As more and more of my peers in small business come online and start trying their hand at blogging and internet marketing, there are a number of common myths and mistakes that need to be addressed.
If you’re considering starting a blog or using social media to promote your small business, I applaud you. My goal for this post is to simply dispel some of the biggest lies, misunderstanding and obstacles I’ve come across that you will likely run into.
Hopefully you can use these as a way of saving yourself some time and get straight to the business of making your blog or website reach your goals.
- Internet marketing as an afterthought: It’s a great idea to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. For many business models (dare I say nearly ALL business models) a customer’s most common point of interaction with you is your website. Your internet presence should be given a proportional amount of your time and attention. Many businesses ironically spend very little time on internet marketing. They’ll have a site that gets thousands of visitors a month, but they do very little if anything to effectively engage them. Instead, they expect people to call them and wade through an automated phone system in order to get information. You may prefer to do business a certain way, but it’s likely that your customer would prefer your website to be a lot more usable. And it may interest you that if you help them out in this regard, they will likely reward you for it : ) Don’t let your internet marketing be something that you’re just trying to squeeze in. It needs to be as integrated into your business as your customers would like it to be.
- Let me just slam this website together. Let’s get this sucker DONE! This is a powerful myth and mistake many people make! Your internet marketing is an ongoing process. Think of it more as a dialog than anything else. When you walk away, the conversation stops. Ideally you want to be as active and engaged in your internet marketing as possible. Trying to crank out a website and then thinking that it’s going to keep pulling results for you without any additional effort is the wrong way of looking at it.
- Marketing online is not the same as traditional marketing: Traditional marketing is interruption-based, which means that advertisers have always concentrated on grabbing people’s attention however they can. Getting a response was key. In online marketing, people are already paying attention, so trying to cram a message in front of them is just rude. Cultivating a relationship with your visitors is hugely important. That’s why blogging is something I consider to be pretty much mandatory for most small business owners, because it enables you to communicate with a large number of people very effectively and in a personal manner. Applying traditional marketing methods to your internet marketing most often comes off badly for you. It’s important to embrace the fact that a social approach to your marketing, while it takes more time, really is going to be the best approach.
- Failing to build an email list: You want people to come out to your site, correct? And after they visit, you want them to come back. The number one way to get people coming back over and over again is by getting them to subscribe. And the number one way people subscribe is still via email. RSS is very convenient, but most readers still use email. If you’re not building your email list from day one, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. For email listing building tools and campaign management, I personally use Aweber and recommend you get in on that action as well.
- Failing to have a coach or someone on your team who specializes in new media: Let’s be real. You have a business to run. You’re not a SEO expert. You’re not a web designer. You’re not going to be. You don’t have time. Too many business owners try to do too much. Consult with someone from time to time. Get someone on your team, whether it’s an employee or a virtual assistant, a coach or whatever asset your most comfortable with, and use their expertise to make sure you’re being effective. Have them critique you and tell you where you can improve. Talk with someone whose job it is to stay on top of these things, and take their advice. You will be 100% more effective by not trying to do everything yourself.
- Focusing on design and SEO over content and communication: Everyone, especially business owners, want their site to look great. Yet look at some of the most successful blogs on the internet today, and not all of them look all that great. Why are they popular? How can you possibly create a winning online marketing plan without a $20k custom built website? Because believe it or not, all consumers really want is quality content. And they want it to come from you, because they care to know if you’re actually as cool as you want people to think you are. A glitzy website doesn’t impress many people any more. But quality, genuine content always will get the job done. What’s nice is that you can produce quality content for free. It just takes a little time and introspection. It’s highly worth it. Design is important, but content and quality interaction with your customers is WAY more valuable. It’s what your customers care about, so it’s what you should focus on.
- Spending too much time and money on marketing that doesn’t work: This one isn’t so much of an internet marketing thing as it is a business thing. So many of my friends in business are still locked into a mentality that they HAVE to pay for certain forms of marketing that they’ve always done in the past, even when they’re not pulling results anymore. On the flip side, I know some forward thinking business owners who have literally cut out their print advertising completely, and it has had NO negative effect on their business whatsoever. Obviously I’m not telling you specifically what to do with your specific business, but I urge you to look at the results your marketing is getting you. Are your customers flooding your websites, but meanwhile you’re still spending thousands a month on billboards and space ads? It happens a lot. If your advertising is not working, CUT IT! And put your money into your online business; it’s where your customers are most likely to find you anyway : )
- Not having fun: Fun is likely the most important element of this business. With all the options and tools at our disposal (blogs, websites, SEO, Twitter, Facebook, blah, blah, blah), it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But there’s an underlying opportunity here that most people seem to miss. You can do anything you want! You can literally make a great living doing anything you want, and as long as you’re willing to work like crazy you can do very well. Don’t become overwhelmed by your options; revel in them! Don’t be all stiff and proper with everything you do; have fun! With the amount of work that needs to be done, fun is mandatory. It also enables you to tackle the next step…
- Not diving in: There’s a lot of concern amongst business owners as to the value of Twitter, for example. I get a lot of comments regarding how it just doesn’t make sense. There is a reasonable concern over wasting time on something that is not going to produce results. Time is valuable, and that concern is prudent. However, things change quickly these days, and it’s important to act if you want to get results. Instead of using your lack of understanding as a gauge, I recommend using something else. Look at the value of the network. If there are millions of people all in one place, and the community is very active, there is a huge amount of value there, and it’s a good idea to tap into it. Dive in. Trust me, after you’ve spent some time conversing with people on Twitter (or any valuable community), it will make more sense. And so it goes with the internet in general, the biggest community of all. Being committed to getting results is key to actually getting results. Being tentative with your internet marketing endeavors will only ever produce tentative results. Don’t focus on what you don’t know. Yes, there are things to learn, but the most important thing is to dive in.
- Wanting results fast and automatically: I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get turnkey results from their internet marketing work. But it’s essential to measure your results properly. Measuring results from a blog or a social media profile in the same way that you measure results from a space ad you run in a magazine is not going to make you a happy camper. It doesn’t work the same way, and it doesn’t produce the same kind of results. Measure results using web analytics. Measure results via how many subscribers you’re getting and how many of them are buying from you. The details of this are certainly a topic for another post, but to suffice for now, don’t set up a blog and expect the orders to start pouring in automatically. Trust me, there are many points of data that you can use to keep your analytical mind more than pleased with the results you’re getting. Results are trackable using new media. But setting up a website and then sitting back and waiting for the money to start rolling in is going to lead only to disappointment.
Using new media is a little interesting…you basically cannot ignore this shift in the way of doing business. You really can’t. You have to learn to use these tools, and learning to use them is basically going to force you to rethink a lot about your business, how you measure results, etc.