Nothing irks me more than people who dole out marketing advice when they don't have any background in the discipline.
What am I talking about?
I don't want to name names or websites, but here's an example:
Why is this a problem?
Because entrepreneurs, startups, owners follow the advice, rather blindly. They don't know how to filter the good from the bad. This isn't their fault per se. They're often great at what they do, but not always knowledgeable about general business. There's no Yelp to vote a review up or down. Marketers don't require licenses. And it gives the rest of us a bad name when the "tactical strategies" backfire.
How to protect yourself
Social media hype has hit epic proportions. The promise of its ability to make a success of even the shabbiest business model is everywhere. Business owners are no longer asking, “Should I run an ad in the newspaper or on Google?” They want to know, “Should I be on Facebook or LinkedIn?”
Of course there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, but knowing what to ask is central to finding the right solution to most marketing problems. The aforementioned questions are simply jumping the gun. Most small businesses don’t have the time, money or energy to promote to everyone, so better to start with, “Who is most likely to buy my product (or service)?” You need to target a specific audience, so you’re not wasting your valuable resources on people who aren’t interested. I’m not saying that other people couldn’t be persuaded to buy your product or service, but that effort translates into higher marketing costs. That’s why it makes sense to go after the people who are already part way there. In other words, it’s a lot easier to sell bacon to a meat lover than a vegetarian.
To find your best prospects, start by examining your current customers. Where are they located? What are their demographics and psychographics? What do they care about and when do they buy products or services like yours? If you don’t have customers yet, try researching trade associations or industry publications for answers.
You’re also trying to determine where they look for information. Is it a Google search and/or somewhere else? And, why they want to know. It may seem obvious, but you shouldn’t be focusing much of your energy on social sites if your potential customers aren’t using them, because they’ll never see your information. A bakery client of mine sells most of her coffee and pastries to working people in the area, so her most important promotional tool is her display window, not Facebook.
You could spend a lot of time posting, Tweeting and updating, but see little for all your efforts. That’s time spent you could be using to source less expensive products, create live relationships, service customers or any other marketing activity that’s either going to save you money or win you more business.
If they are using social sites, determine how much of your resources to devote to it and match the audience with the site. To find out who is using the major social sites, visit PEW Internet for the latest research data
Defining who and where your target market is, what they care about and how they make purchase decisions is key to selecting where to promote. In the end it’s up to you to determine what is going to work for your business. So go ahead. Read the latest social media hype, but be sure to wear some protective goggles to filter the glare.
It would be nice if this were the last time I had to write something like this. I'm tired of reading articles that claim that marketing will hurt your business, is being completely replaced by one thing or another or is otherwise dead. It seems to me that these types of articles that make broad brush claims are usually written by people who are knowledgeable about one subject (and it's usually one they're trying to push), not the discipline of marketing as a whole. And of course, the subject du jour is social media.
Don't be mislead. Marketing done right has always been about focusing outward, that is, on the customer and on the people who influence them. Nothing new there. What’s new are the tools used to communicate. Sure, every medium can be rife with abuse and poor messaging, but to claim that marketing hurts your business is ridiculous. And besides, marketing isn't just promotions (advertising, PR, social media, et al), it involves product development, distribution and pricing as well.
What's really different about social media is that it's a digital soft sell. That is, you can't shout sales messages and expect to be effective. In other words, even if you're soft-selling or trying to get people to say nice things about you, at the end of the day, you're still trying to put something across to help your business gain customers. Oh, and that's a key benefit of marketing by the way.