How to Create a Successful Online Marketing Plan Using a Lean Business Model
The Business Model Canvas is a template, in the form of a visual chart, which can be used to document a business’s strategic management plan. It is a useful tool in illustrating a firm’s activities, versus potential trade-offs. The chart is visually compelling, while simply describing a firms value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. Since its originally release, the Business Model Canvas has been prepared for specific niches, such as the Lean Canvas, designed for entrepreneurs. The Business Model Canvas has applications across the spectrum of business owners. The following is a discussion of an online marketing plan using the Canvas method.
As you can see, an online business plan using the Canvas model, can be implemented in a very straightforward way. This model is designed to be hands-on, a true canvas, to be used by multiple people, with post-it notes, or board markers around a large table. Such a conception can foster understanding, discussion, analysis, and creativity amongst a large group of people, perhaps around a boardroom table. Let’s take a deeper look:
Section 1: Budget and Resources
Here, we begin at the beginning. What do you have available to you? Do you already have a webpage set up, and just need some tweaks? Are you using your existing resources to their fullest potential? What is the budget for the project, and how are you going to allocate those funds? What about cheap, or free resources? For very budget conscious entrepreneurs, think of making full use of LinkedIn. Capitalize on niche blogs. Make a video for YouTube. Get the best writers you can find, and be sure you have fresh content. These are starting points for pumping up your online presence.
Section 2: Marketing Personas
Now, its time to really think about who your customer is. Any effective business model must identify, and deeply consider, which customers it is trying to serve. This doesn’t mean you should aim for only one type of customer. In fact, you should identify at least three different personas, defined by unique traits, different levels of experience with your product, and different individual characteristics. Consider your customers’ age, their specific needs, and their gender or income level. Be sure you take into consideration whether they are novices to your industry, or experienced with products like yours. How much will you need to educate them about the services you deliver?
In addition to the particulars of your individual customer, consider the relationships you hope to build. Is your niche built around delivering personal, hands on, service directly to your customer through relationship building? Or, conversely, do you offer primarily self-service, or automated service, with very little direct customer contact? When marketing your services, and building relationships with your clients, you will want to strongly consider the kind of service you intend to deliver, and how best to position yourself in the eyes of your prospective customers.
Section 3: Technical Audit
Once you have a webpage up and running, you will need to conduct a technical audit. The last thing you want after working hard, and devoting time to your site design, is for technical issues to cause problems when search engines attempt to index your site. Your diligent SEO work will be for naught, if you are not achieving high ranking. This will cost you traffic to your site, and most likely cost you business. So, lets dig in.
First, you will want to review the architecture of your site. How is the flow of information on your site? Site navigation should be easy, and intuitive for your user. If it works well for your user, it will most likely work well for search engines. Labeling, and using targeted keywords is essential. If you neglect to label links, or improperly label categories on your site, your site will not function well. Be sure the directory structure of your site is sound. It is recommended not to have a site hierarchy more then three folders deep. Be sure your labels are accurate, and intuitive here as well.
Duplicate content issues are a large concern on e-commerce sites. When designing, and updating, your site, remember that search engines operates under specific, and seemingly mysterious, parameters for deciding ranking. Most e-commerce sites offering products are using a description similar across all sites that offer the same product. It is essential that you check your site on CopyScape. Unique content on your site is the key to standing out amongst your competitors. You want your site to add value. You don’t want to be just another version of the same old thing.
Be sure your site is reasonably quick loading. If the customer you are eyeing can make a cup of coffee and (heaven forbid) check out another product while waiting for your site to load, it is taking too long. Keep the maximum weight of your home page down as much as possible. Your home page should be around 130k, and 180k for auxiliary pages, ideally. Remember what you are after, here. If your prospect can’t see what you have to offer, your site may as well not be out there.
Performing a technical audit may seem like a daunting task. However, large as the task seems, it is essential to get full function, and results from what can be an incredibly powerful tool. SEO crafted marketing can deliver incredible results for a relatively small cost, if it is done well. Adapting an online marking plan using the canvas model can help optimize results for your company.
Section 4: Competitors
When developing a successful marketing strategy, it is essential to identify and analyze your competitors. You can do this through online market research, Internet surveys, or even going through the sales process with one of your competitors. In addition to knowing who they are and what they offer, you must stay current on what they are doing, in order to truly offer a competitive advantage.
To identify and maintain your competitive advantage, first, consider what it is you actually offer. Next, as though you were a customer in need of those things, get on the Internet look around, try more than one search engine, and find five to ten companies that offer what you need. Look both locally, and globally. Consider asking around. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Ask family, friends, and members of your community for suggestions to get a complete list.
Once you have your list, conduct a little research. What kind of competitive advantage do these business offer? Do they have promotions? Do they provide free, or reduced cost shipping? Do they bundle services, or offer introductory rates?
Go through the sales process with a few of your competitors to get a feel for how their process works. If this is not an option, read online reviews, or find people who have used them before. Sign up to receive your competitors’ mailings, or newsletters. If you are able to mention a service you offer at a more competitive rate, it will likely aid you in the sales process.
Preform a critical self-analysis. Look at your strengths, and weaknesses next to your competitors. Be honest with yourself. Consider how your strong areas might assist in compensating for possible weaker areas. Are you a “green” company? Is your business local? How can you position yourself well, thus creating a marketing strategy?
Unique Value Proposition
A company’s value proposition is the business’s specific collection of products and services offered to meet the needs of its customers. A unique value proposition is what distinguishes your business, from other business. By providing newness, enhanced performance, a custom experience or product, particular brand/status, reduced cost, convenience, etc. your business positions itself deliver unique value proposition. This is what makes your business marketable. Keep in mind, a unique value proposition isn’t always just about your product. It is also about how you position your product. It is an essential component of your online marketing using the Canvas method.
Keep in mind two essential items about your value proposition when creating your online marketing canvas: you must be able to identify it, and you must be able to express it. Your value proposition is the reason why a customer should buy from you to begin with. The way your rank in this area determines your product’s attractiveness in the market. You can be exactly the same as your competitor in every area, but one. That one area is your unique value proposition. You must excel in one area.
Consider the following principles when expressing the value proposition of your product: Why would a customer buy from you, versus one of your competitors. What would your competitor say if asked that very same question? Refine and rewrite your value proposition until you can articulate it in on sentence, with credibility, and confidence. If you were given ten words to explain why a customer should choose your company, what would you say?
Take Advantage of Your Unfair Advantage
The term Unfair Advantage is also known as your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, in online marketing. Everyone has one, or many. Not to identify, and use yours, would be a waste of potential marketing gold. So, what kind of unfair advantages might you have?
Your little black book, your Filofax, your Rolodex, or whatever you call those people you know these days is perhaps your biggest Unfair Advantage. The connections you’ve gathered through years of experience in whatever industry are one of your greatest tools. Technology today has allowed us to compile them all in one place. Most of us have them all linked together. It is easy to send a message out to all of them at once, or group them in any number of ways. We can all benefit for our ability to connect with the right people.
We all carry around vast collections of knowledge from our pasts. Where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, has amalgamated inside all of us to make us more of a melting pot then even our diverse cultural backgrounds might have. Perhaps you worked as a waitress to put yourself through college, and then briefly as an editor for your school paper, which helped inspire the food blogger, you are today. You have vast experiences. Use them!
You know how to specialize. Recall we just discussed in value proposition how important it is to stick out, to excel, in one area. You do not need to be better then your competitors in every area, you just need to rock one area. Try specializing. If you are discovering that your customer base is too huge, and your market is too vast, narrow down your product. Specialize.
Gaining an edge in the online marketing world can often take some maneuvering, and developing, of your own specific unfair advantages. Begin considering today what one thing you can do better then your competitor, and how you might let the whole world know about it?
Section 5: Keyword Research
As we move on through our online marketing canvas, we come to keyword research. This is a practice used by SEO (Search Engine Optimization) designers and writers to craft web content around specific search engine terms. When going through keyword research, a search engine optimization professional is attempting to achieve higher search engine rankings by implementing keywords specific to their desired audience or searchers.
Keyword research is, essentially, market research. The information provided by keyword research is about the actually language your prospects are using, when thinking about topics of interest to them. What you discover during keyword research, is how to talk to your customers. It provides you a framework for shaping your website. It helps you figure out if your audience is speaking Greek, and you’ve been lobbing things at them in Latin this whole time.
Section 6: Content Optimization
As online marketing becomes more, and more, a part of our mainstream lives, content optimization becomes increasingly important. You can have the best content out there, but it won’t do you any good if no one can find it. Proper content optimization allows search engines to find your content, and by extension, your business. To take full advantage of your content, be sure to optimize your text. You will do this through use of title tags, Meta descriptions, Meta keywords, and keyword rich URLs. Image optimization is also very important. Using tags for images allows the images to be searchable as well.
Link building is also a very important component of content optimization. For search engines, links are, in essence, the streets that connect pages of the Internet to one another. Search engines then use sophisticated algorithms to determine the popularity of pages. In order to create links that will bring the most benefit to your website, it is critical to understand the various elements used by search engines when they crawl the web. The following are some factors to consider in the link building process:
- Global popularity: The more important, and/or popular, a site is, the more links from the site matter. For a site to earn authority in the search engine hierarchy, other sites must link to it. The more popular the site linking to it, the better.
- Local/Topic Specific Popularity: This idea suggests that links from sites of similar topics mean more then links from completely unrelated topics.
- Anchor Text: A site ranks better based on anchor text, or keyword phrases used. Many results rank to a site based solely on particular words.
- Trust Rank: To weed through the spam on the Internet, domain names such as universities, government websites, and non-profits are high trust domains. Search engines use a system for measuring this “trust.”
- Link Neighbors: For search engine purposes, span likely goes both ways. A website that links to spam is likely considered spam itself.
- Freshness: Links typically decay over time. It is essential to keep your content fresh.
When considering how to build links in your site, remember, it isn’t easy, it is probably not fun, and it may not be the cheapest part of your web marketing strategy, either. Link building is still the key to visibility in the online marketing world. Here are three good ideas to keep in mind for link building in 2014:
- Build links that are relevant on pages where there is a genuine interest in your site.
- Focus on links that build a network.
- Quality always trumps quantity.
Link building is an essential part of your online marketing plan using the Canvas method. Be sure to invest time, and perhaps money to do it well, and do it right.
Section 7: Paid Ads Channels
When you consider your paid ads, keep in mind your marketing personas. Consider some questions when looking at your ad campaign. Is the ad marketed to the right demographic? Does the budget make sense for you? Does your ad run at a time that makes sense for your prospective customers? Is the ad your running appropriate for the audience? Are your results different by device-type? Is the rotation of ads set the way you want it? Consider these questions when looking at any online paid advertising channel.
Section 8: Key Performance Indicators
How are you doing? It has been a long, hard road, but well worth it. You have developed, and organized your online marketing canvas through many stages and looked at your business through various different lenses. Now, you’ll want to take a look at the right KPI’s to get an understanding of how your business is performing. Some indicators you might want to take a look at are:
- Return on investment (ROI)
- Purchase Funnel
- Goal Completion Rate
- Incremental Sales
- Traffic Sources
- Keyword Performance
- End Action Rate
- Cost Per Lead
- Email Marketing Engagement Score
- Social Interactions
As an online business, you are somewhat uniquely positioned both to receive your business, and to review it. Taking a look at your KPI’s is an essential tool in evaluating what parts of your online marketing canvas might need to be tweaked, changed, or even scraped completely. Remember, it is a work in progress, and was designed to be dynamic. Now that you have created it, implement changes. Look at what is working, and enhance those areas. Then, see what isn’t working. Reconsider those areas. Good luck to you, and to the future of your online business.