Online marketing has become a lucrative business: even bricks-and-mortar companies need to have an online presence these days, and many people make a lot of money telling entrepreneurs and business owners how to create an online presence.
Much of this advice is ineffective.
Readers have become wary of web pages crammed with SEO terms, highlighted copy, sensationalist headlines and flashing neon text. Other online marketers make dubious claims involving six-figure salaries within 30 days, or similar. The fact is, if you want to market your business with integrity, it can be hard to know where to turn – especially when online marketing advice doesn’t come cheap.
How do you know where to find good marketing guidance, without wasting thousands of dollars on advice that’s just as effective as doing nothing?
The answer is that you don’t necessarily have to spend a cent to get started. Online marketing advice doesn’t need to come from a paid professional, as you can start by doing a lot of the sleuthing work yourself. Anyone can jump online and set up as a marketing guru, so if you want to employ a marketing expert, make sure you check their credentials, testimonials, and take a look at their own marketing efforts before you make a decision.
Whether you want to take a DIY approach, or find a professional, here are some tips to help you find the online marketing advice that’s right for you.
Look around you
The easiest place to look for marketing advice isn’t always the most obvious, as it doesn’t involve hiring a third-party, and shouldn’t involve you parting with any cash. If you have an online presence, you’ve probably staked out the competition in your particular niche. Revisit their websites and social media accounts and see what they are doing to market their business.
- How do they interact with customers?
- What kind of promotions do they run?
- Do they have a blog?
While we’re not suggesting you copy what your competitors are doing (we believe you can do better), noticing what others in your niche are doing to market themselves online is a good starting point.
For instance, if you run a jewelry-making business, you can see what other jewelry designers are doing online by analyzing their websites, and their social media accounts. Pay attention to what kind of promotions they run, how they interact with followers, and how they market their products. Jewelry designer Georgina Ettridge includes several key promotional features. In the right-hand sidebar, she links to testimonials and her latest craft shows, encourages visitors to sign up to her mailing list, and includes a link to her Facebook page. At the bottom of the page, she also advertises her gift vouchers, including the appealing detail that they are available to download immediately.
Find Professionals who Walk the Walk
Look for marketing professionals whose own marketing you find convincing and attractive. After all, if you don’t find the way they market their own business appealing, you’re unlikely to find value in the suggestions they make about your own marketing tactics.
To seek out these people, look at figures who are influencing other business owners around you. Try to analyze their work, focusing particularly on why you find it convincing and attractive, and what they’re doing differently compared to other marketers whose work doesn’t appeal to you. Perhaps they use language in a certain way that you find reassuring or inspiring, or maybe the manner in which they interact with their followers on Facebook and Twitter gives them credibility.
Whatever the reasons, they provide a good basis from which to think about how you can implement these strategies in a way that is relevant to your business, and give you a taste of the kind of marketing tactics they might suggest for your business should you work together. Comparing online marketers who make you say “Ooh” with those who make you say “Ew” also gives you a good idea of what not to do, which can be just as helpful.
Look for Credentials
Membership of professional organizations like the American Marketing Association (AMA) can represent a mark of quality, as some require members to adhere to a code of ethics.
Professional credentials are helpful, however they don’t guarantee quality in themselves, as most organizations, including the AMA, don’t require any particular qualifications or training to join. If you want to find out more about someone’s credentials, it’s your right to get in touch and ask them for more information.
The professional’s portfolio can also be a helpful guide to their quality of work. As well as past clients and testimonials, look to see if their work has been featured in any prominent publications. For example, social media marketer Laura Roeder displays a list of companies that have featured her work in the past on the website.
With reputable sites, such as Forbes, Mashable and the Los Angeles Times, among the list, she enhances her credentials by associating herself with top publications, adding to her credibility.
Trust your intuition
Flavors of online marketing come and go, and just because online business owners are tweeting about a new social network or advocating certain marketing tactics doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to follow their advice. Even if it’s worked for them, it’s not necessarily going to work for your business, so trust your intuition. You know what fits best with your team’s vision for the business, so you’re free to cherry-pick tips and tactics as you hear about them.
The only caveat to add here is that it’s important to know the difference between identifying a marketing tactic that is genuinely not right for your business, and identifying one that might be right, but risks pushing you outside your comfort zone. This distinction is important, as it’s the difference between doing something that affects your business’s reputation in a negative way, and not doing something that could affect your business’s reputation in a positive way.
The “neon” sales page used to be a popular online marketing tactic.
Usually, these pages would be garish, involve a lot of red text with yellow highlights, and make outlandish claims about your earning or success potential. While these marketing tactics were popular for a few years, they didn’t necessarily improve the reputation of the business who used them. Buyers would inevitably discover the promises were false, and the company’s reputation would suffer.
Find the firm favorites
While many online marketers might have favor with certain clients, some websites have garnered an excellent reputation as go-to sources of information for people interested in online marketing. Websites like Social Media Examiner, KISSmetrics, and Copyblogger, provide practical online marketing advice drawn from statistics, research and living proof – and they do this for free. Information you might find on practical sites like these includes the best time to tweet, and how-to information associated with running a Facebook page. They won’t tell you what to write, but they do discuss the technology available, and how to utilize it for maximum impact.