b173Many business executives have a sense that being more active online would be good for business, but often the question is, how, while the “when” is all too easily put off. The most widely practiced forms of online marketing in most European markets are still often limited to email and various forms of Pay-Per-Click, such as banner ads or Google AdWords.

Social media, though widely adopted, has generated a certain level of frustration, because too many companies lack a strategic approach to their engagement. They stop at establishing a social media presence, managing it with entry-level resources and then wonder about its purpose and poor results. Perhaps some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is also thrown in for good measure or because there’s so much talk about it, but it too is soon seen to be inadequate on its own to bring the business forward.

Online marketing can be far more than that. It needs to be, since digital islands and their isolated activities yield only moderate and spotty results.

The Emergence of Inbound Marketing

In North America, where it was developed, and increasingly in the U.K., inbound marketing has emerged as the leading methodology that makes sense of the bewildering and constantly changing online jungle. Why? There are three main drivers for the rapid inbound uptake:

  1. Almost universal computer and mobile device adoption
  2. Consumer shift to being “in charge” and online (researching & buying) 24/7
  3. Global competitive pressure driving the need to lower the cost ofmarketing while making it more agile (lean marketing)

To make sense of some of the more widely practiced methods for gaining better results online, let us take a look at organic vs. paid search results. One of the important differences between PPC or Google AdWords and organic search is this: with PPC either the ad containing the click opportunity is on and clickable or off. In the former case leads are generated when potential customers click through to the appropriate area of the company website (usually a landing page) where their data can be captured. The industry average CTR (Click-Through-Rate), however, is a mere 2% (leading search agency Covario). When the ad does not appear, it can obviously not be clicked and no leads are generated. With only 6% each, advertising and PPC deliver the least amount of leads (HubSpot, 2013 State of Inbound Marketing).

According to GroupM, UK, and Nielsen, 94% of users click on organic search results, which is one of the reasons why some forms of online marketing utilize organic search as one of its most essential tools. Effective online marketing consists of a comprehensive, interconnected set of activities for the purpose of marketing a product or service. With inbound marketing in contrast to paid search, content once created, such as white papers, videos or blog articles, continue to be present on a company’s website, blog, social channels, and related digital platforms.

“Nobody cares about your products, except you. Create interesting content!”
– David Meerman Scott, best-selling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Since content is not turned on and off as PPC is, it provides long-term opportunities to continuously gain inbound traffic without having to be paid for again and again for every click. Blogs, e-books, videos and such enjoy a much longer shelf life by providing lasting value that can yield a stream of new leads month after month through on-going downloads based on organic search results. In summary, online marketing is often mistaken as being the same as banner ads and AdWords, but it is not. So what is it?

Despite the advantages of online vs. offline marketing, it is important to note that online activities should be fully interconnected and well integrated with what a company does offline. Although online marketing can stand alone, as is normally the case in e-commerce, most companies in Switzerland are still so-called brick-and-mortar and therefore are best to leverage their offline with online marketing. As they migrate more of their budgets online, they can learn from the results, and start to enjoy the benefits.

This was an extract from the Executive Guide to Online Marketing – A Lean Business Perspective, now out from Versio2. Download this 40-page, fully researched and illustrated guide to read more about lean marketing and the shifting online landscape. Covering a wide range of subjects, it takes the mystery out of online marketing and explains its proven business value.


stephan_burckhardt_versio2Stephan Burckhardt
– author of the Executive Guide to Online Marketing – A Lean Business Perspective – ran, owned and sold a CHF12 million Swiss communications business, consulted startups as well as mature companies in Silicon Valley and Switzerland for a couple of decades, and developed countless off- and online communications solutions for six of the top ten Swiss brands and six of the top ten pharmaceutical companies worldwide. 
He is a mentor for the MBA program at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business and has completed executive education at Stanford GSB and INSEAD.

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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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