Internet Strategy

Internet Marketing: The One ‘Thing’ That Really Works

Steve Wolgemuth | Dec 6, 2012

Autocatalysis: A single chemical reaction is said to have undergone autocatalysis, or be autocatalytic, if the reaction product itself is the catalyst for that reaction

Are you searching for marketing autocatalysis? In chemistry, that’s when a reaction produces a catalyst for another reaction. In marketing, that’s when marketing dollars spent wisely bring in more money, which can in turn be reinvested in more marketing. Many business leaders are looking “that one thing” they can do online that will have customers flowing in the door.

Years ago, there were opportunities for your business to make a focused investment in a singular marketing channel and get $2 back for every $1 spent. This profit could be reinvested in more marketing. Television advertising in the early 1990s, and earlier, was an opportunity to secure great return on investment (ROI). Companies like Proctor & Gamble, GE, Craft, and Nestlé used this marketing autocatalysis to help them become huge brands. But now, businesses aren’t able to rely on a single tactic to sustain positive ROI.

If your businesses is like most, you have migrated its marketing dollars to online channels and may have fantasized about achieving autocatalysis through social media. Convince one person to like your company’s Facebook page, others may see that, and then that person also become a connection, and so on. Or, post a great video on YouTube and wait for it to go viral. And wait. And wait some more.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, your business has less-than-viral videos, a less-than-amazing track record of generating and converting leads through Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and you’ve already learned a lesson: Social media autocatalysis typically relies on rare talent and creativity, determination, and lady luck. It is virtually impossible to know how the masses will respond to your online content. It’s possible, but not probable, that you’ll see an amazing return on investment if you think of social media as a marketing channel. You’re probably on at least V.2 or higher of your business’s website, and have made some efforts to be visible on search engines, and you’ve probably set up Google Adwords at this point.

So what’s the one Internet marketing ‘thing’ that really works?

That’s a question many are asking. This question represents a mindset carried over from the days when autocatalysis was possible. But we have to remember that we live in a different time. Today, our target (the potential customer) is in control of their own experience with your brand. What that means (lean in and hear this) is that your target audience will typically navigate themselves through several exposures to your brand before taking actions of calling, emailing, or showing up at your door. That’s why you should start thinking about your marketing as stepping stones that your targeted audience uses to cross the stream from strangers (on one shore) to loyal customers/brand evangelists (on the other shore). Along the way, potential customers will step on several stones that you must lay to help guide their journey. You need to stop thinking of search, social, reputation management, website quality, and conversion optimization as stand-alone marketing campaigns. You must start thinking of them as layers in your potential client’s journey from “stranger” to “brand evangelist.”

Granted, there may be magic marketing moments using an incidental tactic, like Google Adwords. And, there are anecdotal success stories, like exploiting non-competitive, but valuable search terms. But for the most part, the “one thing” that consistently works to build a business is continual improvement at each customer touch-point. A meticulous focus on not losing your audience along their journey to discovering your brand is critical. It’s the one “thing” that really works.