It’s easy to think that an online marketing strategy is a thing, so intense is the onslaught of the worldwide web, but it’s not.
The very idea of an online marketing strategy assumes that there is a difference between marketing and online marketing. This is wrong. “Online” is just another communication medium, like print, radio and television. The medium of communication should not be guiding your marketing strategy; your strategy should be used to select the correct communication mediums.
Granted, technology has empowered the masses. While we still start our purchase selection process with the businesses whose brand we have been exposed to, the next step does not narrow the list. Instead we go online and use social media, search engines, and websites to see who else is out there and see if they can provide the goods cheaper, or offer a better service for your money.
It’s this step that enables small businesses to take business away from the larger, well-established businesses. Of course, this also means that there are a lot more businesses competing for the consumer dollar. With so many players it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
To solve this problem, an entire industry has evolved around online marketing.
There are businesses that work on optimising websites so they rank higher in Google searches. Others use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, to engage with clients and prospects online. Others focus on securing and maintaining good user feedback on online review sites. A complete eco-system of services, applications, and technologies have been developed as a result of the rising popularity of inbound marketing.
The rapid rate of technology-driven change has left businesses blinkered as cauldrons full of online marketing experts come at them with new technologies, buzzwords, case studies, statistics, and approaches to marketing online. Meetings are filled with buzzwords such as clickability, p-commerce, Cost Per Like (CPL), second-screen, Social+Local+Mobile (SoLoMo), and online marketing strategy.
A small business that needs to raise awareness locally can use online services such as Facebook and Google to target locals and track success (or failure). The business can also use the traditional offline print medium of flyers which, when combined with direct marketing, allows for face to face contact with the locals.
This works best when it undergirds a strategy that requires the building of personal relationship with your local community. There is very little that can beat getting out there, shaking hands, and getting to know your neighbours in person.
You can then use the online medium to keep in touch, answer questions, and engage with prospects in a manner that is in line with your strategy. Your strategy will guide how your business uses Facebook or Twitter. It could, for example, require that the content of the business’s online advertisements should be based around local events, and posts should be relevant to the local community.
The problem with the question, “what’s your online marketing strategy” is that it’s asking about how you are using, monitoring, and maintaining communication using the many online communication services available on the Internet. If your online marketing strategy is, “to use Facebook, Google, Twitter, or any other online communication tools”, then what you really need is a marketing strategy.