To many small business owners, digital marketing is deceptively simple. You go in thinking you need something simple, but leave feeling like you’ve emptied your savings account with no obvious effect on sales.
If you sometimes wonder if there are things your marketing firm isn’t telling you, you’re not alone. As the founder and CEO of FiveFifty, a digital marketing company, I’ll give you a look at what’s under the hood so you can make sure your digital marketing efforts are running at peak performance.
You don’t need a flashy new website
The most important aspect of any website is outcome. Modern aesthetics and design elements should always come second. If your existing website is creating successful outcomes — that is, it’s easy to navigate, effectively communicates what your business does, clearly tells customers why they should choose you and drives conversions — don’t let a web agency convince you to spend the money on a major website redesign.
Expensive advertising doesn’t always mean better
Most small businesses understand the importance of advertising but have limited budgets. The best advertising agencies will strive to get you the most value for your advertising dollar rather than push you into the most expensive or trendy channels.
Retargeting, for example, is often an under-utilized digital advertising tactic that can keep your brand top of mind and drive past site visitors back to your website. In most cases, it’s both inexpensive and highly successful at increasing sales.
More traffic is only part of the equation
Marketing agencies may try to tell you that their efforts have been successful because you’re getting more traffic to your site or your ads are getting more impressions.
Your goal as a business is not to simply get more people to your website; it’s to get more customers. If your efforts are driving quality traffic, they should have positive conversion metrics to report. Traffic that doesn’t convert is only marginally better than no traffic at all, and should never be the goal of your marketing efforts.
There’s no need to reinvent the marketing wheel
The marketing world is full of creative individuals. In many situations, that creativity is an asset, particularly when it comes to design or branding.
Other aspects of marketing may suffer under that level of creativity because wild new ways of doing things are rarely as successful as tried-and-true best practices.
Maybe you’ve seen websites with non-traditional menus that leave you frustrated because navigation and search are unnecessarily inefficient, or you’ve seen artistic but ultimately confusing display ads that are fun to watch but don’t ask for a click.
These kinds of creative pursuits can be fun, but they may not work as well — when it comes to your business, it’s better to stick to what is known to drive traffic and sales. Figure out what works best for you, and spend your money doing more of it.
All of these tips play on the same theme: keep your focus on revenue at all times. And if you have hired a digital marketing agency, it’s their job to drive traffic that converts, so all of their work should strive towards that as well. If your own marketing efforts are trained towards that prize, you’ll also be ready to guide them in the right direction.
For those without a digital marketing agency — who’d prefer to skip the hassle of working with someone else — I have a tip. Running your business really well is actually the best thing you can do for your online presence.
Companies that make lasting connections with their customers and do exceptional work get more traffic to their websites as a result. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing there is, both online and offline. Give your customers a reason to talk about you to their friends and family, and your website will naturally get more traffic.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Ryan Wilson is the founder of FiveFifty a digital marketing trade desk focusing on programmatic media buying. FiveFifty brings it’s clients a decade of media buying experience and a commitment to marketing performance across nearly every website on the Internet. Connect with @fivefifty on Twitter.
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