Running an online business? Here are marketing tips

By Mikhail Penalosa

Posted at Aug 08 2015 09:12 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2015 03:06 AM

(Business Mentor's note: Mikhail Penalosa is a performance-marketing specialist with over seven years of experience. He learned the art of Internet marketing by bootstrapping various online businesses and running affiliate campaigns in different industries. Now he is an advertising consultant for startups and small businesses from the US, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines to get the most conversions from their ad campaigns.)

MANILA - There's never been a faster time for entrepreneurs to succeed in their businesses and do it in as little expense and highest return on investment (ROI) possible.

The internet has gifted everybody with the ability to reach millions of people in a fast, affordable, and traceable manner. Done right, brand awareness and high profits can be easy. Just like how a simple change in strategy allowed a Japanese aesthetics clinic in Makati to turn a 5-figure online ad budget into 6-7 figure sales.

Do a bad job or disregard it, and you might earn yourself a bad review, which will scare away everybody and lose profits or your business. People make buying decisions based on what they read online now and it’s crucial for every businesses to learn how to manage their online presence sooner rather than later.

In a rush to keep up, a lot of businesses are adapting it too quickly thinking they can throw money into it the same way they do with other mediums and end up discouraged with the results. Is internet marketing for you or is your understanding the problem?

Diving into digital without knowing the fundamentals is bad, you can lose money and be discouraged only to miss out on this wonderful opportunity. I’ve seen businesses that spent well over 7 figures online without any useful data to show for it. And that’s sad, because gathering insightful data about your customers is one of the strongest aspects of Internet marketing; it lives and breathes through it.

As technology gets more advanced, new user habits emerge with it. As a result, strategies that may have worked in the past can become ineffective. For example, five years ago, most marketers ignored having mobile-friendly websites, but now it has an effect on web rankings and some people also shop through their mobile phones. Internet marketing is a constant battle of who updates their strategies first and how you adapt to these changes.

To help you make the most out of your digital campaign, here are the common questions I ask my clients:

1. What is your objective?

Become crystal clear on what you want to achieve. Brand awareness, pushing for sales, gathering leads, and keeping your online reputation clean are some of the common objectives of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME). You have to understand that these objectives are unique and will dictate how much you need to spend and what actions you need to take to achieve your campaign goals.

Most of the businesses that I consulted here always want the same objective, it’s always about brand awareness and sales. But most business owners are still confused on how these efforts contribute to the grand scheme. They focus on the wrong things like their followers, the post shares, impressions, hits or whether a post got viral. I’m not saying these are bad, but they are merely small parts of the whole. A more systematic way to go about this is to look at the bigger picture.

How you can solve this? Understand the journey of a typical Internet user from viewer to buyer and create a plan around it.

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As you can see from the image above, the chances of you generating a profit increase the more you compel people to take action. The deeper they go into the funnel, the more they invest. They invest movement to click your ad, use brain cells to share an opinion about you, their time to get to know you more, and ultimately their money. The more people interact with your assets, the deeper you connect with them at a subconscious level. The small ripples resulting from the action in each segment of the funnel affect how many people will convert? The beauty in digital marketing is, you can track each of the action and reaction to each strategic move you make.

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2. How much are you willing to spend?

Decide whether you’re willing to invest time or money. If you want results fast, you need to have budget. To start getting traction on your ad campaign, you need a boost in traffic to your website of online assets. This can be done through a sponsored spot on an influencer’s blog, optimizing your site for search engine rankings, or buying ads online.

Blogger Features

Blogger features can actually become free if you can offer an interesting incentive to the blogger like a free product for them to review or gift cheques in exchange for a post on their social media assets. Doing this is also good for PR and the link you get from an established blogger will also help to boost your rankings on Google.

What To Expect: Generating Social Proof. The good thing about this is getting a lift in social proof for your business. There’s nothing more powerful than a recommendation from a friend let alone an influential blogger.

What to watch out for: Always inquire about average daily site visitors and their engagement rates. Always prioritize engagement rates over number of followers. Engagement is an action, and this kind of response is what you should be after. A common myth is, someone with a million followers always reaches one million users, that’s simply not the case, for even celebrities don’t always get that much engagement. An average social media account only reaches 5 percent of its total followers without paying for it.

Costs: You can take a guerilla approach and find underground social media users that have 20,000-100,000 followers and pay next to nothing or look at the top tier bloggers and expect to pay P5,000 to P100,000 for each feature.

Buying ads online

A typical spread on a popular newspaper can cost you upwards of P150,000. Magazines and newspapers command these high rates and justify it by presenting you with their circulation rates but in reality, you aren’t sure exactly how many people saw your ad and read it. When you buy ads online, you can track exactly how many people saw your ad and how many people took key actions.

What to expect: Get targeted traffic to your websites. The beauty of paid online advertising is the ability to precisely cut through the millions of Internet users and appear on a specific segment of the population. Your best options are Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. Google is best used for targeting user intent because your ads will show up on your targeted search term. Facebook, on the other hand, allows you to target by precise interest and specific age, sex, relationship status or even birthdays.

What to watch out for: The quality of your ads. More money to spend doesn’t always mean performance. It’s true you can order with either Facebook or Google to give you an exact number of users in millions but you can also use their self-serve ad platform. The self-serve ad platform rewards advertisers with cheaper costs for as long as the quality of their ads are high and relevant to the targeted users.

Costs: You get charged either cost-per-click or cost-per-impression. The average cost per click in the Philippines is around P6 or less, so if you had P150,000, you would’ve had 25,000 or more targeted clicks or about 800,000 or more impressions.

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3. What makes my business unique?

Figure out what your angle is. Think of the internet like you’re walking into a huge social gathering. Everybody is grouped together according to their common interests and you have to interact with these people and make friends.

What to do: Understand that social media is never about you, it’s what about what people want. In real life, nobody likes a person that talks about himself or herself too much. Take time to get to know your target audience and figure out what makes them tick. Once you find your demographics’ hot buttons, create a persona around it, create an online persona for your brand, one that can have an emotional connection with your customers. Engage with them your content, and do not sell outright.

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4. What talents do I need to support me on this?

Digital marketing requires human capital, and I mean smart, creative, and caring people. Good thing there are plenty of resources available on and offline to help your people get up to speed in adapting on digital or you can also hire an experienced digital marketing agency to do the heavy lifting for you.

Skills that will help your company thrive in digital

Activate somebody with great analysis and critical thinking skills. This person will be in charge of making the strategic moves and tracking the performance of the campaign. When you’re creating ads or posts on social media, you’ll realize that some of it do better than others. To save on ad budgets, somebody has to make sense of the analytics report that you pull from your account so you can replicate these wins and improve the performance of posts or ads. This is where a professional Web Analytics person, a search engine marketer, or digital marketing specialist will thrive.

Utilize a person with a great eye for design and is awesome with words. About 80 percent of engagement begins with a captivating visual. An average user can get served more than 1,000 different stories on his news feed; it’s imperative that your graphics can capture attention within five seconds of seeing it. Don’t forget to add a dash of creative copywriting on that visual, it will serve as the bridge from getting their attention to creating a desire for your product and compelling them to take action. It’s important that you have a graphic designer and a talented writer on your team.

Dedicate a staff member for customer service. Hundreds and thousands of sales can be closed simply by actively answering your customer queries on social media. Yet most businesses are so focused on posting frequency that they forget to interact with queries when this is a lot more valuable than a like or a view. To standardize your customer interaction, come up with an FAQ list for your social media manager to make his work more efficient. Be nice to people, give them what they want and you will achieve your goals.