What’s the right approach to online marketing for your business?
When it comes to online marketing, there’s a lot of advice out there. I can’t criticize, I’m responsible for a good deal of it myself.
But, everywhere you look, it seems like there’s another person sharing their latest marketing innovation, best practice or hack. It’s almost impossible to keep them all straight, let alone decide which ones are relevant to your business.
So what do you do? How do you sort through all of the clutter and pick a marketing approach that will work for you and your company?
To be honest, the secret to effectively marketing your business isn’t the latest best practice or marketing hack. Those might be tools in your marketing tool chest, but they won’t do you much good if your fundamental approach to marketing isn’t solid. In fact, if they distract you from focusing on the most important things for your business, they can actually do more harm than good.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at why you should take most marketing advice with a grain of salt and a few reliable marketing approaches you can use to get consistent results.
The problem with most marketing advice
When it comes to marketing advice, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: almost all marketing advice comes from marketers. And marketers are constantly trying to sell something.
Even when they’re not directly trying to sell you on a product or service (or their breakthrough, ultra-secret methodology that will make you an overnight millionaire), marketers can’t help but market. It’s instinctive for them. If they want you to believe in their breakthrough or hack, they’ll do their level best to make it seem awesome.
There’s nothing wrong with that…as long as you remember one thing: your results may vary.
No two businesses are the same. Even direct competitors can struggle to effectively replicate each others’ marketing secret sauce. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this point often tends to get lost once marketers start talking about how great their latest idea is.
So, the next time you’re reading about the latest and greatest in the marketing world (including this article), remember, just because something worked for someone else, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. There’s a lot other people can teach you, but ultimately, what’s right for your business will be specific to your business.
How will you approach marketing?
In light of all that, you might be wondering, How do I know what marketing strategies will work for my business?
That’s a great question.
While there are countless different tricks, tactics and hacks you can use to promote your business online, most of them fall into three basic categories. In my experience, as long as your marketing is effective in at least one of these areas, you’ll be successful. So, it pays to understand each of these marketing approaches and which one(s) you want to use for your business.
Ideally, you want to be strong in each of the following areas, but that can often be overwhelming, so start by trying to identify which sort of strategy best fits your company’s personality, needs, and brand.
1. Create something compelling
Although we all love fun, engaging and compelling content, let’s be honest, most marketing is boring. For every truly brilliant ad or article, there are a million utterly forgettable ones.
But here’s the thing. People want to see something fun, funny, entertaining, novel or just plain compelling. They don’t actually hate marketing – they just hate boring marketing. So, if your company can be clever, thought-provoking, soulful or hilarious, people will naturally be interested in your marketing.
Engaging content stands out from the crowd. It gives people something interesting to look at, think about and share with others – even if that content isn’t all that unique or different to begin with.
Take the following image from “The Art of Manliness,” for example.
Is there anything novel or new about the idea of giving a good firm handshake (among men and women)? Not really. In fact, this idea has been around for decades, if not hundreds of years.
But…put this content into a fun infographic like this and suddenly, it’s new, fresh and engaging.
If you’re smart about it, you don’t have to say anything new to be an effective marketer. You just have to say things in a new and engaging way. If online influencers and YouTubers can win thousands-to-millions of people over with this simple strategy, it should come as no surprise that creating engaging marketing content is a surefire way to win over your target market.
Don’t believe me? How about a concrete marketing example?
This pooping unicorn put Squatty Potty on the map. By approaching the subject of pooping in an engaging way, this ad made the Squatty Potty a cultural phenomenon.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect Squatty Potty success from your own marketing, but the point remains that engaging marketing works. There are countless examples of business that made their mark by creating content that their customers love.
The downside to this approach, of course, is that putting together compelling content takes a lot of creativity and work – which is a big part of why most marketing content isn’t all that compelling. If you or your business isn’t creative or willing to put in the time and energy to create engaging content, this approach might not be for you.
But, if you love the idea of creating compelling, stand-out content, this sort of approach can do wonders for your business. Marketing like this makes people remember your business and want to follow you for more great content. It isn’t easy, but it can certainly produce great results.
2. Strike first
Sometimes the easiest way to win against your competitors is to beat your competition…to the competition. It’s not hard to get clicks when your business is the only option people see.
And, when it comes to online marketing, there’s always something new to try.
Social media platforms, ad formats, campaign strategies, those hacks and breakthroughs we mentioned earlier—they all fall into this category. Anytime a new option comes around, if you can be the first one to figure out how to make it work, you win. How much you’ll win may vary, but you’ll almost always have a market advantage until your competition catches on.
The problem is, though, striking first is probably the most popular approach in this article. As marketers, we love shiny new toys, so most businesses eagerly look for the next big thing that will allow them to achieve maximum success with minimum effort.
As a result, the long-term effectiveness of this strategy tends to wane with time. The more people who start using the platform, tactic or ad format, the more competition you have and the less exciting your results become.
Take Facebook Ads, for example.
Not too long ago, you could get clicks for pennies and there weren’t a ton of businesses running ads. These days, however, Facebook is crammed with ads and the cost per click is pushing up against two dollars.
For advertisers who figured Facebook out early, it was a real cash cow. But, nowadays, you have to have a solid strategy just to make any money with Facebook Ads.
The other challenge with trying to be first is that it can sometimes be hard to predict which options are worth investing in and which ones will be a waste of time and effort. For example, remember Vine?
During its hey-day, Vine was a hub of content creation. Accounts that created memorable video snippets became incredibly popular, almost overnight.
And then, Vine died. All of the people who had invested countless hours into creating a following on Vine lost most of their network when the platform closed up shop.
For a while, it seemed like Vine could be the next big thing, but for reasons outside of its users’ control, it didn’t survive and all of their efforts went up in smoke.
So, while being an early adopter is exciting and can yield massive results, it isn’t without its share of risks. But, if you love figuring out new things and are willing to constantly jump on the latest bandwagon, striking first can be a very viable way to market your business.
3. Keep going…and going…and going
Our final marketing approach is far less exciting than being an early adopter. However, the grade-school truism of “slow and steady wins the race” is just as true in marketing as it is in any other area of life.
While it can be easy to look for quick results, there’s a lot to be said for consistency.
Will posting daily on social media yield tons of followers overnight? No, but over the course of months-to-years, it will probably lead to a sizeable following. Will refining your paid search strategy on a regular basis cut your cost per click by next month? No, but give it long enough and you’ll have a CPC that makes your competitors green with envy.
The point is, most business success doesn’t happen overnight – even if it looks like it does. Behind every story of overnight success are countless days and nights of work. But nobody mentions all of the blood, sweat, and consistent effort that lead to a sudden stroke of brilliance. All we see is the end result – and then wonder why we can’t achieve the same thing without all of the effort.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my career, it’s that consistently doing the right things usually yields results over time. It’s not always fun to be patient, but eventually, it pays off.
Of course, if your business is struggling to keep its head above water or patience and consistent effort make you miserable, this approach can be hard to employ. But honestly, even if your focus is on one of the other approaches we’ve discussed in this article, you’ll always be well-served by being consistent in your marketing.
With all the chatter out there about online marketing strategies, hacks and breakthroughs, it can be easy to get confused about what applies to your business…and what doesn’t. But honestly, most marketing advice fits into one of the three categories we’ve discussed in this article:
- It helps make your marketing more compelling
- It’s a new idea that most businesses aren’t trying
- It’s something that needs to be done consistently to yield good results
Understanding which of these approaches you want to focus on in your business can help you figure out which strategies to try and which ones to ignore. If creative, compelling content simply isn’t your strong point, don’t try to implement a big, bold, attention-grabbing strategy. Instead, focus on tactics that play to your strengths.
Your business is unique. You don’t have to replicate what someone else does to be successful. You just have to figure out what makes your business special and the best way to communicate that to your audience.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.