For e-commerce businesses trying to be successful, a sound marketing strategy is one of the fundamental elements one has to formulate and implement in order to even survive online. Yet we see so many businesses wasting resources on channels that don’t pay off, others trying to rush through the slow process of building awareness, while some call it quits, discouraged by the high fees required to either build an in-house marketing team or outsource to an agency.
There are many bad strategical moves when it comes to online marketing, but today we’re going to look at the worst offenders: the ones that not just drain your budget, but, given enough time, have a strong chance of completely draining your business assets.
1. Writing Content for Search Engines
Ranking high in search engines means visibility, which translates into potential traffic which, in turn, translates into potential buyers. It is this connection that has led to websites putting out content intended for crawlers rather than people, a practice which in spite of Google’s efforts still hasn’t gone extinct.
Let’s get one thing straight: ranking high in search engine results is important but it is not more important than your users understanding who you are and what you’re about. Irrelevant content will drive people away very quickly and soon enough, you’ll get slapped with a slew of demotions and all the money and resources invested will have been for nothing. On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got the paranoid business owners, who have an idea about what SEO is and are very reluctant to implement any measures fearing it will involve making compromises for the benefit of search engines alone.
Google’s Hummingbird update actually makes it easier to write for users while staying relevant for search engines. If before you had to focus on a certain keyword ration and probably had a pretty hard time sounding human while doing it, now you can focus on intent.
Pro Tip: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and, when crafting your content, account not just for how they search for your product, but their level of digital literacy, how well they understand the product and whether they’re looking for information or to purchase.
2. Buying Followers and Engagement
With statistics such as 71% of Internet users are more likely to purchase from a brand that they are following on a social networking site, you’d think the more followers you have, the better your odds of converting are, right? This race to get as many likes and followers as possible, somewhere along the line, has lead to brands looking to buy a following in order to quickly increase their audience.
Buying a following might seem like a quick fix but if you’re not able to interact with them, they’re not interested in your product or service and never click on your links, what exactly have you paid for?
What’s even worse is that in some circles, a huge following supposedly shows how influential the brand or professional is. A quick look at their feeds and actual followers will quickly show very little engagement and irrelevant followers, so what’s it all worth in the end?
Buying followers isn’t the only shortcut strategy popular today, in fact, automatic Twitter direct messages, asking for likes or follows are just as popular and annoying for the end user; and since we’re talking about Twitter, here’s one strategy I haven’t had the displeasure of running into until last week:
Pro Tip: Online marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and if you try to cut corners, you’ll find users will quickly disqualify you altogether. When in doubt, use common sense, if you don’t find value in what you’re offering your audience, why in the world would they?
3. Making Assumptions and Not Testing Them
Online marketing is a process that involves making assumptions, testing them, evaluating and then adapting to whatever we see works best. While some strategies simply prove to be unsuccessful, others can quickly drain your entire budget and leave you twiddling your thumbs in confusion for the next x number of months.
I’ve spoken before about borrowing other brands’ strategies and using them for your own business and part of the reason this approach doesn’t work is because it only takes you as far as the assumption. You’re effectively assuming that the same thing your competitor, or worse, someone in a completely different industry is using, might work for you. It might not even work for them, let alone you! Not to mention the fact that you’re skipping a number of analytical steps that could help you improve the focus of your marketing efforts.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to fail on a small scale! Stand on your own two feet and come up with your own theories, test and adapt your strategies. Test on smaller audience segments, preserving your budget and resources, while still allowing you to understand what works and what doesn’t.
4. Trying to Be Everywhere
A huge misconception about online marketing is that establishing a presence on every social media network known to man, running PPC ads on every platform, blogging and posting on forums will guarantee a business’ online success. Online marketing is one industry where taking the more the merrier approach is not going to work.
Every online marketing channel requires a considerable and consistent investment of time and resources which, realistically, very few businesses can afford. Stubbornly trying to market your business on social networks, AdWords, blogs, etc means you won’t be able to offer a memorable and valuable experience but, because you’re still trying to push content on every channel, you’ll quickly drain your resources and find you’re getting with very little return on your investment.
One of the worst side effects of trying to be everywhere is spammy behavior. A brand that can’t afford to properly manage their presence on every channel they advertise on will tend to use repetitive content, a lot of which will be self-promotional, detracting even more from the user’s experience, causing users to distance themselves from said brand and eventually unfollow it.
Considering how many brands are still using these awful tactics, it comes as no surprise the CMO Council has found that 83% of consumers reported that they have had a "bad experience" with social media marketing.
Pro Tip: Think strategically and figure out the sweet spot between where your audience is, how you can reach out to them in that environment and build a cost-effective, memorable and valuable experience.
5. Always Going For 'Good Enough'
There’s a direct correlation between the scale of your online marketing effort and the budget required to make it happen and smaller businesses tend to be reluctant to stray away from the tried and true techniques of online marketing fearing it would tear their budgets apart. Minding your budget, however, doesn’t have to imply dialing back on your creativity.
Let’s take the example of a well-known soft drink brand looking to advertise a new product during the summer. Having larger budgets, their team can obviously afford to invest in several marketing channels, create professional videos, hire well-known models and much, much more. Does this then mean that a smaller, local manufacturer of soft drinks should do nothing more than put up banner ads, run a small AdWords campaign and maybe post a few times a week on Facebook?
Certainly not. Small businesses simply have to invest more time and energy in harnessing the power of their audience. In this case, our local manufacturer can run local, targeted campaigns to improve awareness, reach out to their audience and ask them to share their own content with the brand, such as photos or videos of fans using the product.
Pro Tip: Stop making up excuses! You can create a useful, meaningful experience for your users, by adapting to the particular behaviour of your user pool and reaching out to them.
When it comes to online marketing, remember that “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing” (Tom Fishburne) and try to be as nonintrusive as possible, while always looking to offer value to your audience.
Use your resources wisely by coming up with a strategy which works within your budget limitations to gather as much data as possible about your users, the platforms they use, what they’re looking for and then frame and re-frame your marketing efforts to create and curate content relevant for them.
Have you recovered from these failures before? If so, how did you do it? Let us know in the comments.