With the advance of Internet and broadband connection, shopping behavior of most people nowadays has changed dramatically over the last decade. Suddenly, your company’s Web presence has become the gauging factor to the success of your company, SME is no exception!
So how can you maximize your dollars on Web marketing to get the best return on investment? Is there any ways that you can ensure the money is right spent? I am going to share here an “IDEAL” model that you may consider to follow:
- I – Identify Your Customers
- D – Decide Your Budget
- E – Experiment Your Options
- A – Assess Your Results
- L – Leverage Others
1. Identify Your Customers
Any marketing books will tell you this same thing – first and foremost, you need to know who your customers are. That may seem obvious but sometimes we are just missing the target without really thinking through the process. It is not so much who exactly your customers are but what are their shopping behaviors and desires on prices, trends, attributes of products/services, other complementary products/services that will help your sales…etc You really have to spend time to analyze your customers, even getting market data to support your analysis. Without these data, I can guaranteed you that you will waste money on your marketing effort!
2. Decide Your Budget
Your marketing budget should not be fixed and it should be as dynamic as possible. Deciding your budget should be a process with reference to the return of sales enquiries through the use of the budget. For new start up companies I suggest to go a little bit more aggressive for the initial period until you are comfortable with the good sales pipeline. By aggressive, I do not mean to spend a lot but allow good amount of money for you to use with caution. The right amount should be relative to your company cash flow, you just should not spend more than you can afford. My hint to this is to include your marketing budget of your initial period to be part of your initial capital investment and the subsequent budgets to be part of your sales expense. In this way, you do not have to worry too much of you initial marketing budget becoming a burden to your expense in your overall cash flow planning.
3. Experiment Your Options
There are just too many options for Web marketing. You need to list them down and give them some priority and assign budget according to their priorities. However, with SME’s, I suggest to spend your dollars on proactive searching rather than mass advertising as it is too expensive to do. So here are some of the proactive searching options for your reference:
- Search Engines: Yahoo and Google is the most widely used search engine these days in Hong Kong. Actually, you do not have to pay a lot in order to get started. For example, you just need to deposit HK$240 to Yahoo and start your keyword search sponsor link instantly. However, deciding which keywords to be used does required some good thought. My personal experience tells me that you are better off by including your city and product/service category in a phrase to avoid paying unnecessary amount of money to compete with the big company with tons of marketing budget. In such a way, the charge will be a lot cheaper than a standalone keyword. E.g. “cheap business service in Hong Kong” This actually makes a lot of sense as more and more people are searching by phrase rather than simply a keyword. Do remember that the keyword list must be revised constantly to get the best results.
- Web Directories: most portal sites would have business directory sections that you can post your company information on them. A lot of these sites are still free of charge and welcome your postings. E.g. Yahoo, Timway, Trade Development Council, SMEcare.com…etc. However, it may take longer time to get your company information posted depending on each portal’s schedule.
- Auction Sites: Yahoo, eBay, Red-dots, Go2HK are some of the popular auction sites in Hong Kong. Some SME companies are actually operating entirely using these sites to generate their sales. You may just need to pay very little per transaction to start selling.
- Blogs/Discussion Groups: Blogs are getting very popular and if you can identify your customer interests, you should try to become members of their Blogs and Discussion Groups communities. After joining, you can post messages and point people to your websites for product/service information and etc. Most of these communities are free to join. On the other hand, setting up a blog of your own is very easy and it takes no time. By doing so, you are setting up a community of your own. The only matter is to maintain the content and keep it alive. It is very labor intensive to keep it living if you are not good at sharing thoughts!
- YouTube: YouTube is a video broadcasting website and it has become so popular that you should consider using it as part of your web marketing strategy. There are actually SME companies using it as a mean of product introduction, training and even customer service due to its popularity and free of charge nature.
4. Assess Your Results
As mentioned above, you should spend your marketing budget wisely by assessing the results regularly. Most Search Engines will have tools to help you to generate reports for your analysis. However, these reports are only meaningful if you are tracking in parallel how your sales and enquires are being done through which web channel. It takes good discipline in doing so! To start with, I suggest to do daily and weekly review to ensure money is wisely spent.
5. Leverage Others
No matter your business is selling products or providing services, you will always have companies which may complement your products/services. My recommendation is that you should try your best in getting these companies to list and link your company website in their website as partner or show in related links. You should also do the same thing for them vice versa. In this way, you are building a network of alliances and I find it a very effective way to build both awareness and credibility.
Web marketing is an art and it takes time and effort to perfect. In this Internet age, we just do not have an option of opting out of Web marketing. However, if you are willing to try, practice will make perfect and you will certainly find reward f