Anyone who has ever been in business, at least the non-oblivious ones, know that clout, money and friends are what will ultimately make big things happen for your business.  The same is true for online business and online marketing but they’re called something else; Search Engine Optimization, Internet Marketing and Social Media.

My goal in writing this post is to try to make a contrast of the online vs. brick and mortar world of traditional business so that people not as familiar with the internet can better understand what these three pinnacles of the online world are and how they can have a positive or negative affect on their online presence and success.

For once, I am going to try to keep my blog post concise (I can’t promise anything).  So if you have any questions or if we can help explain any of these better, please let us know.  We’re always happy to help.

Clout and Search Engine Optimization

In case you’re not familiar with the term, clout is the amount of “pull” that you have.  It’s the ability to get things done by knowing people and people knowing you.  It’s a matter of respect, knowledge and recognition and it takes awhile to build.  If you ask me or anyone who has been around business for awhile, clout is the most powerful and long lasting of these three and search engine optimization is much the same.

Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is a matter of being relevant and an authority on the topic at hand.  SEO is organic, or happens naturally if the right seeds are planted and can take awhile to grow.  Much like becoming known as the “go to guy” at city hall to get things done or for accounting issues, you want to become the “go to guy” for [insert your product or service here].  You have to build a name for yourself and it’s going to take time and commitment.  Maybe even a little bit of money to create the opportunity to be introduced to the right people by the right people.

Your goal is long term recognition.  Just like clout, it’s not always the easiest to get, but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it and it’s yours to lose or build upon…start pulling some shady stuff, make a series of vital mistakes, stop giving people what they need, or have someone else become more powerful and respected than you and you can lose it faster than you gained it.  But if you build a solid base, gradually build on it and take care of people, it’s yours forever.

Search Engine Optimization is the strongest of these three, just like clout.  You should put your investment into organic SEO for any of your mid to long term online business goals.

Money and Internet Marketing

If you’ve just opened your business, have a sale coming up or a new product getting ready to come out, you know that you’ll need to invest some money in advertising.  There are also ongoing costs for advertising and marketing for the day to day functioning of your business.  This is where an investment of your money in Internet Marketing comes in.

If you need to get the word out quick to get business through your doors in the online world, you spend some money on Internet Marketing or “Online Advertising”.  Technically aspects of SEO, which that I discussed above, are a part of Internet Marketing.  But because it generally consists of a lower percentage cost up front and has a longer term and relatively stable ROI, I separated it into its own section.  Some other forms of Internet Marketing that you may or may not be familiar with are:

  • Pay-per-click, or PPC advertising, also referred to as Search Engine Marketing, or SEM
  • Affiliate advertising or banner programs
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Link “Building” (Buying)
  • Sponsored blog posts
  • Sponsored web pages
  • Online Public Relations or Press Releases
  • And several others

The combination of Internet Marketing tools you use is dependent on your need and budget.  Some of them might not be right for your situation.  But if you have to get a quick result and have some money to spend, Internet Marketing is the route to take for immediate results and the most trackable and immediate ROI.

Internet Marketing campaigns need to be monitored, analyzed and changed on the fly.  If one campaign is performing better for you than another, someone should notice it and switch your spend accordingly or make adjustments to make the under-performer perform better.

Make sure you use the right team if you go this route.  It can be a high stakes and risky game in the wrong hands.  You wouldn’t do a high stakes stock trade with a new broker, right?

Internet Marketing is the fastest of these three, but will cost you a more substantial investment, especially at start up.  You should put your investment into Internet Marketing for any of your short term online business goals.  You can slow down or eliminate this budget over time if you’re gaining clout (SEO) and are getting a sufficient amount of leads by organic or viral means.

Friends and Social Media

With all this talk about Twitter, Facebook, et al. what is the purpose of Social Media and how can it help your online business?  This is where your “friends” come in.  In the real world, your friends are likely to help you move or recommend your business to some of their other friends.

Social Media is much the same way as friends and should be thought of in that exact manner.  They’re friends, be social!  They’re likely to send you some business on occasion, but not oodles.  If all you ever do is talk about work, they’re not likely to be your friends long.

The truth about social media is that it’s not right for everybody, but it’s cheap and a great way to be a part of the “community”.  The time needed to commit to social media is much longer than the other two and I still haven’t seen how to track Social Media’s ROI.  I don’t know about you but my time is worth as much if not more than my money.

If you have a good cause, if you’re a NPO, a “green” company or have a loyal customer base chances are that Social Media will work for you.  If you sell widgets or one particular type of service that people generally don’t think about until they need it, Social Media probably isn’t for you.

If you go the Social Media route, first consider if it’s really for you and your business.  If you do it yourself, there is zero cost involved.  Who wants friends they have to buy, right?

Social Media is the cheapest of these three, free if you do it yourself, but can cost you a substantial amount of time and very little trackable ROI.  Unless this is for your situation, and done correctly and consistently you can end up with a whole lot of time committed and nothing in return.

In Conclusion

I hope I was able to clear up a few things about the online marketing paradigm.  There are a lot of details involved in accomplishing any of these three but I hope that now you can, at least, make a semi-educated decision about which path is right for you and your business.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything covered here in more detail, please contact us or email me directly at dean [ at ]   Thanks!

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