As I round the corner from Hereford onto Boylston Street, the finish line comes into view only a few more paces ahead. I catch my breath, a knot forms in my throat, I squeeze my eyes tight to hold back the tears of joy and relief that seem to be unconsciously welling, realizing this 26.2 mile journey is less than a half mile away from completion.
As someone who rarely jumps into any new endeavor without thorough due-diligence and research, I knew I was biting off a sizable commitment agreeing to run my first marathon--the iconic Boston Marathon at that. I had no idea the real work would actually come in the months leading up to the race! Don’t get me wrong, race day was absolutely a test of my physical and mental fortitude, but it was in the long winter months that passed before my mid-April run that were the true measure of my preparedness. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t simply go out and “wing it” on race day; a plan was needed. Time and consistency became my biggest allies. Knowing that not all days would be winners and being okay with that turned into my running mantra.
Reflecting back on the journey that brought me to the finish line, I can’t help but draw a parallel between my experience training and completing my first marathon and creating, implementing, and maintaining a new web marketing strategy. Often times as web marketers, when we begin a new relationship with a client, one of the very first things we must do is explain to them the importance of the process. In web marketing, as it is with training for the marathon, success, i.e completion of the race, increase traffic to the website, a better ROI, whatever it may be, is not achieved instantaneously. We know as web marketers, and as runners, that success takes time, practice, and consistent nurturing.
Here are five steps I’ve identified that helped me finish my first marathon and will help your web marketing initiatives perform the way you want:
- Create a Long Term Plan: I owe completion of the race to my customized sixteen week training program, developed specifically for me by my expert chiropractor/elite marathon runner friend. Many times clients want a ‘quick fix’ program. It is our job to help teach them the importance of a long-term game plan. Let us determine what your goals are six months, one year, and even five years down the road, not next week. Let us create a custom plan that will work for your company’s goals and let us tailor our marketing strategy to meet these unique aspirations.
- Take Inventory and Evaluate Honestly: It is imperative to be honest with yourself from the get-go. You must recognize your strengths and weaknesses and be realistic with what you are capable of. I had no aspirations to keep up with the race qualifiers; I knew that if I tried to set a time goal I would probably disappoint myself. I knew that as this was my first marathon, my goal needed to be to finish, and let that be success enough. Though it’s hard to not compare your website and online marketing strategy to the likes of big name retailers and companies, like Apple and Amazon, please be sure to be realistic and honest with your baseline evaluation. Never sell yourself short, always aspire for something better, but be sure when performing competitive research to put your plan and website side-by-side with actual competitors in the same or similar space.
- Get Nitty Gritty with the Details: Besides investing in a good, I mean sexy and awesomely reviewed, pair of running shoes, the best investment I made in my training was on a GPS watch. Though more sophisticated instruments were out there on the market, my watch had everything I needed to help me gauge and keep track of my progress down to one mile splits. I was able to evaluate my training with hard data and monitor where I needed improvement. Harnessing and utilizing analytics is an essential element in any well run marketing strategy. Without analytics there is no way to accurately quantify what is working, what needs improvement, and what your site visitors’ behavior is telling you! Learn to recognize the key performance indicators that are important for your company. What does success mean to you? Very often, the definition is different client to client.
- A Friend to Lean On: One the most amazing things I discovered when training was how incredibly supportive and informative the running community was. It was through in-person interactions, online forums and blogs, and having an awesome running partner I learned the importance of having a support team. In web marketing, there must be at least one individual if not a whole team that is dedicated to being the voice of client. This person or persons is responsible for creating and instilling a level of trust with the client. It is with this trust that both parties can speak openly and honestly about things that may be bothering them, initiatives that should hold more importance, areas of great success, and ones that could use improvement.
- Maintenance, Consistency and Patience: My biggest takeaway from the hundreds of miles slogged through snow, sleet, and rain was that marathon training is an art that can not be rushed. In no way do I claim to have perfected the process the first time through; looking back there are absolutely things I would do differently. Over the past four months I focused on the maintenance my health and wellness, the consistency of my runs, and finding the patience to be okay with not finding overnight success. Web marketing is no different; take the time to focus on constantly improving the quality of your website and your campaigns, work on adding fresh relevant content on a consistent basis, and truly accept there are no shortcuts to the process.
With time, a lot of hard work, and the willingness to constantly strive for improvement you will find success with your web marketing strategy. Just remember web marketing is not a sprint it’s a marathon!