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Planning Internet Marketing Strategies – Viral Theory 101 Part I

Launching your own internet marketing strategies can be a daunting task. Just setting up your own website is a learning curve by itself – suddenly terms start swirling around like SEO, PPC, CPC, CPM, SMM, SEM…I could go on! All of us have been there (including those of us here at Viral Fever), and frankly, it’s hard to find a simple way to start an effective internet marketing strategy. So, we decided to put together a series of posts to act as a guide for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startup advertisers. Welcome to the Viral Theory 101 Marketing Strategy course!  No, this guide won’t make you an Internet god overnight, nor will it make you a master of Google AdWords – what it will do is give you a workbook to start with, and based on your feedback in the comments we’ll continue to write articles to answer your more in-depth questions!

If you’ve already got the basics of planning your marketing strategy down, we’ve got other tools for you, too! Feel free to check out our weekly online marketing strategy tips & headlines here, or if you’d like a certain concept or strategy covered, shoot us an email.

Planning your Internet Marketing Strategy

First off, something really important that I’ve noticed new online marketers seem to often confuse:

Definition:  The Consumer-  (Pardon the outburst in advance…) THERE IS NO SUCH THING. I know, it destroys the entire ‘linear’ model of business- the model where your business is the service or product “Provider” and the client is the “Consumer”. But remember, anyone and their friends’s dog can be a content creator now (Really, my friend’s dog had a Facebook). It’s free, it’s fast, and in no time these so-called “Consumers” are suddenly the ones creating and defining the online content about your brand. I’ll be writing another post about this shortly, but for now just keep in mind that every “Consumer” is also a potential content creator, who can build up or tear down your online presence.

Most people start their marketing campaign with a simple assumption: “I can’t do anything without a website!” Not to be blunt, but that’s dead wrong. We’re dealing with the Internet here. There is practically no limit to the ways you can connect with your audience, other than your own creativity. Don’t get me wrong, a website is really helpful, and in most cases it really is necessary. But between the power of social media and the numerous other ways available to reach your target audience, the first task on your list isn’t automatically making your website. The first task when creating a marketing strategy is to ask yourself a simple question:

What do I want?

What do I want to gain from this campaign? Am I looking for leads? Perhaps email subscribers? Do I need to take a step back and make sure people know who I am or what my company does? There are a few common goals that online campaigns are created for – so, check out the guide below, and see which one you’re currently after. From there, we’ll tackle the best way to approach your campaign, then go over some specific tools to help. Important terms are in bold and defined:

1) Define your goal

Brand Awareness

This approach is most effective for new brands, brands targeting a new audience, or brands that are just now really developing their social presence for the first time. The purpose of this sort of campaign isn’t really to find customers or create revenue – yet.

The Internet is all about “ethos”, which is Greek for credibility or influence. For example, Google’s PageRank is heavily affected by ‘backlinks’ from other websites. If your website is linked to by another site which already has a high PageRank (and high credibility), it indicates that your content is relevant and something that might be useful in your everyday Internet search.

The social net operates much the same way – that content that gets shared/liked/”Tweeted”/etc. is the new content that catches people’s eyes. As a result, they share it with their friends, coining the term ‘viral’. If you’re steadily creating fresh, relevant content, your online credibility is inherently going to be higher than that guy who told the world what he’s eating for breakfast. (Yeah, we all know those people).

Brand Awareness campaigns don’t always require a website either – take ViralFever for instance. We built our social network and email audience before the site was even launched, and even still we’re only just beginning to post regularly on the site itself. If your goal is to build a strong and engaged audience, a Brand Awareness campaign is where to start! And just my 2 cents – if you haven’t done this type of campaign yet, it’s a good idea to start here anyway! It pays far better to have influential people listening to you and sharing your content than to try and publish it all by yourself.

Content Publishing

In practice, this campaign is pretty similar to Brand Awareness, with one key difference: the marketing strategy for brand awareness campaigns is strictly to encourage viewers to share your content with others in order to obtain new viewers, followers, subscribers, etc. A Content Publishing campaign is for those of us who, put simply, need page views. In other words, this campaign type is targeted to the audience that is most interested in your content and thus most likely to click on any advertisements, affiliate links, etc. that your web page provides.

Definition: Content – Every brand, be it an individual or Fortune 500 company, needs to create content, regardless of their overall Internet marketing strategy. That includes written copy, images, audio, and video.

Blogs, E-zines, News sources, etc. that publish third party ads all depend on this style of online marketing. That said, if you’re the skeptical type, you’ve probably already noticed the flaw in my logic: Content Publishing campaigns nearly always play a role in every other type of campaign. After all, you’ve got to offer people something at the other end of an advertisement! I’ve separated this type of campaign out, though, to distinguish publishing campaigns that are for the sole purpose of driving clicks for your third party advertisements.

Leads Generation

This is fairly self-explanatory. Local service companies and international agencies alike have to generate leads – plus, not all products can be sold online either. First, you have to find leads, and that’s where this sort of marketing comes in to play. Of course just putting up a form and asking for people’s information isn’t enough – you’ve got to offer them something first, to build that “ethos” or credibility I mentioned before. But we’ll get to the how momentarily…

Direct Sales

If you have a product you can sell online, or a subscription based service (with or without a free trial), or any other online point of sale – you can employ a direct sales marketing technique. This involves targeting those who are looking for your specific category of product or service, and carefully guiding them to the exact page you’ve set up as your point of sale with a clear call to action.

Often, this may not be a normal page of your website – it may be a specially created “Landing Page” built just for this purpose. Whatever it may be, the design of the landing page is half the campaign itself. In theory, you can create multiple landing pages that are displayed based on the keywords that brought the visitor to your site. If you wanted to get fancy, you could even geo-target your landing pages to better customize your visitor’s experience – but, that’s getting of ourselves.

 

2) Establish Conversions

Definition: Conversion – Many people I’ve provided consulting for assume that a ‘conversion’ only happens when a sale is made. That’s old-school marketing talk – a conversion could be as simple as an email subscription, or a Facebook like. It depends entirely on your goal, but we’ll get to that.

In other words, just pick which of the 4 goals above is your current focus.  When you successfully lead someone online to complete that goal, you’ve made a conversion! This will be an ongoing series, and I’ll be making separate posts for each of these conversion strategies, but here’s a quick overview of them:

Brand Awareness
  • Content Curation – When building a brand, be OK with the fact that people may have no idea who you are.  Before they’ll accept you as an expert or a reliable resource, show your audience that you know your stuff by sharing the latest and smartest content in your field before they do. Yes, even if it’s from a website other than yours!  Only once people know to look to you for reliable information will your brand have the influence it needs.  Twitter and Facebook are naturals at curating content, but Reddit, Paper.li, Squidoo, and Scoop.it are also very useful tools.
  • Social Advertising - Building a brand doesn’t absolutely require a website (although it helps).  Using Facebook Ads is surprisingly effective for building a brand’s reputation, and significantly cheaper than several other forms of promotions.  Remember though, there has to be a clear call to action for them to “Like” your Facebook page.  We’ve got an article on Facebook pages in the works, but in the meantime I’d recommend checking out Glen Allsopp’s article on Facebook conversions over on ViperChill.
  • Rich Media - Video is king, particularly once it comes time to gear up ye olde SEO knowledge.  Since it’s integrated with Google and easily shareable, I still have to recommend YouTube as my generic platform of choice, but for professional video hosting and analytics I’d also recommend checking out Wistia.
  • Old-fashioned Networking - Who said it was dead?  Find the influencers in your field on the social web and connect with them.  Give them content worth sharing, retweeting, etc., and do the same for them in return.  To find your influencers, use websites like Kred and Klout.
  • Build an Opt-in list of email subscribers – Using services like PadiAct or OptInSkin to build your list of email subscribers, start growing your email list if you haven’t yet.  Email marketing is one of the best ways to remind people to come back to your website.
  • Social Engagement - Use a Facebook & Twitter campaign creator such as GroSocial to run contests, offer special downloads, etc.  The more you can engage your audience, the more they’ll want to return.
Content Publishing
  • Utilize Feed Distribution Services – Most bloggers are already quite familiar with Google’s FeedBurner, but there’s no reason to stop there.   Check out OnlyWire to publish to 46 social bookmarking networks at once,  then if you need creative delivery check out Dlvr.it for feed/social crossover automation.
  • Email Marketing - let those subscribers know about your content!  If you’re tired of the freebie themes that most email service providers give you, ThemeForest has a great selection of professional custom HTML emails. Make sure you’re sending your subscribers the content that they signed up for though – if you have multiple brands or websites, it’s important to brand your emails according to what your recipients will remember signing up with, otherwise you’ll wind up in a spam box somewhere.
  • Paid Distribution - Personally, I’m a huge fan of OutBrain, which syndicates posts across several major Internet blogs news sources, including Mashable, TechRadar, USAToday, & more. For a close runner-up though we can actually return to the folks at Dlvr.it for their Promoted Stories service.
  • Really big story?  If you really want some serious exposure, you can syndicate a press release using PRWeb.  Depending on the package you choose, you can include the Associated Press and related publishers as well, potentially driving traffic at highly improved rates.
Lead Generation
  • Landing Pages - While it is totally doable to generate leads using a Facebook page, you’ll have a lot more options (and frankly look more professional) if you have your own unique landing page dedicated to your lead generation form.  Later on in the Viral Theory 101 course we’ll be covering Landing Pages in depth, but until then if you don’t have a website of your own, Unbounce provides a 3rd-party landing page service.
  • Whitepapers - These have become a fairly popular way to collect leads. If you’re a professional in your field, then write something people will want to read!  It doesn’t have to be ridiculously long, just enough to give them a clear understanding of the topic and show that you know your stuff.  In order to download the whitepaper, contact information is taken, opening up an opportunity to reach out to a lead.
  • Social Freebies - People love free stuff.  If you’ve got something you can offer for free, do it!  More importantly, use paid social promotions to help promote it as well – otherwise nobody will know what you  have to offer.  As mentioned above, Facebook Ads is one of the more effective social advertising platforms for small businesses.  If you’ve got a few thousand to put in to it, Twitter may be an option, but I’d recommend talking to a marketing consultant first.
Direct Sales
  • Landing Pages - Yes, I said it again. I’m sure your home page is awesome – but it isn’t customized to match exactly what every incoming searcher is looking for.  With a clever landing page, you can boost your SEO for specifically targeted keywords, and run Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns targeted the same way.
  • Search Engine Marketing – To be clear, SEM can just as easily be utilized for a Lead Generation campaign, or even a Brand Awareness or Content Publishing campaign. But, diving into Google AdWords and all the tools available, not to mention other Pay Per Click advertising methods, is enough for a whole series of other posts!  To run an effective search engine marketing campaign, you’ll want to integrate it into all of your other online marketing strategies, including SEO.  Bringing us to the most vital part of this post….

The most successful online marketing strategies will include, integrate, and cross-reference each of the above campaigns!

 

Next up in Viral Theory 101, we’ll dive deeper into one of the specific internet marketing strategies…read more about How to Build a Brand using creative brand building tactics.

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About Nathan C Brown

An avid tech nut and supporter of Internet freedom, Nathan is the founder of the National Media Alliance. He regularly consults on Network Marketing (particularly Social, SEO & Email Marketing), Web Analytics, and Website Design. Before his years in marketing, he spent his time touring the United States as an Organizational Communications and Public Speaking coach & author. His secret? Coffee in the morning and scotch at night.

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  • vida_llevares

    I think that in marketing, we have to be creative and imaginative. The challenge lies in maximizing the internet platforms that we have to create value for us and for our customers.

  • TulipMom

    This is a very helpful article, thanks Nathan!  As a true beginner, I do not understand what a landing page is, and how it is helpful.  I’m also a little fuzzy on ‘whitepapers’.  Looking forward to the next article!

    • http://viralfever.net nathancbrown929

      TulipMom We’ve all been there!  Landing pages in particular can be tough to master, but they’re totally worth the the time.While you’re waiting on us to write the next article, I’d recommend checking out Roberta Rosenburg’s landing page tips over on Copyblogger: http://bit.ly/NnY90W – in the meantime I’ll whip up Part 2 of the series as quick as I can :)

      • vida_llevares

        Landing pages are actually very critical for me. Do you agree?

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