Every company, large or small, online or offline should have an online marketing strategy because if it is done well it’s a very cost effective way to engage with customers. Search engines such as Google process 87.8 billion searches a month making it clear that companies have to make the most of the online marketing landscape to capture this potential audience. Never has there been a time when companies can make a success of themselves so quickly and easily, but you have to adopt the right strategy for your business. There are three main avenues which I will cover and I will also touch upon the phenomena of mobile marketing, since smart phones are now outselling PCs and with Android seeing almost 500,000 activations per day, mobile will only become more relevant.

    1. Display Advertising (Paid and affiliate)

This method is useful for both brand awareness and direct response campaigns however the way in which you assign your budget might differ depending on what you are trying to achieve.

If you are looking to raise brand awareness, perhaps associated with the launch of a new product or service then you are looking for high visibility ads which might not be particularly targeted.

For a direct response campaign where you are trying to get customers to complete a certain goal (eg purchasing an item or signing up for a newsletter) then click-through and conversion rate is important. Here, spend is much more targeted as you are focussing on ROI.

An alternative avenue to display networks is affiliate marketing, whereby you agree to have your ads shown on a site in return for a share of your profits,

    1. Search Advertising and SEO

There are two sides to search-based advertising: paid and organic. The paid market is dominated by Google Adwords and is based on search engine keywords. With Adwords you pay-per-click, so if anyone clicks on your ad you will be charged a certain amount.

In my experience this strategy is most effective for direct-response campaigns. You can target your keywords very carefully so that people searching for your brand or terms closely associated with it will be served your text advert. If you are looking to increase brand awareness however then bidding for keywords associated with your brand and brand values is valuable.

The organic search market has far less certainty than the paid search market and, I’ve discovered that  a business should be very wary of in terms of spend. Here the key is the often misunderstood art of search engine optimisation. Since search engines are constantly changing their algorithms – there is no one recipe for success. Although crucial and a cost effective means of driving traffic I would advise you to be wary when choosing an SEO company because success is hard to quantify.

    1. Social Media Marketing

This is an incredibly important new avenue, with low costs associated with it. Here the focus has to be on engagement with the customer and quality of content, people will not just “like” or “follow” you because you are there, you have to offer an incentive. The communication is two-way however so be wary, we’ve all heard horror stories of companies or people being exposed by rogue accounts set up by disgruntled parties! Membership to these sites is often free, set-up costs are low and it is simply the direct or opportunity cost of you/your staff running the accounts that has to be considered.

    1. Mobile

It is useful to have a mobile optimised site (which is often simpler than you’d think) and make your business visible on GPS-based apps/maps. Most of the methods I have outlined above are available on a mobile platform however one thing which, in my experience is effective at driving calls to your company is the “click-to-call feature” on text adverts which allows the user to call the business directly from a search results page.

    1. Apps

Much has been written on this topic, so I will keep it brief. Work out what it is you want from your app (4 questions to inform your mobile app strategy) . Is it a sell to me tool, a store-finder, a channel via which your customers can communicate with you or purchase products?  As with social media, make sure you are offering an incentive to those downloading your app. In my opinion, although hard to calculate ROI, if done well an app can prove very successful because they are viral and apart from an initial outlay have low costs associated with them.

Always assign a small test budget to a variety of strategies, test them out, give it time and calculate the effectiveness before committing to a single strategy. And you will discover the joy of online marketing is that it allows you to be very flexible and try new things, often with low costs associated.