As business owners, we’re faced with all kinds of challenges every day. When it comes to marketing, it’s fairly simple. We want a marketing plan that will generate the most number of qualified leads with the least amount of money and/or time. And “time” can me in the least amount of time, or with the least amount of expended personal time (there are only 24 hours in any day after all).

There are at least 10 ways to get found online when you do any kind of marketing, and it can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out where to put your limited dollars and time.

Boiling it down to the core four ways of getting found, most people consider marketing their business with at least one of the following:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) – Setting up your website to be found on the search engines like Google or Bing.
  • Pay Per Click (PPC) – Paid ads on the search engines to get to the top for various search terms.
  • Email – Using an email platform like Constant Contact to market to people who have signed up for your newsletter or other information.
  • Social media – Using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to have online conversations with potential customers.

Of these, is there any “best” tool or most cost effective that will generate the most business with the least amount of time or money? Unfortunately, no. It all depends on what you need.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pros of SEO

If done correctly, SEO has the huge advantage that it will continue to generate free clicks and leads for you over the long haul. Your customers are searching for you online, and Google is the most-used search engine. SEO is an absolute must-have for any long-term marketing efforts.

Cons of SEO

There is a lot of competition for search terms, and optimizing for a lot of terms is a challenge. It also takes time to get found for your target terms, and there is no quick and easy path to the top. With Google changing the rules all the time and hiding the search terms in Google Analytics, it’s hard to know what’s working right.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

Pros of PPC

Pay per click advertising has the distinct advantage that you can be found nearly instantly for a lot of competitive search terms. Google has just changed how the ads look, and there are no more ads on the right side of the search engine results page (SERP). They’re now only showing four ads along the top, and three at the bottom. That means you have fewer ads vying for searchers’ attention.

Cons of PPC

The biggest con is that it costs money, and it can cost a lot of money. As I discuss in my upcoming webinar, it’s easy to make mistakes that cost you hard cash. Furthermore, if you turn off your PPC campaign, you have nothing to show for it – it just disappears (unlike SEO that will continue to generate leads, even if you stop). With Google’s recent changes you’re probably going to face higher costs because fewer advertisers means more competition for those few spots.

Email Marketing

Pros of Email

Email, by far, is the most effective and probably most cost-effective marketing tool you have. The average return on investment (ROI) for each dollar spent on email, is about $44. Furthermore, people who have opted into your email list have given you their permission to send you their marketing materials. This of course comes with some responsibility to deliver valuable information, and not just spam them with sales hype.

Cons of Email

It’s very hard to get people to opt in. People don’t want yet-another-email-newsletter in their inbox, so you have to provide some good value for them to choose you over your competitors. Building your email list takes time, patience, and you’re going to lose 30% per year just to attrition (opt outs, email addresses going stale, etc.). So just to stay even, you have to keep adding to your list at all times.

Social Media

Pros of Social Media

Social media is typically free. Yay. It allows you to connect with people from around the world. You can engage with people, talk with them, answer questions, and so on. It seems that the more people you have who follow you on your social media forums, the more likely you’ll be able to sell to them.

One thing about using paid ads on social media, is that you can be very specific in the demographics that you want to target. Facebook knows if we’re married, how old we are, where we live, and so on. LinkedIn knows our title, where we work, what groups we’re follow, and so on.

Cons of Social Media

It’s very difficult to engage in sales and marketing on social media. Most people are not in “buy” mode, and are easily turned off by very much marketing hype. Furthermore, a post on Facebook is only going to be exposed to 1% of your fans, until someone “likes”, comments or shares the post. So if you have 1000 fans, typically only about 10 people will see the post.

The Bottom Line of Online Marketing

There is no perfect tool. Online marketing takes work, time and money. My advice is to pick one system, work it for six months, and then add another one. If you try to do all of them, you’ll dilute your efforts and do none of them well. Or hire an expert to help you with one or more of them if you don’t have the time.

Leverage one tool to create the content for another so you minimize effort. For instance, a blog post can be search engine optimized, posted on social media, and put in your email newsletter. One piece of content feeds three systems. That’s the most efficient way to do it.

But the more places you can be found online, the more likely people will engage with you and buy from you.

Do you have any additional pros or cons to the list above? Tell me in the comments below.