Matt Bailey, best-selling digital marketing author, keynote speaker, and corporate trainer, sat down for a question and answered session to discuss several topics that Simplilearn has received inquiries about related to digital marketing.
The first in a six-part series, this article focuses on Matt’s advice for the essential digital marketing skills and strategies for any business.
Q: What are the basics of digital marketing that any business owner should know if they intend to do their marketing?
A: A recent study said that 50 percent of respondents, all small business owners, don't even have a marketing plan. What was interesting is almost 90 percent of the respondents also would instead do something else other than marketing. It’s a shock to realize that there are business owners who consider marketing to be the last thing they want to talk. To them, it's like going to the dentist. So from that standpoint, let's look at it as if you have to go to the dentist. Now, what do you need to do as a business owner?
Local Business Listings on Search EnginesI would say the first place to start is just looking at your local business listings in the search engines. Check your Google My Business, your Bing Local, those types of websites. Especially if you're a local small business, that's where people are mainly going to find you, from search, so look at that.
Paid SearchIf you delve into paid search, I would recommend that you spend a week researching pay-per-click (PPC) before you do anything. Whether you choose to do it yourself or use an agency, learn as much as you can. Because this is one of those areas where so many people say, “I tried it, and it didn't work and spent a lot of money and didn't see anything.” Well, that's because especially paid search is a very complicated system with a lot of moving parts.
The Key Is Not Throwing Money AwayThere are so many ways to target so many rabbit holes of bidding. If you’re a small business owner, who wants to do this yourself or even if you're going to retain the services of a search agency, first spend time educating yourself. Talk to different people you know, get on some forums, and ask questions. The better you understand it, the better you'll understand what goes into setting up, developing and running the campaigns. Then you can choose if this is something you want to do or someone else to do it.
Know What Metrics Are EssentialThe biggest obstacle I hear — not just from small business owners but from enterprise-level companies — is that people don't know the [key performance indicators (KPI)] questions to ask the agency. As a result, you get a report that tells you how many clicks, how many impressions all that kind of thing; you don't know what to ask. There is so much data out there; it's very easy to think that you're getting value for your money; in reality, you don't know what's irrelevant. What is actionable? What can we do with this rather than make you feel good about how many people visited your site and didn't buy?
The advantage of digital marketing is this measurability. It's really powerful in terms of being able to get the information to make great decisions with how to spend your money and to know how to use it. You have to know how to read analytics. A lot of agencies, all they do is show you a pretty picture, and you built your website off of that — and that has nothing to do with building a business online. It's a matter of education of what are the key metrics and what does it take to make that happen and how do you maintain strict oversight of your spending, avoid the hype. And if you’re using an agency, know the questions to ask to keep them accountable.
Q: What are some basic elements that are essential to have in a business-to-business digital marketing strategy?
A: It all comes back to the content. How will you get people to become a lead? I would start by looking at your inbound lead process. How are you going to nurture people from a lead to a qualified lead to a sale? Well, you're going to do that with content marketing, and so content is your number one thing. What do your customers need, what problem are they trying to solve, and how do you make their life better? The essential thing is really understanding the purpose of your company and the purpose of your product and what problems you solve — and then tell your story. You can tell that through search. You can tell it through all kinds of channels.
Having a good customer relationship management (CRM) tool will help you understand the content people are most interested in, the content that they really need. Most B2B marketing strategy is front-loaded into getting new customers. But what I have found is that only 10 percent or even nothing is dedicated to existing customers. The majority of your referrals will come from existing customers. So, having a process in place to handle referrals, to develop referrals, and to create that loyalty and advocacy in your current customers, that's marketing. That is one basic element that I find missing in most B2B businesses.
Working your CRM to look at some events that people might be coming back to the site is a good first step. However, it’s even more helpful to really dig in through your email marketing and look at who's opening them. Is there consistency between opens and clicks from a certain group of existing customers? If so, they're demonstrating that they want to hear from you.
Even beyond digital channels, try developing user groups and a system of feedback and really engaging your customers into what can make the product better. Once you start developing those user groups, and then you announce it to the rest of your customers that you had a user group and made these changes, well now you're gonna have other customers wondering why they weren’t invited to the user group. So you're creating that sense of belonging. It's understanding a little bit of human nature and how you can build those rewards and recognitions, and that helps build that loyalty
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Referral marketing is also essential. Salesforce put out a study and they found that business from referred leads closed within days, whereas the average close rate of other leads was weeks to months. So we see referred business not only closes faster, it closes it at a greater percentage. Getting your best customers to duplicate themselves with a referral. It's a great way to build a B2B business.
Q: What's the difference between an ambitious digital marketing goal and an unattainable one?
A: “Viral marketing” is a great example of an unattainable goal. Viral is a lightning strike. It's not technically unattainable, but it’s elusive and unpredictable. An ambitious goal is to launch a new product line. An ambitious goal is developing a campaign that will encompass a framework that answers what people want to see, what do you want them to think, and then what you want them to do.
Let's make this more practical. SMART is an acronym we like to use. S stands for specific, M for measurable, A for attainable, R for realistic, and T for time-based. That is a smart goal. This is what makes analytics seem doable. When a company says, “Let's increase the number of leads or registrations in the next quarter; what's realistic?” Is a realistic increase five percent, or is it ten percent? You have to look at your historical data to see what you’re averaging now in terms of gaining leads every quarter. Look back at your past performance in order to determine what's a realistic goal for the next quarter. If you want to set your goal at a 10 percent or 20 percent increase next quarter, you can see if it’s attainable by going back and looking at your best performing source of leads.
Next, look at your content. Which content that you're producing represents the best source of leads? Is it white papers, research reports, articles, or webinars? Then look at how you are promoting them — to an existing list or cross-promote? Knowing these things, you can now create a very specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic goal within the time frame. That is an ambitious goal because it forces you to evaluate where you are, the ideal methods you need to grow, and then also it helps measure the campaign under a cost-per-lead target. It all comes back to the data.
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Matt Bailey is a best-selling author, marketing expert, corporate trainer, and professional speaker. He is the founder and president of SiteLogic Marketing. Matt is the Digital Marketing Instructor for the Direct Marketing Association in NYC, a member of the Digital Marketing Faculty for Simplilearn, and an instructor for the OMCP (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Program. He is the author of Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day (2011), Wired to be Wowed (2015), and Teach New Dogs Old Tricks (2017).
Matt excels in combining his marketing background with programming know-how to help companies create comprehensive strategies that improve their online presence and conversions.