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Internet marketing due diligence: Checking the plan

I’ve heard it sooo many times:
“But I didn’t know!!!!”

That comes shrieking forth shortly after this chain of events:

  1. CEO hires a Guru to develop their web marketing plan.
  2. Guru comes in, collects check and nods sagely while saying stuff “Engage your audience”.
  3. Guru writes down a plan with steps like “Get good links”.
  4. CEO hands plan to marketing department.
  5. Marketing department, afraid to tell the CEO she’s an idiot, executes the plan, which also happens to execute most of the company, too.
  6. A year later, CEO has no marketing budget left, a lot of unhappy customers and zero results.
  7. CEO says…

“But I didn’t know!!!!”

I’m going to be charitable and assume that the CEO really didn’t know. In spite of years of experience and being ‘a great judge of character’, CEO hired Bozo the Clown to create their internet marketing plan and got screwed.

Here’s how you avoid it next time, whether you’ve already hired the Guru or not. Follow this checklist, hold whoever’s doing your internet marketing plan to it, and you’ll come out OK. Your internet marketing plan must:

  1. Be no longer than six months. You can’t plan beyond that. Six months ago, we were talking about economic recovery. Now, I’m stealing spare change from my kids’ jeans when it falls out in the dryer. Things change in a hurry. The marketing plan should define how you’ll adapt, not predict the future.
  2. Include search engine optimization, and probably paid search, too. If you still doubt that, do whatever you want – it won’t make a difference anyway.
  3. Have a content strategy that does not declare that ‘existing resources’ will do all the writing. ‘Existing resources’ really means ‘too slow to avoid being volunteered’. That’s not how you develop great content.
  4. Include outreach. One way or another, your marketing plan needs to describe how you’ll reach out to influential folks in your industry, in the blogging world, in the media, etc.. Without them, you’ll fail.
  5. Build in a great analytics plan. Your marketing plan must list key performance indicators (KPI’s, for those who need nice TLAs), how you’ll measure them, and where you’ll store the data.
  6. Account for existing customers, too. It’s a lot easier to keep existing customers happy than it is to get new ones. Does your internet marketing plan lay out how you’ll reach out to them? No? Tsk. Your Guru is a goner.
  7. Include Facebook. Hey, I don’t like jumping on the Facebook bandwagon either. But there are so many people twiddling away their lives on Facebook you’d be crazy not to try to reach .001% of them. I don’t care if you make airliners – you still need a presence there.
  8. Build the house list. The house list is still your greatest asset. Depending on your audience, that house list might be e-mail, or Twitter followers, or Facebook fans. But it is still your best marketing tool.
  9. Nurture. One way or another, your internet marketing plan needs to keep in touch with potential customers, and not toss them out with the trash if they don’t convert on the first shot.
  10. Test. If his Guru-ness doesn’t include testing in the marketing plan, roll up the plan, shove it up their left nostril and then ask, in a quiet voice, if they could pretty please rewrite it and include testing this time. Never, ever assume your campaign will succeed on the first try. Plan for iteration.
  11. Be reasonable. If you seriously think you’re going to go from 5 to 50,000 customers in six months while spending less than $15,000, total, you’re either insane, high, or Steve Jobs. Only that last one has a prayer.
  12. Do the math. Easiest way to check on #11: Do the math. Your marketing plan should put a dollar value on a customer, and provide a worst-case estimate for acquiring that customer. If the latter is 10x the former, consider making a change or two, k?

That’s it. Check off these 12 items – your plan may not be perfect, but it won’t implode, either.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. “CEO hired Bozo the Clown to create their internet marketing plan and got screwed.”
    Love it.. Most excellent checklist, its worthy of being stolen even..

  2. “But boss, I found this really smart guy online who can help improve our Internet Business. His name is Ian Lurie.”
    “Ian? He’s a cartoon character, not a real person…” :.)

  3. Humorous post with great content! There are just too many bogus online marketing “GURUs” trying to earn their “easy” money through offline or local business.

  4. Kudos for point no. 5 and 10. When I hear of previous SEO’s clients have had to deal with, it shocks me to no end – some have never implemented a tracking system for traffic. Great post!

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