Internet Marketing: How to Fail Successfully

The Negative Power of Self-Fulfilling Prophesy and Retranslating in your Internet Marketing. How we help ourselves fail successfully.

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Sometimes, to get a message across, you have to write in ‘the negative’. When what’s needed is a cultural paradigm shift on the part of small and medium business owners to be effective in their internet marketing, merely saying “you gotta do this, and this, and this” doesn’t always get through. People tend to reinterpret (retranslate) what you say to fit with what they already think, and then they’re not actually hearing you. One of the ways we like to be different is being blunt, a little bit in your face, and showing you the recipe for failure, not just the prescription for success. Why? Because so many people are cooking their own marketing ‘meth’, so to speak, and it’s starving their business of both new clientelle and extended relationships with existing clientelle, both of which are the keys to growing their business. So here goes – we’ll start with some of the ‘negative’ things that business owners say about their own marketing (or lack thereof):

“I don’t think blogging works in my situation”: Usually when we hear this, we look at a couple of things: 1. How consistently the person has blogged. If it’s once or twice a month, better plan on years to get substantive results. Consistency, frequency, originality, and adding value are the rules. If you retranslate that into “when I get time”,  you’ve already decided to be unsuccessful. 10min every other day – 30min/week will do it – it takes as long as a re-run of some dumb sitcom. 2. What they are posting. If it’s mostly about you and your business, and not about things of interest to your audience, or its material lifted from other sites, plan on it never getting a readership. These two things really amount to almost all of it. There are no instant results from blogging, only substantial results, and only if you follow the rules: consistent & frequent, original and add value. Don’t know what to write? That’s what consulting is for. Whether it’s us or someone else, get someone who can coach you on what to do. You wouldn’t try to get fast running track without a coach, would you? That’s a recipe for a tweaked muscle and a short overall run.

Some people retranslate this into, “I’ll pay someone to do it for me.” Yeah, good luck. The big corporations tried that, too. Probloggers for hire. If you’ve got that much money, knock yourself out, but what they found is that there’s no substitute for the involvement of the owners and stakeholders of the business. That’s why anchor people blog now, even if they’re not always the sharpest tacks, rather than some geek working on his own in a blogging closet in the back. Don’t retranslate. Learn, grow yourself, and get involved in your own business – and yes marketing is your business. If you’re not involved in your marketing, you’re not involved in a big chunk of it – you’ve abdicated, and your prospects will follow suit.

“I joined Twitter (or Facebook) and it hasn’t generated any business for me”: Usually, we look at the following:. 1. Have you done little but join? If your focus is on merely having an account and expecting people to rush the doors, cancel the account. The time is better spent in the food court at the mall. 2. Are you spamming? If you’re mostly posting your prices, service lists, advertising language, and letting people know you’re available, you’re doing anti-marketing. Stop it. Silence is more effective than that. At least with silence, you don’t chase anyone away. 3. Have you been consistent over time? Another word for “tweeting” at Twitter is “micro-blogging” and some of the same rules apply, even if it’s the size of a cell phone text message at Twitter or a paragraph on Facebook. 4. Have you integrated Facebook and Twitter with your web site? If not, why not? – you’re wasting opportunity. Why do three times the work of maintaining three things, when you can tie them together and be more successful focusing on one? Don’t understand what to do? That’s what consulting is for, once again.

“I have a web site and never got any business from it”: 
This is a big one. We look at several things.

  1. Is it your grandfather’s web site? Web time moves much faster, like dog years. If it’s the web site from that long gone era where you put up a bunch of static pages that never get updated (about us, contact us) and that’s all it does, you’re right – it’s doomed. At that point it’s just a complicated phone book entry, and you could have got your phone number on the net for free. That’s the only people who’ll use it anyway – people who already know your business and just need the contact info. Web sites with nothing going on are in a web coma. People might visit, but they don’t stay long. The “if you build it, they will come” only ever worked in Field of Dreams. Web sites with good dynamic content will always trounce web sites with static content, both in search engines and with visitors. People retranslate this into, “I’ll change the colors once in a while, or post a new photo next quarter.” They’re not listening. Those things have little or no search value, and every time a search engine rescans your site for real, substantive, text-based updates, and there are none, it ranks it lower. It’s not going to wake hordes of buyers into a frenzy of contacting you, either. Sorry, but it’s been this way for the last few years. The blogging era changed everything, even if no one notified most of us. That site that’s been around for years and used to do well? It doesn’t need a visual makeover (which is what people who are retranslating throw their money at). It might need that, but first and foremost it needs consistent attention to dynamic content. In granddad’s day, you threw it up like a billboard and hoped for the best. In the post-blogging era, you update your site for 10min every other day.
  2. Is it stolen? People don’t like that word, because the internet makes it so incredibly easy to lift copy from other people’s web sites, but we like the shock value, because it communicates that that’s exactly how search engines treat it. Call it what you want – “duplicate”, “borrowed”, judge or not judge, but search engines automatically detect and bury sites that take content from other sites. It’s what they’re best at – scanning your pages, and comparing them with other results. Better to have one page of original content (you’ve seen those successful niche sites) than 25 pages of plagiarism. Stop stealing – it’s marketing suicide! Original content trounces everything else. A search engine that ranked 10 duplicate web sites at the top would be abandoned by users. Search engines survive by rewarding the originator, punishing the copies, and selling ads alongside great results. A lot of people retranslate this and “rewrite” the content they’re lifting. They’re not listening. Even if it’s 70% similar, it gets picked up as duplicate content, and the site is buried accordingly. Besides, your site is a clone, so  you’ve given people no reason to do business with you vs. the other guys – you’re not respecting how your clients actually think. Shoplifting content is like shoplifting from K-mart – by the time you do that much work with such little result, you could have just done it the right way and come out way ahead.
  3. Does the navigation suck? If you have more than 6-8 buttons on the left, and more than 5-6 at the top, it’s like a pileup on the freeway – cluttered, chaotic, and people will go around it if they can. If you have that much original content, that’s great, but you need drop-down menus. There’s also a rational organizational process to navigation and layout, and visitors have certain expectations that need to be accounted for, even if you do it creatively.
  4. Is it all about you? Have you treated your web site like an extended online advertisement? If that’s all it is, and it gives nothing of interest to visitors beyond “buy my stuff” – if it contributes nothing, or worse yet – all it contributes is links to other people’s contributions, then it has no marketing value – in fact, it’s a negative, not a zero. Why do you think search engines punish sites for having too many outbound links and reward sites that everyone links to? Don’t give away your juice. Marketing and advertising are not the same thing. And people don’t need that long to read an ad, anyway. If you’re going to advertise instead of market, pay the $250 and put a short ad on Facebook. It will also have a much lower return on investment than your web site would, if you were using it successfully for marketing, but if you’re not going to, then you’re not going to, and you’re reduced to advertising being all you have. Effective web sites offer original insights, analysis, and advice. A lot of people retranslate this into paying a service to put their news feed on their site, but they’re not listening – original content – not someone else’s contribution, but yours. Once it comes from somewhere else, I don’t need you anymore – I cut out the middle man and go to the source. It’s not just giving to the March of Dimes – businesses with successful internet marketing are *involved* – in the sense that they’re giving their time and attention, their insight and expertise, to earn the status of resident expert.
  5. Have you staked everything on just the web site? Does it have many ways to connect with you (e.g. social media, comments, subscribing, etc), or is it inviting a “Hmm. That’s a nice web site. Well, gotta go now.” (lots of hits, few hits converted into contacts). That’s what happens quite often to those $3000 flash web sites – very pretty – visitors pat it on the head and move on. Of course, if the site is static (infrequently updated) or just a sales flyer (it’s all about you), the chance that people will use the opportunity to connect plummets dramatically. But a site that does the other things right is just throwing away opportunities by *not* providing lots of ways to connect and interact, especially in a web 2.0 world of social media like blogging, facebook, and twitter. Ever felt like everyone around you was having a conversation that you weren’t part of? If you’re wondering what the heck to do with facebook and twitter, they really are. Some consulting time is useful here – you need to learn, from someone who knows, how to extend your brand (your business identity) to the places where all the people have gone, without alienating them by old-fashioned spamming. Catch up, grow, learn something new, or become obsolete and watch the cobwebs grow on the web site – those are the choices.

“Internet marketing doesn’t work in my industry, niche, or local market”: This is the most important one, because it’s a statement that successful internet marketing, for you, isn’t possible. Substitute “blogging”, “social media”, “web sites”, or just ‘marketing” in general, and if you’re saying it won’t work for you, you’re right, you’re done, and your consolation will be the consolation of all self-fulfilling prophesies – you aren’t wasting your time on something that isn’t going to help. One of our clients is a gym, and they help their clients with the same thing: “I can’t lose weight,” “I’m too old to change”, “I’m not strong enough to work out”, “I don’t think I can change my lifestyle”. Clients of every business have self-fulfilling negative prophesies that they tell themselves. Your clients have them too, even if you don’t know what they are. In fact, knowing what they are can help you open up new avenues of service by creating new avenues of possibility. And we’re not talking about touchy-feely rhetoric.

If you’re a real estate appraiser and you know that a lot of home sellers are settling for bottom dollar on their homes, because the market is down, could a pre-sales appraisal show them a more accurate value, and possibly indicate things to emphasize to get more value? If you’re a home inspector, wouldn’t a pre-sales inspection give them info on what things to repair or improve to optimize their sales position? But those clients are out there thinking, “I’ll have to settle for what I can get. There’s nothing else I can do.” You see? Negative self-fulfilling prophesy. And when they take a fraction of the value, and sell the house, they’ll think it proves they were right, and “at least I didn’t waste time trying to get what it’s worth”. Self-fulfilling prophesy. That’s a marketing opportunity screaming out for you, if you’re in that industry. It’s the equivalent of marketing suicidal language on their part, and it can be the same with your internet marketing.

Just because you don’t see how it works yet, doesn’t mean it can”t. It maybe hasn’t, because you haven’t done it right, and it maybe won’t, because you aren’t availing yourself of the best advice or consulting out there, or are retranslating and not following it. Sort of like following the advice to go on a vegetable diet, and then eating five pounds of starchy vegetables at dinner – or hearing “this pill, along with proper diet and exercise” and then you’re just taking the pill, and the rest is an afterthought. That isn’t what your doctor meant.

There isn’t a single industry, niche, or local market in which one of two things isn’t true: a) someone is successfully doing internet marketing. b) no one is and good gosh, it’s wide open, and someone is going to figure that out and corner it successfully. And that brings us to one last thing.

“There’s too much competition. I can’t possibly be successful against the other guys.” Internet marketing isn’t interchangeable. If you think it is, you haven’t been listening – you’re retranslating. The fact that there’s heavy competition in your area, therefore cannot mean internet marketing is likely to be unsuccessful. It’s another negative self-fulfilling prophesy with a bogus reason attached to it: “There are too many of them, and only one of me.” That’s your greatest advantage. There’s only one of you. The new web 2.0 marketing *depends* utterly on defining your business differently than your peers. We often hear people say, “I do the same things as every other plumber.” Then that’s your first marketing problem. Notice we didn’t say internet marketing. You’re stuck – you can’t do marketing at all. You can advertise, but good luck with that – rate of return is going to be even lower than most ads, precisely because you have no market differentiators. Your first order of business is to start doing things differently. Find three things that you *will* do differently to deliver added value to your clients. Brainstorm. If you only give it 5-minutes of your attention, why should prospective clients pay more attention to your business? Click on, click off, same as the other guys. You either involve yourself in the marketing of your business, at the core or, you’re right – it’s hopeless – just notfor the reasons mentioned.

Hear this now: Any business in which the core owners and stakeholders are not involved in the core marketing, will be unsuccessful in their internet marketing. Web 2.0 makes that clear. You either love your business and care about it enough, or you don’t. It’s like a family member. You raise your business the way your raise a child. You invest in it, nurture it, and pay attention to it. Marketing is every bit as much a part of your business as invoicing. If not, you’re stunting its growth, and the opportunities don’t last forever. You can always begin, at any time, from where you are – and you can be successful, but the unique opportunities at each stage of business growth don’t really ever come back. Don’t stunt it – get involved or starve the marketing for your involvement – those are the choices. You see how, as with family, many people do the latter

Do people really offer up that litany of negative self-fulfilling prophesises? You bet. All the time. Constantly and continually. After all, how do you think we live with a decision not to succeed? Not to grow? We create an explanation, a new explanatory paradigm of why success wasn’t or isn’t possible. It helps us maintain the status quo, remaining unhealthy – personally or in our business – even if it’s not helpful. It’s how we comfort ourselves when we aren’t doing what is essential. It is how we fail successfully. We can only stand so much knowledge that it’s really us – that we are really our biggest problem and, more importantly, we are really our best avenue for success. Again, not touchy feely – these have been constructive, concrete examples and information. What you do with it, or whether you make the decisions necessary to go forward, are up to you.

This has been a candid, unshirking, delving into the reality of what holds us back in internet marketing. We hope it helps. We do have some sugar coating, actually, and we use a little of it most of the time. But sometimes, a tart apple with a little salt is better than another bowl of syrupy cobbler.

We’re Market Moose. Tart where it counts.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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