7 Steps to Creating an Effective Online Marketing Plan


Online marketing has almost become essential for business success.  Why wouldn’t you want to advertise your brand online?  The Internet connects consumers on a global level – consumers who may be searching for your product or service!

Use these seven steps to help build an effective online marketing plan.


  1. Define your Ideal Customer

Who is going to buy your service/product?  Develop a few buyer personas to get a clear picture of your perfect consumers.  (If your company already has a strong client base, ask to interview a few select customers that best represent your target audience.)  These personas are achieved by asking basic questions, like the following:

  • Is my ideal consumer male or female?
  • How old is this person?
  • What is his/her level of education?
  • What is his/her income level?
  • Is this person married?
  • Does he/she have children?
  • What does he/she value?
  • What are his/her hobbies?
  • Where does this consumer go for information?

Once you have a general idea of these people, you can then proceed to effectively target them through your marketing efforts.

  1. Meet your Consumers Where they Live

Now that you’ve evaluated your target audience, you should have a better idea of where to reach them.  Which social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) do they use?  Which websites do they visit most often?  What phrases are they most likely to type into a search engine when exploring your industry?

Make sure your brand has as much visibility as possible.  Tailor your search engine optimization (SEO) to fit keywords that your potential consumers are using.  Your goal is to be one of the first search results consumers see on the web.  If your desired audience is using social media sites, be sure to post interesting content that grabs their attention and keeps them coming back for more.

  1. Set a Budget

All good plans have constraints of some sort.  Now that you know the best methods of reaching your audience, determine a budget for your online marketing plan.  How much money can be spent on website development/redesign, on social media management, on online advertisements?

  1. Make a Good First Impression

Consumers will judge your online appearance in a matter of seconds.  If your web presence isn’t readily appealing, people are likely to move on to a competitor’s site or social media page. It’s the Internet; there are numerous alternative choices for customers.  These tools should quickly communicate your brand’s purpose and identity.

  1. Offer Valuable Content that is Relevant and Desirable

Posting online content is easy.  Developing content that means something to your audience and provides value to their lives is something totally different.  This distinction is what will turn a casual viewer into an actual lead.

  1. Give Clear Direction and Provide Opportunities for Interaction

Don’t overcomplicate things.  The typical viewer doesn’t want to have to search for the next step.  He/she expects these steps to be clearly set before them.  Otherwise, the person may lose interest.  Use navigation tools like:

  • Subscribe to our email updates
  • Add to cart
  • Checkout
  • Download this eBook
  • Call now
  • Chat with a representative online

By providing a means of interaction with your brand, these buttons let viewers know that you care about their individual buying experience.

  1. Track and Monitor your Results

It’s important to keep track of your online marketing success.  Measurements will allow you to see which features and content work best.  Additionally, they’ll show areas with room for improvement.  HubSpot, for instance, is an inbound marketing software platform that provides reports and evaluations of your online marketing efforts.

Why is it Important to Measure my Company’s Marketing Efforts?


Basic Measurements

Running a business requires consistent measurements.  Otherwise, you’re only managing chaos. Some basic elements that companies typically measure include:

  1. Hours worked and not worked by employees

Keeping track of your employees’ hours will help you separate the overachievers from the underperformers. Who’s coming in on time?  Who calls in sick a little too often?  Who tends to work overtime? These people are the glue that holds your business together. Their success is your success.

  1. Sales

Making a profit is the aim of any business. Companies cannot survive without adequate sales. It’s as simple as that.

  1. Financial statements

We recommend that you sit down at least once per month with your company’s financial department. No one knows more about the fiscal aspect of your business, and there’s a good chance they can offer advice for improvement.

  1. Goal setting

Goals give businesses a direct pathway to follow. These goals must be measurable; they can’t be vague.  If proper goals have been established, you can begin taking measurements. When enough measurements have been recorded, you should compare these items to the initial goals through a review session. From here, you’ll want to note any trends that appear. These trends make it possible to forecast future outcomes. If those outcomes aren’t desirable, it may be appropriate to adjust or better define your goals, beginning the cycle again.


  1. Specific and overall progress

It’s important to measure both the whole pie and its individual pieces.  Overall measurements show how your company is functioning in the big picture and tells if individual departments are effectively working together.  Departmental measurements, on the other hand, allow you to pinpoint specific issues.  Only examining certain pieces of the pie could cause you to miss out on key strengths/weaknesses.

Even if companies follow all of the advice above, they may still be forgetting one crucial element – marketing.

Measuring Your Marketing

Somewhere along the way, businesses seem to have forgotten the importance of measuring their marketing.

It has become the norm for brands to carelessly throw out marketing dollars without knowing their return on investment.  They spend money on marketing only because they think they should.  They haven’t the slightest notion of where that money is going and how it will benefit them in the end.

That’s absolutely crazy, especially considering how easily this problem can be resolved.


Inbound marketing is great for measuring a company’s marketing.  Brands can set up landing pages on their websites.  This will show how much traffic is generated by their calls to action.  When viewing web traffic, businesses will also want to look at the following items:

  1. Unique visitors – how many people viewed your site at least once (multiple visits from the same IP address are not included)
  2. Referrals – the amount of visitors directed to your site by other websites
  3. Pages viewed – which pages visitors viewed while on your website
  4. Exit pages – which pages visitors viewed last before leaving your site

Without measurements, there’s nothing to review, meaning there’s no way to efficiently and effectively plan for the future.

Todd Duff’s Radio Interview – Part 2: Marketing Basics

Our company’s owner and CEO, Todd Duff, was recently interviewed on Bristol Broadcasting’s LifeTalk 1450 AM out of Paducah, Kentucky. If you happened to miss this event, don’t fear. We’ll be bringing you coverage of his interview throughout separate blog installments.

#2 – Marketing Basics

In the second portion of the radio show, Todd discusses some helpful marketing tips for businesses to consider.  Below are a few key items from the interview.

There are some basic marketing fundamentals that apply to every business regardless of its size. For instance, there’s a growing desire by consumers for companies to be transparent and real.

A misconception is that Facebook is for younger people; social media actually reaches a wide demographic. Todd explains, “My mom posts 3x what I post on Facebook!”

Todd goes on to share a marketing idea for businesses with relatively small budgets. He recommends that these companies create an attractive greeting card or thank you card. They should, then, send one out multiple times per week to people with whom they’ve recently had contact.  “That’s a great way to just draw business in and build relationships. Those cards can really stand out against all of the digital world that we have.”

Another tip involves consistency. This means having only one logo and giving your marketing materials a cohesive look and feel.

Finally, Todd reveals three of the most important questions that brands should answer before developing a marketing plan.

  1. Who are we?
  2. What do we provide?
  3. Why are we doing this?

The “why” is the most important element and can be the answer to a lot of your marketing issues.

You can hear the full audio version of this interview segment below.


We’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone at Life Talk 1450 AM for having Todd on the show!


Why Should my Marketing Efforts be Different from those of Competitors?


Oftentimes, clients come in and say, “Here is what my competitors are doing. We think we should be doing it, too.”

We like to call that the “Me, too!” Syndrome. Just because other brands use a certain marketing tactic doesn’t mean you need to take their ideas. If anything, it means the complete opposite.

When everyone’s doing the same thing, there’s nothing to distinguish one company from another. No one wants to be considered average. Having a successful business requires standing out among the crowd.  You’ve got to give consumers a reason to choose your brand over someone else’s.

By using the same methods as someone else, your company becomes the marketing equivalent of an off-brand or a stunt double. People always remember the original. Anything that comes afterward is just viewed as an imitation.

Women don’t have crushes on Brad Pitt’s stunt double; they only care about the real thing!

“Kleenex” is often used in place of the word “tissue,” regardless of the brand at hand. Likewise, many people classify all lip balms as “ChapStick”. In certain parts of the country, “Coke” is considered synonymous with “soda”.

These brands didn’t reach their level of recognition by following the crowd and playing it safe. They were innovators, continually striving to make a name for themselves and to be unique.

Similarly, if your company desires to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds, it must carve out its own path and set its own standards. Maybe one day, other brands will be imitating your methods.


Todd Duff’s Radio Interview – Part 1: About Todd

Our company’s owner and CEO, Todd Duff, was recently interviewed on Bristol Broadcasting’s LifeTalk 1450 AM out of Paducah, Kentucky. If you happened to miss this event, don’t fear. We’ll be bringing you coverage of his interview throughout separate blog installments.

#1 – About Todd

In the first portion of the radio show, Todd introduced himself, describing his background and entrepreneurial beginnings.

Todd understood the concept of capitalism even at a young age. He had the typical childhood lemonade stand, but his story goes even further. Growing up near a railroad track, Todd soon learned the effects of placing pennies on the tracks.

Each afternoon, he’d put new pennies on the railroad tracks and collect their flattened remains the following morning. When he arrived at school, he would turn a quick profit by selling the coins to classmates for 25 cents each. Teachers soon caught on to his scheme, and Todd was forced to shut down the business.  That wouldn’t dampen his spirits, though.

Acquiring both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Murray State University, Todd would later go on to teach for six years at his alma mater.  The initial concept for Innovations Branding House began approximately 14 years ago. After getting married, Todd spent his first summer going door-to-door to various businesses in Murray.

He explained to them why they needed a website. One man finally gave in and offered Todd his first website gig. There was just one problem. Todd didn’t know the first thing about constructing a website. He sought out the advice of a faculty member from Murray State’s graphic design department.

Using a computer that he and his dad built from scratch, Todd started designing websites in the back room of his apartment. Over time, he gained more experience and began to assemble a skilled team of employees. Today, Innovations Branding House helps a variety of clients by growing their businesses.

“As we go, we find clients that have more needs related to growing their business.  If it’s a need that doesn’t relate to growing their business, we kind of stay out of it.”

You can hear the full audio version of this interview segment below.

Above is Patrick White of White Financial Group and Life Talk’s audio technician during the interview with Todd Duff.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone at Life Talk 1450 AM for having Todd on the show!



What Does Inbound Marketing Mean for my Business?

At Innovations Branding House, we focus on inbound marketing.  Unsurprisingly, there exists some confusion as to what this entails and how it’s different from traditional outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing
consists of providing valuable content to potential clients and getting their permission to market to them.  Content is considered valuable when it’s personalized and relevant to the consumer at hand.  It’s all about being in the right place at the right time with the right message.

Inbound marketing messages are not interruptive but rather helpful and interesting.  They are developed to attract your company’s ideal customers and keep them coming back for more.  Instead of targeting anyone and everyone, this type of marketing draws in qualified prospects that are already searching and shopping within your given industry.  This makes for an audience that is more likely to use your products or services.

Outbound marketing,
on the other hand, is probably what you’re used to seeing.  This traditional marketing method is gradually falling by the wayside – possibly, for good reason.

This type of marketing can be viewed as a shotgun blast approach.  Brands simply shout out generic marketing messages to the public, interrupting consumers’ daily lives and hoping for someone to take the bait.  These companies are, then, left waiting to see which tactics work.  It’s also important to note that the cost of reaching your target audience is higher with traditional marketing.

With a growing interest in inbound marketing, it’s becoming clear that outbound marketing works less and less.

This is largely due to consumers’ ability to avoid such marketing approaches.  Advancing technology offers various alternatives to traditional radio, television, and print.

For instance, fewer and fewer people are listening to radio these days.  Why would they when they could avoid radio advertisements altogether and listen to a personalized station suited to their preferences?  Online services, such as Pandora, Songza, Spotify, and iTunes radio, allow users to quickly generate their own radio station based on a certain song, artist, genre, or mood.

Additionally, people can easily fill portable music devices, like iPods and smartphones, with their favorite songs and listen to them at any time.  Bluetooth-enabled vehicles are, then, able to sync with these mp3 players and smartphones to provide seamless mobile listening aloud.  Satellite radio also provides ad-free listening.

Many local radio stations offer a period of time for listeners to call in and request songs.  I’ve often wondered, “Who possibly has the time to do this, assuming they even get through to a DJ, when they could just as easily play the song online or download it in seconds?”

Television is much the same way. To avoid watching commercials, viewers may record their favorite shows ahead of time with TiVo or DVR and simply fast-forward through the ads later.  Websites, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Project Free TV, let consumers watch a variety of television shows and movies commercial-free at any time.

Printed publications, including magazines and newspapers, have also gone digital.  Readers are now able to skim articles online and on mobile devices, viewing only those that appeal to them.  This makes it much easier for people to avoid printed advertisements.

With all of that said, there’s an appropriate place and time for everything. Traditional marketing is not completely outdated. In fact, having a healthy mix of both inbound and outbound marketing is preferred.  It’s just important to be aware of how marketing is evolving and to remain flexible with those changes.

5 Simple Ways to Inspire Creativity and Change the Way you Think


Human beings are creatures of habit. We wake up at the same time each day, go to work, go home, sleep, and do it all over again. It’s easy to get stuck within a daily routine, losing sight of the creative inspiration that exists all around us.

For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of ideas to help inspire creativity. These are jumping points, designed to get you out of your comfort zone. Once you’ve begun to see things in a new light, the creative juices should start flowing. (For best results, add one cup of coffee).


1. Drive to work a different way. You’re almost guaranteed to see something new that inspires deeper thought. That thing could be as simple as an open field, a new restaurant, or a sale at a local retail outlet.

2. Trade your iPod with a friend for a day. You’ve probably listened to your iPod so much that you know every word to most of the songs on it. Hearing some new tunes may be just the creative push you need.  If you don’t have an mp3 player, have a friend compile a CD with some of his/her favorite songs. Do the same with your music and exchange CDs.

3. Cross your hands the other way. Clasp your hands, fingers intertwined.  Is your left or right thumb on top?  Now, free your hands and do it over again, this time with the opposite thumb on top. Something feels unnatural about it, right?  This is just one small example of how we get stuck in the same patterns. Before long, trying things any other way just seems wrong.

4. Sit in a different place. Try sleeping on the opposite side of the bed tonight. When you go to church, sit in a different pew than usual. (You may even see someone you haven’t thought about in a while). Rotate the desk in your office. Hey, just stand on your desk and look around the room! Why not? It’s amazing the kind of insights you’ll receive by viewing things from a new perspective.

5. Go to a different grocery store. I’m willing to bet that you go to the same grocery store every week.  You have a system of starting at one end of the store and working your way around to the other side. You know where everything is located, and you’ve tailored your grocery list around those items. Mix it up! Try shopping at a different store this week. The process may take longer than usual, but you may also be inspired by something found along the way.

Remember that inspiration can be waiting in the strangest of places. Where is yours hiding?

Our Top 10 Favorite Unconventional Business Cards


In a recent blog post entitled 7 Key Elements of Great Business Card Design, we discussed some helpful tips for creating an effective business card. We also mentioned that people who work in creative fields often have more freedom to experiment with their card designs.

Consequently, we thought it might be fun to share some of our favorite unconventional business cards. The following designs all have one thing in common: they provide immediate value to their recipients.

The most challenging part of creating an effective business card is making the consumer want to hold onto it. Anyone can write basic contact information on a few pieces of paper and give them away. However, there’s a good chance that the recipients will either lose the cards or throw them in the trash. If you can find a way to provide value to the consumer through your business card, you’ll be set!

The business cards above are perfect for hair and makeup artists or hair product suppliers!  Not only do these cards clearly represent the profession/industry at hand, but they also give value to the consumer by supplying him/her with free bobby pins and a comb.

We love the play on words with this business card – not to mention the free matches that come with it!

This is, without a doubt, one of our favorites.  Aside from the fact that it just looks awesome, this card doubles as a functional tool!

The same applies for this design.  Who hasn’t needed a bottle opener at some point?  This card could easily make you the coolest person at a party!

The design above would make a great business card for a dentist.  I would definitely keep this card in my wallet for after eating.

Much like a bottle opener, nearly everyone has needed a USB flash drive at one time or another.  Having your brand name on this item would guarantee repeat exposure to potential consumers.

We believe that everyone is still a kid at heart. The buildable car above provides value to its recipients by appealing to that inner child and offering an escape from their busy lives.

It can be so refreshing to stop whatever we’re doing and construct something by hand. Afterward, cardholders will have something to proudly display on their desks. From that point forward, anytime they look at the car, they’ll remember your brand.

Much like the last business card, these two would make great desk ornaments simply because of how interesting they are. Consumers having that sort of repeat exposure results in greater brand recognition.

As intriguing as they are, it’s important to note that unconventional business cards aren’t best for everyone and every brand. Some industries are more suited for sleek and subtle card designs.

How To Make An Awesome Facebook Giveaway


“Who wants an iPad when you could have a porcelain squirrel night light?”

That was the original thought behind our new, weekly giveaway. Scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, you’ll see plenty of sweepstakes for discounts, gift cards, and free T-shirts. What you won’t see are giveaways for the real, hot ticket items, like our impeccable thrift store finds (that is, unless you’re following Innovations Branding House).

If you haven’t been properly acquainted, allow me to introduce you to our Fresh Finds Friday…

Every Friday, we post a new, thrift store find on our Facebook page. Viewers have until the following Winner Wednesday to “Like” and “Comment” on that post for a chance to win the item at hand.

“No one is going to want your ridiculous prizes,” you protest. To that, I say two things:


  1. The Innovations team is all about ridiculous (when it adds value), and we think there may be a few more out there like us. We thrive on the particularly outlandish.  It’s the source of much of our creativity and sets us apart from the crowd.  We’re not into drab, cookie-cutter ideas.
  2. We’ll make the people want these prizes!

In fact, the results have been quite impressive thus far.  The winners couldn’t be happier with their items!

Here are some of our Fresh Finds Friday prizes:


With a team like ours, it’s no wonder this giveaway has turned into something much bigger than we expected.

Rather than simply drawing the winner’s name from a hat, we decided to spice up the selection process. It began with Brittany Borden, one of our graphic designers and print specialist, skating around the photo studio and soon turned into an office affair.

Now, everyone is getting involved to make these weekly selection videos the cinematic experience they are!  We’re continually setting the bar for ourselves and attempting to make each week’s video better than the last. Watch the videos below to see our progress!




A new prize is posted every Friday, so keep an eye on our Facebook page!

Why Should my Business Have a Blog?


Have you thought about blogging for your business? You probably already have a website and a Facebook page and may not see the point in business blogging, but did you know that blogging is the basis of relationship marketing?

This is based on three principles: know, like, and trust. Your consumers know you through your website, they like you through your Facebook page, and they trust you through your blog. In fact 81 percent of online consumers trust blogs.

Blogs are where consumers and prospects alike are able to get to know your company. In a sense, you’re in the beginning stages of creating brand loyalty by listening and responding to your readers.Through a blog you’re able to relay information to your consumers and prospects where your website and Facebook page may not be the proper platform to host that information.

You know when you call customer service for help with your product and you’re left on the line listening to elevator music? You find yourself waiting on the phone with enough time to pop a frozen pizza in the oven and eat it before you hear an actual person on the other line.

Not having a blog for your business is just like that. When your business has a website or Facebook page that is active, your consumers begin to recognize you by your online presence and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing if you’re active and your content is engaging. However, if you’re going to be recognized by your online presence, be sure to be engaging.

For example, the content on your website most likely doesn’t change on a day-to-day basis, so there isn’t a reason that drives consumers to your site. Having a blog that engages the reader hosted on your site increases your online traffic.

With your Facebook page, consumers are able to see your posts, but it’s unlikely that your posts are establishing a relationship. People like to talk to people, which is why it’s annoying to be on hold with customer service for so long. With a blog, you’re able to further explain things and better communicate and establish trust with your consumers. Blogs are consumer-generated content, so you’re able to post information to further reach your targeted and current consumer base.

Still not convinced that you should blog? Let’s look at the numbers by a Business Social Media Benchmarking Study conducted in 2009 by Business.com where companies involved with social media saw an increase:

  • Website traffic increased by 61 percent
  • Engagement with prospects increased 57 percent
  • Brand awareness increased 54 percent
  • Engagement with customers increased 50 percent
  • Revenue increased 42 percent
  • Brand reputation increased 42 percent
  • Prospect lead volume increased 36 percent
  • Prospect lead quality increased 33 percent
  • Useful product feedback increased 23 percent

For all of you visual types, see the chart below. (Way to go Chart-B

Still unsure if business blogging is right for your business? Contact us at Innovations Branding House for a free consultation with our experts!