A framework allows consistent and systematic approach to solving complex problems. It also saves time as a framework is usually developed based on proven solutions and the goal is to be able to repeat the process in an efficient manner. Among many benefits of using a framework, it allows us to see through the entire process and assess the impact of decisions you make now on the later stages of framework. For example, when choosing to use a certain website platform in the Build stage, we can immediately assess how that will impact the Generate Traffic stage, or Retain Customers stage.
If we do not take this framework-based approach, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time and effort on a single stage and not having a good understanding of how making a decision in one stage will impact later stages.
There are many different variations of a digital marketing framework – they are all different slightly but ultimately go through similar cycle. Below is a framework we’ve come up with at LNI and repeatedly used on client projects.
Before you start building a website, you should have a good understanding of what the goal of your website is. At a high level, a website can be categorized as one or more of following:
- Brand awareness
- Selling products (e-commerce)
- Lead generation
Of course, some websites serve more than one purpose and can have multiple categories. Most small businesses that I know build websites primarily for brand awareness but also have some elements of lead generation such as having the Contact Us page.
Once you have a good understanding of the purpose and intention of a website you are building, you should think about how you are going to build and maintain it. Ask yourself following questions and you should be able to have a good understanding of how you are going to build and maintain your website:
- How much budget do I have for building a website? How about maintaining it on a monthly basis?
- Do I want to learn how to manage a website? Do I have time to learn?
- Will I be creating additional content later? Such as blog posts?
- How important is branding to me?
- Will I need SEO optimization? How flexible is the website platform in allowing me to make major SEO optimizations?
- Should I build it myself, hire a freelancer, or work with a creative agency?
It’s perfectly ok if you start out on a DIY platform like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace if you have a tight budget. And as website gets more traffic and your business expands, you can migrate over to more advanced platform like WordPress.
When you have a website built, the next step is to tell the world about it and get them to come to your site. I have seen many businesses who build a great website and think that they are done. They do not take the next step of coming up with plans or strategies to promote their site and get people to come to their site.
There are many different ways to get people to come to your site and it differs based on what industry you are in and what markets you serve. Are your customers local? Are they young or old? Do they spend time on Facebook? How about Pinterest or SnapChat? If you’ve been working in your industry for a while, then you are the expert and should know who your customers are and where they spend time. Based on your understanding of your market, come up with some plans and strategies that will work best for you.
However, when you have built your website, you’ve already put some content on the site – with some SEO optimization, you will start seeing some traffic coming in from Google searches. If you are a brand new company with a brand new website, this is a great way generate initial traffic.
Here are some ideas for you to consider to build that initial traffic:
- Write blog posts and share on social media including Facebook and Google+. Make sure to stay on topics relevant to your industry.
- Register your business on Google My Business and other local directories including:
- Apple Maps
- Publish press releases
- Guest blog post on other high traffic websites
Keep Visitors Engaged
Once you have some traffic coming in, it is important to keep the visitors engaged on your site. Again, how much time they spend on your site on average and the bounce rate – % of visitors who leave your site without clicking into 2nd or 3rd pages – vary depending on the industry and market you are serving. If you use Google Analytics, they give you these numbers for your industry through what’s called Benchmarking. So it is a good way to gauge how well you are keeping visitors engaged on your site.
There is a lot that goes in to keep visitors engaged:
- Site design and aesthetics
- How fast your site or page loads
- How well information is laid out (information architecture)
- Easy-to-use navigation
- Quality of content
- How well you provide links to other internal pages
- Call-to-Actions (CTAs) at the right place
- Optimized for mobile devices when browsing from smartphones
A good website with high engagement rates likely has all the above elements considered and implemented.
Generate Leads & Sales
The days of having a “Contact Us” page as the primary lead generation method are long gone. Yes, there are still some people who fill out the Contact us form but the time has changed and the digital marketers in past couple of years have mastered the art of generating leads and maximizing CTAs.
What really helped pave way for them are – I think – availability of affordable way to conduct A/B testing. A company called Optimizely has really been the leader in the A/B testing space and has published many articles on how to maximize the lead generation through CTAs.
At the same time, the millennials – the ones who have the buying power – are technically savvy and understand that they have access to all the information they need at their fingertips through Google search. What I’m saying is that if they are not intrigued or engaged on one website, they will simply move onto the next site from their Google search result pages. In order to get their attention and get their information, you have to give them something they want – something that is relevant to your industry and your business.
Once a lead is converted to sales and becomes a customer, you should not just forget about them. Depending on products and services and the market you are in, your customers may come back to you for more products and services. Take CPAs for example. Their customers are likely to come back each year if they were happy with the service and stayed engaged throughout the year.
Periodic newsletter is one way to keep the customers engaged. But do not send them the same salesy newsletters that you send out to all your leads. You should segment your database and send different newsletters to leads and customers. Once your customers understand that they are being treated different than the leads who haven’t converted to customers, they will definitely feel valued and will likely come back to you for more services.
Measure & Refine
As you move through different stages of the framework, you should be measuring and making changes as needed.
In the Build stage, pay special attention to how fast or slow your website loads. Your site should be fast and responsive. Run some speed tests using Google Page Insight and Pingdom Speed Tool and compare how your site performs compared to other sites.
In the Generate Traffic stage, look at whether traffic is increasing over time and where the traffic is coming from. Is traffic from organic search increasing over time? How about social media?
In the Keep Engaged stage, pay attention to average time on site, average time on page, and bounce rate. Are visitors leaving your site within 15 seconds of arriving? Is bounce rate higher than 80%? These are all indicators that something is going on on your website.
In the Generate Leads and Sales stage, look at conversions and conversion rates. How many people coming to your website are filling out forms and giving you their information?
In the Retain Customers stage, if you are using a mailing list to keep your customers engaged, look at the email open and click rates as well as number of unsubscribers over period of time.
Measure & Refine is a continuous process and you should always be measuring and refining throughout the cycle.