Slow and Steady Wins the Race – Why marketing is a marathon not a sprint.

Running a marathonJust like the classic Aesop's fable tortoise and hare race, when it comes to digital marketing, slow and steady wins the race. Whether you are running a B2B or B2C business, marketing is all about cultivating and nurturing the relationships your business has with existing customers and potential new ones alike. Just as personal and professional relationships take time to mature, patience is needed in developing the relationships you have with your online customers. If you don't see immediate results in your sales from your online marketing activity, don't give up – as the saying goes 'Rome was not built in a day' and the relationships you build online are an investment in your business, reaping rewards at a later date.

1) Warm up - Preparation and planning is key to any successful marketing campaign. Just as athletes plan their training schedule and the routes they are going to take on their training journey, you need to plan how you are going to get more traffic and leads to your website. Do you need to refresh the keywords you are using to optimise your site for search engines? What will your strategy towards social media be? Some businesses start up a Twitter account or create a Facebook page, post for a few months then give up when the number of 'likes' or 'comments' dwindle. It takes time to build up a relationship with social media users. Don't just give them statements all the time about how good your business is – ask questions, find out what they respond to and what they don't and target any further marketing activity accordingly.

Before you embark on a brand new email marketing campaign, make sure your database is as clean as possible. Weed out any incorrect addresses and if it's been a while since you last used the data, consider sending out a re-engagement email to find out which of your customers are still happy to receive information from you and if they choose to stay opted in, give them the option to manage their preferences. eg. Ask them whether they want to receive communications daily, weekly, monthly etc and ask them the type of communication they want to receive – eg. Special offers, event information, new product news etc.

2) Keep a steady pace – Marathon athletes know that there's a long way to go before they cross the finish line and they don't want to run out of steam half way through. Don't blow all your marketing budget in one go on a costly PPC campaign, keep some back so that you can assess which adverts worked and which didn't and then re-market accordingly.

Don't go firing on all cylinders and then fall by the wayside. By tweeting, commenting on Facebook and blogging like mad for a couple of weeks and then slipping into an exhaustive online silence, you won't impress potential followers. The more you continue to post interesting and engaging information regularly and consistently through blogs, tweets and Facebook comments, the more likely it will be that users will look out for your postings and share them with others. Increasing brand awareness through social media activity increases the trust and integrity of your brand, keeping your business in the forefront of the potential purchaser's mind.

3) Keep active 24/7 – More and more people are browsing the internet from their mobile phones, tablets or i-pads. Your website should be actively marketing your products and services 24/7. Make sure that your website can be viewed from any mobile device so that clients can find you when they are on the go. What's more, make sure that your content stays fresh, relevant and interesting to keep visitors actively engaged when they reach your website. If you're not sure about the mobile compatibility of your website, contact a web application specialist who can test your site on a variety of mobile devices.

4) Break away - Athletes know when it's time to break away from the crowd and stand out so that they have the best chances of getting to the finish line first. Make sure your company presence stands out from the competition – How unique is your marketing message – do you go for a particularly visual, humorous or quirky approach? How unique is the content on your website – what do you offer visitors to it that others don't? Do you offer a unique service?

5) Beyond the finishing line – Whilst the ultimate goal is to increase sales and profitability of your business, you can't stop marketing just because you've crossed the finish line and reached a particular sales target. Many companies stop marketing when they've reached their defined sales targets, whilst others cut the marketing budget when sales figures are down in order to save costs. This is false economy as marketing should be a continuous on-going investment which you should maintain both in times of prosperity and austerity.

When you spend time or money on advertising campaigns, the benefit usually ends as soon as you stop spending the time and money. However the benefits of 'free' online marketing such as those from blog posts, Facebook comments etc (particularly from an SEO point of view) live on long after their original posts. It may take time for the search engines to reach out and find your posts but once they do, you'll always have that internal link back to your brand. Just remember that in marketing you're in it for the long haul!