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4 Reasons Why an Internet Marketing Plan Can Help Any Business

For those who wonder whether or not their business is a “fit” for Internet marketing or whether they think their marketing dollars would be better put to use elsewhere, I encourage them to take a serious look at aspects of Internet marketing. For active businesses that are not currently incorporating a significant portion of their efforts to generate new customers online with a comprehensive Internet marketing plan, they are missing out on something that could take their business to a whole new level.

For new businesses, an Internet Marketing plan can be just as helpful, if not more so. Let’s go into each of the following four major reasons in a little more detail:

  1. Access to target market
  2. Speed
  3. Low cost
  4. Measurable results

Access to Target Market

Many business owners think that their customers aren’t searching the Internet for their type of product or service. Well I’ve got good news for them…there are. Lots of them. And for all types of products and services imaginable.

Is anybody searching for the term ukulele (since I have a ukulele store, of course)?

Yep, 24,700 per day (Google only)!

How about cat sitting? Does that seem like something that nobody is looking for? Well, they are…

4,500 per day (Google only)!

Small businesses have access to their target market through the Internet. Either at a national level or local if that is more applicable. It is sure a lot easier to sell to people that are actively looking for your stuff than to try to convince somebody that they should want your stuff, don’t you think?

Speed

The Internet allows us to receive instant feedback from around the world on our ideas. That fact is still absolutely amazing to me. Post a comment on a blog site, post a topical video or article, or create a pay-per-click advertisement for a search engine and see how others view this in minutes! Now let’s think about how a product might be typically marketed:

  • Define audience and offer
  • Write copy
  • Purchase advertising space or produce direct mailing
  • Wait weeks for any meaningful results

…and what if the results aren’t good? Much time and money has likely been spent producing this marketing campaign, but many things could have been wrong with it. Wrong audience, wrong copy, wrong offer…

For small businesses, this failed attempt at a marketing campaign (that we likely had high hopes for) has left us maybe even a bit sour on marketing in general for our business.

On the other hand, with Internet marketing, we can accomplish the following in a single day:

  • Find the people that are searching for our exact product or service
  • Place an ad directed to those people only
  • Get feedback on the effectiveness of that ad

Different versions of the ad can be running at the same time and provide critical info about what works and what doesn’t.

Low Cost

The thought of low cost might surprise business owners that have put money into Internet marketing and seen that money disappear more quickly than if they were to feed it into a shredder. This has happened to a great many of us.

But, the cost of designing and hosting websites is lower than ever. Or at least it should be if you utilize the tools at our disposal today. The problem is how to get actual traffic to the site. Most business owners are familiar with the paid type of traffic, using a mechanism like Google Adwords. The squandering of marketing dollars with Google AdWords is a common occurrence. If not done properly it can be a very costly lesson. This is not to say that AdWords can not be an outstanding tool for businesses, but it needs to be done very carefully and many have failed in getting an actual profit from their efforts with Adwords.

But get this…there is an even more effective way to get those Google searchers to your site. A phenomenon has occurred in search.

I’ll provide some background first…People searching the Internet are far less frequently clicking on the paid sponsored advertising. Do you know that the top search result that is not paid for (otherwise known as organic) gets 35-40% of the clicks?!

This is compared to typically only 0.2-1% for the top paid result.

These organic results can send a huge number of people searching for your product or service to your site- for free! A properly planned and executed search engine optimization (SEO) plan can get small businesses that traffic at a very low overall cost (the cost equates to the effort required to execute SEO plan).

Measurable Results

How does a business really know the return on its marketing dollars? If a business often chalks its results up to “branding”, it likely means pitiful actual results.

Actual results meaning: active leads; customers; and revenue.

Although there are plenty of ways to blow your marketing dollars on the Internet with branding activities, small businesses will avoid these like the plague. Instead, they should focus on measureable activities. We can see each and every time somebody clicks on a link that brings them to our website, and then get the statistics on how many of those visitors took us up on our offer (whatever our most desired result for them is). The information available from Internet marketing is pure gold and these measured results show us where to focus our attention in future marketing campaigns and what needs to be changed and tested.

If a business incorporates a results-oriented Internet marketing plan into their next business plan, the results might just be amazing.

An Insurance Agency Marketing Plan For the Web Centric Marketing Era

Insurance agencies, like any small business, need a concise and achievable marketing plan. Today, however, we should modify this statement to read; Insurance agencies require a concise, achievable web centric insurance agency marketing plan. I’d also add that this insurance agency marketing plan should target lead generation oriented activities, or at least, a large component of the plan and associated budget should focus on lead generation to ensure optimum effectiveness and return on investment for the agency producers.

What type of insurance agency marketing plan does your agency create each year? Is it a comprehensive and detailed plan that is 10 or 20 pages long or a more concise one to five pages? Is it part of an annual business plan or a five year strategic plan? Agencies approach business planning, budgeting and marketing from a wide variety of perspectives. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to drill down to a marketing specific plan, then further to a web centric agency lead generation plan.

There are many marketing related activities which fall under the insurance agency marketing plan umbrella. Some of these (listed alphabetically) include:

· Association Memberships (Chamber of Commerce, etc.)

· Blogging

· Brochures

· Client Testimonials

· Club Memberships (Golf, Tennis, Other)

· Direct Mail

· eBrochures

· eMarketing

· ePublishing

· Events (for both clients and prospects)

· Networking Organizations

· Newsletter

· On-site Seminars

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· PR and Client Testimonial Creation

· Promotional Items

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing

· Trade Shows

· Traditional Advertising (Magazines, Yellow Pages, Radio, TV)

· Web Seminars

· Website

· White Papers

That’s already a long list, and we’re just getting started. Smaller agencies can’t tackle all of the activities above, in fact, they should only focus on a few of these each year, and many would agree that they should focus on lead generation oriented activities which will help keep their pipelines full and active. Let’s review some of the better lead generation activities from the list above:

· Direct Mail

· eMarketing

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing

· Traditional Advertising (Magazines, Yellow Pages, Radio, TV)

· Web Seminars

· Website

Granted, networking oriented activities can generate leads, though these should be pursued in the normal course of business in a manner most comfortable to the individual producer. Thus we are focusing on quantitatively oriented (easily repeatable and highly measurable) lead generation activities. This list is more manageable, but still needs to be culled to ensure proper focus on the respective lead generation activity. A decade ago, traditional advertising, telemarketing and direct mail might have been the preferred path for most agencies. Today, only one of those activities should remain on our list, and as you will see below, the remaining items are all web marketing centric.

· eMarketing/Web Seminars

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Blogging, ePublising

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing (for smaller profile prospects)

· Website

Our insurance agency marketing list has now been culled to a manageable level. You may have noticed that eMarketing has been paired with web seminars. This is because many insurance agency marketing experts find a higher response rate to eMarketing initiatives when leveraging educationally oriented webinars as the primary call to action. SEO, search engine optimization for insurance agencies, results in the organic display of your agency website at the top of the search engine rankings (Google, Bing or Yahoo search engine results). You probably noticed that this is now bundled with blogging and ePublishing, since those elements are often necessary to achieve page one search engine results. Organic SEO is a gift that keeps on giving; it does not require fees every time a prospect clicks on your name. PPC, or Pay Per Click ads, appear at the top and side of the Google results, and require that your agency pays anywhere from $1 to $5 per click, depending upon the competitiveness of the search term, regardless if the prospect who clicks is qualified or not. My recommendations for a lead generation, web centric plan would typically include the following:

· eMarketing/Web Seminars

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Blogging, ePublising

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Website

This is a manageable list for almost any agency, and a cost effective outsource if the agency lacks the internal expertise to accomplish these tasks. A professional up to date website is essential for any insurance agency. The website should be optimized for your specific keywords (benefits, workers comp, truck insurance, etc.). Your insurance agency SEO initiative may need to be regionalized or localized (workers compensation Massachusetts). Social media marketing, a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is fast and easy for most agencies. Blogging and ePublishing require more time, but are essential for most agencies. Fortunately agencies can often leverage their blog content and publish it in well known, online article directories. Lastly, a successful eMarketing and Web Seminar campaign can often yield the best results for insurance agencies. An ideal series might have 5,000 targeted emails combined with a monthly webinar. Be wary of email list brokers advertising inexpensive email lists. We’ve seen agency lists where the first and last names are merged into one field and many of the emails are [email protected] or [email protected] type emails, a definite problem when it comes to professional eMarketing. EMarketing is both an art and a science, agencies must ensure it is done properly, professionally and obey the CAN-SPAM act.

Web centric insurance agency marketing is now a critical foundation for any agency wishing to grow, your agency should be well on the way to implementing these initiatives. That said, don’t attempt to do too many activities at one time, you’re better off doing a few marketing activities really well than accomplishing a dozen in a haphazard manner.

Turning a Personal Book Marketing Plan Into Recognition Marketing

I’ve seen book trends come and go, such as prequels following sequels. Book authors used to market their work four ways: price, place, and special promotions. But the Internet has changed this approach. Name recognition has evolved into something called Recognition Marketing.

Today’s book buyers search the Net for what they want and they want fast results. If they don’t get fast results, they move on to another website.

David Miranda describes this marketing shift in his article, “The New 5 Cs for Successful Marketing,” posted on the Recognition Marketing website. According to Miranda, Recognition Marketing has give components: Consumers, Context, Convenience, Convergence, and Community. Ever since I read his article, I’ve thought about adapting my personal book marketing plan to fit these components.

Consumers. Just like the housing industry, the publishing industry has become a buyers’ market. Publishers keep this in mind when reviewing manuscripts. You may write for the sports niche, for example, and have an idea of what buyers want. While you’re writing you keep these wants in mind.

Context. Target marketing is the focus of context. Your publisher may advertise your books on websites, in electronic newsletters, and print newsletters. To expand this context, you may write for specialized websites and print publications..

Convenience. An increasing number of consumers are reading books on electronic devices. If you are a published author, ask the publisher about formatting your book for the Kindle or the Nook. The cost of formatting depends on the word count.

Convergence. This is a one-word description of the blending of media and distribution channels. Amelia Kassel, of MarketingBASE, an information brokerage, offers convergence suggestions in her Info Today article, “How to Write a Marketing Plan.” Her suggestions: personal/electronic marketing, direct marketing, print advertising, public speaking, publicity releases, and trade shows. “The ability to develop and implement each of the above strategies requires learning and honing new skills,” she notes.

Community. This term refers primarily to social networking. When I think of community I think of the resources in my city–churches, colleges, service organizations, and volunteer groups. You may, or may not, be making use of these networks; I know I’m not. Browsing through printed and online phone directors will give you a better idea of community networks.

Are you trying to expand your personal book marketing plan? Recognition marketing may be the way to go, but it isn’t a quick fix. Rather, it is a detailed and ongoing process. “Be persistent,” writes Amelia Kassel. “Marketing projects are the sorts of things that often need to be repeated over and over before permanent change is achieved.”

Copyright 2012 by Harriet Hodgson