Internet marketing BS: 8 internet marketing lies that new entrepreneurs believe

Since 2000, I’ve worked with countless new entrepreneurs to help them get their businesses started and online. In spite of the years, the lies that entrepreneurs are told about internet marketing remain basically unchanged.

Here are 9 of them:

LIE #1: KEYWORD RANKING IS CRITICAL

When people believe this, they pour a lot of time, money, and effort into keywords, and many even use lesser-value techniques (like keyword-stuffed articles written by software) or even blackhat techniques.

Truth: Keyword ranking is only important if it fits into your strategy. If you want people to find you through the search engines, keyword ranking is important. But there are plenty of other ways to get traffic online that are just as effective, just as profitable, and don’t require keywords. To name a few: AdWords, freelancing or outsourcing sites, social media, and content marketing. Domination in any of those areas can drive loads of targeted traffic to your site without ever having to consider keywords.

LIE #2: CONTENT MARKETING IS THE MOST AFFORDABLE TYPE OF MARKETING

When people believe this, they visit a site like Guru or Elance, ask for projects like “500 words of content for $1. Articles must contain 4% keyword density. English as a first language is not important because these are written for search engine ranking”. With a meager budget, they hire unqualified writers to jam out barely legible content. They get exactly what they paid for: Words that are nearly worthless. It fills the web, wastes everyone’s time, and doesn’t contribute to their bottom line.

Truth: The affordability of any marketing is relative to its effectiveness in compelling a sale. New entrepreneurs make the mistake of looking at their budget and the basic cost of a single “unit” of marketing (like an article or a pay-per-click ad, for example). What they don’t consider is the cost of a single “unit” of marketing relative to its role in closing a deal. Given the choice between a $25 marketing technique and a $100 marketing technique, the new entrepreneur takes the $25 one. However, a closer look at all the information reveals that the $25 marketing technique results in $50 of business while the $100 marketing technique results in $2,500 in business. In a situation like that, doesn’t it make much more sense to spend slightly more?

LIE #3: SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE NEW MARKETING METHOD

When people believe this, they treat social media like other marketing and they outsource it. They create corporate standards around it and review every outgoing message (i.e., tweet, Facebook status, Quora answer, etc.) before it goes live… essentially deflating its effectiveness.

Truth: Social media is about engaging with people. Social media is a place where humans share and listen. The results can still be positive and profitable to your business, and in that way, social media is related to marketing… but social media is about engagement. It’s about being real. It’s about open dialogue. It’s about responding. For that reason, it gets messy. It’s imperfect. The companies that are most successful at social media are the ones that put aside the corporate-speak and have real people engaging with the real people in their target market. (Read an answer I gave to the question: “What social networks are you using?”).

LIE #4: ANY ATTENTION IS GOOD

When people believe this, they do silly things. Marketing becomes a series of publicity stunts that may or may not have anything to do with the business.

Truth: It’s not about attention. It’s about moving people forward in your sales funnel. Publicity stunts can be fun, attention-getting ways to promote your business. But they don’t sell goods. (Sure there might be a blip, but it’s not sustainable). Your marketing plan should include more than “Step 1: Dress up as a human fly and scale a building. Step 2: Repeat as necessary.” Instead, high quality marketing should move people step-by-step through your sales funnel toward a sales. And yeah, if you want to do something zany once in a while, that’s cool and can help your business, but it is not a marketing plan (unless you’re Lindsay Lohan).

LIE #5: THE MORE TWITTER FOLLOWERS AND FACEBOOK FANS I HAVE, THE BETTER

When people believe this, then end up with a big list of Twitter followers and Facebook fans, but no one who will take action and buy. (And then they scratch their heads and wonder why no one is buying from them). This is because the number of people who are actually potential buyers is MUCH smaller and this group feeling lost amongst the tweets and Facebook postings that are meant to attract more followers or fans.

Truth: A targeted followerbase/fanbase requires less work and is more profitable. When you clearly define who you are and what you stand for, and your other marketing efforts are consistent with that, you’ll build up a followerbase/fanbase that is almost entirely made up of your target market… people who will actually move through your sales funnel and buy from you! (Read about why I just reduced the number of people I follow on Twitter).

LIE #6: THE FIRST THING I NEED TO DO IS BUILD A LIST. THEN THE MONEY COMES AFTER THAT

When people believe this, they start list-building too early. Then they quickly discover that there is a significant cost to list-building and their small (albeit growing) list isn’t profitable enough yet to sustain the effort.

Truth: A list is important, but be prepared for the effort. I don’t mean to suggest that the list itself is the lie. A list of prospects who want to hear more from you is very important. However, setting up a list on day one when you have little or no traffic, and burning through all of your “A” material in the first six months of ezines will set you up to fail very quickly. I would advise waiting, even just a few weeks or months. Make sure that the other aspects of your business are operational; make sure that you are marketing your business; and make sure that you have lots of ideas for ezines (and probably a good number of those ezines written!)

LIE #7: I NEED TO HAVE A BLOG/ARTICLE/PRESS RELEASE/WHATEVER. BECAUSE I DON’T, I’M LESS SUCCESSFUL

People who believe this work very, very hard and spend a lot of money and time trying to do it all. Every time a new social media site comes out (which is like everyday, it seems), they’re on it. And if success eludes these people, there is a feeling that they are missing the ONE key that will totally unlock a Niagara Falls of buyers.

Truth: Achieving excellence in a few well-chosen channels will consistently outperform ubiquity. An unfocused “shotgun” approach to internet marketing reduces the impact of every effort. Rather than whispering across hundreds of sites, focus instead on a few sites (sites where your target market is hanging out!) and build a voice and an audience. (Read about what I think is the entrepreneur’s REAL silver bullet).

LIE #8: THE MORE SUCCESSFUL I AM AT INTERNET MARKETING, THE MORE SUCCESSFUL MY BUSINESS WILL BE

When people believe this, business success is eclipsed by internet marketing success. Cash flow becomes a mildly annoying byproduct of big traffic.

Truth: You’re in business to earn a profit. Period. That might take a while, so until you get there, you’re in business to generate revenue. Period. Everything else you do (from marketing to sales to administration to inventory to mopping the floors before you go home for the night) is meant to push people forward in the sales funnel. Success at internet marketing is great — and should be a goal. But it is only a means to an end. Internet marketing is only meant to fill your sales funnel full of people so they buy from you.

Read about a business owner who kicking ass at internet marketing. He’s been in business for only 1 year and has achieved so much in that time because he knows how to focus on the right things!

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