Understanding Online Media

Know Your Stuff

It is likely your marketing budget is shifting away from traditional media and into online media. Online media options are not only vast and complicated; many are based on emerging technology that most of us are not familiar with. How can you be confident you are making a sound investment?

Understand what you are buying. Powersports dealers have vendors beating down their doors making all sorts of claims about their ability to “rank your website No. 1 on Google.” SEO, pay-per-click and social media vendors are aware most of their customers “don’t get it,” making it quite easy for them to rope you in by talking a good game. Don’t fall for it.

Beware of the “expert.” If an online vendor tells you they are an “expert” at their trade, send them packing. Technology is evolving at the speed of light, new social sites launch daily, and Facebook practically changes their rules hourly, so it is virtually impossible to be an expert when it comes to today’s online media offerings.

A reputable vendor will be real with you by setting realistic expectations for site and/or campaign performance, and they will take the time to thoroughly explain what exactly you are buying.  Ask to see their portfolio of work, check client testimonials and most of all – don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Use analytics as a weapon. Here’s a typical scenario: A vendor sends you these amazing reports detailing your website traffic statistics and/or online campaign performance. The problem is the report is about 20 pages long, filled with cryptic terms and generally sits in your email inbox unopened.

Take control by arming yourself with these key metrics:

1. Visitors: There are two kinds of visitors – new and returning. New visitors have discovered your site, which means your brand recognition is growing. Returning visitors liked what they saw the first time, and they are coming back for more! Determine which is more important for your business goals and focus on that statistic. This will help you narrow down ways to grow your target customer base.

2. Referrers: Referrers in web analytics reporting shows where your traffic is coming from. This report usually turns up surprises, which provides you with an opportunity to reach out and make online alliances. For example, if you notice a local business is talking about your products, thank them virtually by adding a link on your site to theirs. Enthusiast forums are often another source of referrers. Visit the site, participate in discussions you find genuinely interesting and ask active members if they would like to give feedback.    

3. Conversions: At the end of the day, all that matters are conversions, which mean users finding you and buying your stuff. Set up “conversion funnels” on your shopping cart analytics so you can see how many people are bouncing or leaving the shopping cart before making a purchase. If the bounce rate is over 50 percent, evaluate your conversion strategy. When changing your strategy, it is very important to only change one component at a time; otherwise you will not be able to determine how the changes are impacting your conversions.

4. Trends: The powersports business is seasonal and cyclical, making year over year reporting crucial. If you have reports from last year, dig them up and see what kind of traffic you had last year during the holidays. Start to monitor visitors, referrers and conversions on a quarterly basis to make your analytics an invaluable business tool that guides your future online investments.

Remember the pause button! One of the best aspects of online media is everything is tracked in real time, and campaigns can be paused with a click of a button. Before starting any online effort, set your goals and expectations for results. Insist the vendor puts in writing the agreed-upon goals, which will immediately have them on their toes because they know you are one of the smart ones who “get it.” Then, if the campaign is not meeting expectations, ask your vendor to pause it and regroup on a plan to improve performance.

Forget about “free.” Nothing is free — not Facebook, not Twitter, not anything on the web. Social media requires a budget, and it needs to be a serious part of your online strategy. And don’t even think about venturing into the world of social media until you have committed to the fact that you must participate because social communities thrive on passion.

This doesn’t mean you have to write every blog post and start tweeting from your iPhone. It means you have to give social media the time, effort and budget it deserves, or you’ll be just another one of those dealers with a dusty old Facebook page that hasn’t been touched since 2008.  t

Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a web technology veteran and a certified PMP with the Project Management Institute (PMI). Her company provides monthly columns focused on best practices in web marketing for powersports dealers.

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