Just the thought of developing your online marketing strategy can give you a headache. There are so many tools, tactics and strategies out there that it can be difficult to know where to start or even how to improve what you are already doing. I believe that developing a strategy to leverage the web to achieve your goals can and should be easy. It's all in how you approach it.

The Hub and Spoke System of Online Marketing

For almost 9 years I've been helping companies build their online marketing strategy using a hub and spoke system. The hub represents all of the tactics that you use when you have more control of the communication. For example, you have information for a new lead, subscriber or online community member. At the very center of your hub is the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve. The spokes represent the tactics that you use to drive people into your hub. For example, using social networking strategies to drive people to subscribe to your website or fill out a lead form. The hub and spokes need to work simultaneously or you won't go anywhere, or let's just say you won't know why. Online Marketing StrategyThink of a bicycle tire. In order for it to move you need to exert energy from your body to the wheel. In order for the wheel to move it needs a system to revolve around (hub). In order for the tire to move faster it needs spokes to transmit energy from the hub to the rest of the wheel to take advantage of a helpful force (centrifugal) to keep the wheel moving without the same level of energy being exerted. As you work your way from first gear in the center toward sixth gear you see a progression in speed. Going the other way around would leave you peddling just as fast, but not going any faster. Ok, I definitely geeked out there with some physics. That's what happens when you watch Big Bang Theory 3 days per week :) Now think of this analogy when it comes to using this hub and spoke system in developing your online marketing strategy. Let's look into this concept a bit further.

Start with the end in mind

What exactly are you trying to achieve? Remember to be as specific as possible. The specificity of your goal will help determine the level of time and resources that will be necessary to make your goals a reality. This is at the very core of the hub and your online marketing strategy. Everything else will revolve around it. The process of being specific with your goal will require some thought and energy, but doing this up front will pay off in the long run. Using our analogy, this is the energy that gets the wheel to move forward.

Define action steps closest to your goal

The next phase of developing your online marketing plan is to write out the actions that you currently take in order to achieve your goal. For example, if you are trying to increase sales by $1 million within 6 months, what are the action steps that you take just before closing one sale? How many times do you need to replicate these steps to achieve $1 million.

Now what you want to do is add in the tactics that you can implement to in order to make these action steps more effective and efficient using tactics and tools available online today. For example, if you are trying to increase sales and a series of 7 follow up emails results in 80% of your closed sales, you might consider using an email auto-responder to handle the emails. From there you could analyse your email statistics to find out who didn't open up your email and spend your time trying a different approach (i.e. video emails, etc.) to close the other 20%.

Back to our analogy, first gear is closer to the center of the hub and makes it easier to peddle. Tactics that are closest to your end goal are easier to define because they are helping to augment an existing process.

Define subsequent action steps

What you want to do from here is define action steps that get you to the point to where you can implement the action steps that are closest to your goal. For example, you might need to get someone to download a free copy of your ebook, subscribe to a webinar or join your own online community before implementing a follow up email campaign. You should find yourself saying "I need people to do X in order to implement Y".

The amount of subsequent steps you need to add will depend on the level of complexity of your product, service or decision making process. As we did in our first step, start adding or refining online tactics that can be implemented to make the action steps more effective and efficient. In other words, start listing ways that make getting to the next phase of communication (i.e. follow up email, etc.) easier.

Define your spokes to attract people that help you achieve your goal

The spokes are all of the marketing mechanisms that drive people into your hub. For example, pay-per-click advertising, being listed in relevant online directories, social networking websites, video marketing, press releases, guest posting, etc. The purpose of these activities is to gain further control of the communication. In other words, we want to convert visitors into real data that you can use to initiate follow up activities that help you achieve your goals. An example of this would be focusing on ranking higher in search engines to attract the right people into an purpose driven online community for your brand. Getting that person to register for your community now gives you an avenue to control the data and engagement experience.

I find way too many companies that rely solely on building up their social networking contacts and fans as a mechanism to drive their business. Although this can be a great strategy, the problem is that they are restricted to communication within that social network. Also, they don't own the data. Typically it should be coupled with a way to filter contacts and fans into further engagement opportunities that give your company a way to gain access to relevant data (i.e. email address, phone, etc.). Just remember that wherever you are collecting information, be sure to communicate why you are collecting it and be honest.

Get started now

Start building your online marketing strategy by drawing it on a blank white sheet of paper. You can follow the way I showed you in the video or create your own document. Below is a link to a sample framework that will help get you started.

Download sample online marketing strategy diagram


It's important to start this process now.
Implementing random online marketing tactics is like peddling in first gear forever. You'll never move faster toward your goal without knowing the steps (gears) that will get you there. Not to mention, it will end up costing you money and you will never know which online marketing tactics are working and which one's aren't. The key is to be proactive and have a plan. If you need help in developing your online marketing plan, please contact me by filling out the form on the right side of the page.