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Online marketing strategy for offline services businesses

For businesses that primarily provide physical world services, online marketing is a very different animal than for primarily online businesses selling a product or subscription. The key to online success for services businesses is to view all sales and marketing as an eco-system in which online channels play an increasingly vital role.

Insight #1: It really no longer makes sense to consider “marketing” and “online marketing” as distinct. Blog, search, and social marketing are as vital to your marketing program as networking, following up with prospects, and speaking at events.

I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses are only interested in online as a way to meet new customers. They’ll put a few bucks into lead gen but shy away from taking a step back and really thinking about how they communicate. Do an off-site, think, get creative!

Insight #2: It’s relatively easy to produce leads (it just takes some budget, a willingness to test, and some patience). It’s a lot harder to get to know the human beings you’ve entered into your CRM, to understand their challenges, and then to help them from the moment they first hit your website to 20 years into your working relationship. Before worrying about getting new leads, make sure you’ve put in place the communications infrastructure to have real conversations. Remember, you’re going to have to work closely eventually with them anyway.

Services Business Online Marketing Strategy Flow

Insight #3: It takes multiple touches to transform a prospect into a customer. They see you in paid search, get retargeted with a display ad, open one of your emails, listen to a voice message, read a blog post, read an article, see you at a networking event, etc. — one-and-done leads might do a couple small-value transactions, but customer relationships need to be nurtured.

Insight #4: Be original. Get inspired by what other companies are doing, but don’t copy. If you’re a services business that’s been around a while, you’ve done something unique and special. Going online doesn’t mean you should abandon your winning formula — rather, see how you can adapt it for today’s marketplace. For example: just because your competitor’s website uses stock photography and “business” language doesn’t mean your off-beat humor should be covered up.

The best time you can spend building an online marketing program is stepping back and really looking at your business as a whole.

Insight #5: Create a vision for the eco-system in which your prospects and customers will interact with you. You’ll know you have an effective eco-system if it includes all of the following:

  1. How people get to your site (Facebook ads, Google paid search, email, PR, channel partners, etc.)
  2. What are the crucial calls to action on your website and what is the most vital information visitors need to know.
  3. How you want people to contact you (lead gen form, phone call, email, on-site chat).
  4. Lead nurture schedule (when and with what info emails are sent, where they link, when phone calls are made, etc.)
  5. How will you present information to visitors (text, photo, video, webinar, white paper, etc.)
  6. How you are tracking all of your sales and marketing activities and making sure no lead is lost.

Over my next several blog posts, I’ll touch on each of these areas in more depth, so stay tuned.