In some businesses, marketing and sales are two separate departments, and in such companies the sales funnel is separate from the marketing funnel. For optimum sales, the two must work in harmony. In small online businesses, there is no distinction between the two but rather there is one longer funnel. There is no one answer as to what stages each funnel has, and even the terminology differs from writer to writer.
The role of marketing is to research their market, to know who their target market is and to bring as many people into the funnel as possible. They then use a marketing funnel which consists of the stages: awareness, consideration, preference, and action. The marketing funnel tracks the steps that prospective buyers move through before they make a buying decision (1). As prospects move through the marketing funnel, the marketing team captures certain statistics e.g. number of visitors, number of clicks, conversion rate, etc. which they use to take action and to refine their marketing strategies. From what the prospects do, the marketing team knows whether to send more information or to make a follow-up call (1). So here is how the marketing team uses the marketing funnel.
As soon as the people share their contact information they leave the marketing funnel and enter the sales funnel and they become sales prospects (2). In a large organization they are literally handed over. So why is it called a funnel? Naturally, many targeted people will see the information or the ad, less will spend time on it to explore and consider the product, and even less will take action. The numbers narrow down like a funnel.
The people who opt-in will not necessarily purchase straight away. Most will need more persuasion before they buy (3), which is why most online marketers use email newsletters through autoresponders.
For the small online business, there is no separation between the sales funnel and the marketing funnel. The sales and marketing funnel can look like this:
The marketing funnel and the sales funnel are different in a large organisation, but in a small business it is just one funnel, the sales and marketing funnel. In the sales and marketing funnel, it is common for a person to jump from stage 1 to stage 3 and stage 6 in one day if they have been looking for the product already. In fact this is what is taking place these days as people search the internet when they want certain products (1). But for those who only become aware of the product because of the awareness campaign, it takes longer to make the buying decision. That is why they need more persuasion while doing their research on the side or while getting ready to buy the product. All the same, from the beginning when many people see the information about a product to the time they buy, the numbers keep dwindling. It is common for the sales rate to be 1% of the original number who clicked on the ad.
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This article reviews various strategies and tactics to grow a business using online digital and online marketing methods. Any business, whether digital or physical, can benefit from digital and online marketing to grow its reach, audience, leads, and sales. Although this list is not exhaustive but provides a foundation that most businesses can use to grow their sales and revenues.
Regardless of your business models, there are many options to establish oneself in the online world. It is therefore quite important to have an online business growth strategy before jumping in and trying ad hoc tactics to establish oneself in the online and digital world. This involves listing your priorities and then selecting the important ones and then executing on that online plan.
Before jumping into the online world and trying to establish your online business, it’s important that you define your online digital audience. Definition of your online audience will help you target your market appropriately and get the most of your marketing dollars and investments. Defining your audience should be quite specific and involve deeper discussion within your organization to select the right personas for your online business. Remember, this is one of the foundation elements for you to grow your online business.
Depending on the diversity of your products and services, you may have multiple types of audiences. In that situation, you should analyze and define the various types of audiences carefully. Again, your marketing plan to grow your business will vary with each type of audience as the preferences and behaviors for each type of audience will vary greatly from one to the other.
Once you have determined the type of audience you need, you need to reach that audience. As mentioned earlier, over the past few years, Internet audiences have spread out to different nooks and corners to have their needs met. Search engines no longer are the sole meeting point for such audiences. While most continue to use search engines to find what they are looking for, sites like social media, blogs, forums, and various other online communities have sprung up where you can try to reach and target your audiences. To find these places specific to your needs, you must do some research and identify sites and areas of the web where you are more likely to find better audiences that may help you achieve your ROI.
Email marketing is one of those strategies that is a must have for all online businesses. E-mail continues to be the one channel that almost most of the world’s online population uses for correspondence. E-mail marketing, therefore, should be part of your online marketing and growth strategy. This includes having a plan to grow your E-mail list, nurturing it with frequent engagements, etc.
Your e-mail list provides you the foundation for communicating with your online audience. Each list is meant to be targeted to a specific product and service or more specifically caters to each type of audience’s interests. So, for each type of audience, you may have different e-mail lists corresponding to various types of interests. Dumping all of your audiences in one list can make it difficult for you to customize your online message and will affect your online conversions that in turn will impact your ability to grow your business. (Take an online course on starting an online business)
Many online entrepreneurs get so immersed with running an online business that the start ignoring the basic fundamentals of their business. These include details related to accounting, licensing, taxation, and other regulatory issues. It is, therefore, important to stay disciplined to ensure that you grow your business without worrying about being fined or closed down by officials for ignoring basic business fundamentals.
There is no use in getting traffic to a website or other digital property that doesn’t convert that traffic effectively. The craze that existed a few years ago on getting quality traffic continues until today, especially with new marketers and business owners. Many still mistakenly believe that getting traffic to their products and services will be a panacea to their business growth. There are many other factors that go into growing a business one of which is to ensure that all the other parts of the business are setup effectively to convert inbound traffic.
To grow a business, one of the things that you need is to generate lots of online traffic. Therefore, you should take a stock of all online traffic generation methods and then decide which ones to use for your business case. Every traffic source has its advantages and disadvantages and also depends on the audience that you seek for your traffic. You should, therefore, study the various online traffic sources (e.g. organic search, CPC, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogs, and content sites) and then invest effectively in select traffic sources and focus on them to grow your online business.
One of the most critical aspects of operating an online business is to establish an adequate performance monitoring process and system. An online business mostly needs to be tweaked constantly to take it to the next level. You should, therefore, constantly monitor various analytics reports, and other performance indicators to ensure that your digital system (websites, conversion factors, traffic patterns, etc.) are operating effectively to get you the most bang for your buck and efforts in terms of increasing your online revenues and grow your business. Although, Google Analytics continues to be one of the most popular tool, you should also look into other tools that can give you other insights related to various parts of your online business. You should setup a system of performance monitoring using the right tools and the processes.
Although there are various types of metrics available to help you optimize your digital marketing efforts, CTRs are an important indicator as this metric can help you refine your sales funnels throughout your site. We know that conversions is usually preceded by a number of steps on the site each of which must be conquered before proceeding the visitor to the subsequent step. To measure the visitor’s progress, you should measure the CTR at every step. This will allow you to hone in on areas where your visitors may be exiting the site. Doing so throughout the areas of your site will help you make your site run like a well oil machine through which your visitors pass successfully to reach the conversion steps.
Most advertising systems that provide CPCs have different bidding systems that allow you to either fix a specific CPC or can change the CPC bids to help you get more clicks and meet other of your digital marketing goals. Entrepreneurs that don’t pay attention to this can see their marketing dollars go down fast forcing them to abandon their future marketing efforts thus putting a halt to any business growth opportunities. As mentioned earlier, business growth initiatives must continue at a specific pace until they reach a certain momentum and therefore any hiccups that can stop you from achieving that goal should be addressed in due time.
Growing your business through the online channels requires a lot of investments. It’s therefore to ensure that you have various means to cover those costs. Other than selling your products and services online, you should consider various affiliate marketing strategies to monetize your digital assets.
We all know the generic online business funnel, which normally consists of awareness, deeper knowledge, adding to cart, and then to convert the shopper. However, each industry and business has its own funnel steps and each online business must go through the steps of defining its primary business funnel. This then becomes the cornerstone of most of an online business’s marketing activities
An online entrepreneur is usually in control of the sales funnel of the websites and digital properties that they are responsible for. Accordingly, therefore, they can tweak various aspects of that funnel to achieve the right conversion results. In many cases, entrepreneurs direct traffic from some of their other sites to their primary site. In such cases, entrepreneurs should design funnels of all sites and should keep that under consideration when estimating traffic volume to their primary site. Remember, each step that can tweak along the full customer journey can have a major impact on the end conversion results thus boosting your online revenue and your overall business growth.
Unless your site offers some very unique products and services, your visitors will unlikely stay on site for long unless it’s pleasing to look at and easy to navigate. It’s an established fact among marketers and website designers that design aesthetics plays a major role in retaining visitors on site and to push them through the various steps to get to convert. The design aesthetics take into account a number of factors, which include enhancing visual appeal (e.g. use of images, text, and color), considerations for branding, and including the right design elements on the website. Design aesthetics plays a major role as art and design elements evoke certain levels of emotions within visitors. Even if the visitors don’t convert, their staying on your site for longer periods of time has an impact on other factors such as improvement in Google organic search. Thus, when starting and operating an online business, this can have a major role on your website ranking within search engines and conversions, both of which are crucial to your business growth.
The business world in general, irrespective of whether it’s online or traditional brick and mortar, is getting competitive day by day. While most entrepreneurs and marketers end up spending their efforts and cost in trying to improve their traffic volume and quality, they forget to pay attention on the quality of their offer. There is no use in getting traffic that’s not going to convert. In fact, there are many instances when the existing of a product or service goes viral without the entrepreneurs spending too much time in getting traffic and publicity. Entrepreneurs and marketers therefore should not neglect increasing the quality of their products and services.
In the early days of the Internet and online business, SEO was the big name in the area of Internet marketing. Then, after Google started to apply penalties to punish black hat and other SEO methods that were in use, the general impression was that SEO may not be as important as it used to be. This was mostly because of some confusing messages from Google, which implied that businesses should focus on building a good website and pages rather than spending time on learning SEO techniques and tactics. Although Google’s guidance is correct in that good content web pages are liked by online visitors and in that case, Google would reward those pages and sites by ranking them higher, the truth is that you need to do a bit more than that. You must pay attention to the latest SEO trends and to Google’s guidance on how page rankings criteria are adjusted periodically. Not doing so could surprise you when your organic traffic rankings falls without any reason.
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SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization. This discipline refers to a number of techniques and methods that are meant to place a site higher in organic search engine rankings. More specifically, we can say that SEO is about optimizing organic search for a website and any online business.
Most businesses, especially the ones that fall under the category of Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), equate a business’s success to their SEO efforts. This perception is even truer for those businesses that are in the early phases of digital transformation and are attempting to reach the large audience of the Internet to maximize their reach and sales.
I get asked this question by many small business owners. This group of entrepreneurs believes that SEO can solve all their customer acquisition problems. However, those of us who have tread these waters before know that while at one time SEO had a major impact on a business’s success, the equation has gotten more complex with more variables. (Online training on successful online marketing)
Here are some of the reasons.
In conclusion, your vision and focus should always be larger than simply making SEO work for your website or other digital properties. Your ultimate goal should be to deliver on the differentiating value proposition for your business and that means looking at all aspects to make your digital business a success.
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During the course of a number of my consulting assignments, I am usually asked what in my view is the most important factor for growing online organic traffic. This question usually comes up as the clients are struggling with creating content, publishing content, marketing on social media, trying to create backlinks to their digital assets, and so on.
In my view the most important factor to grow organic traffic is to create captivating original content that delivers real value to your visitors and customers.
Content that is value added many times doesn’t need the push of search engines to get your traffic. The digital space and its users will do that job for you. More often content that users share and talk about by commenting online such as on social media gets more traffic than search engines can send your way.
And that’s something that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Living in this digital world, we see the power of viral messages.
In my view, this question should be asked at even higher levels and not just by the marketing specialists trying to fix the SEO state of a website or another digital asset.
So, you have started to invest heavily in your digital marketing efforts. How do you know you are making progress? What KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you should look at? Most important of all, how do you know you are getting most of your efforts and dollars?
As you may have observed from my earlier posts, I tend to believe and analyze things more from a strategic standpoint because that brings the most bang for your efforts. There is no point for example in measuring and fretting over your Adwords campaigns alone, if your overall digital marketing strategy is not aligned properly with the nature of your business, which may have more customers on Facebook or Twitter than lurking and doing searches on Google.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am not advocating that you abandon efforts to measure your tactical marketing efforts and initiatives. All I am trying to say is that measuring the impact of your overall digital marketing efforts is quite different than measuring data at a more tactical level. While it’s important to measure ROI for each channel that you market on, it’s even all the more important to measure the impact of your overall digital marketing efforts.
Although I discuss this in a separate blog post, please remember that marketing department is no longer just another department of your business. Instead your marketing department can provide you lots of data and insights that can have a direct impact on your overall business and the underlying strategy. Simply by looking at the data points that your digital marketing tools can provide to you should be sufficient to make you understand this concept.
In my opinion, measuring the impact of your overall digital marketing efforts involves answering the following questions:
As part of your digital marketing analytics, you should collect enough data on a regular basis that should provide you useful insights about your business and how are your customers interacting with your business. Here are some critical data points to consider.
As a business who is concerned about your digital health, you must know how your customers touch your business. You must measure and record this data at an enough granular level to know how your customers touch your business when they want to reach you for example for customer service issues, or when they are shopping for services provided by your business. Knowing this data will help you optimize your site, your landing pages, your calls to action, and other aspects of your site.
This is one of the most common but most powerful metric that you can use to position your business and its offers. Are most of your conversions coming from desktop computers or tablets or other devices? You should know this information about all types of conversions that you define for your business.
Every organization must know and understand the various ‘journeys’ that its visitors and customers take to interact with its services. Unless you know the specific customer journeys that your customers are using to interact with your digital business, you may not be able to convert them properly.
Each digital business gets its online traffic from various sources. As a digital marketer, you must know the specific channels that are bringing traffic to your business and how those online channels are helping your business advance its online business goals.
This may be different across various product and service lines. However, you must know this for each of the digital channels that your customers are using. For example, you may find that the customers that you acquire through Google search may be resulting in more sales and more value per order than the other sales channels.
If you have your website or blog up and running, your goal should be to get the maximum reach possible. The greater audiences you can reach in the digital space, the better your chances for success. The good news is that the vast digital space allows you to have what you want.
The truth in fact is that you can have an audience for your blog, website, or social media pages in the THOUSANDS, MILLIONS, and beyond!
Making that leap, however, involves an art and a science, which we have honed over the years.
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Considering the fact that Facebook has a substantial penetration in the social media networks specifically and in the digital space of the Internet generally, businesses of all sizes can’t afford to not seriously consider it part of their digital marketing efforts.
According to the recent statistics released by Statista, more than 70% of the overall Internet users are active on Facebook. This provides businesses an opportunity to reach a wide range of prospects.
Facebook users login to the platform to communicate with friends, explore businesses, consume content, share content, and in many other related activities. Businesses therefore can position themselves appropriately to expose their brand to their preferred audiences.
Before embarking on a digital marketing effort, the first think you should do as a business owner is to think through and delineate your digital marketing goals. Many businesses make the mistake of jumping in the game without being clear on their short term and long term objectives. Most often, everyone wants to start marketing and hope for the cash to start rolling in. This rarely happens.
You digital marketing goals could vary depend on your business but in most cases, they center around four specific themes. When discussing with many businesses on their goals, the answer we usually get is that “we want to accomplish all of it.” That’s fine but with the limited marketing budget available, the question then comes down to “how much do you want to spend around each of the marketing themes?” This question sends most businesses to the drawing board to determine their underlying goals and objectives.
The four themes related to digital marketing (and other type off marketing) are described in the following:
Efforts and capital spent around this theme means that you want your brand name in front of as many people as possible. If this is where you want to spend your marketing dollars then you are better off starting with digital marketing channels such as the Display Network of Google Adwords or marketing on Facebook through content marketing efforts and initiatives.
When trying to increase your brand exposure, your efforts should be to maximize your reach with your dollars. Your focus should be get the messages related to your brand out in the market as effectively as possible.
This is one of the most basic and obvious themes. The end goal of most businesses is to maximize their sales. Some usually want to achieve this by directly advertising their products to the e-marketplace. Depending on the competition though your biggest challenge here would be to balance the marketing dollars spent against achieving right level of conversions. If you can’t convert your marketing dollars at a rate that is profitable for your business, this method is not sustainable. Eventually, you will have to start focusing on other efforts to increase sales.
This marketing theme is usually centered around capturing as many leads as possible and to focus on their conversion later. Depending on your product and your industry that you compete in, this method can be very effective.
Many businesses also pay to advertize their products and services simply to gauge online market reaction. For example, if you are planning to create a product, you could create a mock up product and start advertising it for a few days or weeks and invite people to provide you with their contact information if they like the product. This can help you gauge the interest around your idea. Depending on how many people show interest in your idea, this can help you adjust your product or service development plans.
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