A simple method for understanding the key ingredients in your business’s online marketing


Just like a fire triangle (where missing one element makes the fire go out), the Online Marketing Fire Triangle has three elements that all need attention to keep a successful online business going.

In this guide, you will find out how the balance of Product, Audience and Reporting are in your marketing efforts in order to keep your ‘fire burning’.

Featuring:

  • In-depth questions section to prompt your Online Marketing planning
  • Detailed sections on Product, Audience and Reporting
  • Tips and Bonus links for each area of the ‘fire triangle’
  • Plus helpful advice to get your online marketing working harder for you

Introduction:

For most businesses, online marketing is part and parcel of their weekly promotional activity. With all the competition for business currently moving online, it’s important to have a well-executed marketing strategy to help bring in leads and sales for your business.

The tools and techniques for marketing your business have never been so varied, cheap (mostly free) and quick to use. At the same time, the sheer number of things you can or should be doing on-line can get very confusing for any sized marketing team. 

If you’re the business owner and do everything yourself, or you’re part of a small or growing marketing team within the business, this guide is here to help you understand some simple ways to organise, structure and action your online marketing.

Let’s start by looking at the what online marketing really boils down to. Online marketing mainly falls into 2 areas of activity.

PAID ACTIVITY (things you pay for to get results)

  • Pay per click – Google and Bing plus their network partners
  • Public relations (PR)
  • Affiliate marketing – where you split the profit but someone else does the work of 
  • selling your products for you

ORGANIC ACTIVITY (Things you don’t directly pay for, but cost in time and energy)

  • Producing articles and information about the business topic
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) to get the web pages seen by relevant audiences in the search results.
  • Content Marketing (SEM) to get the web pages seen towards the top of the search results.
  • Social media conversations and community building.
  • Brand and reputation building through reviews and testimonials.

You may be doing a combination of both these types of activity. Many other business are a mix of the two. Some focus more on one than the other, depending on budget and scale of the team they have in place. 

Online marketing is pretty simple in its approach. You generate leads and sales online, without needing to have a shop location in order to carry out your business transactions. 

In many ways though, there are a lot of small pieces to the on-line marketing puzzle many of which you need to have in place before you start carrying out your business online. These can be problematic to have in place, but I’ve seen many businesses successfully generate profits online without all these elements in place. You just need to have the main parts of your process in place, then build up to the others once you’re making a profit. 

The next section is a set of questions for you to use to gauge where you are with your current marketing set-up. 

We’ll be covering some of these in more detail after the list section, but it’s useful to see what your business is currently working with. 

You don’t need to give specific answers at the moment, just note which ones you have in place – and which ones you don’t have in place. Going through this list will help give you more understanding of the complete picture some business will use across their online marketing.

ONLINE MARKETING QUESTIONS

About your company:

  1. Do you have a business website address?
  2. Does your business have more than one website?
  3. Does each website have its own blog?

About your online business:

  1. What field is your business in?
  2. Are you targeting business to business (B2B) or business to customers (B2C)?
  3. What types of products do you offer, create or sell?
  4. What services do you offer your customers?
  5. Who are your online competitors?
  6. What makes your business different from the competition?
  7. Do you offer any customer service around your products?
  8. Do you have specific call times for office hours or through weekends?
  9. What does your trading week look like? Is there a trend for certain days of the weeks in the month?

Web Hosting:

  1. Is your website using WordPress or other type of custom site build?
  2. Does it have any content management system (CMS) or is it created by an external designer or company?
  3. Who has access to make updates – is it you or your designers?
  4. Can you store files and videos on your website server or do you have to do this through other platforms (like youtube or Slideshare)?

Social media account links:

  1. Are you using Facebook?
  2. Are you using Twitter?
  3. Are you using Pinterest?
  4. Are you using others social media platforms?

Multi-media account links:

  1. Are you using YouTube?
  2. Are you using Vimeo?
  3. Are you using Wistia?
  4. Are you using Slideshare?
  5. Are you using Prezzi?
  6. Are you using any others…?

Emails:

  1. Do you actively try to collect emails on your website or blog pages?
  2. Where are these email subscribers stored – through a service like MailChimp, or on your own server?
  3. Are you currently sending any emails out to customers?
  4. Are you sending through an email service provider like MailChimp or constant contact?
  5. Are you sending out emails to customers through your own business email (Gmail, outlook, yahoo, etc)?
  6. Are you wanting to collect emails through a form box or other method online?

Tracking and reporting:

  1. How is your customer information stored – spreadsheets, customer relationship management tool (CRM) etc?
  2. Are you currently using any analytics software?
  3. Are you using Google Analytics?
  4. Are you using other analytics software?
  5. Do you have measurable goals set up for your web visitors?
  6. Do you have event tracking set up on your website?
  7. Can you report on where people are coming from when they visit your web pages?

Advertising:

  1. Are you using paid advertising to get people to visit your website?
  2. Are you creating content for your website that gets people to visit the pages through the search engines?
  3. Is your content showing up on page 1 of the search engine results for your business topic?

About the internal business team:

  1. How many team members are in the marketing team?
  2. What is their experience level like?
  3. What is their knowledge like on technology and marketing practice?
  4. Do you plan campaigns for each sales promotion?
  5. Do you plan campaigns for each product?
  6. Do you work with third party agencies for any marketing activity?
  7. What’s the sales point in the process – online or offline through another team?
  8. Is your sales team part of the business – i.e. Hillary’s Blinds created the products, but they use self-employed sales team members.

Now you’ve gone through the list, you should have an idea of what you’re currently working with and which parts might not be in place. 

There’s also a simpler way to understand how digital marketing can be approached for your business. 

For this, I like to use the analogy of the ‘Fire Triangle’.

For a fire to happen, you need three key ingredients. These three ingredients are Oxygen, Fuel, and Heat. Take one ingredient away and the fire goes out. 

The same approach be used for online marketing. For this, the three main ingredients you need are a Product, an Audience that wants to consume your product, and Reporting to measure ways to make your Product and Audience perform better together. Take any one of these three things away, and your ability to effectively market online stops.

1) Your product can be a service, cloud app, software, design, physical or digital product. But without an audience to see what you’re offering, then you’re not likely to make many sales. 

2) Your audience could be few to many and all eager to buy, but without any finished product you’re not likely to make any sales.

3) You might have a product and an audience, but unless you’re tracking how these two sections are working, then you’re not likely to be able to improve or understand if your online marketing is working. 

This can seem overly simple. But in essence, it’s the best way to look at what your business is doing and identify what it needs to focus on in order to increase online sales and profits. 

There are lots of free tools and cheap resources that can help you get these three key ingredients in place. It takes a little time, and some attention, but once they are set up – and being measured, you can focus on making things better across each of the 

‘fire triangle’ sections whenever you get the chance. 

Let’s look at our earlier list of the many things that you need to have in place for successful digital marketing. Now we have the three aspects of the Fire Triangle, we can organise these lists of activity into easier sections to work with. 


PRODUCT:

Having your product or service ready to sell can be a complex process. For many businesses, they are planning on selling more than just one product or service. Offering additional products can seem a lot more complex than having just one. But all products need to have a defined purpose for their potential audience. 

Whether it’s a product (or service) that solves a problem, entertains, educates, informs or distracts – there’s still a target audience that you’ll need to sell to. These different audiences will be where your customers are.

Many people help their product sell by creating supporting information about their products. We like to call this content. But it’s the same as the term marketing collateral, or marketing assets. 

Content that helps your product sell can be copy written words, images, video or audio. Primarily these will be used to promote and help sell your product. Content can also be used to build trust and authority for your business. Good content can help persuade people to buy from you instead of from your competition. 

Content itself can also be a product. It’s especially useful in education materials and for digital downloads (like this one) across industries like education, music and entertainment. 

iTunes is a huge growth business model for Apple who positions their products on the back of their music service. Indeed, it could be said that without iTunes, the iPod would not have sold in quite as many numbers. 

Even if you’re not as big as Apple, your business may need to combine content and products together as part of your overall online marketing strategy. Your business brand will form part of this online marketing and product content too. 

Why Product matters: 

I’m sure you’re quite aware that having the right product is key to any business. Customer demand, product quality, speed of delivery, customer service levels and product pricing – are all aspects that can be used to outcompete competitors in the business world. 

With the developments in technology for online marketing, each of these factors can be magnified through areas such as social media, customer review sites, product review articles and many other sources of information, many of which can be outside of your control. Sometimes this is good for your business, other times this can damage your business.

If you concentrate on delivering content that helps get a good product out to the right audience, then sales can be substantially increased through your online marketing efforts.

Word of mouth is still a big driver of product sales. Trust and service level are another. 

Let’s look more at your current business Product by asking a few key questions:

  • Are you stating how you’re unique to other businesses offering the same product 
  • or service?
  • Have you done any competitor reviews to find out if there’s an element you can 
  • beat them on?
  • Do you gather positive reviews from your customers that will help promote your 
  • product further than just the people who bought from you already?
  • How is your product developed?
  • Is your delivery and service the best it can be?
  • What does your product actually bring to the customers who buy it?

These are all important questions to answer, but having a lack of product is not always a problem in getting people interested in what you are doing. 

Content can also be used to create interest in your business, service or upcoming products. Many online start-ups are using pre-sales of products to validate their business before they create the product. 

If demand is good, they’ll create the product – rather than investing time and money to create a product only to find that there isn’t an audience for them. 

Site’s like https://www.kickstarter.com and http://theleanstartup.com show how many businesses are raising capital to build their products using only content to pre-sell the idea.

If you’ve got your product in place and have worked hard to set up the right content to support the sale to your targeted customers, then this puts you in a good place to build your business through online marketing. 

If you’re in the process of getting your product together you might want to consider using content and landing pages to pre-sell your product and test how the market is for your product before you make it.

How Product impacts your Reporting and Audience sections:

It might seem obvious, but product plays a huge part in both these sections. Though we’ve also noted that you don’t always need to have a finished product to generate an audience you can use analytics on. 

For many businesses, using product content and information about what they are producing will help them generate more audience engagement in advance of product launches. 

This content is a product in itself. It’s what you can use to form your customer journey to help move interested visitors across your web pages and into your sales pages. 

It might not be directly involved in the sale, but content like this can be measured and reported on to show where people are getting lost in their journey to purchasing. 

If you are selling a product direct from your website, then you’ll likely use a form of some kind. Using analytics on your form abandonment will help show how much you need to ask of your users before they will stop filling out the forms. 

Do you really need to ask for postal addresses on an PDF download? Maybe just an email and name will get you more signups for your product newsletter. 

Use reporting and audience data to show which products are best for your audience. Maybe you can even see where the gap in the market is for additional products that would solve more of your customer’s problems. 

Look also about how your product is returned, or feedback from reviews and users. Is there a flaw in how it’s made, does it break too easily? Will this likely result in a drop of future sales through poor product quality?

How Product impacts your Reporting and Audience sections:

It might seem obvious, but product plays a huge part in both these sections. Though we’ve also noted that you don’t always need to have a finished product to generate an audience you can use analytics on. 

For many businesses, using product content and information about what they are producing will help them generate more audience engagement in advance of product launches. 

This content is a product in itself. It’s what you can use to form your customer journey to help move interested visitors across your web pages and into your sales pages. 

It might not be directly involved in the sale, but content like this can be measured and reported on to show where people are getting lost in their journey to purchasing. 

If you are selling a product direct from your website, then you’ll likely use a form of some kind. Using analytics on your form abandonment will help show how much you need to ask of your users before they will stop filling out the forms. 

Do you really need to ask for postal addresses on an PDF download? Maybe just an email and name will get you more signups for your product newsletter. 

Use reporting and audience data to show which products are best for your audience. Maybe you can even see where the gap in the market is for additional products that would solve more of your customer’s problems. 

Look also about how your product is returned, or feedback from reviews and users. Is there a flaw in how it’s made, does it break too easily? Will this likely result in a drop of future sales through poor product quality?

A good product, delivery and service can help build word of mouth promotion to your business. You’ll see this in the analytics reporting as ‘direct’ traffic or users. This means people are searching directly for your website, product or brand. 

Any indication of this going up, will benefit your business as you are not competing in search and pay-per-click results. Your customers are actively seeking your products over other people’s products. 

Understanding what’s causing any increase in sales like this, is a great indicator of what you should spend more time and budget doing more of!

Free tools to use for your Product:

https://fizzle.co/sparkline/unique-selling-proposition This blog post is a great way to help you find your USP (unique selling point/proposition).

https://www.canva.com allows you create awesome web graphics for a wide range of uses. It’s free and simple to use. A must have for any online marketing toolkit.

https://www.launchrock.com allows you to set up a landing page which can capture people’s email details if they are interested in your product. It’s a simple and effective way to get your product tested for response by your potential customers. 

Bonus tips for improving your Product:

Ask customers directly for feedback on your product. Use customer survey’s in your emails out to customers. Send products out for review or testing to people who can influence many other buyers. 

If there’s a problem and negative feedback is given, listen to what that feedback is telling you. Sometimes the way you respond to negative comments can influence how other people use your products. 

Social media comments might yield better reasons as to why people are buying or avoiding your product over your competitor’s products. Just remember not to get involved in auguments or conflicts through social media. 

You’d hate to have your negative comments go viral! 

But some bigger companies still fall into this trap.


Audience:

Getting the right audience is a real skill with online marketing. It’s easy to think that by creating a web page or product and putting it online – you’ll be flooded with visitors and website traffic. 

Unfortunately, due to the amount of businesses who are online, it’s getting harder and harder to generate an audience for your business. It’s not an impossible task, but it can take weeks, months or even years to grow your audience numbers up to the scale you want to reach. 

Don’t be disheartened though, there are lots of things you can do to help your content get seen. You just need to work methodically on the actions to get content and product information in front of your audience. 

Why your Audience matters:

I don’t think you need me to tell you how important having an audience is. You can have the best product in the world, but if no-one sees your website how will they ever hope to buy from you?

Worse still, sometimes getting your web pages found for the right search terms can be a challenge. 

Getting an Audience can be approached in two ways. 

1) Pay for advertising to promote your product direct to your audience (often referred to as Pay-Per-Click advertising or PPC). 

2) Invest time and energy to create engaging and shareable content that is shown high up the search results for your target audience (often referred to as Organic traffic – meaning it takes time to nurture and grow). 

How Audience impacts your Product and Reporting sections:

Getting the right content in front of the right audience will help your sales grow. But you need to make sure you’re talking to the right audience.

Many businesses approach online marketing in a catch all manner. Meaning they look to get as many people to see their web pages as possible, instead of trying to get the right people to see the right pages. 

Traditional marketing went for a shotgun approach to getting sales. The bigger the blast, the more chance you have of hitting something! The focus was just on hitting anything. 

Online marketing should be approached differently. It’s about using the tools at your disposal to help you find your desired audience. Targeting your content at your ideal customer is going to give more rewards than targeting anyone, anywhere. 

For most UK businesses, the best audience is usually local to their business premises. Many physical product based businesses won’t export outside the UK, so your Audience should be targeted by geography at least. Your reporting will help show where in the country (or even world) your audience is based. 

If you get too many visitors and no sales – chances are you’re getting visitors from outside your country who will likely find that your web pages will not be relevant to what they want. 

The danger with targeting lots of random people, is that Google Search Results are measured by two aspects of your visitor’s behaviour. 

These are:

Bounce Rate – The rate of people who click to see your page, then who leave your page without interacting in any way. 

Page Engagement – This is people who land on your page then interact with content elements, like playing a video or clicking a link to another page. 

If your Bounce rate is high and your Page Engagement is low for the general search terms your visitors are using to find your content, then it indicates to the search engines that this content is not relevant. 

And so your content is delivered lower down the results page. Usually moving down page after page over time. 

The more targeted visitors you let see you content, the more your Bounce rate will increase, and your engagement will decrease. 

Your best target audience is one that is engaged with your web page content, or product page information. 

A good rule of thumb for your approach to online marketing should always be ‘Quality over Quantity’.

Free tools to use for your Audience:

www.google.com/trends/ will show if your product topic is on the increase or decrease over time. It will also show the buzzwords around the topic if you check this too. 

Social media tools are good ways to engage with your potential audience and help to understand how your product or service needs to be marketed to these people.

www.facebook.com

www.twitter.com

www.pinterest.com

Bonus tips for Audience building:

Work on getting your content up to your site in regular stages. Google will reward websites and blogs that are refreshed on a regular basis. Many businesses create their website and never really add fresh content or update the existing product information. This means that all the hard work and effort is wasted over time. 

Plus, new content gives you a good reason to remind your audience that you’re producing information on their behalf. It helps continue the customer conversation and build trust around your brand and business. 

Get involved in social media channels. If your business is new to social media, I’d suggest you pick one, and work with that for a while so you can see what kind of commitment you need to make to keep up conversations and engagement with your audience.

Add another social media platform once you’ve got the hang of the first one. If you try to do too much all at once, then you’re likely to drop off using any of the tools.


Reporting:

Reporting and analytics is a very overlooked aspect of online marketing. Though many tools give you easy to digest numbers about your email opens, clicks and sales – having more data to dig a little deeper into will give you a clear indication of where to spend your time and resources for your business. 

It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but many people make it more complex than it needs to be. 

It all revolves around understanding what numbers in your reporting will be your ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs). These are reporting numbers that help you understand how your online marketing is actually doing. 

Why Reporting matters:

If you talk with any athlete, they will often refer to trying to beat their PB – or personal best. It’s the target they reached that was the best performance they managed so far.

Their development and training is geared around improving on this and trying to better themselves each time they take to the track or stadium. 

Marketing might not be physically demanding, but the notion of your personal best is equally as relevant. 

Reporting is a regular activity. Weekly should be the minimum for most businesses, daily if you can manage within your team resource.

If possible, I like to set up my reporting so that they are emailed to me for the start of my business week. 

This is when I use my time to review what actions I’m going to take in the coming week, based on what’s happened over the last week’s sales. 

Most reporting software allows you to generate an email report whenever you need it. 

I also pull data into Excel sheets to allow me to create my own reports. These are then used to measure changes to my KPIs such as:

  • Amount of visitors for that week – against previous week’s visitors
  • What the split of Desktop, Mobile and Tablet is – against the previous week’s visitors
  • How many of my goals were achieved in the reporting – against the previous 
  • week’s goals
  • How many sales I made – against the previous week’s sales

There’s more you can report on, but for many people, these few KPIs will help them understand if this week was better than the one before. If not, then it’s time to look deeper into reporting to find out what caused the increase or decrease – and then decide if you need to spend time and resources in order to improve on any aspect of the marketing that requires attention.

It’s important to set aside a little time so you can list down what you think are important KPI’s in your business. Remember to give these KPI’s some extra context so that they can show any change – like the ones above when I look against the previous week’s performance.  

If you don’t know what you’re trying to measure in your business, you won’t know if you’re achieving the best results.

How Reporting impacts your Audience and Product sections:

You might be getting some online sales with the other two sections in place, but unless you’re linking these with Reporting, it’s unlikely you’ll know how well each is doing, or how to improve them further and make more profit. 

Many people can spend much of their budget trying to grow an Audience and forget to measure how that audience works. Many spend time and resources building a product only to find that it’s not a massive hit with their audience. 

Done correctly, reporting can let you know information about your audience that helps you create your product to fit them, rather than trying to force your audience to buy a product they don’t want or need.

Even if you use a product first approach to your business, reporting can let you know what search terms people are using to find your pages, and you can decide whether you need to change how you approach your audience in order to find the right matching audience for your product. 

Free tools to use for reporting:

The best tool for nearly all small to medium businesses has got to be Google Analytics – http://www.google.com/analytics/

You drop a section of code into your website pages (there is a wordpress plugin for this too) and once this code is in place, it will give you access to loads of amazing data for your website and the audience who visit the pages. You can also automate out reports direct to your email whenever you want. 

It’s free to use, easy to set up and requires the user to have a Gmail account (also free) – https://mail.google.com/

Luckily, there’s loads of free video tutorials on how to set up and use Google Analytics, just try searching online for help if you get stuck!

Bonus tips for Reporting:

I tend to use google docs and google spreadsheets (free with your gmail account) to pull data out of Google Analytics. You can also use excel to create more defined reports. Search online for free templates and otters resources. 

Social media tools will often have basic reporting built into their dashboard when you log in. I tend to take this info out into spreadsheets too and keep a copy of this for longer term review. 

If your KPI’s are to measure how many people are sharing your content through links, then social reporting tools often show this in a simple to access way.

You’ve got through the three sections, now it’s time to review where you are with your business’s online marketing. 

Have you got your Product in place?

Are you involved in trying to build your Audience?

Do you need to get your Reporting (and analytics) in place?

You could be thinking that you need to work on one, or all, of these areas. But don’t let this put you off. Start small, start simple. Work on one small area’s task at a time. 

Just try not to get too far in one at the expense of another. 

If you have questions just drop an email to us.