Part II of a basic overview of online marketing and tracking.  This segment is a high-level overview of the concepts involved in lead-generation marketing.

  1. Craft a message (basic brand marketing is important here)
  2. Find an audience (adjust message for audience)
  3. Reach out to the audience (call this a “program”)
  4. Track your responses (Analytics is a MUST for this)
  5. Gather contact information
  6. Close sales

If you are interested in basic branding and marketing ideas, check out Part I.  As with Part I, this is only an over-view.  Most of these steps and topics could be multiple posts on their own, but I think it helps to have a high-level perspective in place first.

These 6 steps are not necessarily linear, especially in the case of the later steps, #5 and #6; you may gather contact information and make a sale later, or you might make a sale and then gather contact information.  Also, steps 1 and 2 could be reversed, the point is that these are the basics to cover for web marketing.

The most important thing about lead generation marketing is to track responses.  There is no point spending money on a marketing campaign if you cannot tell how many people came to check out your business from it, or whether you made any sales from it.  If you have an advertising, or a marketing opportunity that doesn’t offer tracking, like print advertising, then create a way to track, such as a coupon, special offer, or unique web address.  Make a way to track the program.  Don’t ever compromise on that.  Ever.  If you cannot find a way to track the program, don’t spend the money, or even better, contact me, and I’ll help you find a way.  Just do not spend precious money on lead generation programs you cannot track.

You deserve to know who is responding, how many there are, and if the program earned you any revenue.

Steps 1 & 2. Crafting the Message and Finding an Audience

I mention that brand marketing is important to crafting your message for a program, that’s because to effectively appeal to people, you need to clear state what you can offer them.  The reason that steps 1 and 2 sometimes might be reversed is that sometimes for a program, you’ll select your audience before revising your message to appeal to them.

Crafting a Message

The basic idea of crafting a message is to as clearly and concisely as possible explain what you can offer someone.  Its always better when  your message is specific to an audience, for example, lets say you have a software product that allows listings on a website, like classifieds.  It also has some cool features, like being able to pull from the real estate MLS database easily, so if your audience for a particular marketing program is real estate agents, whom you know are always pressed for time, you can state “Add real estate listings to your own website in minutes by pulling directly from MLS.”  Those unfamiliar with the real estate industry won’t even know what you mean, so if you don’t know your audience, you probably want to say “Create new listings in minutes easily using existing online databases.”

Ok, so maybe that example was technical.  Lets try one less technical.  Lets say you have a better cake pan that cooks cakes with electricity, never burns the cake batter, requires less fat and oil and comes with 5 shapes.  Your message needs to say what your pan does for people.  Good key points might be; Never burn a cake, Cook 5 different shapes, and Make better tasting healthier cakes.

As an example of tailoring message to audience; if you plan to market your cake pan on a website about health, you probably want to stress that the cakes are healthier over that they never burn.

I hope you get the idea.  Feel free to post questions or contact me for help.

Finding an Audience

This is a whole topic in and of itself.  There are all kinds of ways to reach an audience, like purchasing an email list (make sure you get opt-in people, people who asked to get emails, spamming is bad for business), purchasing banner ads, social networking ads (like Facebook ads), reaching out on Twitter, using Google Adwords with key phrases and more.

So, since there are so many options here, there’s just a few general things I’ll say about finding an audience.  You want to look for an audience of people who have self-selected, which means they asked for information.  This can mean that you’re using key words in search marketing, that you purchased an opt-in list, or even that you’re purchasing advertising in a print magazine with an appropriate audience.

Steps 3 & 4: Reach out to the Audience & Track Responses

This is the part where you actually craft your program.  You’ve clarified your message, have your audience selected, and have hopefully adjusted your message to appeal to the audience.

What’s next is putting together your marketing pieces and deciding how you are going to track responses.

If you are using an electronic advertisement, you can track responses through an affiliate software program, by analytics, or through an account management interface that might be provided where you advertise.  The specifics of tracking is left for another post – perhaps the safest thing to do is make sure that you have a good analytics program and know how to read the traffic sources report.

If you’re dealing with print advertising, or any kind of live promotion, you will need a coupon code in your store system, or a special offer to track your promotions.  Its not perfect, but offering something free to register, or offering a limited time discount is a must to know if a live event or print advertisement generated any business.  Following the principle of no program without tracking, do what you can…

Again, marketing program design and planning is a great topic to cover, but we’re not going to cover it all here.  The gist of it is that you want to get your message clear, present it clearly and get it in front of people who might want what you offer.  Be clear about the problems you can help them solve.  Later on, I’ll share some books and materials on the subject.

So, in future posts we’ll talk about reading analytics and what the various reports mean, focusing on Google Analytics since they are free and easy to set up.

Steps 5 & 6: Gather Contact Information & Closing Sales

At the very least, you want contact information from anyone who comes to your site.  Give them a quick and easy way to get in touch with you.  Get a web form, not just one of those you@mail.address links because robots can pull that email from your site, unless you do some slick javascript stealth stuff and keep it current.  With WordPress, Joomla, or any similar system, there are numerous web form components.  If you are not running a system to manage your site, you should probably consider it, but even so, there are plenty of hosted email form systems ranging from free systems that show a small ad, to and/or similar customer relationship management system (yes, we will talk about those in the future as well).

Make your web form simple, prominent, and minimize the required fields (name, email and permission to contact them are the standard).  If you plan to contact people with any frequency instead of just once, make sure you ask them if you can do so, and respect that.  You want customers, not one-hit wonders.

If you are running an e-commerce site review the steps between product selection and checkout carefully and make them as simple as possible.  As few steps as possible.  You want your clients to actually get all the way through check out.

If you can set-up funnels for google analytics (yep, another future post), they are great – they let you tell how many people fell out where in the checkout process to help determine if you have any issues.

Well, that’s about enough for an overview – not like this was a short post of anything.  And remember, feel free to contact me with questions.