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Whatever the size of your business, there are several pitfalls we all face when putting together a marketing strategy and sticking to it.
These include daily tasks, too much research to do, the temptation to head to the pub. All of these things regularly pop up and threaten to knock us off course. Here's seven simple steps that will help keep your marketing on track...
1. Keep your eye on the ball.
It’s very easy to get mired in routine, composing e-shots, working on the company blog, adding friends on Facebook, answering emails. While all these small tasks are important they shouldn’t come at the expense of the bigger picture.
Make sure you allocate time for each of these tasks, but also take time out out each day to look at your overall strategy.
Draw up a chart of each step a customer needs to take to create a sale and ask yourself if the small tasks you’re working on facilitate this. If they don’t, then they aren’t relevant.
2. Market to your customers, not to yourself
Always remember who your marketing is for. Get to know as much as you can about your customers and work out how you can help them out more effectively.
Follow up leads from your blog and networks, but never do so in the hope of making a quick buck. Do it because you can help. If your product or service solves a customer problem, then they’ll buy it.
There’s no need for the hard sell.
3. Stop learning about it.
Doing your research is incredibly important, but it's also a huge time-sink danger zone that can knock you off track and waste hours of valuable time.
If you need extra information, take the time to construct a specific keyword search you can use, and don't be tempted to open more than five tabs.
Limit your research to specifics and realise that you can't fit the entire internet in your head. Make sure you know everything about your own product first.
With the increasing dominance of PPC in search, there’s a definite temptation to put all your cyber eggs in one basket.
However, while you can run single channel promotions from time to time, don’t focus your strategy too closely in one area.
It’s always possible a site will crash or a PPC account will go down and leave you high and dry, with your carefully crafted promotion providing you with zero traffic.
Always think about which channels your strategy will cover and utilize them. If you are running PPC then make sure it’s relevant to engines other than Google, and spend time on organic SEO as well.
Build yourself an online safety net.
5. Build relationships.
Sure, this is what online marketing is all about, but it can still be a chore to reach out to new customers and maintain engagement with them.
Again, this is down to time management.
Set aside 10% of your time and dedicate it to replying to queries and adding new connections on your social networks. Being active on forums and answering blog comments shows that you are involved and care about your customer’s opinions.
If there’s a particularly interesting or difficult subject then make a note and follow it up via email.
Don’t just say hello and then never speak to someone again.
6. Find a niche.
One of the first steps in an online campaign is research, checking out what’s been done, what works and what doesn’t. Once you have all this data it’s sorely tempting to copy the big success stories.
Instead, break them down and decide which elements really made them work. Was it the product? The copy? The integrated treasure hunt?
Make sure your USP is truly unique, don’t be afraid of targeting your vacuum cleaner primarily at pet owners.
Find niches and exploit them.
7. Don’t be a tease.
When you’re advertising online, it’s often tempting to drop teasers and try to build anticipation around a promotion. This is fine, but you should set sensible limits.
No-one wants to take part in a promotion that lasts six weeks.
If you have a series of videos or presentations, space them sensibly across a week or a fortnight. Any longer and your customers will get bored (or worse, annoyed) and drift away.
All of these are basic tips but they represent problems that pop up every single day in marketing. Above all, make sure you take time to consider your strategy as a whole without getting too caught up in the mechanics and you'll have room to innovate, experiment and progress your strategy.