For independent business owners, having an effective online marketing strategy is an absolute necessity if you want to grow and stay ahead of the competition. The Internet has changed the way we build relationships with potential clients. It’s now possible for SMBs to advertise on a global scale – something that was once only financially possible for large businesses and corporations.
Growth has been consistent, and by 2016 it’s projected that online spending will be double that of print.
But unless your business is Internet Marketing, developing a comprehensive online marketing strategy can be a complex and time consuming task because there are a LOT of moving pieces.
Learning how to use online marketing techniques successfully can be a double-edged sword. You will need to balance how much time you spend perfecting your craft (advancing skills and staying up on industry trends) and performing actual business projects with how much time you spend learning about online marketing and doing all the things that are involved with it. The reality is that unless you want to be an “Internet Marketer” – you don’t have the time to learn (or do) everything. This is where systems and tools that will help you manage your time and tasks become critical.
If you have been following my articles, you know that I am not a big fan of “Here-Are-The-Best” lists. Not everyone has the same needs, likes, budgets, etc. What is important for one person may not be the same for another. When it comes to having total control of your online marketing, I believe you need to start with knowing what things need to be controlled.
4 Things You Must Control for an Effective Online Marketing Strategy
The Relationship Between Keywords, Finances and Efforts
You need to know how much time and effort you are spending on your online marketing campaigns and whether you are spending it wisely. Is the money you are spending bringing you a good ROI? This can’t be a guessing game if you are going to use online marketing effectively. Tools & analytics are essential. You need to know whether what you are doing is working and if not, what you can do to improve it. Here are a few articles to get you started:
Education and Training – WITHOUT Getting Overwhelmed
As I already mentioned, there is a TON to learn when it comes to online marketing. You need to develop a training plan that doesn’t take too much time away from your business. Make a decision about what parts of online marketing you want to “master” and what parts for which you only require a basic understanding. My recommendation is to start with one sub-category of online marketing that is a “best fit” for your business model and personality style.
When it comes to online marketing there is an abundance of websites that provide information that is both valuable and free. When you find one you like, sign up for the newsletter so that you can “learn from the experts” at a pace that fits your schedule. (I recommend setting up a separate email for “educational” stuff so that it is easier to balance your work and training time).
Here is a sampling of just a few of my favorites:
- Hubspot’s Essential Step-By-Step Guide to Internet Marketing – Signing up for the HubSpot newsletter is an absolute must. They provide weekly ebooks and reports that are filled with so much information that I can’t believe it’s free.
- Chris Brogan’s Blog – great information about content marketing strategies
- Marketing Profs – Not only does this site have a fantastic resource library of articles, but it also offers high quality (and free) video trainings. (There is option to upgrade.)
Social Media Conversations – Yours AND Theirs
Since you will definitely be including social media in your online marketing strategy, you will need something to simplify the process. You want a tool will enable you to post on multiple social media sites AND be able to “listen to” relevant conversations. You want something that connects ALL of your social media accounts, that lets you to make posts (including advance scheduling) and follow conversations from a single dashboard. You also need to get social media analytics so that you can determine what kind of posts draw the best engagement from your audience and when you should post to achieve the best reach.
Here’s some social media management tools that are worth checking out:
Your Time, Tasks and Schedule
The very thing that makes online marketing (especially social media) so powerful for a freelancer or small business owner is the very same thing that makes it dangerous for us! There is so much information on the internet that it’s easy to get lost in the process of learning, researching and engaging. You need to develop a system that works to keep your tasks organized and a schedule doesn’t take away from the time required for your business.
Seven Tools to Take Control of Your Online Marketing
Once you know what needs to be controlled, it will be easier for you to find tools to help you get the job done efficiently and productively. Here are some of my “less obvious” favorites.
- Checklists – This sounds obvious, but having a written checklist for all of your online marketing tasks will REALLY help you take control of what needs to be done. Stay organized with a list of things that you will do daily (for example, simple social media posts), weekly (for example, newsletters) and monthly (for example, analytics). Here’s one that I put together to get you started – Checklist for Getting Started with Online Marketing.
- Spreadsheet – I use Excel and Google Drive. Spreadsheets can be used to help you control website SEO, for example by keeping track of your keyword lists (including website pages that contain them), affiliate promotions (internal or external) and backlinks. You can also use them to keep an organized record of the money you are spending on your online marketing campaigns. Another way that I use spreadsheets is to organize lists of both competition websites/blogs as well as ones that are current or potential partners for cross-promotion strategy.
- WorkFlowy – This is my ABSOLUTE new best friend for staying organized and keeping track of projects – and it’s FREE! The beauty of WorkFlowy is its simplicity. It creates a single page, in an tabbed outline format, that you can use to organize personal to-dos, collaborate on large team projects, take notes, write research papers, keep a journal, plan a wedding, or whatever it is that you need to do. You don’t have to jump back and forth between folders and tabs – it’s all in one place. Workflowy has an online and mobile version that sync together.
- MyWorkClock – There are many others available but I like the simplicity that this “time clock” app offers. With MyWorkClock, you set up different categories for tasks and “punch in.” You have the option of syncing with google calendars and/or sending yourself reports by email – both of which help you keep track of how much time you spend. If this app is not your cup of tea, pick another one – AND USE IT.
- Evernote – There are unlimited uses for how you can use Evernote but one of my favorite is to quickly capture and organize content that I want to look at later so I don’t go “off task.” You know when you are researching one topic, and you come across something else interesting, that leads to another and another… Or maybe there is just a piece of information in the middle of an article that you want to grab and save for later. With Evernote, it is easy to add these sites and clips to organized folders, with tags and simple notes, so that I can go back to them later.
- Virtual Assistant – As an independent business owner, you need to have a serious assessment of what your time is worth. At any point that you find yourself spending time doing online marketing tasks at the expense of making money (or your work-life balance), it is time to consider a hiring a virtual assistant. Years ago, a multi-millionaire gave me a piece of advice that I will never forget – “Successful business people don’t spend their time doing minimum wage jobs unless they are doing them for pleasure.”
- Discipline – Okay, so this is not really a “tool” but in my opinion, freelancers and independent business owners can’t have a successful online marketing strategy with out discipline. You need to develop a plan that works for you and stick to it with consistent effort. You also need the discipline to not allow it become a time waster or a way to procrastinate from real work that needs to be done. For example, just because you have a content marketing strategy that provides great information for people, you still have to do things that bring people closer to making a purchase (or hiring you) – and you need to ask for it. Many people hide behind blogs and social media because they are “afraid of selling.”
What are some of your favorite tips, tools and resources for taking control of your online marketing? Share them with us!