If there’s one thing I’ve learned from managing online marketing programs for Fortune 500 caliber brands it’s that most of them are extremely inefficient, mainly due to internal bureaucracy that slows down decision-making and implementation to a snail’s pace. If a small business were to operate that way, it would go out of a business in about a week.

That said, I’ve also learned that many of these larger, enterprise-caliber brands have learned to leverage certain online marketing techniques quite well. I’m convinced that one of the main reasons small businesses don’t leverage these techniques is simple lack of awareness, so I figured I would share my own personal list of highly effective enterprise techniques that a small business can use:

Automating certain facets of SEO

While search engine optimization still relies heavily on human elbow grease, there are plenty of elements that can be automated to help speed up implementation and improve return on investment. For example, there are a variety of tools that can automate the identification of link building targets. One of my favorites is the Clique Hunter tool offered by Majestic SEO, which allows you to identify the links that your competitors have in common (which typically means that they are links you should be able to acquire as well) but there are many others.

In addition, depending on the kind of site and content management system you have in place, there are certain techniques that can automate the process of optimizing on-page elements for your entire site. For example, if your site’s pages are database-driven (this is common for e-commerce sites) you can leverage said database to introduce relevant keywords into the title tag and other meta elements of each individual page at once. This approach to optimizing on-page factors isn’t quite as effective as manual page-by-page keyword research and construction, but it can be a very valuable approach that drives immediate return on investment for sites with a high number of pages.

Lastly, there are some amazing tools out there that can automate the project management elements of SEO. My personal favorite is Raven Tools, which is a fairly comprehensive tool that I use mainly for link building project management as well as to automatically track link building targets and determine whether the link is active or not (as opposed to trying to manually check that kind of thing).

Social media monitoring

Some of the more popular social media monitoring tools out there cost a pretty penny, but the good news is that there are plenty of high-quality options that are either free or extremely cost effective. In fact, simply setting up some well-configured Google Alerts can often do the trick. Remember that in addition to tracking your own brand name, you should also track competitor brands, product terms and general industry terms.  If you’re a local/regional business, then adding local/regional modifiers also makes a lot of sense. Also, remember to track specific questions that suggest a user that is in buying mode (e.g “where can I buy…”)

One technique that will help you weed out a lot of the noise from your monitoring data is the use of quotations or other handy search operators to capture exact-match phrases. So for example, if you sell blue widgets in Miami, Florida, it’s a good idea to use the command “Miami blue widgets” (as well as phrases like “blue widgets in Miami”) as opposed to simply typing in Miami blue widgets.

Email marketing

Simply put, email marketing is almost always the most lucrative and cost effective of all enterprise-caliber marketing techniques. It’s also the one that’s the least understood and most underutilized by smaller businesses. The key is relevance and consistency. Oh, and you have to actually ask folks to subscribe to your email list. That means including prominent “subscribe to email” calls to action within your site as well as within any conversion vehicles within the site (purchase process, membership sign-up, etc).  If you have a brick-and-mortar business, make sure to setup a system for collecting email addresses at the point of purchase.

Now back to that “relevancy” thing.  Sending relevant email messaging requires that you collect as much information about your users as possible up front, so that you can then segment your email subscribers into relevant groupings.

  • Are they male or female?
  • How old are they?
  • Do they have kids?
  • Where do they live?
  • What kind of phone do they have and is it a smartphone?
  • What kind of social networks do they frequent, if any?

These and other key questions can be leveraged to ensure that the marketing emails said user receives reflects their specific demographic and psychographic profile. The more relevant, the more likely said user is going to open your emails and continue to be actively subscribed for future messaging.

And as for consistency, it’s ok to email users more than once a year or once a quarter or even once a month. As long as the message is relevant and provides some sort of value, users are typically more than happy to receive emails on a weekly (or in some cases, daily) basis.

Measuring all the way through to sales and revenue

This is a technique that even many large companies struggle with, particularly if the sale and revenue isn’t immediate (e.g. an e-commerce transaction) but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible – or even all that difficult – for a small business to implement. It simply requires that you create a system for tracking a web-based lead all the way through to a real-life transaction. That requires the implementation of a sales lead and customer-relationship-management (e.g. CRM) platform like Sales Force. It also often requires the implementation of things like call tracking, which allow you to trace how an online visit turns into a phone consultation. Bridging the gap between web visit and real-life sales cycle will help you identify your most profitable marketing channels, which in turn, will let you devote more resources into those specific channels.

And this can be the difference between a ho hum marketing program and one that puts you on the fast track to easy street.

Overlapping multiple marketing channels

Ever thought of using your existing email marketing list to promote your social media network profiles? Ever thought to leverage your corporate blog to improve SEO? Ever thought of using paid search conversion data to determine your priority list for organic search optimization? Ever thought running mobile click-to-call ads to promote your Valentine’s Day in-store special?

If not, get cracking. It’s 2011, which means that the lines between marketing channels are becoming more and more blurred.

Creating marketing/ad campaigns

And speaking of in-store specials, have you ever considered orchestrating a multi-channel, themed campaign the way the big brands do? It’s not as complicated (or expensive) as you might think. The key is to plan ahead.

Do you sell a product or service that’s popular during the Super Bowl? This year’s big game just happened, which means that now is the perfect time to start planning next year’s campaign. Things to think about are:

  • Do you have dedicated pages on your existing site that cater to the promotion?
  • What channels will you use to promote your particular campaign?
  • How much budget are you willing to allot to paid ads?
  • Can you come up with a catchy slogan or phrase to help people remember you?
  • How can you setup analytics tracking in order to figure out if the money you spent on promotion is earning you a positive return on investment in terms of sales?

There are other details, but you get the picture. It’s really not that hard if you plan things out in advance.

Performing a brand workshop

This is another one that can be applied to your small business. What is your unique selling proposition? What makes you truly different/better than your competition? Are there certain aspects of your business process that might attract certain kinds of consumers (perhaps you run a green production process, etc)? Are these key elements of your business being properly communicated by your logo, your website, your email template, your social profiles, etc?

You’ll find that a little brainstorming on these and other brand-related topics will go a long way towards both increasing the volume of your potential customer pipeline as well as their willingness to purchase you again and refer you to friends and family.

A/B and multi-variate testing

What I find interesting is that has been a hot topic in internet marketing circles for years, and yet, most companies large and small continue to procrastinate when it comes to testing their website pages as well as their conversion funnel.

It’s not expensive. In fact, Google offers a free platform and there are a variety of service providers and market places where you can find competent implementation and testing for a price that makes sense for your business.

Still not sold on the idea? Then think about this for a minute…let’s say that your current website traffic is costing you about $5,000/month but generates $10,000/month in revenue. Then let’s say that you spend a few hundred dollars a month on A/B and multi-variate testing but that money and effort increases your conversion rate by 50%. You made yourself an extra $5,000 a month even if you don’t generate any extra traffic whatsoever.

It’s simple math, folks. Stop procrastinating and get some testing in place.

There are likely many other tweaks and techniques that I failed to mention, but I think that the things I’ve outlined above are a good starting point. One thing you will notice is that all of the aforementioned techniques are tied together by one common denominator:

Analytics.

And in a sense, that’s probably the most fundamental Fortune 500 marketing element that you can leverage for your small business. Sure, you might not be ready Omniture, but you can start with Google Analytics, which is a free platform with many of the enterprise-caliber features found in the premium analytics platforms.

As long as you have a smart approach to measuring return on investment, these and other enterprise-level marketing techniques can bring a sliver of that Fortune 500 cash flow to your small business.

Hugo specializes in enterprise online marketing strategy and is a big proponent of knowing your song well before you start singin’ (props to Bob Dylan). You can read more of his thoughts on marketing at www.hugoguzman.com.


About the Author

hugoguzman

Hugo is a strong proponent of knowing your song well before you start singin' (props to Bob Dylan). You can read more of Hugo's thoughts on marketing at hugoguzman.com.


17 thoughts on “Fortune 500 Marketing Techniques For SMBs


  • Kat on said:

    Great food for thought and many excellent points. I especially love the thematic marketing approach. It can be a bit tougher in a service-oriented business like mine (web design/development), but it’s certainly possible, and the more creative you are, the more fun running your own business will be.

    Merci!
    Kat


    • hugoguzman on said:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Kat! Thematic marketing can definitely make for some fun times, and if done consistently, and can lead to some serious brand awareness.


  • Cristina on said:

    Thanks for this great article! I have to agree, Google Alerts is the easiest way to stay updated! Plus, you can track any possible backlinks!


    • hugoguzman on said:

      Thanks for the kind words, Cristina! And I definitely agree that Google Alerts is a pretty nifty tool, especially since it’s free. Oh, and good point about using them for SEO purposes.


  • Rhea Drysdale on said:

    Really solid post and techniques. Thanks for bringing your skills to the Outspoken Media blog! I haven’t done much with Clique Hunter before, interested in taking a closer look now.


    • hugoguzman on said:

      Thanks for the opportunity and I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, Rhea!

      Clique Hunter is definitely an interesting little tool. I give the Majestic SEO folks a lot of props for coming up with it.


  • Geno Prussakov on said:

    Very good post, Hugo.

    I’ve specially enjoyed the part about testing. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It is a “hot topic” indeed (one yielding immediately visible results too) yet one neglected by so many companies (including some large ones as well). The only thing I’d add to what you’ve written is that Google is not the only one who makes it affordable. Their Website Optimizer is a excellent free tool, but there are also a number of other (free to dirt-cheap) ones worth looking at (e.g.: Visual Website Optimizer, LiveBall, A/Bingo, PickFu, Vertster, and Five Second Test).

    Also, surprised affiliate/performance marketing didn’t make your list.


    • Hugo Guzman on said:

      Thanks for chiming in, Geno! You make some great points.

      I didn’t go into all of the different testing tools because I wanted to keep the article tight (since there were so many topics covered). But while we’re at it, there’s another great portal for conversion optimization over at unbounce.com (and thanks for mentioning the ones listed in your comment above!).

      And as for affiliate/performance marketing, it definitely is a solid technique that is used by enterprise-caliber companies, but I didn’t list it because a) I felt that the other ones were easier to implement and have success with b) I already had a lot listed (there were others that didn’t make the cut).

      Glad you brought these points up, though!


      • Geno Prussakov on said:

        Thank you for your reply, Hugo.

        1) Yes, Oli’s Unbounce is a great one too. Sitespect’s A/B Testing and Vanity are the other two worth checking out.

        2) You’re exactly right about affiliate marketing! It isn’t as easy to implement as some merchants think (or some “guru” consultants are leading them to think). It isn’t unusual to have a online business launch an affiliate program, set up automatic affiliate approvals, and run themselves into such troubles that they would’ve been happier without their unmanaged affiliate program. But when the program is properly managed, it can be great addition to any online business’ marketing efforts. Glad we’ve mentioned it at least in the comments.


    • Hugo Guzman on said:

      They sure are, Sankar, although I do think it’s worth mentioning that its possible to go overboard on the automation front. There are still certain facets of link building that require the human touch.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Jason Acidre on said:

    Enjoyed reading this one Hugo. On a high-scale campaign, both time and budget really play a huge role to really have things materialize. And I do think that what small and medium businesses are really lacking these days are the focus on conversions and their long-term goal setting, in which should be including the business’ expansion (in terms of traffic/revenue source, products, services, etc…) along the process of developing their own brands.


    • Hugo Guzman on said:

      Thanks for the compliment, Jason! I definitely agree that long-term goals and metrics are lacking, but I would that most enterprise brands also struggle with this.


  • frankj on said:

    There are definitely many SEO tactics to choose from. It’s either you engage manually or use automated softwares to do it for you. But the concept is still there, having backlinks to your site. This type of SEO is an off-page SEO since these links aren’t contained into your site but from a different source pointing towards yours. Another type of SEO is on-page SEO. These are keywords and links going to related sites to help your rankings with the search engines.


  • Jamie Fairbairn on said:

    Hi Hugo, great post – I particularly liked the section on email marketing segmentation. It’s definitely worth taking the time to do this rather than sending out a ‘one size fits all’ email and hoping for the best.

    The subject line in emails can make or break a campaign and as you say, by keeping this as targeted and relevant as possible, small businesses are much more likely to get the results they want from email marketing.


    • hugoguzman on said:

      Thanks for the comment, Jamie! You’re right on the money, but unfortunately most companies – big and small – opt to go the lazy route by not segmenting and just using a “batch and blast” approach to email marketing.


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