microphone, a quiet place to record, and special software, like Audacity (free) or Adobe Audition ($19.99/month) to record, edit, and tag your podcast episodes. I prefer Adobe Audition because it has far more features, but the learning curve is also pretty steep. You should also invest in podcast hosting, which is different than your web hosting. I use Libsyn because they provide a ton of great features and some of the biggest names in podcasting rave about them.
If this all seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is, but Cliff Ravencraft’s How to Podcast tutorial should make it a lot easier for you. You should also check out his podcast, Podcast Answer Man. It’s one of my favorites, both because of the wealth of quality info he shares, and because he is a genuine, transparent, and caring guy. Don’t let the hard work scare you off, this is definitely an online marketing channel you need to take advantage of.
Create content that matters
Content, whether it’s a blog post, podcast episode, or video, must be valuable and useful to your visitors.
Before you produce another piece of content, ask yourself if it provides real value from your visitors’ perspective, or if it’s just a tiny nugget of useful information sandwiched in your sales message. If it’s the latter, start over. No matter how passionate you are about your company, I promise no one else has any interest in reading another “7 Reasons You Need to Choose XYZ Company” blog post.
Online marketing is just like engaging with people in real life. Look at everything you produce from their perspective—they want content that will teach them something or answer their questions. Here are a few examples of content that provide genuine value to the audience:
- How to Train Your Subscribers to Open Your Emails Every Time You Send
- Buying a Home? 4 Deal-Breakers You’ll Want to Avoid
- How to STOP Worrying and Assume a Positive Outcome Instead
- Could Gut Bacteria Be to Blame for Your Stubborn Belly Fat?
- 6 Techniques to Dramatically Upgrade the Quality of Your Presentation
- Miami’s 10 Best Pizza Places
- The Simple Tricks Experts Use to Always Get Paid For Their Time
You should also ask who will share it. If the value of your content isn’t high enough that visitors will willingly share it on their own, don’t waste your time creating it. The fact that your audience won’t share it is an indication that it doesn’t matter to them—and if it doesn’t matter to them, it won’t help you achieve your online marketing goals.
The idea is to openly share your knowledge, which makes your website a trusted resource that people cite, share, and link to. Through that process, you become the trusted authority in your industry.
Engage outside of your own website
You’ll often hear online marketers parroting “content is king” and there is some truth to that, but it’s only one part of the equation. You could create the most amazing content in the world, but if no one knows it’s there, it won’t help you at all. Search engines won’t find it, and people won’t link to it or share it, so it will produce zero exposure for you.
In other words, you’ll have wasted your time.
You should think of your website like a hub that you drive people to using other channels, such as organic search, social media, or email marketing, not as an island.
When you do this, you’re leveraging a preexisting audience to build exposure, trust, and expert status. That goes a long way towards motivating others to share and/or link to your content, which also has a direct impact on your organic search ranking. This quickly builds momentum to create exponential growth.
If you are truly creating amazing content that your visitors find valuable, and you are engaging on other relevant channels with a large audience, it’s almost impossible not to earn massive exposure.
Some ways to engage outside of your own website are:
- participating in forums
- guest blogging
- hosting local networking events
- participating in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus groups
- being interviewed on other websites or podcasts
- public speaking
Be sure to include a way for people to get back to your website, such as a call to action in a speech, or a link in your forum signature or guest post bio.
Don’t waste time competing
It’s tempting to strategize ways to gain a competitive advantage over your competitors, but it’s wasted effort. It really is. You improve a little, they improve a little, and the cycle continues over and over—a ton of inefficient effort is burned over a longer period of time in little tiny chunks.
Instead of competing, you should be thinking about how to make your competitors completely irrelevant.
Apple didn’t just try to create an MP3 player that was a little better than others on the market, they created one that destroyed every other MP3 player. It was more stylish, had a better user interface, and most importantly, it made it incredibly easy to use. So easy, in fact, that customers could legally buy individual songs and instantly put them on their iPod, which transformed MP3 players from something that only appealed to the ultra-techie
Henry Ford could have followed the automobile industry’s business model of slowly building expensive cars for wealthy customers, but instead he chose to utilize the assembly line to reduce costs and bring prices down within reach of ordinary Americans. This produced tremendous growth for his company and allowed him to dominate the automobile industry.
Figure out how innovate in ways that completely change your business model—your profits will skyrocket and your competitors won’t know what hit them.
Automate tasks that can be automated
I’ll preface this by saying that most online marketing tasks should not be automated.
For example, automated “thanks for following” tweets or DMs are generally seen as slightly less authentic and more sleazy than politicians. Even worse is automated “engagement” where software is used to tweet people based on certain keywords in their tweets. Some of our regular readers may remember the recent Buck’s Pizza example:
Some things can and should be automated though. One example is social posts that link to your own content.
We recently switched from Hootsuite to Edgar to manage our social posts, largely because of how it automates the process. You can save your posts in a library and Edgar will continuously rotate through that library based on a schedule you create. Once it’s in the queue, you never have to touch it again unless you want to change it.
Autoresponders are another example of marketing that should be automated. If this isn’t something you’re familiar with, it’s a service that will send out a series of prepared messages according to a schedule you specify once someone subscribes to your list.
There are several ways to use this, but the most common is to entice visitors to subscribe by giving away a free digital product, like an ebook, video, or MP3, which triggers your autoresponder promoting your products or services over a series of emails. (We use and highly recommend Aweber for this.) What’s awesome about this is that once you create your emails, your sales process will go on without any further effort on your part!
Another area we automate, and you should too, is reporting.
Data is valuable because it allows you to make solid business decisions, but collecting and presenting it is time-consuming. We used to spend an obscene amount of time each month collecting data on website traffic, conversions, ranking, social media engagement like retweets and likes…the list goes on and on, but I think you get the idea. Initially, we pulled all of this data manually from each source, and then spent even more time turning it into beautiful multi-page reports.
We tested several different tools, but eventually settled on Raven because it met our marketing reporting needs perfectly. Once your report template is set up, you can have the system automatically send it based on a schedule you specify, saving you a ton of time each month. It starts at $99/month, but if that doesn’t fit into your budget, Google Analytics can be configured to email you custom reports, although they can only track and report on activities on your website—not other equally important information like ranking or social media data.