Every so often I stumble across a word that’s special. One such word is disintermediation. In plain English, it means getting rid of the middleman. That’s what most internet businesses that sell physical products do, and you need to understand the process for your marketing strategy.
Examples of disintermediation
Look at Amazon. They ate the lunches of traditional booksellers. How? By seeing that there was no real need for brick and mortar stores with their expensive overhead for rent, utilities, personnel, and inventories of books. All of that translated into savings, savings that Amazon has shared with its customers to their mutual advantage. You could find countless examples of this. E-bay is explicitly built on this very principle.
There are countless ways a company could perform this service. And be sure, if you aren’t the one figuring this out for your industry, someone else is and they’ll be eating your lunch soon.
A constant process
Marketers always need to remember that customers don’t care about them. Not really. Remember the cult of Apple? Samsung is now eating their lunch, at least in smartphones. What customers care about is the experience you deliver to them. Your marketing needs to be thought of in that light. What good is it to reach out and corral 100 new customers if 50 of them are going to be dissatisfied or worse, seek a refund and bad mouth you?
The good news is that there are tools and resources out there so you can get help doing what needs done and doing it right. There are many software services you can use, often free, that will greatly simplify your business.
Two ways of looking at disintermediation
You actually need to look at disintermediation two ways. Yes, there is the customer side of the equation, as discussed before. But there is also your own side. Consider for example the hiring of services. For your business doing internet marketing you do not need to hire employees with all of the attendant costs and difficulties. You can contract people from around the world at lower prices to do projects to your standards. You keep using them if and when they suit you.
In this manner there’s a kind of balance established. Yes, you will have to cut your margins to compete in offering whatever you sell, but whatever resources you use to make and deliver it are getting cheaper and more efficient too.
Tips for effective disintermediation
So, recognising the reality here is necessary to your success and maybe your survival. Here are a few takeaway tips. Look broadly at options for getting work done. There are many more and better options today than even 10 years ago. By the same token, keep a very open and inquisitive mind as to how to things get done. You may not need a person at all. Many things are now automated, even things requiring professional results, like creating legal contracts. Even when not automated, most things can be done just as well via the Internet by someone who is eager and skilled as by someone local. You’re still getting rid of the middleman–in this case, distance.
There is a story about a professor who started his class by placing a large glass jar on the podium, and put a number of large rocks into the jar, until no more would fit. When he asked, the students responded that it was full – he could not put any more rocks into the jar. The professor took a number of smaller rocks from beneath the podium, and dropped them into the jar, where they settled into the spaces around the larger rocks. He repeated this with pebbles, and then sand. When the students responded that this time, they were certain the jar was full and no more could be added, the professor poured water into the jar. What does this have to do with Internet marketing? There will always be activities you can do online to market your business or products. How do you know if you’re choosing the big rocks that will give you the most pay-off, or allowing your days to be filled with sand?
Your big rocks are those activities with a hard deadline, either because they are tied to a specific holiday, or because you are doing them in conjunction with another business and both of you must roll out the marketing activity at the same time. Put these activities on your calendar first, determining both when you will actually send out your email marketing, blog posts, ads, or website updates, and how long it will take you to create the material you will be sending out. Make sure that you budget in time for reviews if you are working with someone else.
The small rocks are those activities with soft deadlines. You’d like to complete them by a certain date, but if they’re done a day or two earlier or later, it won’t be a crisis. Add these activities to your calendar next.
Your pebbles are projects that do not have deadlines. These can be sample projects for new forms of social media, split tests to refine a marketing message, or other useful but not necessary activities. You can schedule these things on your calendar, or you can keep a to-do list of the most promising projects and schedule time to work on your to-do list.
Your sand is composed of many, many grains of small effort that together have an impact. Most social media activities fall under the heading of sand. Any one individual post or response will be unlikely to make a difference to your bottom line, but over time, they can have a great effect. Set aside a block of time each day to work on social media, or use small chunks of time in between other tasks.
The water in this analogy is your relationships. It permeates everything else that you do, and is ignored at your peril.
A complete Internet marketing strategy may include updates on your website, audio marketing podcasts, video marketing, articles, blogs, posts, tweets, and pins, as well as sharing and commenting on other blogs, posts, pins, and tweets. To make sure you don’t miss one of your updates, a marketing schedule is imperative. This also helps you to plan in advance what you want to do in order to take advantage of holidays or other special events such as joint promotions.
The easiest way to plan out your marketing schedule is to superimpose a spreadsheet over a calendar. The rows and columns will correspond to the weeks and days of the week in your calendar. If you have a very dense strategy, you will include multiple keywords or multiple platforms on each day. If you have a sparse strategy, you will have only a single platform and keyword combination per day.
Create lines of keywords
If you put together a full marketing schedule that describes what content you will be creating when, you can more easily vary the keywords that you use for your different content. List your main keywords, auxiliary long-tail keywords, and variations of keywords. Create at least four sets of these different keyword combinations, to correspond to the four weeks in the month. If you need more content, create more sets of keyword combinations.
Create columns of media formats
Each combination of keywords can be featured in SEO optimised blogs, articles, audio, video, and social media. If you need more content, include more formats in each column, for example breaking out multiple social media platforms.
Organise by holiday or special event
Superimpose your spreadsheet of rows and columns over your calendar. Note any holidays or special events that will require specific types of marketing activities, and move the keywords and formats around until the appropriate marketing activities line up with the dates on which you want them to occur.
Create keyword rich topics
Now that you know which keywords you want to focus on in which formats for each day, you can plan appropriate keyword rich topics, including SEO optimised headlines. Enter the topic or topics for each day on your calendar. By knowing in advance what you plan to create content for, you will be able to recognize ideas that can contribute to those topics when you run across them. It also gives you plenty of time to subcontract out content creation and still be sure the resulting content will fit into your overall marketing plan.
Schedule content release in advance
Once you know what you’ll be releasing on each day, you can schedule it in advance for release, saving yourself last-minute headaches. Various tools exist for different platforms, such as WordPress for blogs and HootSuite for social media that allow you to pre-load your content to be released at a specific time and date. You don’t have to worry about interruptions caused by vacations, volume of work, illness or natural disaster. Your content will automatically appear where and when it is scheduled.
Once again, Google is causing a flurry of panic among webmasters and SEO practitioners. They recently released a new webmaster tool that allows webmasters to disavow links, in effect refusing to accept the bonus or penalty that would normally accrue to their website from having that link.
Why do webmasters need a disavowal tool?
With the Penguin update a few months back, websites began being penalised for having low-quality links. These links could be from link farms, or clearly purchased links, or links that came from a “bad neighbourhood” such as a web hosting service that filled its servers with spammers and porn sites. Webmasters saw their site rankings drop in response to Penguin, or received the note from Google informing them that they were being penalised for bad links, and tried to eliminate the bad links. Unfortunately, unscrupulous webmasters at these sites realised they had honest businesses over a barrel, and demanded as much as £2,000 to have a link removed!
A cottage industry sprang up, targeting the businesses that were most vulnerable to these types of attacks. Additionally, “black hat” SEO firms would target their client’s competitors with a flurry of bad links, forcing the competitors down in ranks while standard SEO practices lifted their client up in ranks.
The disavowal tool is intended to level the playing field again. Businesses that have been targeted by malicious link-building, or who mistakenly used easily available but poor quality links to try and get attention on the Internet, are no longer held hostage by the sites that link to them.
What’s the downside?
If this was all that the tool accomplished, there would be a sigh of relief from those impacted by Penguin, and a grumble from unscrupulous link farmers whose source of easy money is gone. However, what has the Internet Marketing community in an uproar is wondering to what use Google may put the lists of sources of bad links.
Some people worry that Google is effectively crowd sourcing its algorithm for detecting bad links. As a result, they are concerned that sites which receive multiple disavowal requests will be blacklisted, and all sites that the blacklisted site links to will get penalised for those links.
There are two avenues of abuse this would open up to black hat SEO practitioners. The first is to mimic the links coming in to a competitor’s site, and then disavow those links, making them worth less or even incurring a penalty for their competitor. The other is to somehow trick a competitor into creating a link to a special site set up for this purpose, and then disavowing that link, again penalising their competitor.
For now, unless you need to use the disavowal tool to recover from a Penguin hit, the best thing to do is to watch and wait until it is clear where this is leading.
There is a well-known phenomenon in Internet marketing of chasing after the latest and greatest “shiny thing”. An Internet marketer will start implementing one potential solution to achieving profits, and see another program advertised by another successful Internet marketer promising that this is the way to unimaginable wealth and success. Many people will abandon their initial idea for profitability, and switch to implementing the second strategy. As you can imagine, before that second strategy has a chance to pay off, they’ve fallen for the lure of the next shiny thing. They scrap the second implementation, and start over again with the third. Meanwhile, they wonder why they never seem to have any success at Internet marketing.
There are many ways to market on the Internet. You can focus on back-linking strategies by producing copious amounts of articles and press releases. You can concentrate on optimizing your website’s text for search engines. You can implement social media marketing, using Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Pinterest. You can create videos that you place on YouTube. You can devote your attention to creating local profiles for businesses that are optimized for local searches. You can address the needs of mobile marketing, with a mobile marketing solution that sends text messages to customers containing specials and offers to ensure customer loyalty.
All of these are valid strategies for Internet marketing. However, you should not try to implement all of them at the same time when you are just starting out. Choose the one strategy that you are most comfortable with, and that offers the greatest result for your market. Then stick with that strategy, until you establish yourself as a leader in it.
Slow and Steady
Once you have established yourself as a leader in Internet marketing using a specific strategy, then it is time for you to branch out and begin implementing additional strategies. You should adopt a slow and steady expansion process, where you implement only one additional strategy at a time, and continue to develop it until it is as successful as your initial strategy. Only then can you begin adopting a third strategy.
When choosing your additional strategies to implement, make sure that they integrate well with your existing strategies. For example, if you started with social media marketing on Facebook, you might choose the creation of Facebook ads for your next strategy. On the other hand, if you started with creating articles and press releases, Facebook ads would not be a good next strategy because you did not have a Facebook presence that could take advantage of them.
Remember, too, that just because you are not specializing in a particular strategy, does not mean you cannot offer it to your clients. You can always outsource tasks that your client desires in which you do not specialize.
Even more than traditional marketing, internet marketing is both a science and an art. The tricky part is that the science is one that’s constantly evolving since the entire internet is rapidly evolving and therefore all things and activities related to it must rapid evolve as well.
The original measurement of internet marketing success was measuring the number of people who viewed a particular webpage; this is known as “getting eyeballs”. Companies were well funded and purchased for multi-million dollar pay-outs to their owners on the basis of the number of eyeballs that could be documented. For example, there was a time when e-mail providers were able to command $400 per subscriber on the theory that the subscribers would somehow be monetized in the years ahead via a stream of ad revenue.
Of course, we now have different models of generating revenue that vary from pay per click (or PPC) advertising to affiliate commission payments. The key thing is that the models are evolving; the only model that bears resemblance to conventional ideas of marketing from years past is that of payment of commissions on actual sales. This is, of course, the only model that actually assures that there is pay for performance that matters, as opposed to pay for performance that may or may not matter.
Consider, for example, a campaign that yields 1 million visitors to a website. That’s pretty good, in many views. However, suppose that only 10 of these visitors actually buy something. If that something is a six-figure item such as a luxury car then it may be worthwhile. On the other hand, if it’s a bag of peanuts then the campaign has been, in the words of Shakespeare, much sound and fury signifying nothing.
It’s a fact that much of marketing is done in ignorance. People don’t know what works until it actually works, and unlike scientific experiments the conditions in which marketing is done are always changing. Sure, you can run two promotional pieces to demographically identical audiences at the same time and track the results. In theory, this will tell you which piece works better; it’s scientific in a way.
But how do you know that you’ve controlled for all of the variables? You don’t, since the real world is always infinitely more complex than a lab environment. What you’re really doing is playing the odds, much like a professional gambler. That’s why marketing is and will always be more an art than a science.
That being said, one should use scientific methods such as split tests when possible since it’s a far better approach than throwing darts. Add to that the seasoned judgment of a marketing pro who’s produced real-world results that matter time and again, and you might have a good chance of making money.
Are you paying attention to the online reviews of you and your business? Unlike the days when all a business had to worry about was an unsatisfied or upset customer complaining to their friends and family, in this day and age, an irate customer is broadcasting their unhappiness to the entire world via the Internet. Sites like Yelp have made it easy for consumers to write an instant review of a product or service. It is not uncommon for these reviews to have an almost devastating effect on the business. The truth is, not all of your costumers will be 100% happy with their purchase. How can you combat these negative comments that may show up online? Do you have a damage control strategy?
Bookmark Review Sites
Do you know which sites your customers and potential customers frequent to leave reviews or read reviews? There are many different review sites, some are legitimate and some are not. Make sure that you are checking sites such as Yelp on a regular basis to see what your customers are saying. The best way is to bookmark the site and to set up Google alerts for your name, your business name and any other phrases that are associated with your business. You can have reminders sent daily or weekly, simply pick what is convenient for you. Take a few hours out of ever week to check these reviews.
If there is a negative review or if you have a very unhappy customer it is critical to be proactive and to act quickly. Don’t try to delete their comment or buffer the comment with a lot of customer satisfaction reports. You should have the contact information for all of your customers and most review sites leave a place for the reviewer to state their name or general biographical information. If possible, contact the customer and see if you can fix the problem. In most cases, consumers will take their issues online before contacting you directly to complain. The key is to use your best customer service skills and try to reverse the consumer’s negative mindset. At this stage, you may ask them to post another review that puts you and your business in a much better light.
Treat online reviews as you would an in-person complaint. If you are unable to contact the person directly, or if you are faced with multiple negative reviews that are similar in nature, issue a public statement. This not only address the issue that your customers have, it also announces to the public at large the best practices of your company. You shouldn’t try to argue with those that have complained, simply address the issue and attempt to solve the problem.
A huge percentage of consumers turn to online reviews before buying a new product or visiting an establishment. While not all reviews will be favorable, if you take to heart some of the above strategies, you will find that the naysayers will not have a disastrous impact on your business.
Sean Internet Marketing Training – Internet Marketing Course – Internet Marketing Blog
Are you a thought leader in your industry? Does your social media identity clearly show that you are a thought leader? We all strive to be considered thought leaders in our industry, but simply making the declaration that you are doesn’t necessarily make it so. You need to take massive action to position yourself as a true thought leader. This process does involve spending a little time and energy but once you are positioned as the go-to person in your industry, you will see that this is time and energy well invested. Here are a few proven tips that you can utilize to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Define Your Niche
Being a jack-of-all-trades may appear to be a good strategy, but if you are pulled in too many directions you will never become a master of any one specific thing. Stay focused on the areas where you excel and hire individuals to assist you in areas where you don’t. If you are great at creating content but are unable to find the time to send this content out on your social networking platforms, consider hiring a virtual assistant. They can easily handle the small time consuming tasks that quickly weigh you down.
Create Sound Content
Creating content simply for the sake of creating content is a waste of your time. You need to create dense content that has valuable information. Thought leaders have longevity, therefore creating sound, well-researched and relevant content is critical. It is better to create one solid piece of content once a week rather than create fluff content five times a week.
Social Media Presence
We all know that consumers are going to the web to find the answers to their questions and the products and services that will solve their problems. Make your brand very visible by interacting on the social networking platforms where your demographic spends time. If they are on Facebook, create a business page. If they are on Twitter, start a tweet chat. If they are on LinkedIn, create a group. Engage with your consumers and once they see that you offer value and are consistent, business will start to come your way.
Remember Your Roots
When you first entered your industry, you had a solid purpose in doing so. What was your mission? Is this still your mission? Do you have your goals clearly defined? You must have faith in your abilities and your expertise in order for others to have faith in you. Take the time to re-visit your “why”.
Thought leaders are sought after for their expertise and their ability to offer value. They are known for solving problems and being at the top of their game. Take the time to position yourself as a thought leader today.
One of the easiest ways to continually stay on top of the Google search engine is by creating new content. All marketers know that they must consistently create new content for their web platform. Regardless if this content is created via Facebook. Twitter, Blogs or on the website itself, it must be created. A business can have the best looking website and highest quality created web marketing platform, but without a constant infusion of content, it will never be seen. This brings up the question that almost all marketers and business owners ask, “How can I create great new content on a consistent basis?” Here are three easy ways to keep the creative juices flowing and generate new and interesting content.
How are you or your business different than your competitors? Perhaps you have a business that has been in your family for generations? Maybe your business does house calls when your competitors do not? Be sure to accent the unique qualities that make your business stand out. Outside of broadcasting these unique elements, integrate them into your entire web platform. Every business needs to solve problems for their customers. Simply ask yourself, “What makes my business stand out?” When you determine what makes your business unique, this needs to be a focal point that can be used in your Facebook posts, your Twitter Tweets and as subject matter for your blog.
Your site should be the “go-to” for your area of expertise. By offering quality, informative and truthful information, you will gain the trust of potential customers. A great way to achieve this is through the use of links. Pay attention to where your links are sending your visitors. For example, when you are tweeting or posting on Facebook, it does not benefit you to simply grab great headlines that send your potential customers directly to your competitions website. Keep your potential clients on your site by offering links within your blog to the pages on your site that will answer their questions. The same strategy applies for your outbound messaging plans.
Fix The Problem
What solution does your business offer to solve your customer’s problems? Your business should be as transparent as possible and the content you create needs to reflect this. For example, if your business provides SEO optimisation services, explain to your customers why they need this service. Demonstrate how proper SEO will benefit them and explain why. Being secretive or evasive only creates frustration on the part of the customer. Creating transparent content will show the customer that you care enough to assist them before they write that first check.
Creating new and relevant content on a regular basis will allow Google to consistently highly rate your site. The key is to provide value.
It seems that every time I turn around someone is starting a new business. The days of individuals wanting to work in a corporate environment, the typical 9-5 jobs in an office setting are quickly dwindling. More individuals are striving to be their own boss and in charge of their own financial destiny. While this is a great thing and it is possible to become successful as an entrepreneur, the world of business and marketing has shifted to living online. How can you get your startup on the right path towards success in this ever-changing world of marketing?
Start Out Social
Before you even purchase a business card, get your business online. Create a Facebook business page and a Twitter account. You can begin to market your business before you have product on your shelves. By generating customer interest at the beginning stages, you are almost guaranteed sales once you open your door for business.
Choose Your Platforms Carefully
Your business does not have to be on every single social networking platform that exists. Do a little research and see which of the most popular platforms is a perfect match for your business or service. It would be counterproductive to spend all of your time marketing on every platform that exists. You would find yourself spending too many hours online and not enough hours making sure you have product to sell.
Engage With Your Target Demographic
The art of sales is the art of engaging with your customer base. Find out where your niche target demographic hangs out and join them. The key is to join them as one of them, not as a business trying to sell them something. Strike up conversations, offer helpful tips and advice (when it is requested) and most of all have fun! The online forums and communities will support you once they know you are one of “them”.
Have A Strategy
All to often business startups begin investing time and effort into online networking without a strategy. A strategy is the very first thing that you need to develop before going online. Design your strategy and pay attention to your results. See what is working for you and make adjustments when necessary. Don’t be afraid to change your strategy if you are not seeing optimal results.
There is no doubt that a startup company can become very successful within a short period of time. The advent of social networking platforms has only made this easier. The truth is, you can start marketing your business online before you have invested a great deal of cash. This is a great way to test your market and see if your products are needed and wanted. The key is to have a strategy, dive in and most of all have fun.