Marketing is a very important and specialized element to growing a business and differentiating yourself from the competition. I didn’t used to think so. My background is originally in finance. I used to think marketing was just some common sense piece of the puzzle that any intern could handle. Boy was I wrong. Much of the “wisdom” I now have comes from making mistakes and following the wrong instincts.
Being in the Internet Marketing business, I have also spent time analyzing other companies and reviewing their internal strategies from the outside looking in. This exercise has lead me to gain a more keen understanding of how some of the seemingly “best” mid to large size companies out there completely miss the mark when it comes to marketing. Here are some basic things that business owners should avoid:
The Good Old Marketing Fallback: Maybe you used a specific marketing strategy 5 to 10 years ago and it worked very well to drive leads and sales. Maybe you haven’t even really used “marketing” in years because times have been great and all your business comes to you. But now times are tough and you realize you need to reach out to your customers more. Their behavior seems different. They are price comparing and actually seeking opportunties outside of your brand. Looks like its time to turn on the marketing again, right?
In this situation, business owners often revert back to the same strategy they used years ago. Just because direct mail and billboards did wonders 10 years ago does not mean that you should use the same marketing plan. Design a plan that will define and address immediate business goals. If you do not have the in-house expertise to put this together, seek advice from colleagues that have a more current marketing plan to see whats working. Doing a competitive analysis will also give you great insight into what others are doing to drive new business. Don’t however make the mistake of assuming your competition is getting it right either.
Branding and Creating “Awareness”: I have seen some business owners who seem satisfied with their marketing plan because THEY see their ads and assume everyone else is seeing them too. Not only do they assume that others take notice but they assume that others are responsive to the message. This can be referred to as “ego” driven marketing. A business owner should never assume their big billboard ads and fancy print ads are channeling new business. This was easier to get away with in a good economy. Owners did not scrutinize marketing dollars as much and therefore assumed their expensive print ads had something to do with their sales. Maybe they did, but maybe not…how would they know. How can you truly measure an ad campaign like that?
As business owners wise up and move away from startegies that are not measurable, they seek more cost effective methods that can be supported by true analytics. Enter Internet marketing and online media. Marketing is much more that creative brand awareness. Your loyal customers are most likely aware of your competition, but something called them to choose you and something is keeping them loyal to your brand. Do you know what that is? You are doing something right, just make sure you know what it is and how to translate that into a marketing plan.
Push Advertising: Push advertising and messaging is alright as long as it is combined with true inbound marketing. Inbound marketing, or better yet, inbound Internet marketing, is about getting your prospective customers to come to you. Consumers are constantly expsoed to media of all kinds and therefore we must stay on top of the methods that are curently working to engage people and build trust.
Consumer behavior has changed in large part to the economic conditions. People want to trust the brands they surround themsleves with. They want transparency and honesty. They don’t want to just hear your pitch anymore. They will seek out the truth by asking their peers, going to their online social networks, or looking at rating and review sites. Great online inbound marketing starts with SEO, blogging and social media. These elements build online visibility and better yet trust among your audience.
Hiring a Consultant too Soon: It is common for large brands to have a full inhouce marketing team. But is the team really on the same page and using the same strategy? Big companies will sometimes have an Internet marketing team, a PR team, and content team, and a general marketing team. It is quite common for the PR team to have no idea what the Internet marketing team is doing. When things are disjointed like this, it is best to put an internal communication plan together before bringing in an outside consultant. This will ensure that there is a team working towards the same goal when new marketing plans are put in place.
Planning without Analyzing: There is no point in putting a plan together that will most likely cost you a lot of money if you haven’t really analyzed the problems. Business owners need to define the true goals behind what they are trying to accomplish because it will affect how a great Internet marketing strategy is built. For example, search engine optimization isn’t just about going after keywords you think are relevant to your industry or terms you see your competition showing up for. It takes many factors into account that include basic marketing, customer behavior, competition, business goals, financial goals, conversions, etc. Spend the appropriate time analyzing the situation before design the marketing plan. It will save you money in the long run.