How to discover and deploy the secret to online success

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The lightning-fast pace of Internet business, combined with so many daily emerging tools and channels to pour your marketing time and dollars into, makes the quest for solid, sure advice on generating real Web results very understandable.

“The most common question I get asked by colleagues, customers, prospects, co-workers and people I don’t even know is: ‘What marketing initiative should I be doing to succeed online?’” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions.

“This question is always asked with full sincerity and with full expectations that I have a simple and easy-to-implement answer: a ‘silver bullet’ solution to Web success. My answer, though not the instant response most are chasing, is always the same: You simply can’t capture lightning in a bottle, but you can produce the right combination of factors to create a climate for lightning.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about what you can and should do to create a climate of online success in your business.

What is the best Web tool or tactic to use?

Options abound in the Web design and development sphere, including Joomla, PHP, WordPress, Dot-net, Silverlight, Flash, Javascript, etc., and each has avid proponents. The same is true for online marketing channels: e-mail campaigns, blogging, video content, Facebook, Twitter, QR codes, Foursquare or Gowalla, mobile apps, PPC, remarketing, Groupon and many more.

Each one of these is going to have some spectacular case studies of businesses who had great success using that tool or channel. If you look deeper into each case, you will also find these elements:

  • The right audience
  • The right need or functionality
  • The right message
  • The right timing
  • The right follow-through and measurement

There’s your silver bullet. It’s the back-to-basics solid marketing strategy that includes purpose, goals and success metrics combined with a well-defined and understood profile of your target customers, their demographics and psychographics. This foundation empowers you to evaluate the myriad tools, techniques and tactics available in online (and offline) marketing; then choose the most likely ones to resonate with and compel your audience to take a desired action.

With this firmly in place, you will be able to most appropriately invest in and experiment with the Web tactics that are likely to be successful for your business. The exact combination of marketing tools will change over time and they will tend to synergize for a greater success when working in concert.

It never hurts to review case studies of the channels and tools available for inspiration on approaches to online marketing. But you will rarely be able to apply the same tactic like a template to your business, or ‘uncork the bottled lightning.’ A well-reasoned strategy needs to connect how a tool, tactic or channel worked great for another business to why it will perform successfully for you.

How do I catapult to online success?

Recently in Tampa, more than 300 people came to an event titled Bing It On to hear marketing executives from Bing, Carnival Corporation, Melting Pot Restaurants and a local business, Creative Sign Designs, talk about their online marketing success.  I had the privilege of co-presenting with this great group of marketers as well as lead them in a panel discussion answering questions from the audience looking for the answer to that ‘silver bullet’ or ‘captured lightning’ question.

We spoke about each other’s attempts to use search, Web and social media marketing to help our companies grow: what worked, what did not, what we were still trying because we knew it would work and what we were going to keep trying, even though we were unsure of success.

Here is what we concluded:

  • Defined and measured goals help. Without them, failure is almost guaranteed.
  • Any channel of online marketing that your target audience does not use, or does not use at a time they want to connect to your brand, will fail.
  • You must have a well-defined brand and know what the right messaging for that brand is.
  • You must have a great website with great design, efficient navigation, fast loading, frequently updated content and good calls to action.
  • Search engine marketing still generates a great return on investment.
  • A content strategy with multiple people in the organization is needed.
  • A content distribution and syndication plan is required, and frequency is critical.
  • Metric tracking is absolutely essential.
  • Experimentation is good. Try; not everything will work, but lessons will be learned.
  • Return on investment is the ultimate metric. When there is a great ROI, there are great celebrations. But not every value can be measured and that is OK.

Though the seasoned marketing experts from this group are achieving their Web successes in different ways, everyone gave a nod of agreement that you can’t capture lightning in a bottle and that there is no silver bullet to online marketing success.

So the surest, and ultimately the quickest, path to online success is still the one where you take the time to study your market, define your goals and develop strategies that incorporate the right tactics, tools and channels for your customer audience. This experience will likely be unique for each business, and is the best method to achieving success in Web marketing.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

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