Are you finally getting around to planning out your online marketing strategy for the year? Or are you trying to re-strategize your existing online marketing plan? Before you do either you need to make sure you have answers to some very important questions.

In this article we are going to cover 6 online marketing strategy questions that you MUST answer before spending any time or money marketing your business online.

Online Marketing Strategy Questions

Why You Need an Online Marketing Strategy in the First Place

From our experience, very few businesses actually have an online marketing strategy in place. Some common reasons why usually include the following:

Common Responses

If you, or your boss, are guilty of using any of these excuses, then it’s important for us to clearly communicate how detrimental this could be to the success of your marketing efforts.

7 Reasons Why You Really Need a Strategy

  1. Lack of direction will lead to wasted time and money
  2. You will miss the best opportunities by not knowing what to focus on
  3. It’ll be easier for existing and startup competitors with solid strategies to take market share from you
  4. You won’t know your online audience clearly enough to market to them effectively
  5. Your resources won’t be able to work in concert to produce the best results
  6. Important strategies and tactics will take a back seat to other business priorities
  7. You won’t know what to optimize or when to optimize to produce the best ROI

These probably sound pretty familiar if your business has still not put together an online marketing strategy. Hopefully the impact has not been too bad and you’re able to recover and get started with a strategy now.

For those that are, we’re going to help…or at least try to help. Let’s start by getting you to answer some extremely important questions.

Know the Answers to these Online Marketing Strategy Questions

Online Marketing Strategy Pie Chart

Before you think about starting an online marketing campaign, before you try to put together a marketing plan and before you ever consider calling a company or online marketing professional to help you, you MUST know the answers to the following 6 questions.


QUESTION #1: What is Your Brand’s Story?

This question, as simple as it sounds, is one that produces the most “What do you mean?” responses. If you don’t smirk with nostalgia or feel a sense of passion in your stomach when asked this question, then there’s no way your online marketing is going to communicate your story effectively. Even worse, there’s no way your audience will understand it, connect with it or believe in it.

Zappos Story

Having a story makes your brand more human and something that people can connect with.

An example of a company that has a great story, and does an even better job of communicating it to its customers, is Zappos. The Zappos story is one that most entrepreneurs are familiar with, but more importantly, it’s one that many of Zappos’ customers have bought into.

Need help answering this?
 Sit down, think about how and when you first started and also why you do what you do. Once you have this either written down, recorded or videotaped, then dedicate at least one page of your website to your story. Share your brand’s story with your employees, prospects and customers by promoting this content instead of hiding it deep in your “About” section.


QUESTION #2: Who is Your Audience and Where Do They Spend Time Online?

Perhaps it’s more common than we think, but we are continuously amazed by the lack of knowledge that many companies have about their audience. The two very basic business questions of “Who is your audience?” and “Where do they spend time online?” get reactions and responses as if we were asking someone to explain quantum physics to us in detail.

Virgin Mobile Quote

You’ve got to know who your audience is and where they spend their time online. Throwing marketing out onto the web without knowing who it’s aimed at or where it will perform the best is equivalent to printing a bunch of flyers and posting them in some arbitrary location.

You’ll have a hard time seeing a company like Virgin Mobile just throw out random content all over the web. Instead they focus on delivering content to specific audiences where those people spend their time online.

Need help answering this?
Start by creating buyer personas that are segmented by demographics, needs and behavior. Even though these personas are just fictional representations of your ideal customers, they are typically based off real data and educated speculation that can help you really find and target the people most important to your business.


QUESTION #3: What KPIs are Most Important to Your Business?

If there was one question that gets more “I have no idea” responses this would be it. As much as we’d like to think that every business should know what online marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) to set and track we understand that working with this information can be a task in and of itself.  Even if you don’t have experience setting up or tracking your company’s KPIs there is still somewhere you can start.

KPI definition

Establishing metrics and benchmarks are not only critical elements of your online marketing strategy, but they are also essential for keeping everyone in your company on track, in sync and motivated.

For example, knowing that each 10% increase in organic search traffic produces $100,000 in more revenue helps your team to lay out a strong, consistent SEO strategy that everyone can play a role in (e.g. producing content).

Need help answering this?
 To determine which KPIs to work off of you must first know what your business goals are (e.g. Increase gross sales by 15% in Q2). Working backwards from here you can use your website analytics to determine what channels produce the most revenue and how customers got to those channels in the first place. Just remember to choose your KPIs wisely as the wrong metrics can distract you and prevent you from actually growing your business.


QUESTION #4: What is Your Content Strategy?

You can argue and resist the need for a content strategy as much you like, but the fact is that if you don’t have one in place then you can expect to get lapped by your competitors that do. Content is not just something you hire a freelance writer to whip up for you one time and then hope to get results from it. Instead, it is a foundational component of your marketing that will dictate the effectiveness of your entire marketing strategy.

Coca-Cola Content Marketing

Content tells your story, educates your audience, services your customers, builds your authority and makes your website worth visiting. A business without a content strategy is one without a voice. If your audience can’t hear you, then they sure as won’t buy from you.

For these reasons, even some of the most successful companies dedicate most of their marketing resources to their content strategies. Take Coca-Cola for example – a huge company with the resources available to do any marketing they want. Where have they focused these resources? That’s right…in content marketing.

Need help answering this?
  A solid process for developing a content strategy goes a little something like this: (1) brainstorm content ideas, (2) filter the ideas by effectiveness, reach potential and relevancy, (3) research everything surrounding that content, (4) create the content remembering that it doesn’t have to just be written articles and (5) promote the content once it’s published.


QUESTION #5: Why and How Would Someone Share Your Content or Talk About Your Company?

Making content an integral part of your online marketing strategy is a step in the right direction, but not the only one. In order for your content to really perform it must be promoted – by you and your audience. This process of creating quality content and spreading it across the web is known as content marketing and it’s something that needs to be the backbone of your online marketing strategy.

When creating content for your audience you need to really think about why someone would share it and also how easy it is for them to do so. Often times you need to do more than just have quality content. You need to promote it yourself and sometimes even incentivize others to share it as well.

One company that does this incredibly well is Nike, specifically with their #MakeItCount campaign. Nike does an amazing job of using content that motivates its consumers to participate, and thus, help to spread the campaign for them.

Need help answering this?
  You don’t need millions of dollars like Nike to pull off a successful content marketing strategy. Instead focus on creating content that is helpful to your audience, but also unique. Maybe do a video instead of an article if everyone else in your space has only done articles. To get people to share your content think about running a social media contest that challenges your audience to compete with each other while spreading your content.


QUESTION #6: What Resources Do You Have Available?

You may be thinking “All of this seems great, but we don’t have the resources to do any of this.” This common response is usually one that comes from frustration, but also from not really understanding what is actually involved in a successful online marketing strategy or knowing what resources you actually have.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to be Nike to pull off successful campaigns. Start by either educating yourself on what online marketing entails or work with an agency that can assist you while educating you along the way. Next step is to know what you have to work with.

Some of the best marketing campaigns didn’t come from huge companies with large teams and fat wallets. As a matter of fact, some of the most viral marketing campaigns have come from small businesses that used their creativity, existing resources and a little help from professionals to spread their business across the web.

Take Dollar Shave Club for example, who spent just $4500 to create one of the most successful business video campaigns in the past few years. If you aren’t familiar with this bootstrapped company video, then you owe it to yourself to watch it.

Need help answering this?
  Ideally you’d want to have the following resources on your team to create an ongoing, effective online marketing strategy; writer, designer, developer, social media / outreach person, data analyst. Since most small to medium sized businesses (and even some large businesses) don’t have all of these resources, then you need to look for help where you’re lacking. If you have a great writer, but no technical resources, then find an agency to work with. If you have a technical team, but no one to write / create content, then hire a writer or, again, work with an agency that has a reputable content team.


Knowing is Half the Battle

Knowing is Half the Battle

Yes, we did use a quote from GI Joe to headline this section….don’t pretend like you didn’t smirk.

Seriously though, just knowing the answers to the six questions above can mean the difference between wasting thousands of dollars on directionless marketing or getting a great ROI from highly targeted, creative campaigns.

Answering the questions can be difficult for a lot of businesses, especially ones without any type of experience with online marketing, but sometimes just the process of trying to answer them can be more enlightening than you would have thought.

Your business needs to be online and it needs to have a well planned online marketing strategy that is built for producing tangible results….not just vanity metrics like organic rankings. Take the time to educate yourself or build your team up with people that have experience planning and implementing successful strategies.

As always, we would love to help; whether it is just assisting with planning your strategy, implementing it or both. If you’re finally ready to get your online marketing strategy going this year, then think about the six questions above and get in touch with us to get something going.

Ready to create and implement an effective online marketing strategy?


Images courtesy of Zappos, Coca-Cola and VisualizeUs

Vinny La Barbera

I’ve been working in online marketing since 2000 and have helped thousands of companies improve their online presence and grow their business through better web / mobile design, development and online marketing. Learn more about me or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn.

  • beau

    Excellent. Very helpful.

  • saimachaudhry

    As people’s buying habits have changed and they have more information available to them, now the buyers have all the power. inbound and customer centric marketing methods are useful to get more traffic to your site and make more sales.

  • Rosser

    Yes, thank you very much for answering these questions that have been leaving many in curiosity.