With 9 out of 10 businesses reporting to have increased their marketing budgets by 47 percent in 2014, most of which consists of digital marketing, an online business has the potential to be extremely lucrative when taking advantage of online marketing. The multi-million dollar marketing industry opens the door to endless global profits.
However, with 80 percent of small businesses failing within the first 18 months of launching, the ability to become successful is tough. Common mistakes that could have easily been avoided cause businesses to plunder.
“Most of us think that we should be promoting products exclusively in the content of our message. Sell, Sell, Sell but this method simply does not work in the online environment,” said, Katie DeCicco, CEO of Celebration Saunas, Inc. “You must have quality information that educates your buyer and creates trust and loyalty. You must be useful and be honest about yourself and the product to be successful”
In order to be successful while marketing online, you need to have a firm understanding of the industry and the techniques used to get the job done right. However, you’ll face your own set of challenges while succeeding as a business as trends are always evolving. We interviewed leading internet marketers to gain the inside information that allowed them to thrive online.
What do you wish you knew when you were getting started?
Unfortunately, digital marketing takes a lot of trial and error, no matter the industry or how much experience you may have. When you first start out, there’s a definite learning curve that needs to be taken into account. What worked today, may not necessarily work tomorrow, which is exactly what Marketing Manager Nick Kastner explained when asked about his hindsight after starting his online business.
“I wish that I would have known that the industry would be an ongoing evolution. I think everyone knew back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that things would constantly change, but I don’t think anyone realized that it would change as much as it has,” said Kastner. “Every aspect of marketing has changed overtime but prior to the ‘digital age,’ we saw incremental change. With internet marketing, we can see the entire industry shift in the period of 6 months, which is a huge change for marketers.”
Keeping in stride with the ever changing marketing industry is a challenge in itself. The ability to meet the current trends and prepare for what will come next makes all of the difference in the success or failure of an online business. The ability to fine tune current trends while preparing for what lies ahead is an essential skill that must be learned and adapted to produce the most favorable results..
“Correlation is not tantamount to causation. For most SEOs and marketing analysts, this is a familiar, if not clichéd, concept. However, having worked both as a consultant and as an in-house SEO, it’s something that many clients and CEOs just don’t get,” said Online Consultant, Brandon Seymour. “There’s a big difference between accuracy and precision.”
Of course, the road to precision is easier said than done. Only after you’ve learned from your mistakes can you then tailor your marketing skills to promote ultimate success.
What mistakes should people avoid?
We’re all aware of the typical pitfalls that bring down digital marketing success and online businesses overall, such as lack of quality content, poor brand identity, lack of engagement, and not utilizing vital resources. However, there are also many mistakes made through growing pangs and obstacles that you must face that can only be overcome by online experience. To help grow while marketing online, Seymour recommends choosing clients and brands that you understand well and those that allow you to grow.
“Not only is the brand itself an important consideration, but also the people behind it,” said Seymour.
Kastner agrees with Seymour, saying a common mistake for those who are new to marketing online involves biting off more than they can chew before they are really ready.
“The biggest mistake most new internet marketers make is taking on too much. Whether in the agency environment or working for a company, it’s easy to think that just because you can do it means that you should do it,“ said Kastner. “For example, managing a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign with 1,000’s of targeted keywords may seem brilliant to start a campaign in the beginning, but the management of that for an individual can be overwhelming. The same can be said for a robust blog or social media editorial calendar. Sometimes it’s much easier to say you should do something than it is to actually execute on it.”
Internet marketer Michael Juba recognizes another challenge online businesses must overcome– the ability to think creatively and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Not everything is cut and dry. The ability to think outside of the box to adapt to new methods will set you apart from other cookie-cutter businesses.
“Don’t take automated shortcuts. While they are helpful to fill in the blanks and save some time, you need to personalize the message.” said Juba.
You need to have an added spark that other companies lack. Put in the extra effort to create customized solutions, without cutting corners to save time or money.
What advice to you have to get a leg up?
In light of the fact digital marketing is such a demanding industry at the moment, competition is fierce. It can be difficult to set yourself apart from your competitors to succeed. To get a leg up online, you need to stay informed and confident in your abilities.
“If you want to get a leg up on the competition, I would recommend reading as many blogs as possible on daily basis. Information is power,” said Seymour. “The more you learn, the more you have to offer.”
Juba fully agrees with Seymour, saying, “Read, follow, and engage. You have to constantly be reading new articles everyday as internet marketing changes almost every day. You need to follow, not only marketing influencers and experts, but also experts in all sorts of industries because as an internet marketer you need to become an expert in every industry it seems, a jack of all trades.“
Juba also recommends engaging with those influencers, share their content, comment, and add value to it. “You have to get your name out there and be reputable to be recognized and play with the big sites,” said Juba.
In addition to keeping up with the competition, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses early on will help set you apart from your competitors.
“Realize early on what you’re good at and what you’re not,” says Kastner. “Because the industry is all about agility and rapid deployment, you have to make sure that you do what you’re really good at and then work with others that can do the other stuff until you can get up to speed.”
Staying up to speed as the industry evolves will always be an uphill battle as trends, regulations, and requirements constantly change. It’s one of the struggles you will have to face and take head on in stride.
What are your current struggles today?
No matter how much experience you’ve gained or how many years you’ve been working online, struggles will always remain and you must be ready for them.
“One of my biggest struggles is getting clients to understand the long-term value of organic marketing strategies. Most businesses want an immediate return on their investment. With some marketing models, like PPC, this is possible. But if you tell a client that it’s going to take several months (which they’re paying you for) to improve their site’s rankings, it’s difficult for them to see the forest between the tress,” said Seymour.
The communication skills you have with clients and the audience you target play a large role in your ability to succeed online, too. If you can’t properly convey ideas, goals, and methods, you’re in for a headache. The same is true if you can’t properly communicate the information you’re trying to market to your targeted audience. Plus, finding the best method to communicate to large numbers is another challenge, which will continue as trends diversify.
“I still struggle with developing the ideas that will go viral. You can’t hit a homerun every time, but you hope to get some traction with each piece of content,” said Juba. “Every campaign has a different objective, whether it’s generating leads, links, mentions, brand awareness, rankings, or traffic…or all of the above. Some pieces of content will generate more leads then others while other pieces of content will get more links but not more leads.”
After you’ve finally made all of the pieces to the puzzle fit and your online business is running smoothly, it’s easy to think your job is now done, but it’s not.
When is it enough?
The bottom line remains that your job is never done, even after you’ve reached your campaign goals. As Seymour puts it, “There is always room for improvement. Always.”
“If you don’t constantly keep up with industry standards, optimization techniques, new & entertaining quality content or monitor the behavior of visitors on a site you will lose market share to companies willing to. If you don’t analyze the data regarding how visitors use the site, you will invariably become useless, outdated and will lose money in consumer confidence and all the money you spent to get the customer there in the first place,” said DeCicco. “Although starting up is overwhelming, once the foundation is built its just a matter of maintaining what is already in place and using your analytic data to make improvements to the user experience.”
Even when you think your job is done, it’s time to go back and analyze data to figure out what exactly worked and what didn’t. By doing so, you can further adjust your efforts to maximize your time and budget. You then have the opportunity to try different outlets that you hadn’t previously.
“The best internet marketers know when to drop the efforts that aren’t providing a return,” said Kastner. “If any marketing channel or effort stops providing a return, it’s time to move on and find those channels that do.”
Succeeding as an Internet Marketer
In this day and age, competition is tough to succeed online. Not only do you have never ending trends, techniques, requirements, and methods to keep up with, but internet marketing is often hit and miss. You’ll hear what worked for one business, only to find it does nothing for your campaign. Tips and advice will be thrown at you, but the ability to individualize yourself from your competitors to stand out will be the very thing that allows you to succeed.
“Don’t take someone else’s best practices as gospel. Each audience that we market to is different, and because of this, each audience will react differently to promotional endeavors and/or on your web properties,” said Global Manager of Digital Marketing, Jacob Baldwin. “Create your own philosophy about digital marketing. Think for yourself, and build reason into your lines of logic. This will help you establish yourself as an industry leader.”
Don’t become a clone of other online businesses, learn from your mistakes, take a little risk, and think outside of the box if you want to succeed. Achieve the foundation to the needed skills, then use your hands-on experience to come out reigning on top.