Inbound Marketing & Sales Development Inspiration

Four Important Online Marketing Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Posted December 18, 2014
3 minute read

Whether in life or business, experiencing failure often provides invaluable lessons. Today, I intend to help you bypass that hardship and failure by sharing four important online marketing lessons we’ve seen businesses learn the hard way.

1. Failure to diversify

In the last two years we’ve watched Facebook tighten its grip around business pages and Google overhaul its ranking algorithm. Businesses that relied on their strong Facebook following now had to pay to have their posts seen by their own fans. Websites that enjoyed top rankings for high value keywords in Google lost their positions overnight. This is just a microcosm for how quickly the web can change. Those that rely on a single strategy for generating revenue online can be cut off overnight.

Diversification is an important practice in many aspects of business (and life, for that matter). Be it your client base, revenue sources, or investment strategies, failure to diversify leaves you vulnerable.

The lesson: for those who rely on the web to generate business, a healthy, diverse portfolio of traffic is critical.

2. Expecting low cost solutions to have a meaningful impact on the business

Competitors offering their services for a fraction of the cost barrage our clients on a regular basis. On the very rare occasion these low-priced services are entertained and we lose the business.

When a vendor sets a low price for their services, they are implying one of two things: 1) they don’t intend to spend a lot of time on your account (hourly-based pricing), or 2) they don’t expect their work to add any value (value-based pricing). Neither will bode well for you and your investment.

While online marketing allows businesses to reach customers in ways not previously possible, you still need to have expectations grounded in the real world. It would never make sense for someone to only charge $500 if they can make you $50,000. So why set those expectations for your vendors?

While marketing online can get you better returns than most traditional marketing solutions, it doesn't happen automatically. Marketing campaigns that aren’t measured and refined are no better at generating a return than a tiny ad in the middle of a phone book. The real value is realized over time after a lot of hard work, and that doesn’t come cheap.

The lesson: be honest with what you really expect to get from your investment. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

3. Choosing aesthetics over function

Our biggest heartbreaks occur after we’ve spent years incrementally improving the performance of a website, only to have a new decision maker throw it all away in favor of rebuilding from scratch. It’s like meticulously planting a garden only to have a bulldozer come roll over everything.

The desire to rebuild a website is often motivated by design more than any other factor. The look is either considered outdated or a decision maker is just tired of looking at it everyday. The problem with this approach is that is doesn’t focus on what the site is built to do: sell. In our years analyzing and optimizing websites, we’ve never found a correlation between how pretty a site is and how well it converts visitors into customers. In fact, some of the best converting sites we’ve ever worked on are considered “ugly ducklings” by many. For what these site lack in “contemporary design," they excel in their ability to connect effectively with site visitors; something that is painstakingly achieved over a long period of time. Connecting effectively with site visitors, above all else, is what leads to an effective website.

The lesson: the most effective websites are driven by function, content, and usability. Never aesthetics.

4. Focusing on the wrong key performance indicators (KPIs)

Every business owner will say growing the top line is a top priority. Yet we still experience situations where metrics like leads and calls are secondary to keyword rankings and social media follows in the eyes of the decision maker.

All campaigns need a set of metrics by which success is measured. These are known as key performance indicators. Examples of good KPIs are cost-per-acquisition, phone calls originated from the web, and qualified leads. These are KPIs worth tracking because they are both actionable and have a measurable impact on the business.

Vanity metrics such as social followers, shares, and impressions can also be tracked, but their importance is low on totem pole and should never be used to drive decision making. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, resulting in wasted money, time, and opportunity.

The lesson: a metric should only be considered a KPI if it can be tied back to business generation.

Topics Inbound Marketing, SEO, Digital Marketing

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