The world of online marketing can seem complicated. There’s lots of flashing lights, and methods appear to be constantly changing. There’s some truth to that, for sure.
But like other aspects of business, there are some unchanging principles of online marketing that will help you develop a sound and effective strategy. Let’s uncover those principles by learning what NOT to do.
1. Trying To Sell Too Soon
As online marketers, we sometimes make fools of ourselves by pouncing on a new lead like they’re our prey. I don’t care what line of business you’re in. Don’t come at me with your sales pitch right after I give you my email address!
Think of online marketing like dating. True love and long-lasting relationships don’t typically start with one-night-stands. Even a first kiss is earned only after a certain level of trust is built between two people. You need to build trust with your target audience before attempting to sell them anything. If not, your sales pitch will be shut down faster than a bar with no liquor license.
I recently, I got “sales-bombed” by someone on LinkedIn right after I connected with them. Not just “Hey I’d like to talk to you about what we offer”. No no. They actually included pricing options! How cute. Not only that, they had the gall to ask if I would refer them to anyone I thought might be able to use their service. Insane! They effectively dumped 3 or 4 meetings worth of sales steps into one message and hit “Send”.
Please don’t be like that guy. Please.
2. Automating Your Social Media Interactions
Notice I didn’t say “automating your social media content publishing”. THAT is totally acceptable. What you should NEVER do, though, is automate your responses to real live human beings.
Carrie Reynolds recently wrote a great blog about the difference between automating content publishing vs. audience interaction. The Insurance Goddess lays it out plain and simple why automating interactions is bad Juju. Yes, it takes more time. But do you really think you can effectively sell insurance or any other service-based product without human interaction?
Bad: I get an automatic response within 5 minutes of connecting with you on [your favorite social platform]. I know it’s not really you sending that message. It makes me cry for you a little.
Good: I get a thoughtful message from you saying thanks. You include one thing about me that you noticed in my profile or you give me props (or ask a question) about one of my recent posts. (ie: “Hey, always great to connect with a Boston College grad. You must be wicked smaht!”)
3. Not Collecting Emails
Emails are the lifeblood of any digital marketer. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself if you’re happy with the amount of social shares your content receives. If the answer is NO, try collecting emails from your audience.
Here’s why. If you publish meaningful, valuable content that your audience likes, they WILL subscribe to a mailing list to get more of it. Plain and simple. Sure, not EVERYONE will subscribe, but you’ll gain a big enough following to help you with the next part. Email subscribers are proven over and over to share your content far more often than casual “passersby”. And why wouldn’t they?
Readers become subscribers only after you’ve built enough trust with them through your content. Think of their inbox as a gated community. No one is allowed in unless the homeowner says it’s okay. Subscribers are essentially calling in a pass to their gatehouse to let you in. And they’re not calling in a one-time pass either. No. You, my friend, have just been issued a permanent pass. So be mindful what you send them. Keep that trust going by providing valuable content on a consistent basis.
4. Using Only One Medium To Communicate Your Message
Most online marketers start out mastering one form of communication, like a blog. That’s perfectly fine. You need to establish your authority in one medium. But don’t sell yourself short.
Go beyond your blog.
Content variety keeps your audience engaged. It increases the chances they’ll share your content because it’s different. It’s a breath of fresh air. Plus, different types of content attract different types of consumers. Some people would much rather listen to or watch your content than read it. So by expanding your content variety, you are increasing your audience.
Other great content formats include:
- case studies
5. Trying To Dominate Every Social Media Site
While it’s wise to expand your content offerings, you need to be careful not to spread yourself too thin when sharing on social sites. Unless you don’t have a full-time job, you can’t possibly devote the time it takes to build meaningful relationships with people on each of the major social sites.
Just like having variety in the type of content you publish, it’s totally fine (and wise) to rely on your go-to social medium while keeping your streams fresh on 2 or 3 other sites at the same time. But don’t overdo it!
For example, my go-to social platform is LinkedIn. It’s where I share every post I write, and I’ve managed to build a respectable audience who shares my content. But I’ve also begun building an audience on Twitter and Google Plus. Having this variety has helped me increase my audience because content is shared in a different way among each social site. But I still spend most of my time on LinkedIn because I’ve built up a higher level of social leverage there.
Content automation is a must when it comes to your second tier sites. This will help you dedicate more meaningful time to your main site. Use tools like HootSuite to do this. It will make your life soooooooo much easier!
6. Dissing Your Industry Peers
You are not as unique and special as you think you are. Other people in your industry have embraced online marketing just like you. And guess what? Once they see that you have, too, they may just become one of your biggest advocates.
Here we go again with common sense. People are naturally attracted to others who share their interests. Sure, some people are so egocentric that they view their industry peers as roadblocks, obstacles to broadcasting their own message. But those are the people who are having a hard time gaining traction as an online marketer.
Connecting with new faces online in the insurance industry has made a world of difference for me. In the last couple of months, I’ve had some of the most meaningful and valuable conversations with my industry peers from all over the country. I’ve been using G+ Hangouts and phone calls (remember those) to share success stories and learn new strategies from some of the most well-known people in the insurance digital marketing world. I’m talking about people who have been featured in industry trade publications and people who are now being PAID to speak at conferences about online marketing. Everything I’m learning is helping me work towards this year’s goal of doubling our agency’s revenues from online leads. Beat that, naysayers!
7. Not Creating A Brand
It’s easy to get wrapped up in content creation and social sharing that you forget to organize what you’re doing into something easily recognizable for your audience. Remember, the human brain learns best by making associations between two things. One of those things should be your content. The other should be your brand.
Don’t freak out here. Developing a brand won’t cost you millions like Nike or Starbucks. Here’s what your brand should have:
- Defined Purpose – The “Why” behind your marketing efforts. Usually a mission statement or tagline that tells your audience exactly why they should care about your content.
- Image – A meaningful visual representation of your purpose. A logo that will help your audience make that visual connection between your content and you.
- Consistency – Repeated use of your logo and your defined purpose wherever your content exists or is mentioned online. Think about it. We know Nike and Starbucks because we’ve seen them branded in public over and over, not just once.
8. Not Measuring ROI
According to a recent study, 64% of insurance agencies who use social media do not measure ROI. I get it. There’s a lot to keep up with once you start marketing online. But you CANNOT afford to ignore ROI.
The motto of my alma mater, Boston College, is “Ever To Excel”. I live by that phrase. It keeps me focused on what’s most important in my work life. But in order to do this, you’ve got to know what’s working and what’s not so you can improve on it.
There are plenty of tools to measure digital marketing ROI:
- Google Analytics
- Crazy Egg
9. Not Identifying Your Target Audience
This one seems obvious to anyone who has marketing experience either on or offline. But I know plenty of new digital marketers who were so eager to get started, they skipped this crucial step.
Let’s look back at our discussion on branding for a moment. Remember the part about creating a “Defined Purpose”? If you’ve done this, you should KNOW who your audience is. If you haven’t done this, go back and do it before you create your next piece of content.
10. Lacking A Passion For Your Subject Matter
This last principle is quite possibly the most important one. If you are not totally passionate about your subject matter, you should have someone else who IS create your content for you.
- Life is way too short to spend your time being anything less than ecstatic about your work.
- You WILL burn out and hate creating content day in and day out.
- Your audience will not be engaged if they can sense your lack of passion.
- Your audience will not buy from you if they sense your inner “meh”.
Do a gut check before you go any further. Do you wake up excited about sharing your subject matter knowledge with others? Can you see yourself still being this excited about it 5 years from now? 10 years? Are you just doing this for the money, or do you truly want to educate others and help them better their lives?
Online marketing can be very lucrative for your agency if you follow these principles. I hope you’ve learned something you can apply to your marketing strategy today.
Which one of these are you struggling with the most right now? Be honest. We’ve all been there before! Let me know about it in the comments below.