By Kris Barton
Chief Product Officer, ReachLocal
As a small businesses owner, you have more at stake than owners of larger companies. Minor changes – in revenue, employees or product – can tip the scales toward or away from growth and overall business health. So, it’s that much more important that you understand some of the myths and truths around selecting an online marketing provider. I’ve heard just about all of them; following are the five most common myths and the realities.
1. MYTH: I’ve got to have a big budget to get any results.
REALITY: You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars annually to develop and execute an online marketing campaign that will grow your leads and sales. You can start small and add dollars as you see results.
Having said that, you DO need to understand that budgeting is a two-way street. A good online marketing provider will engage you in a dialogue to help you establish marketing goals that fit your budget. It’s important to realize that the cost of an online marketing campaign can vary based on a number of factors, including your objectives, location, type of business, and media mix.
Trying to compare your budget with that of businesses in other sectors or regions is like comparing apples to oranges. Do ask the provider to estimate the percentage increase in leads you can expect from your campaign.
2. MYTH: I should have results a week after beginning paid search.
REALITY: The most effective online marketing campaigns integrate a variety of tactics, so expect to use paid search along with organic search and other tools. Bear in mind that consumers search for businesses in a lot of places, and at many different times, so they may not come across your listings immediately. Your provider will want to review data over time, consider shifts in the competitive landscape and consumer demand, and fine-tune your keywords accordingly. Both paid and organic search take time and patience.
Disciplined and consistent effort are required to yield results overall, so a sustained campaign will be more effective than one that runs only a month or two. Running a sustained campaign will also give the provider an opportunity to review results with you and explain how small changes along the way might improve your campaign. Seasonality, and other infrequent events can influence marketing efforts and skew your results. So, ideally you should wait at least six months before making a major assessment of your campaign.
3. MYTH: It doesn’t matter if I switch vendors every few months.
REALITY: An online marketing provider needs to understand your business, its ins and outs, and a wide range of other factors that will influence your campaign. That understanding will grow over time and enhance the efficacy of your campaign. If you do choose to switch providers, do your research to find one that knows your industry and geography and vet them in the other ways discussed in Myth #5.
4. MYTH: I have no visibility into where my money is going.
REALITY: A good online marketing provider will offer a variety of real-time reports that give you complete transparency into your spending. These reports should provide you with insights into how your campaign is performing, the types of leads it’s generating and whether or not the leads convert into customers.
More sophisticated offerings will provide the source of those leads (calls, emails, forms, chats) and your cost per lead – not just clicks.
5. MYTH: There aren’t any trustworthy online marketing providers.
REALITY: Every industry has a handful of bad apples, and online marketing is no exception. To find one of the many trustworthy online marketing solution providers, ask around. Just as you would with any business transaction, check providers’ references.
Ask for actual case studies in your industry that demonstrate results similar to those that you want to achieve within your budget range. Call the case study subjects and ask them about delivered vs. promised results. Use good judgment. Every story has two sides, so ask questions of any provider you’re considering and agree on expected results during your initial discussions.
As more consumers rely on digital mediums to discover businesses, digital marketing solutions will prove increasingly important to SMBs. If you separate myth from reality, you can take advantage of the benefits those solutions provide to grow your leads and business. And that’s the truth.
About the Author
Kris Barton is Chief Product Officer at ReachLocal. He leads the strategy for the company’s lead generation and conversion technology that help SMBs grow and operate their business better. Kris holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and marketing communications from Brigham Young University. Visit www.reachlocal.com for more information.