We were sitting in a bar in North Sydney — it was the only place open after a long day and it was coffees all round. Beer wasn’t on the agenda, marketing was.
‘Here’s our situation. We’ve reviewed our marketing budget and realised that we are spending $6000 per month on advertising. This is bringing in leads, no doubt. But, and here’s the thing, we’re gradually having to spend more and more to get the same results. It’s like an addiction. It takes a little bit more each time to get the same kick, but if we turn off the tap, the leads dry up. We need to make a transition, to find another, more sustainable way to generate leads without leaving us high and dry. Our question is:
Can you help?’
Our answer, of course, was ‘Yes’. After all, that’s what this book is about — building a web marketing asset that will continue to deliver leads on autopilot without paying for ads each time.
But before we dive into the solution, let’s have a quick look at a key difference between advertising and inbound marketing.
Advertising depreciates fast
The value of a print ad diminishes almost instantly. You pay to place your ad in a newspaper or magazine or online and then hope people buy or enquire, or remember you long enough to do so later. After that ad runs, you may win a few customers, which is great, but by the next day the ad is fish-and-chip wrapper.
Because the value of the ad depreciates so quickly, you need another one immediately to replace it and start the cycle again. So you pay again to reach more people.
In stark contrast, web and inbound marketing presents an opportunity for your asset to appreciate, increasing in value over time.
Building a web marketing asset
In April 2013 Adam wrote a blog post titled ‘Marketing Experiments: Email content that gets clicked’. The post was live for six months before it was linked to by the popular Buffer blog (see the link at the end of this chapter). This drove a surge of qualified visitors to our own blog.
One particular visitor arrived at our blog and read the article, which ended with an offer to download our free Web Strategy Planning Template. In doing so, he happily exchanged his name and email address and opted in to receive further communications from us. He received our Bluewire News emails for three months before enquiring to see how he could engage our services. He’s approved our proposal and will become a client. All initiated from one blog post six months before.
One block at a time
On the web, you are able to build your marketing asset one block at a time. Start with your website, create a fl agship piece of content you’ll become known for, add a blog, an email newsletter, some guest blogging and social media, and you will gradually assemble the pieces of the puzzle to dominate your niche. As you publish great content and communicate with your audience, they will get to know, like and trust you. With trust, the right customers will gravitate to your organisation and will put their hand up to do business with you, just as in the story above. This is inbound marketing in action.
Web marketing appreciates over time
That ‘Marketing Experiments’ blog post Adam wrote six months ago is worth more now than when it went live. When first published it had no views, no backlinks, no comments and no social shares. As time passed, however, people read it and left insightful comments, which added value to the content. People shared it via social networks, and the more tweets and likes it generated, the more this ‘social proof’ made it appealing to the next reader. And it was being shared with new networks. When some people found the blog post useful they linked to it from their blogs, which introduced a new wave of readers, and the backlink boosted the post in Google’s rankings.
Web marketing pays dividends too
This blog post continues to attract new readers, and a percentage of these readers take Adam up on his offer at the end of the post and download our flagship content. In exchange for this content download, they happily give him their name and email address. Having these new people opt-in to receive more content from us is where the real value lies. They can get to know, like and trust us, which is the only way your marketing will lead to customers and dollars.
As you build up your content, your web marketing asset will increase in value and pay dividends in the form of leads, customers and revenue. This will give you the confidence to turn off your advertising tap.
Your web universe from 20 000 feet
Let’s take a look at how your web universe fits together. [Check out the Web Strategy Planning Template for the visual.]
Your website sits right in the centre — it’s the hub, where your commercial outcomes take place. Once people arrive at your website, they should be able to identify clearly the journey you would like to take them on. Visitors may choose to take various different paths that suit them, but you need to provide the overall roadmap for their journey. Eventually you want people to be purchasing from you and becoming your customers, but to reach this stage these prospective buyers first need to know, like and trust you.
Pro Tip: Release a piece of flagship content.
The secret to web marketing that works is to release what we call ‘flagship’ content. It needs to be useful, valuable and genuinely helpful. This will become the cornerstone of your web marketing, something you’ll be known for and identified with.
Elements of the web universe
Let’s now review the main elements of the web marketer’s world.
Trust is an old concept in marketing. It has always been an integral part of people doing business with people and it’s just as important to online marketing. Your web strategy needs to be focused on growing trust with your community. It’s about nurturing your customers from knowing you to liking you, to trusting you enough to buy from you when they are ready.
The pathway to increasing levels of trust follows four stages: download (where they get to know you), connect (where they get to like you), enquire (where they get to trust you) and purchase (once they trust you).
The eventual commercial goal will be to drive revenue, so let’s start with the purchase:
Purchase. People can buy your product or service — it might be tickets, donations, memberships and renewals, or subscriptions — and become your customers.
Enquire. Attracting enquiries is one of the primary outcomes of marketing. These might come via forms, phone calls, emails or applications.
Connect. You may want people to follow you on Twitter, become a fan of your Facebook page or subscribe to your email newsletter.
It’s all about kicking off a relationship with each member of your community. This will allow you to share further information and to nurture that relationship over time.
Download. This is where you get people to download your flagship content or other premium content, like e-books, reports and templates — any information you can provide that might begin to help them solve their problem. This is the first step in building trust within your community.
Keeping these outcomes in mind, let’s see how the web universe fits together to drive these processes for your business.
Your site sits in the centre in figure 1.1 for a reason: it’s your commercial hub.
It’s the piece of your web strategy that ties all your efforts together, and it’s often where your customers can purchase, enquire, connect and download.
To be successful, a website needs a couple of critical elements that we’ll dig into later: landing pages and a blog. It must also be mobile and tablet friendly.
Because it’s where you convert interest into enquiry and dollars, there’s a huge amount of value in optimising it and getting it right. Make sure each page is focused on a specific purpose and call-to-action.
There’s no point chasing after the latest and greatest in web marketing if you can’t convert what you already have!
Once your website is in place and focused on your business outcomes, it’s time to explore the options available to you to increase traffic and build your community.
When people search online they overwhelmingly use Google, which splits the results into two: the organic results and the paid results.
The organic results (the main ones on the left-hand side) are what most people click on. Improving your website’s ranking in the organic results is known as search engine optimisation (SEO).
The paid results, clearly labelled as ads, are on the right-hand side and often on top of search results. Getting your website listing in the paid results is known as search engine marketing (SEM), and Google Adwords is the most common tool for this.
Search engine optimisation
Organic search results might display a page on your website, or an image or video or social media profile (which is why these other aspects of your strategy are also important).
Unpaid or organic search results are the marketer’s holy grail — free, highly qualified traffic to your site on a particular search term. You then have the chance to convert users when they click through to your website.
Organic results require good content, time, effort and relationships. Like all good investments, though, once you have a great ranking, you will benefit from it time and again while you work to maintain it. [We dig into this further in chapter 12.]
Search engine marketing
Paid search engine advertising is a qualified source of traffic, but it will vanish when you stop paying. Also, if your keywords become more competitive, you will end up paying more over time. In contrast to organic listings, though, you can get traffic immediately, which may appeal in some circumstances.
Note: We have chosen to focus our efforts on organic search results because they’re the ones most people click on, and they contribute to a sustainable marketing asset. We recommend you do too.
Backlinks are literally links back to your website. What purpose do they serve? Firstly, having another web page link to you means people can click through to you. Obviously the more backlinks you get, the more likely people are to find your website.
Secondly, having another website link to yours is seen by Google as a vote of confi dence in your content. It is seen as an endorsement and the more of them you can accrue, the higher your page will rank on the search engines.
One thing to note is that not all backlinks are created equal. A backlink from a trusted, authoritative source such as a government, university or news website is worth much more than a link from a random, low-quality business directory. We will explore these concepts in more detail later — particularly the importance of nurturing relationships to attract more valuable backlinks.
Social media and content marketing
Another significant way people can find you online is through social media and content marketing. This is the space inhabited by household names like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+. This is the glamorous and sexy side of web marketing at the moment (no doubt something new will come along in due course).
And rightly so. Ninety per cent of people trust recommendations from a friend, while only 14 per cent trust advertisements. This means when people mention you or share your content on social media, it will be trusted six times more than anything you say yourself.
Once again it is worth noting here that the search engines increasingly use social media shares (likes, tweets, pins, +1s) to determine their search rankings.
The final element of the web universe that we haven’t yet discussed is your blog.
The best way to look at your blog is as your own publishing platform for your articles, videos and thought leadership. These articles can be found by search engines, linked to by other sites and shared through social media.
Your blog also serves to direct people to your flagship content and begins the know, like and trust process.
It’s all about building your community.
The more quality content you create, the more people will find you. You’ll rank higher on Google, more websites will link back to you and more people will share your content on social media. This creates a positive snowball effect.
As momentum builds, more people are attracted to your blog and website. They can download your flagship content, and connect with you via email and social media. As trust increases, they will eventually enquire and purchase, becoming customers.
[Needle image attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syringe_details_raw.jpeg#filelinks]