By Amanda Crangle

Just as the game of golf can be broken into two segments, the long and short game, so can digital marketing. Not just in the sentiment that Gay Brewer shared, “Golf is a game you can never get too good at. You can improve, but you can never get to where you master the game,” but also in what Raymond Floyd said, “They call it golf because all the other four letter words were taken.”

Yes, both golf and digital marketing are highly rewarding at best and down-right maddening at worst; however, both can also provide you with valuable lessons learned and the opportunity to grow. As for my golf game, let’s not discuss that… digital marketing is (by far) my forte! Gerald Ford summed up my golfing ability when he said, “I know I am getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.”

Let’s start by describing the short and long game of digital marketing. The long game is the strategy you take, knowing the payoff will be long-term. It’s an investment in the future growth of your business. A few examples of this are:

• Search engine optimization to improve how your site ranks for high-value keywords on search engines like Google or Bing
• Online brand advertising using display ads that show up on other websites or content such as YouTube video ads or banner ads on a local newspaper website
• Offline brand advertising like television, radio and billboards
• Local sponsorships or getting involved in charity
• Business networking and providing value to your community through education
• Content marketing such as blogging

Just like in golf, the long game is generally fun and exciting. In marketing, the long game can be highly creative, harder to measure a direct dollar return and have a focus on driving awareness.

The short-game is what many refer to as direct-response marketing. Its goal is to elicit an immediate response. In our world of water treatment, the goal is to generate a lead or, if you have an ecommerce website, a sale. Some examples of short game marketing are:

• Paid advertising on search engines using keyword targeting
• Lead generation-focused social media ads
• Remarketing
• Email marketing to a warm audience list
• Directory optimization and advertising (both online and offline)

Many great golfers throughout history have put an incredible amount of time into practicing their short game. The skillful development of chips, pitches and putts can greatly influence the outcome of one’s game. Sure it’s fun to hit a ball as far as you can, but if you can’t short-game it to the hole, it’s all for naught. Essentially, the long game of marketing builds awareness about your products, services, your brand and your team. The short game converts those actively seeking your products and services into leads. Here are a few tips to optimize your overall digital marketing strategy.

Start with the short game first. Imagine locking up your business to canvass a neighborhood in a distant ZIP code with bottle drops, while ignoring the prospects who are at your office knocking on your door. Crazy, right? Short game marketing, like paid search ads on Google, is a great way to get in front of people in your geographic area who are actively looking for your products or services. Ignoring this type of marketing is ignoring some seriously low-hanging fruit for your business. Even in competitive markets, a well-run paid ad campaign can be a great way to get leads rolling in quickly at industry average lead costs or better.

Use the short game to build on your long game. Many people jump right to search engine optimization, thinking it will be less expensive than paid ads. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a broad term used to describe the practice of driving more traffic to a website through high rankings on search engines like Google. This may be a mistake, as there is an incredible amount of data to be collected and insights to be gleaned from a well optimized paid ad campaign. For example, in Google Ads, you can bid on as many keywords as your heart desires. If no one searches and clicks on an ad that’s triggered by that keyword, you pay nothing.

If, however, a keyword brings in a lot of traffic to your site and that traffic doesn’t convert into leads, you know that either it’s a dud of a keyword or your site is not doing its job of converting those people into leads. Lastly, you’ll also find keywords that drive a lot of traffic to your website AND produce cost-effective leads.

Boom. Now you know how to start building your search engine optimization strategy using the best time-tested keywords that produce real results. Without paid ads, it would be trial and error to find out what keywords work for your business and your market, as there are no two markets that are identical. SEO is not cheap, so this can save you big bucks over the long haul.

Another example of using your short game to build your long game is to test value propositions, special offers, product descriptions and product benefits in your ads and on your website so you know what will work best for your local target market. Television, radio and other offline marketing can be very costly to split test and for most small businesses, it’s simply not feasible. If, however, you test it online first and measure lead generation, you can then have more confidence in your offline marketing, knowing your local audience has already voted on what they want to see.

Strategically plan for both. “Every shot counts. The three-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive,” Henry Cotton once wisely stated. Businesses that only focus on direct response or end-of-funnel marketing will eventually find themselves plateaued. Building awareness by getting involved in your community, being a part of local charities and fundraisers, crafting memorable broadcast messages and creating an omnipresence in your community consistently over time will keep filling the early stages of your marketing funnel. Once you have your short-game running well and producing a positive return on investment, that’s the perfect time to invest back into your business with a long-term approach.

“What should I invest in first when it comes to online marketing?” I cannot count the times dealers in our industry have asked me, “What should I invest in first online?” First, if you don’t have a quality website that’s built using science and psychology to convert visitors into leads, start there. All the traffic in the world will be wasted if your website stinks at communicating a strong value proposition, building trust and encouraging people to take action to contact you. Second, get your short game running smoothly so you know you’re showing up online for those already searching for solutions to problems you can solve. Lastly, have some fun and get your long game ramped up. You’ll find yourself learning a lot and generating a consistent flow of high-quality leads along the way.

About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager. She and her team are passionate about expanding consumer awareness of water quality issues and providing education on final barrier solutions.

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