We’ve been thinking lately about this question posed by Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends: when did online marketing become so complex?
To simplify matters, Ms. Campbell experiments with an explanation of online marketing that relies on a series of concentric circles – the high priority options are in the middle, lowest priority on the outer edges. (Forgive the easy jest, but for a moment it occurred to us that anyone already confused by this topic might just see something akin to Dante’s Inferno. And we don’t want that, now do we?)
We think that the circles make sense from the point of view of many businesses. (Website at bullseye; that’s where most of their online efforts start.) But what seems more important is the point of view of the consumer.
And from the consumer’s point of view, things aren’t especially concentric.
How does a prospective client piece together an online picture of your business? If they don’t know your web address (or maybe even if they do), they search. It may be a search of your firm’s name, an attorney’s name, or even of a subject relevant to your practice. And, the search may even be started on one of the websites listed in Anita’s outer circles.
Consider a page, or the first few pages, of search results. (For example, use the results generated by a query on your firm’s name.) For one thing, there’s nothing circular about the listings. For another, your website might be included in the early results (might not be), but we’re betting that not everyone goes to it first.
What else is included in those results? If you’ve been casting a wide net online – participating in a number of places – it’s likely that some of Ms. Campbell’s outer-circle marketing options also appear on the early pages. Depending on the search term and other factors, possibly even above your website. That makes them high priority opportunities.
Think like a consumer. It’s another way to begin to understand the online marketing options available to you. Do you have a compelling presence in all the places your prospective clients might find or in which they might go looking? If your website is your most valued online marketing asset, the center of your efforts, what do you do to make them want to visit your website when they get to these places, and do you make it easy for them to get there?
We’re grateful to Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle for including us in her post on the subject – a thoughtful take on it all, with legal marketing in mind.
Ms. Elefant uses the term "landing point" and this seems right. The nature of the web today is such that your site is actually just one of several landing points for people looking for information about you or the subjects in which you specialize. (Luckily, you have the ability to cover yourself by participating in many of them, even connecting them to each other, and to your own website.)
If what happens during the course of online discovery can be described using a series of circles, that’s fine – but the seekers determine what goes into each circle depending on where they land first and click next; they will only end up at your virtual door if there are compelling paths from each of their landing points to lead them there.