We started MoreVisibility in 1999, in part as a result of a test email that we sent out offering Search Engine Optimization services to a rented list of Marketing Managers. The response we received was so overwhelming and the lead generation cost so nominal that we knew we had uncovered something very special.
Most businesses who were early adopters of online marketing can attest to the ease and low cost with which new customer relationships could be developed in the early part of the decade. It made techniques like outbound cold calling seem archaic in perspective. Furthermore, the ROI was so phenomenal that exactness was not a requirement for profitability.
It goes without saying that the growth of the internet has been incredible and life changing in a number of ways, but for the purpose of this article, the challenge of driving new business to any website has become dramatically more difficult in recent times.
Time for a Change in Philosophy
Early online marketing initiatives were often defined by a swing for the fences mentality. One or two successful campaigns could open the flood gates of qualified visitors to a website. MoreVisibility for example, was a Premium Sponsor on Google. This was the advertising program that preceded AdWords. Companies were able to buy one of the top 2 positions on Google for certain keywords on an annual basis for a flat fee, irrespective of how many clicks they received. Organizations who secured this valuable real estate enjoyed a significant competitive advantage and experienced a gigantic increase in their lead cost once the AdWords bidding model was put into place.
Those types of slam-dunk opportunities are much fewer and farther between today. Click charges (as a rule) are much steeper than they were a few years ago and the competition to attract a visitor and stimulate a conversion has increased exponentially due to the larger number of marketers who are participating in various vertical markets.
What then is the best path to utilize your website as a new business development tool?
Where we are seeing clients have success is with a more diversified strategy than ever before. This means wrapping SEO, SEM, Social Media, etc. into a framework that looks for streams (as opposed to rivers) of qualified and appropriately priced traffic. That being said, the only way to realistically identify what's working and what's not is with a well-executed analytics strategy in place. A haphazard approach is no longer practical.
Tools like Google Analytics are essential to determine which channels are producing valuable site visitors and which are not. Recognizing that a much greater number of marketing efforts / channels may be needed to drive the required lead flow, it is vital that each lead source is being tracked accurately.
The gist of this article may seem to be a lowering of expectations from any standalone marketing initiative. I think a better way to summarize the point is that internet marketing continues to evolve and as a result there are a lot more moving pieces and eyeballs being spread into a wider spectrum of channels. Take the time to understand the avenues that may make sense for your business, experiment with them and track the results very carefully. The likely outcome is a more diversified set of campaigns than most businesses have incorporated at any point in the past.