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Interactive Planning

Now that we're all in the middle of planning and budgeting for 2008, I've noticed that people tend to overlook the importance of a sound interactive agenda. It's not at all unusual to sit down with a client who has a detailed media plan that details every aspect of a campaign down to the tracking phone numbers and has a PR plan that has a list of the top ten stories to push but when we turn to discuss their interactive plan I typically hear, "We’re going to send a monthly email, keep our site updated and run some pay-per-click." Ladies and gentlemen, that does not make a good interactive plan.

A good interactive plan, just like with all marketing disciplines, is the first, critical step in ensuring success. When you have a firm plan with every strategy mapped out and every contingency identified, you'll have a better chance of executing the full plan than if you just have a few broad ideas. Typically clients pay a great deal for me to develop this plan, but if you're reading this you're about to get a blueprint to interactive success in 2008..

Step 1: Goals and KPIs

Determine your goals for the year and your key performance indicators (KPIs). Knowing your KPIs is one of the most important parts because without a gage for success it's hard to tell if your marketing dollars are giving you the best return on investment (ROI).

Step 2: Traffic In

What are your strategies to get consumers to your site? Is it more than "Run a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign and a few new banners." Lay out each month's budget according to traffic you need and adjust each month accordingly. Sure, you can spend $10,000 a month every month, but would it be smarter to develop a flighted campaign where you heavy up in the key buying or planning periods and reduce the budget when your customers are not searching? You can typically find this information from a site analytics report. Some even break down traffic by times of day instead of just day of the week or month of the year.

The same strategies may apply to other traffic-generating mediums such as paid banners, third-party emails, sponsorships, and off-line efforts. The one place that flighting tends to not work is with search engine optimization [http://fuelinteractive.com/services/search-engine-marketing/] (SEO). Robots and spiders that "crawl" your sites don't have planning cycles so you need to make sure your site is always ready to be indexed and ranked.

Step 3: Take the Lead

You've just spent a lot of money to get someone to your site that's qualified to purchase your widget, gizmo or trinket, but how do you plan to get them into your database for later use? Develop the ideal clickstream and make sure you're offering multiple opportunities to opt in to your database.

Step 4: Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

Keeping your site content fresh is really the only way you're going to effectively bring a consumer back to your site. Once you read this blog post, you're not going to come back ten more times to read the same thing. That's why there's going to be a great new post coming very soon. Develop an editorial calendar, just like a publication does, that details the content and information you're going to update. How often should you update? At LEAST once a month, but I would recommend as often as you have something important to say. Don't have anything to post? I'd recommend you spend some time and think about it; you have the information your consumers want, now take the time to put it together. You'll soon be seeing the benefits.

Step 5: Keep them Coming

You've now been able to pull potential customers in to your site, collected their contact information and are keeping the site fresh, now is the perfect time to invite them back. Think of your email campaign [link?] as a magazine and structure it accordingly. Assign an editor, writers and the rest of the team to ensure that each message you send is on time and has the right content.

You'll want to have an editorial calendar for your emails too that details the main articles, promotions, links and the subject line. The email editorial calendar will be the roadmap to a successful, quarterly campaign. The frequency of the message depends on your individual line of business and your consumers. Typically I would recommend a message at least once per month; you'll be top of mind to your customers but not too intrusive that they will op-out. Again, this depends on your business and we can help you create the optimal email campaign.

Step 6: Measuring Success

Finally, you've put together a good interactive marketing plan and you've started to implement each component. Now is when an eye for analytics and an ability to react to change becomes critical. Each month I recommend you have a team meeting to discuss how the site, search marketing, email and other marketing efforts are contributing to your online success and determine what's working, what's not and what can be improved.

I can guarantee that if you develop the plan, execute it and monitor the progress that you're going to see some real, measurable success in 2008.

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