I had a conversation with a potential client today, and I had suggested several options for his business to market online:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Regular keyword-targeted blogs
  • Email marketing
  • Social media

I explained that there are least 10 different ways to get found online, and he needs to choose which system(s) is/are best for his business and his audience. After all, one size doesn’t fit all, right? Maybe his clients aren’t on Facebook, so that’s not a good solution to put any effort into.

But what’s the best online marketing tool?

I guess we should define “best” and what that means first. For any marketing tool, the ultimate goal is to generate leads from potential customers. We all want more leads, and all 10 ways of getting found online should lead people back to the core, our website. An actual lead is someone who has expressed interest in our products or services, and put their hand up to say, “Please tell me more.”

So let’s take these one at a time.

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)

SEO is absolutely essential for any website to be found on Google and the other search engines. Most business owners understand that, but it’s a process that takes time. No one can waive a magic wand and get you to the top of Google right away. It’s not hard to do, it’s just a process that you have to work on over time before you start seeing real results.

To me, SEO is also “bait” to lead people in. You put your best stuff out there, hope the Google gods shine down upon your website, and show it high when people are searching for your stuff online. So it’s really hard to measure and say how well it’s working. Furthermore, just because people visit your website, doesn’t mean that they are now a lead. Traffic to the website does nothing, it’s only when they sign up for your lead magnet that they become an actual lead.

Keyword-Targeted Blog Posts

Well, see the section above. Everything applies here too. Hopefully you’re optimizing your blog posts, but blogs carry a little farther because they get shared in social media and generate traffic from there. But again, it’s a type of “bait” to attract people to your stuff, but doesn’t convert into a lead very well either. If you look at your blog posts in Google Analytics, you’ll probably see that your blogs have the highest bounce rate of most of the rest of your pages. Why? Because people come, they read, they leave, thus they bounce without converting.

Social Media

Social media platforms have even less engagement. Put a post on your Facebook business page, and will all 1000 of your followers see it? Nope. Typically a post will be seen by 1% of your followers (or 10 people in this case). Just because it’s been seen, doesn’t mean that anyone has done anything, or even clicked on it. It just scrolled by in their feed. Maybe they paused, maybe they didn’t.

The commitment level from people who have “liked” your page is extremely low. It takes no effort to “like” something, and they haven’t done anything more to engage with you.

Email Marketing

Email is by far the most powerful and most under-utilized tool available to business owners. Hopefully you have a good system for bringing people into your website with SEO, blogs and social media, but then you have to get visitors to take the next step in a micro-commitment: give you their e-mail address. The process looks like this:

  • Attract people using the above tools
  • Engage them with good content
  • Offer a small incentive to give you their e-mail address and possibly their name (or even other information)
  • An auto-responder e-mail series that further engages them
  • A regularly scheduled newsletter that provides value on an ongoing basis

Email is cheap, easy to implement, and 91% of us open our email EVERY day (MANY times per day) on our various devices. The people who have given you explicit permission to send them information trust you to continue to provide value, and when they are ready to buy from you, they will. If you violate their trust, they’ll click to unsubscribe very quickly.

But nurturing your email list, using it to build trust with your potential customers, education them, and provide value or even deals to them, is by far the best marketing tool you’ve got.

We will have a series of articles on different ways to use email in your marketing efforts and how to set it up, so watch for those to come.

What’s your favorite online marketing tool and why? Tell me in the comments below.