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.
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:
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.