Prioritize Your Online Marketing with This One-Page Chart

The online marketing landscape has become so complex that cutting through the “noise” is now one of the biggest problems small businesses face. Sorting out WHERE and HOW to spend our limited time and resources is increasingly the challenge.

So Many New Choices

Part of the problem is that we are bombarded right and left with new choices.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has taken on a much higher profile as the number of indexed Web pages balloons and it gets harder to be found in search engines like Google. The search marketing industry is now in the multi-billion dollar range. Not only is search growing, but it is increasingly being broken down into distinct specialties, such as local search, paid search and mobile search marketing.

Affiliate marketing has become big business, too … a more-than $6 Billion a year industry.

Blogs, YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and every manner of social media site are discussed ad nauseum. Yet, many businesspeople do not have the time it takes to investigate these social media sites. Most people have only the vaguest idea what these sites do or how to use them — perhaps just a nagging sense that the sites are somehow “hot.” ‘Better not be left behind,’ you think.

OK, It’s Complex. So What Do We Do?

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a chart to visually demonstrate where we small businesses can best spend our limited time and dollars on online marketing. The chart can be a useful tool to quickly cut through all the noise — and focus.

The chart uses concentric circles to outline an online marketing strategy. Here is the chart I’ve come up with:


small business marketing ROI

The most important elements of an online marketing strategy appear in the center two circles. Those are the activities you will get the greatest return from, for the time and money you spend on them.

As you move farther toward the outside circle, most business will spend more time and/or money for smaller overall return. In other words, the return on investment will be smaller, the farther out from the center circle you get.

Center circle – At the center of the chart is your website, which should be the core of your online marketing plan. Hopefully if you are reading this article, you already have a website and it’s not a question of IF you should have a website, but how you can improve it. First impressions count and today’s prospects and customers will form impressions of the quality of your products and services from your website. Plus, by investing in smarter technology you can make your website work harder to generate leads and sales. Consequently, spending time to improve your website can bring the biggest payoff. (If you don’t have a business website, get thee to a Web designer now!)

Second circle – The second circle outlines activities that most businesses will see a meaningful return from. Investing in search engine optimization, setting up a blog, growing and leveraging your house email list, issuing press releases through an online distribution service such as PRNewswire or PRWeb, and doing PPC ad campaigns are key strategies most small businesses in America can get value from commensurate with the time and money invested.

Outer circle – The light yellow circle on the outside contains activities that generate a lot of the “noise” that confuses most small businesspeople. Not that I’m against those activities — not at all. In fact, some of them bring excellent results for the right kinds of businesses. It’s just that the return from such activities tends to be lower compared with the time or money you put into them.

Marketing always involves prioritizing. There’s never enough time, staff or budget to do everything.

What you don’t do is as important as what you do. You could end up wasting a lot of time by focusing too much on the outer circle, and neglecting the inner two circles. For instance, you could be driving visitors to your website but failing to convert them once they get there, because your website looks unprofessional or needs a message overhaul or needs logical navigation.

Some businesses simply decide that activities in the outer circle are not worth doing, no matter how ga-ga others seem to be about them.


What would you change, eliminate or add to this chart?

And how would you fit e-commerce and freelance businesses into this type of chart? For instance, where do eBay, Amazon Marketplace, Etsy, Elance and other online marketplaces fit in to a small business’s online marketing strategy?

The other thought about this chart is that it can be a living/breathing part of your marketing plan. You could customize the chart specifically for your business, in order to get everyone on your team on the same page.

I’d like to hear what you think.

Originally published at Open Forum. [Updated by editor and broken links fixed December 2012.]


Anita Campbell

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of

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