“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
The above quote is often summarised as “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”, and possibly best explains why so many people fail to make a dollar online. It’s simply not sufficient to state your objective as “to make money online”. Without having a strategy and plan for achieving it, you’re likely to wander aimlessly through the internet marketing mire and may well fall victim to many shinny objects while you’re there.
In this article I discuss the keys areas you need to address when developing your internet marketing strategy. Note, this is your strategy, not your plan. Strategy deals with the bigger picture. You’re deciding how you’re going to use your resources to meet the needs of your market and take your business in the direction you want it to go, to achieve your long term objectives. Plans cover shorter timescales and are far more detailed. I’ll talk about plans another day.
Setting Your Objectives
Creating your internet marketing strategy involves defining your objectives and how you’re going to achieve them. It’s important that you write them down. Everyone knows what to do when it’s in their head. When you write it down, you start to see the gaps appearing. You’ll need to close these.
While we all want to provide value to our customers we need to be honest with ourselves. We’re all in this to make money, so let’s not avoid the subject.
What financial results do you want to achieve? Set yourself financial targets in terms of both revenue and profit. Don’t forget profit. It’s what’s left from your revenue after deducting costs. I don’t wish to sound flippant, but I’ve seen many sales pages claiming how someone made vast amounts of money in a short time, and that I can too. Note, this says MADE. Let’s assume they claimed they made $100,000 in 6 weeks. If, after deducting all costs, $100,000 is what they were left with, that’s great. And yes, I’d like some to please 🙂
However, if made is actually referring to the revenue they made, but by the time they’d purchased their site, the program, any additional software such as plugins and maybe a theme, and then paid to drive traffic to their site, they’d actually spent $110,000, to make that $100,000 well, that’s not too good, is it.
There’s a saying that revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and another that cash is king. Remember these and apply them to your business decisions. After all, what’s the point in building a multi-million turnover business if you’re making a loss?
What market(s) are you going to operate in? Opinion is split between whether you should operate in a market you enjoy or simply one which attracts lots of money.
The benefit of working in a market you enjoy, is that…you enjoy it! Time flies by and work doesn’t feel like work (and yes, an internet marketing business is work, at least initially). However, where many people who follow their passion fall down, is that they fail to determine whether their market is profitable. If there’s no money in it, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, it’s a hobby, not a business. Always check there’s money in the market you’re interested in, before you enter it.
The benefit of entering a cash rich market is that it’s potentially easier to make money. A smaller slice of a larger pie can often be more than all of a small pie. However, there are drawbacks to doing this which include,
- If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, the chances are you’ll give up before you succeed
- Money attracts competition, so you may find it tougher to succeed than if you had entered a small, but profitable, market.
Some markets are considered to be evergreen. This means,
- They have universal appeal
- There is plenty of demand, and hence money, in the market
- Demand is consistent over time, and despite changes in trends
- Products will sell for years
- Content does not become outdated
Examples of evergreen markets are,
- Make Money Online
- Dating and Relationships
- Health and Fitness
- Credit Repair
Due to the nature of these markets, they attract a lot of competition and, unless you’ve got huge resources at your disposal, your unlikely to succeed in them. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should dismiss them. Instead of focusing on the whole market, you can focus on a small segment of it – a niche. By drilling down into the market you can identify niches which are so small they’re not profitable enough for the big boys to enter, yet are large enough to provide plenty of profit for the small fish.
Take your time, do your research and decide on your market.
You need to define your target market, i.e. your customer. Although your initial response may be “everyone”, this is seldom the answer. By targeting everyone you’ll be spreading your resources too thinly and wasting your money by promoting to people who are never going to buy from you.
Your target market will be a group of customers you will aim your marketing efforts and products/services towards. You can analyze them into different segments. These will typically include:
- Demographic (gender, age, income, occupation, education)
- Psychographic, i.e emotional and behavioural qualities (lifestyle, attitudes, values)
Once your target market has been identified you need to ask questions such as,
- What problems do they have?
- What are their priorities?
- What do they spend their money on?
The more you know about your target market, the better you can empathise with them. When you can do this, you’ll find it easier to offer products which meet their needs and to market to them. As a result your conversions will increase.
What is it you’re going to be selling? There are hundreds of ways you can make money online but they essentially boil down to:
- Sell physical products
- Sell digital products
- Sell services
Of course, you can offer a combination of these.
If you’re selling physical products are you going to fulfil the order yourself or use an order fulfilment service such as Amazon.com?
For digital products are you going to produce your own products, or will you be selling resell rights products?
What services can you provide e.g copywriting, programming, graphic design and lead generation?
Ultimately, whatever you decide to offer, it should meet the needs of your target market.
Whatever you’re offering you can obviously sell it on your own site. However, there are also a number of other options available to you, including:
- Auction sites such as E-Bay
- Forums such as the Warrior Forum
- Classified Ad sites like Craigslist
- Market places like Amazon, Fiverr, and oDesk
You’ll need to consider the reputation of the sites, the type of visitors they attract, the volume of visitors they attract and any cost associated with selling through them when deciding which, if any, to use.
It’s not enough to offer a good product on a great looking website, you have to get traffic to it. Without traffic, you have no sales.
You’re going to need to decide how you’re going to generate that traffic. Will you be using paid traffic or going down the organic (free) route? Paid traffic will obviously cost you, while organic traffic may take a while to materialise. And don’t forget, if you outsource your SEO efforts you are, in effect, paying.
Traffic generation strategies include,
- Social media marketing
- Video marketing
- Pay per click advertising
- E-mail marketing
- Blog commenting
- Social bookmarking
- Article marketing
- Search engine optimisation
Internet marketers often take a jack of all trades approach to work, at least while they’re relatively new and growing their business. However, there are some tasks where it makes sense to outsource them. These typically include things that you can’t do, possibly graphics, and things where the cost is so minimal your time is better spent doing something else.
As your business grows you may want to consider outsourcing more work. Indeed, you may need to outsource work to expand your business.
As well as considering the things you can control in your strategy, you also have to consider those you can’t. The two main elements here are,
Environmental factors related to internet marketing would includes such things as changes in,
- The Google algorithm, such as the recent Panda and Penguin updates
- Terms of affiliate programs such as the withdrawal of the Amazon affiliate program in some US states, and
- Changes to sites which host your content such as the introduction of iFrames and Timeline on Facebook.
By setting out your internet marketing strategy you’re providing the basis on which your plans will be based. You’re laying down the path you’ll follow to achieve your objectives. By knowing where you want to go, you’ll have a far better chance of arriving.
Over To You: Do you have an internet marketing strategy? Did you make changes to your original plans as a result of developing it? Do you benefit from it or is it just something filed on the hard drive? Do you think they’re just a waste of time?