I was talking with a client last week about marketing, what works, what doesn’t, PPC, etc, and he asked me, ‘what marketing do you do for Rare Form?’ I giggled and I said, ‘Nothing. I sit back, answer the phone and respond to requests from people who email me through my website...my business comes to me.’
He thought I was joking. I went onto explain that I had previously put ads in golf club brochures, done PPC, went to dreaded business networking meetings, ran training courses in web and social media. About 3 years ago I pulled the plug on everything except for two things. There are reasons I pulled the plug, and we have saved money and made more as a result. I've been making websites since 1998, maybe you can garner something from what we've done wrong and what we've done right. So without further ado, here are my Do’s and Don’ts to save you money and make you more in 2017,
1. Business Fracking Networking.
DO if you are a startup or need contacts. DON’T if your business is 2+ years, save your sanity.
If you own a business in the 'shire, you will come across business networking meetings. Usually over scrambled eggs in a not human hour to be awake, or meeting after work, it doesn't matter...if you have heard of them, or been to one of these meetings you know the dread of which I speak. There was a time many many years ago when I would trudge to these heinously boring networking meetings where you would prepare to stand up for 60 seconds to pitch yourself (and try to be different every week), watching people drinking more cups of tea and coffee in the attempt to stay awake for the 2 hours of drivel that we all had to endure. Being ‘on’ for 2 hours with people you really don’t care about is taxing on people with souls. Did I get some business out of it, yes...and a few good friends.
But the cost to benefit ratio divided by my sanity and the hours that I was putting in just didn't make any sense. So I stopped going, and nothing changed. We got the exact same amount of business. But now that I had more time to devote my business instead of trying to get referrals for others in the group. I refined my website, and it paid off.
Now, that being said, if you are a startup, and have zero contacts then Business Networking may be a way to go. Suck it up soldier, it isn’t going to be pretty, but it will help establish yourself. If you already have an established business, save yourself the time, the pain, the literal headaches, and run away. There are easier and faster ways to get business than by subjecting yourself to that pain.
2. PPC/AdWords aka ‘Take my money Google, I wasn’t using it anyway’.
DON’T fight over a space you can’t win.
If you are a small to medium sized business, and you are paying for AdWords, you might as well just hand your competition (and of course the Almighty God that is Google) your money. In practice I have seen virtual turf wars between small and medium sized businesses. In an extreme example, I watched one company spend 10k per month on AdWords only to have their competition and their farm of interns clicking on their links from different places (we were not managing this). And you know what the original company did? They intern farmed them right back. Mr. Face meet Mr. Palm. Unfortunately this happens more often than not. £10k put to real use in an actual marketing plan involving SEO could have made a huge, long lasting impact instead of fighting over some minor real estate in the ad space portion of Google.
And here’s the rip...PEOPLE CLICK ON THE ORGANIC LISTINGS MORE THAN THE ADS. Organic Wins 94% of Time. *Note that this has changed a bit over the last year due to mobile searches becoming more popular, and Google showing their PPC ads above the organic results, but still organic wins, and it helps bolster your reputation in the long run. And when playing in any market, your brand and your reputation rules.
3. Holding seminars in ‘drag people in for free so I can upsell them’.
DON’T you are better than that, and have better things to do.
Yes, in the earlier days of Rare Form, I would hold ‘seminars’ teaching people about social media, marketing, how to ‘leverage the web’. I have been a speaker at conferences, all in the hopes of being able to get more business. And yes, I would convert, and ‘raise my profile’. (Excuse me while I hang my head in shame). The problem? It’s time consuming, and the people in the room who aren’t stupid are going to know you aren’t merely there out of the goodness of your heart. You usually find a lot of these ‘Seminar Slingers’ at the same networking meetings I spoke of earlier. Now, doing them once every so often is not a bad thing, but all the time...you can spend your time and resources more wisely.
After I would leave a Seminar with a room of happy people, they would Google me, or go to this website to see who I am and what this company is all about. And if they are really interested in a website, they will check out the competition. So instead of wasting my time slinging seminars, I made sure our website is better than all of our competition, ranks at number 1 (which it does) and the websites that we produce are second to none.
Even if you’re not a web designer, say you’re an electrician and you google ‘Electrician Oxford’...if the first one looks and sounds the best, and it’s first...they are going to get the call. And a fun little tidbit. According to Search Engine Watch, Results on the first page of Google (The Top 10) receive 92% off all search traffic on Google. Traffic drops by 95% on the second page. Basically, page 2 is where websites go to die. And, it goes without saying, you want to be number one. Drumroll please…. 33% of clicks from organic search results go to the very first (organic) listing on Google. Boom.
So instead of investing your time booking cheezy hotel conference rooms to show people an even cheezier powerpoint presentation...bolster your website, and you will get natural leads, and they will be better leads. I know this, because I am the MD who has been doing it for over 3 years, and it works.
4. If Content Is King then Clarity is the Emperor. (I am quoting myself here - sorry it's a good line).
DON’T write content for the sake of it.
Content has become the most powerful tool in your virtual arsenal. If you have ever stopped by Rare Form’s blog, we don’t put out useless content with stock imagery in the hopes that it will get us to the top of Google. We’re already there (which we did through a solid SEO strategy), and we didn’t do it by writing irrelevent articles that noone is going to read about the top 5 things your CTO NTK about your SEO KPI’s. We write things when we have something real to say, has substance and will actually be of benefit to someone who reads it.
The lesson...don’t write just because someone told you to. Write when it will have impact. If you’re writing because you read somewhere that it’s ‘best practice’ to put out a blog article at least once a week, stop, STOP RIGHT NOW. Because it is not helping you. Google, and the public want real, actual content, free from bullshit and business acronyms. Pompous does not equal smart. So if ye shall write...write relevant and well.
5. All of the other advertising.
DON’T buy the back cover in a golf club magazine, or anything in the Yellow Pages (unless you are a plumber, apprently they do well in the YP).
Okay, okay, I got duped by a golf club magazine about 6 years ago. You make mistakes. This guy must have called me twelve times. I’m not kidding you, twelveeee times. The guy was a sales monster, had to give him some props for that. The last call, he caught me just after a meeting and he had ‘the deal of a lifetime’ and only for me, and he saved me the glossy back cover of the members guide, and I would be getting it for almost less than cost. Okay, well...sure...take my money. Did I see a return on investment on it? Nope. When I reopened in Oxford in 2001 and I took out an ad with the Yellow Pages with the same monster type sales guy? Nope. How about that tiny local circular that goes to *all* of the businesses (but you know her through BUSINESS NETWORKING, so there is a referral for a week). Nope.
Earlier I mentioned that Rare Form scaled back to doing only two things within regards to our marketing. Those are:
Kickass website that is number one on Google.
A tiny, miniscule, droplet of a remarketing campaign so that our Moose can stalk people around the internet. And that is more for our amusement than anything.
The only return on investment that I have made is in making sure that my website looks better, sounds better and ranks higher on Google than the others that are in my space. And what does that afford me? The luxury to sit back, design websites, talk to my clients, do my job better, and let the business come to me. And this core model we have created works for all businesses. For our clients we tailor everything so it is bespoke for your business (or it won't work), but the principles are the same, and so are the goals. Get your website to number one.
And after talking to my client who asked me what marketing I do for Rare Form, he said, ‘I want that’.
I know man...I know...and we’re going to get you there.