Online marketing professionals are certainly faced with a lot of challenges these days. Not only does a recession often force us to do more with less, but the growth of online users means we are fighting a tougher battle for consumers than ever before.
The number of people going online to find products, services, information and the like continues to grow strong. With each new person, a new product or service pops up to meet some demand. Since nobody waits for a company to fill a product or service void, the competition to be recognized or get noticed is getting more and more fierce.
To help emerge successful from this offensive by independent software developers and small to mid-sized companies, marketing professionals across the board are seeing a renewed emphasis on strategies around search engine optimization and search engine marketing. SEO and SEM are two relatively cost-effective approaches to expand brand recognition. When you add the use of email marketing, which, as I have written in a previous post, is still pound-for-pound, the most cost-effective method of reaching your customer base in the market today, you have a well rounded program to leverage what you already have.
But is that really good enough?
The truth of the matter is that online marketers need to build “attention-getting” content and value. All the other strategies are meaningless if you have nothing of value to draw-in the attention of your audience.
With that said, content that grabs your users attention is going to depend, first and foremost, on knowing your audience. What may interest a group of financial professionals concerned about the state of M&A during the recession is not going to be a prime target for moms searching online for an affordable family vacation. So, the first step is to survey your audience – even if informally – about what they like, and most importantly what they need. This will start you down the path to putting together content that will get their attention.
Another thing to consider is the medium you use to drive the content you create. You may have a dynamic report on the latest mobile user trends in Latin America, but how are you going to transmit that data? Are you going to push out a white paper? Post a video? Perhaps you are going to engage multiple media outlets in an all-encompassing press promotion? Perhaps it will be a combination of those three and more?
This is another area where a brief survey can help identify not just what your audience needs to know, but how they want to learn it.
In the end, content and method of distribution are a critical one-two-punch for online marketers.
The one thing I find companies miss in getting the web design process underway are the opinions of their customers.
Design, navigation, content, SEO, are all critical aspects of the process, but it all begins and ends with your customers. They are the ones you need to attract to the site in the first place. Before you hire a designer, hire someone to survey your core customers to ensure you get the total picture. You may find that they perceive your offerings differently than you do, are interested in new things, and/or have specific expectations that you were not going to meet had you just proceeded without their input.
Setting up a survey tool, or hiring some people to help collect the data is a relatively inexpensive process. Especially when you consider that you may discover you need to make changes to your strategic offerings before you are even ready to consider a website and SEO effort.