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Hi small business owner. It’s me, Ralph.
Over the past few months I’ve met a lot of small business owners like you and had a chance to talk to them about their marketing. I’ve witnessed a few trends that I want to share with you in the hope that it will help you strengthen your marketing.
Social Media Isn’t Magic
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the statement, “We really need to be on [insert social platform]” I could probably buy a small island. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is each time I heard that, it seemed more like an attempt to impress me than an explanation. They wanted to preempt anything I might say about their marketing so they went scorched earth on me and dropped the social media bomb.
While I can’t say for certain, I felt like every time I heard this, the expectation was that I would say, “Wow, yeah! You are so right. Gold star for you.” But instead, they always looked at me perplexed and then even panicked when I asked them one simple question:
Conventional Wisdom, As It Turns Out, Isn’t Very Wise
Challenging conventional thinking is something I love to do. It drives my friends and colleagues crazy. Forcing businesses to take a step back and really think about what they’re doing and why is always an effective tool to prevent a marketing strategy from getting diluted into rote and meaningless activities.
When I ask, “Why?” I usually hear a variation of, “Because I’m supposed to do that.” Of course this isn’t a good answer, but they don’t know any better. After all a simple Google search will yield an infinite variety of content encouraging small businesses to believe that social media is the holy grail of marketing.
I’m not going to bash social media but there are a few things every business would be wise not to forget.
Don’t Forget To Talk With People Instead Of Talking At Them
The promise of social media is that it offers a way to create a direct social relationship between people but let’s face it, that’s not the reality. Social media is a big sandbox where everyone is shouting out the things they want to say. It’s New York City’s Times Square times a million. The ever increasing noise makes it harder and harder to have any conversation because all of the really meaningful messages by small businesses get drowned out.
This is where my mortal enemy – content curation – lives. Businesses and individuals have been deceived into thinking that the path to a righteous marketing campaign lies with curating and distributing third party content, but in fact, this adds noise and explicitly dilutes content that can generate leads and sales.
I think the best thing that every small business can do is to slow down their social media and stop reading all of the tutorials and attending all of the webinars they find. Good marketing messages need to be crafted and delivered in a way that is meaningful to your audience. If your message is muddled by your own noise in tandem with the ocean of noise it’s already swimming in, then your audience won’t even know that it’s there.
Don’t Forget Email
Email still provides the best return on investment when it comes to marketing campaigns. If you want to get a message out and pitch a product or service, email gives you an almost direct line to your audience. Certainly much more so than social media.
One well crafted email with a specific and targeted message and call to action can do more for your business than a bunch of social posts can.
Of course there is a cost associated with email. Many providers have a free tier, but once your email list hits a certain volume, you will be charged either a monthly fee or a per campaign fee. I’m finding that this is becoming a rationale for dropping email in favor of social media which is incorrectly perceived as being free.
Don’t Forget Websites
Holy cow. In the past several months I have seen some of the worst websites. And I’m not talking about old websites that have been around for years. I’m talking about brand new, just launched sites. Some businesses that I’ve spoken to have been so convinced that social media is the only way to get new customers that they have essentially lost any desire to have a meaningful website. Couple this with the fact that installing some platforms like WordPress is seemingly a one click affair and you get the perfect environment for bad decision making.
I met one business that told me that there was no practical reason to hire a company to craft a website for them because they could do it easily with minimal fuss and no cost. When I asked to see their website, I was treated to a website that said “Sample Post” on the home page and was nothing more than a vanilla installation of WordPress.
The owner of that business did not know that there was more to building a website than simply clicking “install” at their hosting provider. “Can’t we get the content from Google Search?” he asked, looking concerned. For months, this website hummed along doing nothing except giving the guy in the corporate suite the illusion of thinking that he did not get suckered into unnecessary web development fees.
This also reminded me of a video I saw some time ago where a “Facebook Expert” told a crowded room that websites were useless and that they should devote all of their attention and money to Facebook because of . . . wait for it . . . engagement! Fortunately for them, he ran a company that only provided Facebook marketing. Imagine that.
Don’t Forget Landing Pages
You want to know what the holy grail of marketing campaigns is? A good landing page.
One email that is well written that leads users to a laser focused landing page with no other content except the one thing that is being promoted or sold will produce knock-your-socks-off results.
Landing pages are essentially hyper focused web pages that do not need to exist in the context of a larger website. Some people call landing pages mini sites. That’s fine, but a truly effective landing page will not need to share its content across multiple pages even in a “mini” site.
How many landing pages should you consider? As many as generate money.
If we dovetail this back to social media, the most successful campaigns on social media are paid ads that link back to dedicated landing pages. While they may not have dramatic engagement rates, they do have great conversion rates. Notice that social media simply becomes a conduit to get people to the landing page.
If you’re wondering why you should create a landing page instead of just linking an ad to an existing page on your site, then you’ve missed the point. A landing page should not be designed to be a part of a larger whole, but a well designed funnel to sell or promote. The only thing a visitor should do on a landing page is give you money. And, no, the landing page doesn’t even need to look like your website. In fact, a landing page that looks different than your audience expects may be compelling to a person that does not like your website.
There Are No Right Answers.
Marketing is complex and I don’t want to sweep social media under the rug, but I do want business owners and marketing professionals to recognize that social media is a tool that may or may not be essential.
It’s not right or wrong to use social media, but it is wrong to use social media at the expense of other channels simply because you’ve heard that it’s the greatest thing on the planet.
If your marketing isn’t doing the job you want it to do, don’t jump onto social media as the cure. Instead, consider the fact that social media, if you’r relying on it to work magic, may very well be the problem.