How can your business stand out when there are millions of websites competing for attention and common long-established marketing strategies are failing?

More and more I tell my clients that there is one simple answer: get your hands dirty! If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to hire the writers, SEO specialists and online marketers then you have no choice but to be hands on.

2012 should be the year for learning new skills, getting creative and starting to think strategically to beat the competition.

With today’s technology, the plethora of guides and information available online and some dedication on your part, you stand every chance of making great gains in your online niche. So to rub dirt into your competitors’ faces, take control of your marketing this year and follow my seven steps below consistently.

Get your head around SEO and write content consistently
Google loves up-to-date content but simply blogging won’t be enough to edge out your biggest competitors. You must develop a content strategy and create content which is powered by a purposeful SEO strategy – consistently. Dedicate time to researching which keywords are important to target using the free keyword research tools like HubSpot’s Keyword Grader or Google’s Keyword Tool.

Use PPC strategically
You should use PPC occasionally. Choose the terms that really do matter to you and your bottom line and that you can’t win in an organic fight. PPC can be a smart way to start slowly chipping away at the competition while simultaneously growing your business.

Get a good handle on your inbound marketing analytics. Spend time identifying which of your marketing and sales tactics work best. Learn which content people respond to and measure how your keyword strategy is progressing. Today, technology needs to be your best friend; make time to harness it.

Develop your social media identity
Unlike larger businesses, you can use social media the way it’s intended to be used – like a human being. Learn how to really participate in the online social arena. Focus on being helpful and talk like you would to someone in real life, and above all be genuine.

Learn every day
To stay ahead of the pack you have to wear more and more hats every day. Identify and evaluate new areas that will give you an edge. Either spend money to hire new talent or purchase tools that will better serve your new needs. Today, business cannot afford to stand still.

Begin to learn, and not just about inbound marketing, to stay ahead of the curve and become a thought leader in your industry, regardless of the size of your business.

Use email like never before
Email is still a very powerful tool, especially in the B2B arena. Learn how to nurture leads and build a great subscriber list. Use landing pages and create remarkable content to put behind them.

Test and continually fine tune your email marketing strategy so you understand what kind of information your leads need, and when. You’ll begin to see a shorter sales cycle and higher revenue per customer as a result of better pre-purchase education.

Get hands on with the right technology
As I mentioned before, you must get intimate with technology and learn how to automate and get your job done faster. Look at implementing inbound marketing software and automation tools to free up time to do the things that require your personal attention.

Have a great product or service
Quality content is one thing, but quality must extend to every facet of your business. Hire great people and provide great customer service. Focus on building a loyal base of customers by being honest about exactly what you can do for them. A satisfied customer is better than any paid-for advertising!

How do you plan on pulling ahead of your biggest competitors this year?

About the author

Peter Engelhardt - Director Creative Brew

Peter Engelhardt

Peter has a ridiculous amount of marketing and communications experience. He is an inbound marketing advocate and a new media enthusiast with a passion for spreading his knowledge and blogging. Above all he is the driving force behind Creative Brew and a proud dad.