07/23/2014 11:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Getting Attention - Breaking Through the Clutter and Noise

There are almost as many URLs as there are stars in the sky - well maybe not that many but it sure seems like it. So, the question becomes, "How do I stand out?"

Aside from committing a felony on video and posting it in the hope it will go viral, the only answer is very hard work, lots of knowledge and a good dose of luck.

Being in the marketing and communications business makes the task even more daunting. Clients expect that we can overcome the crowded field and make them shine. They want first page Google, they want unique clicks, they want Facebook fans and Twitter followers and they want more sales.

As with anything, expectations need to be managed so that they're realistic and tempered by the overall commitment to any effort. You and our clients often assume that working on the Internet leads to instant results and is inexpensive.

If that were only true.

There are three basic, universal steps crucial to every effort:

- Analyze current situation.

What's the current activity being achieved?
Number of clicks or hits
What's the conversion rate? (clicks to sales or info requests)
What's the daily sales revenue?

- Objectives.

What's a reasonable expectation in terms of results?
10 - 20 - 30% increase in clicks or hits?
2 - 3 - 5% increase in conversions?
Dollar amount of increased revenue?
Increase in individual customer purchases?

- Branding

How has branding been considered in new efforts?
Has a change in company culture, focus or image been incorporated across all platforms?
Is the effort built around the corporate brand in terms of offers, services, messaging?
New efforts, especially those involving website redesign, are an opportunity to update the look and feel to mirror company branding.

Clients are always focused on the ROI. They're very aware of the need for more sales and push hard to see results. But the question is, "What kind of sales?" "Which product or service?" "To what vertical or demographic?"

Just as you would research mailing lists for a direct mail campaign, so must you identify the narrowest of markets for a particular online effort. Trying to make a one size fits all campaign is fruitless. Spray and pray is just as dead in the online world as it is in physical realm.

For example, it makes no sense to aim at the millennial bracket and miss the mark by more than a year or two. Your message will be flat and unattractive to those outside the target zone, and they won't respond. That goes for social media, as well. You MUST..M-U-S-T... know the profile of each distribution point.

A word to those in the not-for-profit sector: The principals that apply to the commercial marketplace are just as valid for a charity. Where business owners talk in terms of sales, development directors of an NFP talk about donations or gifts. It's an easy substitution of terms. Both are focused at increasing revenue and market share. The more an NFP models its efforts on a for-profit organization, the more productive the results. After all the only difference is the service being sold. NFPs are selling services that they provide to their constituents -- whether they be disadvantaged families, handicapped or seriously ill children, or some other worthy cause. Charities ask (read "sell their cause") for donations that enable them to continue their important work. The more effectively they manage the marketing and sales efforts as a business, the more robust their coffers will be.

Marketing and selling online affords almost unlimited opportunities to be in front of specific audiences, populations and interests. Ignoring the hard work of analyzing where you are now, where you are hoping to get to, and the steps it takes to get there will make all your efforts fail miserably. All maps have a starting point and identify the route to the destination. It's your job to keep it on the course and hit each of the mile markers along the way.

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.