This post may seem a bit random if you know me only as Westcoast Gourmet Provisions, but as a business owner I currently operate three companies which use digital marketing as part of an overall business strategy. As a consultant, I specialize in results-based Digital Marketing Strategies – bridging the gap between what businesses need and what service providers are able to deliver.

I read an email today that was sent unsolicited to a client of mine, on the topic of Search Engine Optimization. It went into great detail about his website design and where the page was ranked based on several keyword searches. While I’m sure the marketing firm had good intentions, and I suspect they do a very good job of improving search engine rankings, the notion of it still bothered me.

Sending this type of note to a business owner who may or may not understand the concepts, is essentially a new-age scare tactic. It reminds me of campaigns that inform businesses that their data is easily hacked, their passwords aren’t good enough, they need better virus protection, or in days gone by – that the deadbolts on their front doors are not strong enough! Really, I had a vision of a locksmith going door to door after hours, checking locks in order to sell his services!

Again, I am sure that this particular company does a very good job of auditing websites, optimizing them for search engines, and providing detailed reports indicating page hits, views, and conversions. But scare tactics simply cause more confusion and frustration with technology, and business owners are throwing their hard earned dollars at solutions which may or may not be right for them. More importantly, they don’t always have an understanding of the value they are getting for the money spent.

All the optimization in the world is essentially a waste of time and energy if your digital presence is not part of your overall business and marketing strategy.  Only you, as a business owner, know who your target customers are, what message you want them to hear, and the actions you want them to take.  SEO stats, conversion rates, page views, blogs, followers, and page likes are all great metrics. But taking any one of them in isolation is like putting a Ferrari engine in a lawnmower and expecting it to mow your lawn faster.

There are a few simple questions to ask when marketing your business online, which are essentially the same questions that have always been asked:

  1. What is your preferred outcome?  More informed customers? More referrals?  More newsletter subscribers? More sales?
  2. Who are you trying to reach?
  3. What message would you like them to receive?
  4. What platform do they prefer? How would they best like to receive the message?
  5. What action would you like them to take?  Download a document? Phone you? Buy a product online? Sign up for your newsletter?
  6. How will you measure the ROI?

Based on this analysis, you can THEN have a discussion with a web developer, an SEO specialist, a copy writer, a graphic designer, or an online ad guru about how they might be able to help you. Otherwise you will drive yourself batty trying to improve your search rankings when you don’t have a decent website, spending money on blogs and newsletters when you don’t have many subscribers, or spending hours posting on social media to friends and family instead of getting the intended message to your customers.

For the service providers who focus on digital marketing, whether just one piece of the puzzle or an all-inclusive solution – there are many of you out there, and I am proud to work with several amazing companies. I just ask that you be very clear about how your solution will impact the overall business, and how you will show true value. Once you really understand what the business is trying to achieve overall, THEN digital marketing can become part of the solution.

Dawn Postnikoff

PV Management Services