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Are you a novice entrepreneur considering making investments to get your name out there? Or maybe your current business is in need of a push and you are looking for the most effective ways to advertise? This post will deal with the question how to do it online and we'll take a look at statistics, hard data and trends. We will also touch on which channels generate most sales and the sources of their effectiveness. And no such topic is complete without talking about how you can combine different marketing practices to achieve synergy and promote your brand online even more effectively, so let's get to it!
The main jobs of a marketer are increasing sales and building brand awareness. One path to achieve this is by generating traffic on your website. PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising in search engines will serve this purpose best, since it is an almost immediate way to drive potential customers to your website. Great results can also be achieved by SEO (Search Engine Optimization), i.e. search engine positioning – this, however, requires more time to produce the desired outcome. These two strategies are complemented by email marketing, which has proven to be the best way to build relationships with clients and make sales. Social media can also be of help here but let us start from the beginning...
Social media vs the rest of the world
In this day and age no one should be surprised to hear that a company that wants to find a place in the minds of consumers should be active on Facebook. Astute marketers take account of this fact and make substantial investments in this trendy channel of communication. However, there is much research that shows that being present on social media platforms does not translate directly into sales. Facebook users are not in a buying mode because this is not where the decision to buy a product is made. Also, let's not forget that Facebook is not always the best solution – for instance when there is not enough content or when your target group does not use social media. Yes, there are people without Facebook accounts!!!
Social Media works great in PR, opening the opportunity to engage clients in a conversation and getting to know your target audience. They come in useful in collecting email addresses for your database. This is because users can easily share their email addresses without typing them in manually when they are logged in on a social network. This, however, does not change the fact that for the purpose of sales it is the established online forms of advertising that prove to be best. These are SEO, PPC and email marketing. As it is clear from the chart below, it is these three channels that generate most online sales and, most importantly, their year-to-year effectiveness is growing.
Email Marketing vs Social Media
Take email marketing. It is a “long-term” strategy as opposed to an entry on Facebook which – after a few minutes – will be obscured by a series of others. We do not know the algorithm responsible for displaying posts on Facebook wall, but we know that the scope of the message is very limited because it is only visible to certain followers.
An email in your online mailbox will patiently wait to be read – not unlike a to-do task – and it will remain in the “foreground” until some kind of action is taken. Besides, we take our online mailboxes very personally and give incoming messages higher priority. For most of us, checking emails is the first thing we do at work – although it is not necessarily limited to the company mailbox :) Email also allows for more complete information including photos, links, as well as text, whereas the form of a Facebook entry is very limited.
SEO – getting search engines to like your website
Search Engine Optimizations means optimizing a web page for search engines in order to have your website show up in the results for selected words and phrases. By 'website optimization' I mean making modifications in the website’s content in terms of keyword phrases which are going to be targeted in the campaign, and changes in the website’s code.
Positioning is based both on known elements of the search engine algorithm which is responsible for presenting search results and on learning about the new algorithms which are always being modified.
SEO requires a lot of work, but it is worth it. It is from organic search results that the largest number of hits per page is recorded – since the person doing the search is greatly interested in the subject and is also often strongly purchase-oriented.
SEO will cost you nothing except the time you need to invest in optimization and creating content. However, by performing SEO clumsily you might expose yourself to Google administrators and in extreme cases your website can be completely excluded from search results. This is why if you do not have enough experience in positioning, you will be better off outsourcing it to an specialist agency.
This is a long-term return on investment, but it is stable. According to a study by Fortune3 (an e-commerce solutions provider), 30% of marketers consider SEO the largest source of return on investment, and 56% of them plan to focus on SEO activities in the near future to attract more customers to their websites.
The chart below shows an assessment of the current value of the cash flows associated with the relations with customers – the assessment carried out in various communication channels (source: Custora).
PPC advertising (paid links)
PPC is a type of online advertising which you pay for only if the ad was clicked. What are PPC's advantages? First and foremost are the instant effects PPC produces (compared to long-term positioning). Additionally, the system of payment is very convenient – you do not pay for the time the ad is visible, as it is with advertising in the mass media, but only when someone clicks on your ad. No less significant a role is also played by the measurability of effects, the possibility to continuously monitor all the data that is key to the outcome of the advertising campaign and the constant optimization of the data.
Although PPC advertising may refer to web banners, it is AdWords, text ads displayed on Google, that is the most effective service. The ad copies either appear at the top or on the right side of the search results. They are displayed when a user searches for an expression that corresponds to the keywords the advertiser is targeting. Research shows that average Internet users are unable to determine the difference between paid and natural search results. They focus on the hierarchy and the relevance of the results in relation to the requested information.
Bear in mind that the mere fact that your ad was clicked does not mean that your success is complete. Prospective clients are taken to the website you created – what they see there is essential, and you have little time to keep their attention. Highlight benefits like competitive prices, discounts, free shipping, frequent promotions, a wide selection or product features. Be creative!
Email marketing – a comprehensive strategy to communicate with customers
The value of the market for email marketing is constantly growing. An investment of one euro can be turned into many times more (depending on the product you sell). Of course, a carefully prepared ad campaign can frequently achieve much more impressive results. Let's look at why this channel of communication is so effective.
- Email marketing is based on permission marketing, i.e. messages are sent to a database of customers who agreed to receive commercial information, and thus explicitly expressed willingness to receive messages from you, which means there is a fair chance they will read them. You can read more about building your own database in this FreshMail post.
- Email marketing is a very direct form of advertising, allowing for personalization and very precise targeting. With some information about your recipients in your database, you can use salutations with their names in the heading and match the content and the form of the message to the customer’s profile.
- Long-term email marketing activities help to create a relationship with customers and if you can fine tune your message to suit their needs and interests then you can build that relationship to the point where transactions will take place more regularly.
- You can carefully watch the results of your activities in reports, and use these observations to decide if they need changing or maintaining.
- Email marketing is cost-effective and yields an average 3,800% return on investment for businesses and for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $38.
The strength of synergy
The numbers speak for themselves. Spending on online advertising is constantly increasing. The revenue from such investments is growing too.
Email marketing gives you a chance to increase the profits from the funds invested in attracting users to your website. Even if the purchase is not made on their first visit on the website – if you only manage to persuade them to leave their email addresses, you will still have many opportunities to renew your offer using email marketing.
Of course, there is no single right approach – you need to look for the best synergy among the options available to you.
How to succeed in online marketing?
Experiment, combine methods and carefully watch the effects. It is worth noting that the methods discussed above complement each other. Imagine that I sell clothes in my online store and I keep on working with SEO. The optimization slowly begins to pay off; I send regular mailings to customers to build a relationship with them. When the time comes for the promotion of the summer collection, it will be a good idea to invest in PPC ads and in an email marketing campaign with information about the current offer. All this helps to reach the recipients with a time-sensitive message in time to take advantage of it. Now that's a simple recipe for success!
Last but not least, remember that online advertising is not open-heart surgery - the patient will not die on the operating table. So experiment, systematically analyze and make adjustments to ongoing activities and what does and doesn't work. And if you are still undecided about jumping in this game, then here is my last and best argument: your competitors are already using these methods so you can either join them or watch them make the sales you decided not to pursue.
Best of luck!