As a 15 year veteran of the marketing and advertising business, I firmly believe that the Internet is the most cost effective, cost efficient marketing tool, especially for today’s small and mid-sized businesses. Yet, ironically, the depth and breadth of the subject is a serious obstacle for those very companies because of their limited resources, limited time and limited funds.

You may have heard about such topics as search engine optimization, online branding and site map architecture, but without stepping back to see how and where all these pieces fit, the task of building a truly successful website becomes daunting, frustrating and ultimately futile.

Without an overall Internet strategy and clearly measurable goals, singular web initiatives like emailing, pay-per-click, flash animation, or you name it, are often wastes of time, effort and money.

This break down puts the landscape and it’s opportunities in order and hopefully gives the novice a manageable perspective that will help them know where to start and where to look when assessing their own web marketing.

1. Attract

Draw traffic and drive traffic to your site using one or a variety of cost-efficient, cost-effective methods.

  • Search engines
  • Pay-per-click
  • Paid listings
  • Directory listings
  • Strategic links
  • Banner ads
  • Offline advertising

2. Engage

Build a user-centric website that caters to the wants and desires of your core audience. Professional design, relevant content, and intuitive organization are all keys to drawing visitors in and keeping them from leaving prematurely.

  • Professional image
  • Focused brand
  • Clear, distinctive position
  • Compelling message
  • Intuitive navigation

3. Convert

You’ve gotten the prospect to your site, you’ve enticed them to get familiar with you, but it’s all for naught if you don’t get them to act. Just like a good salesperson, your site should push a call-to-action. It could be a phone call, an online request, a registration, or an ecommerce purchase, but be sure to make it clear and convenient.

  • Credibility and security
  • Content (Deep, Relevant, Organized, Consistent)
  • Function (Intuitive, Powerful, Flawless)
  • Support
  • Ecommerce

4. Multiply

Once you have satisfied clients, the web provides the easiest, cheapest, most effective way to multiply your fortunes. Encourage repeat business and promote positive word-of-mouth by using the web as a convenient, cost-effective relationship management tool.

  • List management
  • Permission marketing
  • Newsletters, alerts, updates
  • Tell-A-Friend
  • Contests, coupons, specials
  • Surveying and feedback

The most important thing to take away from this chart is an appreciation of how all the phases work together. Understand that attracting traffic to your site is probably a waste of time and money if your site doesn’t convey credibility; That the best looking, animated flash site is a missed opportunity if it can’t draw traffic from the search engines; Or that a beautiful design and layout is worthless if you haven’t bothered to write relevant, compelling copy.

I hope this chart helps put the issues into perspective and moves small businesses to see the value of pursuing a serious web strategy. I am confident that you’ll find the cost-benefit ratio unlike any other in the marketing landscape. There is no harm in starting small as long as the development process is well thought out.