How to understand online marketing strategy for your small business? The key to this question really lies in developing a firm understanding of the fundamentals of marketing. I remember a eureka moment in business school where we spent hours unpicking the Chartered Institute of Marketing's definition of marketing:
Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
– CIM definition
It dawned on me that marketing is not simply an ancillary business function, it is the business. Understanding the cogs that make the business turn, that generate revenue, attract and retain customers really is what marketing is all about. The internet simply adds more options into the mix, but the underlying principles remain the same. If you understand what makes your business tick you already have a better understanding of marketing than you may think.
My father was an entrepreneur who did not have the privilege of studying business under published professors but nevertheless had a key understanding of the business he hand built, a natural understanding of the cogs that kept the business moving forward, an eye for a deal, wheeling and dealing 'Del-Boy' style successfully for years. Where many small business owners fall down is they understand their business well enough, but fail to account for changing environmental factors and then adapt their business accordingly.
Spotting the need for change is half the battle and whilst most entrepreneurs recognize the internet is a force to be reckoned with, they fail to embrace the truly transformational opportunities that could help to secure the future of their business for years to come. But talk is cheap and too many soothsayers prophesy about "the end of consumerism as we know it" as the internet ushers in a new era in all aspects of buyer behavior.
In my experience, this new era is simply constantly changing environmental factors that need first to be understood and then utilized in the right measure for your business within your marketing mix. As an example, before the internet small service businesses would rely heavily on directory listings in printed media such as the Yellow Pages to be found locally by their customers. You need a plumber so you grab the handy 3kg yellow book and turn to P for Plumbers. These days, Google My Business has virtually replaced these doorstop directories that once adorned the telephone stand of most homes, as we all turn to our smartphones or laptops to "Google it" instead. This is where adapting to the changing environment really comes in, by optimizing your company Google My Business listing it can appear when customers in your area search for the services you offer, simple.
So the key to understanding internet marketing really lies in first understanding marketing, these vital cogs that make your business tick, then utilizing the various methods available in a mix that is right for your business. As every business is unique there is no 'one size fits all'; You must understand and utilize the right mix of ingredients for your business, whether it is all or a combination of the online marketing tools available. In fact that's not a bad analogy, think of online marketing as a series of tools you need to get a job done (achieve your business goals). Assess the job in hand and use the right tools to get the job done, that's marketing strategy, simple!