The last decade witnessed massive growth in consumer internet channels from search engines to social media sites such as My Space and Facebook. Internet retailing continues make seasonal headlines and since 2000 Britain and Ireland Internet shoppers have spent an estimated €250 billion online, rising from €1.2 billion in 2000 to an estimated €55 billion in 2009.
However despite the opportunities for retailers, business and public agencies it’s clear that many organisations are missing out on internet sales and gaining online traffic.
Often this is due to a knowledge gap about the benefits of internet marketing or poor digital skills by traditional marketing agencies. In my own experience of implementing online strategies for businesses the most common problem, particularly for SMEs, remains the lack of a digital marketing strategy. So if you want to make digital a more integral part of your marketing in 2010, here are a few strategic areas to look out for.
Perhaps the first step in your internet marketing strategy is to consider what level your business or organisation is at in terms of its online presence. This can range from entry level – no website or merely an internet directory listing, to intermediate – a simple static information website, through to advanced – a fully interactive sales site with extensive online marketing. It’s best to build your online marketing strategy to suit your capability. One of the most common problems small firms encounter with digital media is the adoption of channels that are unsuitable for their web presence. There’s not much point in adopting channels like Twitter if you have a poor or non-existent website.
Planning your digital strategy
Digital strategy remains the bedrock of online success. Although there is no harm in testing different online channels, if you want to make the most of your online presence you need to plan and produce a suitable strategy. In essence this process isn’t really any different from traditional marketing planning and you might want to consider some fundamental areas such as:
- What do you want to achieve online – sales, brand promotion, etc?
- Market markets
- Online methods (website, internet advertising, online PR, etc)
- Measurement (web analytics)
The ‘3 Resource Ms’
Resources remain another critical part of digital planning and you might want to consider the 3Ms: men (and women), money and minutes. The most common issue faced by companies when implementing an internet marketing campaign is whether to outsource or insource. Outsourcing remains a popular choice as internal marketing personal often lack the specialist expertise to manage online marketing tools. One recent development is the move towards internet marketing specialists who can provide practical and targeted expertise in online campaigns rather than web designers and traditional marketing companies who often lack distinct digital marketing skills.
Another common solution is to train an existing member of the marketing team in online marketing methods. When considering the in-house option it’s important to keep in mind the time resources involved. There’s always a steep learning curve with online marketing, not to mention the rapidly changing online media landscape.
Perhaps the most important aspect of digital campaign planning is the financial allocation. Marketing costs money and internet marketing is no different. It’s common for businesses to allocate a percentage of their marketing spend purely for internet channels. Many businesses now ensure there is a clear return on investment for their internet spend by tracking it against ‘conversions’ including sales, website visits etc.