Lots of businesses see the opportunities offered by online marketing as like a huge box of chocolates – lots of tasty goodies so they can’t wait to try them all! Unlike chocolates, the opportunities don’t disappear, they’re always there to be used – like a magic self-replenishing box of chocolates!! The problem is usually that the new marketer tends to stuff themselves with any ‘chocolate’ that comes to hand and end up feeling not very well.

When most of the online tools are free it’s easy to gorge on whatever the latest flavour is, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Google+, blogging, creating newsletters, ethical bribes, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, email campaigns, ebooks, webinars, podcasts – the list goes on and on and on. It can be overwhelming and it’s no wonder that some users overindulge, find they’ve spent hours a week and don’t have much return for their efforts.

So, given that online marketing DOES work, done properly – what are the secrets of success?

From my experience there are three core essentials to making it all work.

Businessmen with SM

1. Have a clear description of the customer you’re looking to attract

Not just a general outline, but lots of detail. Age, industry, turnover, staff numbers, problems, preferences – everything you can find out about that perfect customer. The common mistake people make is ignoring this or doing a generic description. If you don’t invest the time in this your marketing activity is likely to be random – and will rarely work. If you make the effort and get this right, it will make your marketing simple and bring in exactly the kind of clients you want.

2.  Research where your ideal client hangs out

Lots of activity on social networks may make you visible, but not necessarily to the people you want to attract – especially if you’re making lots of noise on Facebook and they don’t use that platform, or if you’re Tweeting up a storm and they’re all in a LinkedIn group chatting amongst themselves.  What do they read?  Where are they active in forums?  What do they respond to – blogs, posts, private messages, free information, taster sessions?  If you know where to find your audience you’re on the fast track to being noticed by them.

3.  Put together a strategy – and stick to it!

No plan = no results.  Now you know who you want to reach and where they are, you’re halfway to making them sit up and take notice.  However, you need a plan.  What methods are going to be most effective?  What will impress your perfect customers?  How will you engage with them?  This might be starting a regular Twitter clinic, having a Google hangout on a subject they will be eager to find out about, it might be helping them out with advice in a LinkedIn group, it might be running a competition on Facebook, it could be writing brilliant blogs and sharing them in the appropriate networks, it could be offering a free webinar or tutorial.  You’ll only know what is likely to work when you’ve done numbers 1 and 2.

Decide what you’ll do, how often you’ll do it, who will be responsible and how results will be tracked and measured.

If you invest time up front in these three thing you will reap substantial rewards in the longer term.