The average business owner does something like this:
Starts a business.
Waits for customers.
Realizes they need to market their business to get customers.
Markets their business.
Still has no results.
Confused and frustrated, they contemplate throwing in the towel.
But we don’t want you to give up, which is why we put together this list of ways you’re probably wasting your time and how to get better at marketing:
Ineffective PR Strategies
PR is considered a “must do” by most businesses, but because of ineffective strategies, business owners can spend a lot of time without any results.
How do you know if you’re using ineffective PR strategies?
You’re Not Thinking About The Pitch
Danny Groner, a freelance journalist, says that the single biggest mistake people make is not thinking about the pitch and whether it makes sense for:
that particular writer (have they shown an interest in the topic and written about it before?)
the time of year (are you trying to pitch a “back to school” themed article in March?)
the outlet (would their audience be interested in this story?)
You want to get press for your business, but the instinct to send your press release to anyone who might be interested is a bad one. When you include people who aren’t the right fit for your story, you lose credibility with them and show that you’re inexperienced.
Danny’s tip? “Be sure that the people you target are suitable for the pitch. If they're not, hold onto them for another opportunity down the line.”
You're All About Yourself
Jeff Kear, owner at Planning Pod (and Grasshopper customer!), found his company actually got more results by talking about themselves less. Early in their PR efforts, they sent out a lot of press releases, but didn’t get much traction at all. He says, “Our mistake was twofold: first, what we were providing wasn't really news, and second, what we were providing didn't serve the needs of the reporters and their audience.”
They tried a new strategy: They asked reporters and writers what they deemed newsworthy material. What they heard back was that the writers were primarily interested in three different types of stories:
Information on industry trends
Revealing data or statistics
Truly innovative new products and ideas that are gaining momentum
Jeff’s company changed its PR strategy, conducting its own research and providing their media contacts with their insights. That change took them from one mention every other month in the press to 5-7 mentions per month. Not too shabby!
How to Fix It:
Instead of doing “spray and pray” style press releases (that’s industry slang for sending out as many press releases as possible, and hoping that someone picks up the story), do this instead:
Send fewer press releases (or media pitches).
Target the ones you do send to a specific individual’s interests or area of expertise.
Make it useful, interesting content - not just blatant self-promotion. Consider conducting your own surveys and research so that you can share the data afterwards.
In the early days of search engine optimization, it was fairly common advice to focus on link-building (essentially, getting as many sites to link to your site as possible). And getting a link back to your site is a good thing, but many people took the easy way out and simply paid webmasters to put links on their sites. However, the Penguin update of Google’s algorithm got a lot smarter about penalizing websites that participated in tactics like buying backlinks.
Brian Thackston, director of content at WebMechanix, had such an incident with a client. Unknown to the client or WebMechanix, the client's previous marketing firm had purchased backlinks to their site (a big no-no).
This approach initially worked, helping the client rank well in search engines for some very competitive keywords. But when Google updated its algorithm, the client’s monthly traffic plummeted, and their most important lead-generating page lost a whopping 551.35% of its traffic. Yikes.
How to Fix It:
This is a case where prevention beats treatment. Make sure to ask your marketing agencies about their link building and SEO tactics, as well as their philosophies. To educate yourself, read up on “white hat” SEO strategies. WebMarketingSchool has a great basics guide, and Moz has good beginner guides, too.
In Brian’s case, they took a multi-step approach to fix the problem:
First, they contacted all of the websites hosting the links and requested them to be taken down
Some of the sites responded, but the majority didn’t. “We considered sending DMCA takedown notices to combat the remainder, but our team and the client agreed that the most likely outcome of that wouldn't justify the time and money we'd spend doing it.”
They changed tactics and worked on creating a pro-active SEO strategy instead, by publishing quality content, improving the company’s Google+ profile and local listings, and earning legitimate links back to the site
They also devoted more time and money to testing the website and improving it. “That way, we could at least get better returns from the traffic they were still receiving,” Brian noted.
A few months later, Google’s “Disavow Links” tool came in handy for further mitigating the damage. Basically, the tool lets you explain to Google why you don’t deserve to be associated with spammy links that may be hurting your search engine rankings.
Sponsored Social Without Targeting
You can get real results running ads on Facebook or Twitter, but only if you do it carefully.
Too many companies throw $50 or $100 at sponsoring a post and then wonder why they aren’t seeing any engagement.
“[pullquote]The most common mistake for an SMB to make when utilizing sponsored social media posts is to not utilize proper targeting[/pullquote],' says Josh Otten, Co-founder and CEO of Screenpush International. By taking a client’s Twitter post and using specific targeting, Screenpush was able to double the click-through rate of a campaign.
The other half of this is having specific goals for your sponsored posts, whether that’s an increase in likes/followers, more email subscribers, or more inquiries about your products or services, or more purchases. If you don’t have goals, then you’re essentially throwing money away when you sponsor social.
How to Fix It:
Targeting is important, but make sure you do it right. Brian Davidson, Co-founder of Matchnode, says that a common mistake small business owners make is targeting the wrong audience. With one of his clients, the product was for high school athletes, but at first, they had a hard time reaching the parents of the student athletes.
This is what they did to fix the problem:
First, they targeted people in high school that liked sports, with a sport-specific ad to “like” their page.
Then, they ran a campaign targeting friends of friends of people who liked their page in a specific age range, with an ad for the site. The reasoning was that very few kids would have many adult friends other than their parents, and if they were friends on Facebook with other adults, it was likely the parents of people in their social circle, like their teammates.
Using this tactic, Brian was able to take ads that had previously been low performances, and create monthly revenue in the six-figures from them.
Don’t Forget To Measure Your Results
Especially when you’re using online tools, it’s crucial to measure your marketing campaigns and the results that come from them. These posts from the archives can help: