At Canopy, we work with many clients at varying places in their marketing efforts. Some are well-established businesses with plenty of website traffic, some have an excellent social media following, and some are just starting out. Those who are in the early stages and haven’t put a lot into their marketing yet may find it tempting to try and jump ahead. Skipping to step 3 and bypassing steps 1 and 2 might sound like a good idea at the time—why not get ahead as fast as you can, right?—but such a strategy will likely come back to haunt you. What’s important to remember is that marketing is a process, not an event.
What should your next step be?
Client Needs Analysis
When we start work with a new client, the first thing we do is sit down with them, review what they’re currently doing in a marketing capacity, and discuss how it’s working for them. We identify areas where they may be weaker than their competitors and offer solutions. Just a friendly piece of advice: Be wary of any consultant who comes in trying to sell you something right out of the gate. Every business is different, and any consultant worth your money will actually take the time to listen to you.
For example, many clients come to us looking for help with paid search, like Google AdWords. Before we do anything else, we ask if they can give us access to their website analytics. That wealth of data is key to creating a successful and cost-effective campaign. And not only that, we also want to learn the ins and outs of your business—what search terms you want to be found in and what search terms seem applicable but actually don’t have anything to do with you. All of this contributes to bringing in the right audience, and the right audience has a much better chance of converting.
One of our most useful tools is what we call a Snapshot report, which is an overview of a company’s online presence on a given day and time. It shows us where they’re listed in online directories, where their contact information doesn’t match what we were given, how many reviews they’ve received, and how their website ranks in different categories of user-friendliness. This is our starting point, allowing us to see where the weak spots are and letting us prioritize accordingly.
We consider online presence management to be the cornerstone of a company’s digital marketing efforts. If a new client isn’t listed on major local directories, that’s our number one priority, followed closely by making sure that if they are listed, their information is correct. There are hundreds of business directories online, many of which you aren’t even aware of. Your listing might be there not because you put it there, but because they pulled the information together from different places around the web. It’s listings like these that are confusing to both customers and search engines alike, because one may include an old phone number and another may have an old address attached.
Content Marketing and Social Media
The next step is website traffic and social media follows. While numbers are always good, the quality of those visitors is more important than the quantity. Are these people truly interested in what you’re doing or selling? If the answer is no, you’re going to see high bounce rates on your website and low levels of engagement on social media.
Correctly targeting your audience is essential to driving quality traffic. Put in the effort to learn what your customers are most interested in, watch what they engage with, and then create worthwhile, meaningful content for your website and social media platforms. Make a schedule and stick to it—posting regularly on a range of topics is more beneficial than creating one blog post in January, two in March, and then none until June. The same goes for Facebook or Instagram: those who are interested are much more likely to come back and check you out if you’re posting regularly.
This one is somewhat negotiable in position, in my opinion. It really depends on you and the strategy you prefer, but I’ll come back to that. Clearly, digital advertising is an important component here, and it can take several different forms—text ads, display ads, and video ads. You may prefer one over another or a mixture of all three; that’s really up to you.
Paid advertising is immensely useful once you’ve nailed down your target audience, which is one reason I’ve placed it last. The old method of blasting your message everywhere and pulling in as many people as possible just isn’t effective anymore; you want potential customers to already be interested when they come to you so that you’re not paying for clicks or impressions that aren’t going to yield any ROI.
That being said, it can sometimes be a good idea to use something like a Google AdWords campaign to prop up your business in search while you organically build your presence through directory listings and content creation. For a business just starting out that may not rank on the first page or two for its services, paid ads can make you visible—for a price. It’s not a good long-term solution to sink all your money into that well forever, but it’s a good way to get noticed while you’re building yourself up. In these cases, we find that eventually decreasing the ad spend still results in good traffic because you’ve taken the time to strengthen your organic reach in conjunction with paying for ads. You may not want to cut paid ads out entirely, but you can start tapering off to see how well you perform without them.
Don’t think of marketing as one all-encompassing “Thing I must do to publicize my company.” It’s not a thing or an event—it’s a process. Start at the beginning to see where you might be falling short and move ahead one step at a time. If you have hundreds or thousands of social media followers and high levels of engagement, that’s great! But if your online presence and directory listings are a mess, you should take steps to fix them—because those engaged followers might want to find you and can’t.
All of these components work together to create a healthy, effective marketing strategy. If you need help analyzing your current situation, call me at (334) 288-7020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.