Before turning a car’s ignition most people know where they want to go and, if given directions, they usually arrive at their destination successfully. The road map to successful Internet Marketing involves developing a marketing plan and without it your web site may end up just another abandoned pit stop in the middle of the World Wide Web—who needs looky-lou’s when you could be attracting “potential” customers who have a definite need for the products/services you offer.
An often overlooked aspect of Internet Marketing is the planning stage. Many companies make the mistake of delving into setting up a web site, reading through a jungle of information about keywords, meta tags and the best way to drive traffic to their site without the basic foundation—a marketing plan that identifies their targeted audience.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as, “the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.” Simply put, your products/services should provide a satisfactory solution to an unfulfilled need in the market place and you must know “who” is unfulfilled. Who is struggling to find the products/services you supply?
Who are my greatest potential customers? Are they a certain age, gender or race? Are they well-educated? What are their interests? Where do they live? Geographic location plays a large role in Internet marketing, especially for brick and mortar businesses relying on a website to boost visibility and foot-traffic sales.
Knowing what pool of people would be most likely to purchase from you is key to knowing what geographical area, age, race or gender, educational or income level to target when developing the style of your website and deciding the type of content to present. It can also aid in your selection of search friendly keywords. Identifying your target market saves you time, money and it’s a great method to get higher returns on your advertising investment.
Do your homework—discover your key target by thinking about your current customers. Do you sell more skateboards to retired people or those under age 30? Are your office supply sales higher to individuals, small businesses or large corporations? Unless your fertilizer is unique, it would be a hard sell online when customers could buy it locally without the extra shipping charge. Advertise skateboards on a teenage blog, office supplies with volume discounts to attract larger corporations and advertise fertilizer locally with in-store coupons.
Maintain a website appearance and style that is compatible with your potential customers. Younger clients may prefer all the bells and whistles, but it can leave older generations dizzy and confused. Keep topics on blogs, bulletin boards, chat rooms and in articles in step with the promotion of your products and your targeted customers. Place links, advertising, press releases and articles at websites where you know your targeted customers will be surfing.
There are many sources available online to gather data and aide you in discovering who the best potential customer is for the products/services your company supplies. Census records, maps, Internet searches about your products and competitors and other statistical data provided by trade groups and other government organizations that were set-up to help small businesses succeed. Surveying your customers is also a good way to find out what you are doing right and wrong–information you can use immediately to enhance on the good aspects of your customer service and correct any negative experiences.
Above all else, customer service and satisfaction are key components to a successful business plan. Know what type of service your potential customer expects to receive. Let your employees know what you expect and have strict guidelines to keep your core values and excellent customer service a top priority. This guarantees repeat customers and referrals to new customers. Make customer service a key element in your business plan and a personal statement on your website.
Before you build your website, know where you want to go and plan how to get there. Identify and strategize how best to target specific consumers, find your niche, and you will have greater success with Internet marketing.