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5 steps to online marketing success in 2012

Rumor has it that 2012 is the year the world ends (and yes, I am going to use that joke all year long). But on the off-chance we might make it to 2013, you probably want to ensure you’re ready for success this year. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple list of things you could do to ensure you’re ready for your best year ever? Oh, wait. I happen to have one right here. What are the 5 steps to online marketing success in 2012?

  1. Get your team in order
  2. Help your team understand your objectives
  3. Assess risks
  4. Focus on your core initiatives
  5. Explore opportunities

Let’s look at each one in detail.

Get your team in order

Clearly, I’m a big fan of the plan. The right marketing plan often spells the difference between success and failure online. But, forget your plan for just a second. Because if you don’t have the right team in place, with the right knowledge, skills and attitude, your plan isn’t going to get you very far.

Start this year by reviewing your team’s capabilities. Do they have the appropriate knowledge and skills to accomplish your goals? Do they have the tools they need? And do they share your goals? Getting your team ready to roll sets the stage for success in ways that even the best plan cannot.

Help your team understand your objectives

Of course, getting your team in order requires your team to share your objectives completely. It’s not enough to simply tell the team or to just “get them on board.” They’ve got to want the same outcomes you do, as much as you do. Explain in detail why your objectives matter both to the organization and to the individual.

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One of my mentors once told me the best training you can offer any employee is to explain the company’s core values and to demonstrate how each individual’s role helps the company live those values. Employees who truly share those values (think Zappos and “customer service” or Apple and “insanely great products”), will then seeks new ways to help move you towards your objectives. Yes, times are tough. But most people seek meaning as much as a paycheck from their work. Make your objectives meaningful to your team and watch what they can do.

Assess risks

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a time machine? That way you could fast forward to next December 31st to see what obstacles came up along the way and plan ahead for them. Well, actually, you can.

First, take a blank sheet of paper (or Word document or whiteboard or whatever). Then get your team to articulate exactly what “success” looks like for your business, your marketing plan, your various campaigns. Is it a specific revenue number? So many visits? X% increase in conversion? Write it down. Own it. Get a real feel for what you mean when you say “success.”

Got your list of items?

Good.

Now, imagine that you are looking back on 2012, instead of forward to it. Picture that it is December 31st. What got in your way along the road to success? What prevented you from meeting your numbers? Be specific. Was it a lack of knowledge among your team? Missed dates for project deliverables? Targeting the wrong customers? Don’t hold back here. Look at your past for common themes (or even uncommon ones) that prevented you from reaching your goals. And don’t assume “well, that will never happen again.” Make your fears real. Put ’em on paper.

Now, take a good look at the list. For each item, determine:

  1. How likely it is to happen, and
  2. How much it hurts you if it happens.

I usually just rate these on a “High, Medium, Low” scale. For anything that rates “High/High” (i.e., very likely and very painful), “High/Medium” or “Medium/High,” take some time now with your team to figure out both how to prevent it and how you’ll handle it if it occurs anyway.

Prevention is the best medicine here. The easiest way to ensure you’ve got a successful 2012 is to plan ahead for that success. Don’t let risks sneak up on you. Make any surprises happy ones to make for a great year.

Focus on core initiatives

Once you’ve lined up your team, enlisted their participation in the company’s objectives and assessed the risks to your success, it’s time to get down to business.

But where do you begin?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. One of the things that established Apple as such a successful company over the last dozen years is the company’s relentless focus. They didn’t do all the things they could do. They only did the ones they believed mattered. Even Google, which was all over the place has said they’re going to put “more wood behind fewer arrows” this year.

Where does the bulk of your business—or alternately, your growth—come from? Paid search? SEO? Email? Affiliate marketing? Find out where, and start there.

That’s where you focus.

Then take a look at your core initiatives in those areas that will move the needle and increase your company’s revenue this year. Put your focus first on those core areas and core initiatives to drive your business forward.

Yes, social and mobile are going to be huge. I would never tell someone to ignore them. Just be sure you’re taking care of your most important areas first (who knows, they may turn out to be your biggest areas of focus).

Oh, and one quick word about growth. When you look at your fastest growing marketing areas, make sure you’re measuring it in dollars as well as percentage. 1,500% growth year-on-year sounds great. But if you only did $100 in business in year 1, that growth only represents $1,600 in actual revenue. Remember, you deposit cash, not percentages, in your bank account.

Test opportunities

Finally, after you’ve got your house in order by doing the first four items on this list, look for opportunities to test new ideas. Yes, your focus should be on the big items first. But don’t use that as an excuse to avoid trying the new. Everything we take for granted today—email marketing, loyalty marketing, paid search, SEO—was once “smoke and mirrors” marketing.

But…whatever you try, follow Mike’s advice and do it wrong quickly. Testing new ideas isn’t the place to overthink an idea. Look for quick wins. If they turn out to be quick failures instead, they haven’t cost you much in the way of time or money to learn.

Use these opportunities to dive into mobile, experiment with new social networks or explore games. Learn, test, explore.

I’ve used this “core and explore” method for years, focusing on the items with the greatest revenue and testing those with the greatest opportunity. When tests failed, I could depend on the results from the “core” to carry us through. But, frequently, these explorations offered the greatest results and led us in new and exciting directions. More than once, an “explore” opportunity moved into the following year’s “core.” And we’d never have known without having both the willingness to try something new and support of the existing foundation.

Conclusion

Some folks say that it’s better to be lucky than good. But don’t forget that luck favors the prepared. I’m a strong believer that you can’t just count on luck to succeed this year—or in any other. Assuming the world doesn’t end in 2012, this list will help you ensure success for many years to come. And, if I’m wrong about the Apocalypse, at least you’ll go out on top.

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Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs. Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association. Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies. Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar ArthurAnswers

    Great steps! I think one of the important things to remember moving forward is that social media is quickly becoming just another channel for marketing and that the same fundamental rules for marketing and communications generally apply as well. Content is still king. It’s what generates a brand’s influence and reach and should still be one of the the main focuses.

    Just my two cents.

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  3. […] you from those other folks is your focus on driving meaningful results for your business. And, as I mentioned last month, part of driving meaningful results involves establishing clear, measurable objectives for your […]

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