There is a remarkable contingent of marketers still harboring unrealistic and often dangerous expectations based on certain erroneous principles that are supposed to lead to online marketing success.
The result is either a lack of preparedness for what’s required to execute a marketing strategy and build a lasting, successful online business or a misunderstanding of how to prioritize limited resources to improve ROI, or both.
Therefore, many businesses ultimately suffocate before ever having a real chance to thrive.
Yet, many of the same old myths and misconceptions are still pervasive today. Perhaps some are even perpetuated by certain vendors or service providers that target those who don‘t know any better.
In this post, we’ll put an end to the most egregious marketing myths once and for all, so you can stay focused on what will actually drive real business growth.
Myth #1: People will buy our product because it’s cheaper than the competition’s.
Cheap prices don’t automatically translate into massive word-of-mouth, PR, and market share. People have to actually know you exist. Offering a cheaper price than your big name competition doesn’t do any good if no one knows about you.
Expecting orders to roll in because your ecommerce site sells some products for less than Amazon.com, or your SaaS offers the same features at a lower price than the 100-pound gorilla in your space, is delusional. You still have to create awareness using fundamental online marketing tactics. And you still have to convey a sense of trust and value that goes beyond just offering similar products or features as a competitor at a lower price.
While you’re digesting that, think about this:
Can your company still offer such low pricing after you factor in the time and expense associated with creating awareness of your site?
You’re setting your business up for even more problems when you primarily focus on price. It leads to getting the type of customer you’re asking for: price shoppers.
Alex Turnbull from Groove (which sells a customer service SAAS product) puts it well:
“[Price shoppers are] higher maintenance, far less loyal, and gone at the drop of a hat when a cheaper option comes along. Plus, if you try to compete for customers on price, a bigger player can always lower their prices to bleed you out of business. We learned that we had to compete on other differentiators. Ones that actually made people want to do business with us because we were the best choice for them, not because we were the cheapest. We needed customers who were motivated by more than price.”
Myth #2: We need to get as many people as possible to our website.
There is a big difference between getting traffic and getting the right kind of traffic, especially if you’re spending time (SEO, social, content marketing) and money (PPC, PR, advertising) to generate it.
Which is better: getting 100 highly targeted visitors, of which 15 become leads, or 1000 wide-ranging visitors, of which 5 become leads?
Why focus all your effort on a long-shot article in some mass-media publication? A mention on a niche, industry site might provide you with a greater number of real, qualified prospects, while also being far easier to achieve.
When sales are lacking, “all we need is more clicks to our site” is not the solution to your problem.
You could get (i.e., buy) hundreds of thousands of visitors to your website and not make a single sale. No matter what you’re selling, unless you have the right people – your target audience – coming to your website, it’s not going to do you any good.
Myth #3: Our product is so good, we don’t need to do any marketing.
“If you build it, they will come” only worked in the movie Field of Dreams.
I cringe every time I hear the words “Our company’s product/idea/website is awesome. All we need to do is post on social media and send out a couple of press releases and everyone will want it. It’s definitely going viral!”
The expectation of your business going viral, or even a slight reliance on that happening, is simply not a marketing plan.
While the internet offers a great and (sometimes) inexpensive medium to get the word out about your company to a potentially large audience, you’re competing with the millions of other companies and websites all vying for attention, mind-share, and wallet-share.
When Apple released the iPhone, a game-changing and widely publicized product, they still spent millions (and later billions) on marketing.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to create viral elements as part of your product or marketing efforts. And a great product certainly helps spread word-of-mouth. But don’t stand around waiting for lightning to strike.
Moreover, all that’s just to get people to your site. Once they get there, how many are likely to buy on the first visit? With average retail conversion rates of 1-3%, it’s like expecting to get married on the first date.
Marketing doesn’t end once the visitor gets to your site. You must continuously stay top-of-mind, engage them, and reinforce your unique value propositions to nurture them through the sales funnel, from awareness to actual purchase.
Myth #4: No one reads commercial emails these days.
Do you think email is dead? Here are a few recent stats that would say otherwise:
According to McKinsey & Company:
“E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily, and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.”
Also, a 2014 study by Experian showed that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44.25 is the average return on investment.
Be sure to use email automation. You can create dynamic, personalized, and highly scalable campaigns that are constantly working for your business in the background, sending personalized and targeted offers, nurturing leads, and much more.
Sample Post-Purchase Automated Email Workflow (Image Credit)
So, while email marketing might not sound as sexy as the latest social media channel, it has a far wider reach, generates higher click-through rates, and offers greater total ROI than almost any other tactic.
Myth #5: Our site looks great, so our work is done.
Yes, you’ve developed a great-looking new site. Your colleagues and staff told you so.
You spent a long time crafting the copy. You think you could sell ice to Eskimos.
All done? Quite the opposite, in fact. Now the work really begins.
If you aren’t expecting to have to consistently create and promote great content and find ways to engage your target customer through a variety of channels outside your site to build traffic, the investment your company made in a pretty new site could be for nothing.
Readers of this blog know it’s not easy to build meaningful, lasting traffic. It’s time-consuming. So make sure you have allocated the time and budget to consistently execute a long-term marketing strategy.
And that’s not all. At the same time, you need to be constantly gathering, filtering, and acting on all the quantitative and qualitative data that allows you to start optimizing your site to better achieve your business goals, because the ROI on your traffic-acquisition efforts depends on the ability of your website to convert this traffic.
Don’t bet that your website is a traffic-magnet, conversion-sucking machine on day 1.
There is no shortage of tools that can help you gather and analyze data and assist you with your marketing, yet it’s alarming how many marketers are still relying on intuition. Click the graphic for 1,876 of them:
At least make sure you’ve got some of the basics covered:
- Analytics (Google Analytics*)
- Email and Automation (MailChimp*, AWeber)
- Social and Content Marketing (Buffer*, Buzzsumo*)
- SEO (SEMrush*, Moz Open Site Explorer*, Yoast*)
- Heatmaps, feedback polls, surveys, user session recording (Hotjar*, Qualaroo, Inspectlet*, ClickTale)
*Offers at least a limited free plan. Others offer a free trial.
Track. Analyze. Optimize. Repeat.
Myth #6: “X” worked for that company, so it will work for us, too.
Just because something worked for one company doesn’t mean that it will work for yours. Copying the Amazon.com website doesn’t make you Amazon.com. Even copying the placement of their search bar doesn’t mean it will work as well on your site.
This image is less than ⅓ of the Amazon Fire HD product page. The full page at actual size would be over 27 feet tall.
Would that work for everyone? Nope.
And selling a pair of shoes, plus donating a pair to charity, does not make you the next TOMS.
Unfortunately, you can’t just “borrow” ideas from other sites and expect the same results. Why? Because that company isn’t your company.
Your audience is different. Your value proposition is different. Other elements of your site are different. The industry landscape is different. Readers of this blog know that “best practices” don’t apply to everyone.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to constantly reinvent the wheel, because there are tried and true design elements, functionality features, and marketing methods that are a great starting point. It just means that, even if you see a design or marketing tactic working for a comparable company in your industry, it’s likely going to need tweaking before you can apply it to your own business.
Create a hypothesis. Then test and measure everything.
Myth #7: Everyone is using social media marketing, so our company needs to as well.
Some businesses feel the need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+, not to mention Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, and every other social media platform they can think of. It can’t hurt, right?
Not only might these channels not be where your target audience actually spends their time, but every time you create a profile, you’re committing yourself to both monitoring it and keeping it active. After all, what good is having a Facebook page when a customer or prospect sees your last post was in 2009?
Jumping on too many social channels is a waste of valuable time and resources. Figure out which platforms your target audience actually uses, and focus on those by actively participating and creating relevant, frequent content. Forget about the others. If you can’t do them right, you’re better off not doing them at all.
Myth #8: We can hire people to perform individual marketing tactics without a holistic strategy.
A modern online marketing strategy is not comprised of individual tactics executed independently. Rather, it involves a comprehensive approach, including:
- Finding and engaging your target audience wherever they may be online.
- Retaining their attention by creating a variety of touchpoints to reinforce your brand and credibility.
- Leading them through the sales/conversion funnel.
That is why it is so important to take a holistic approach to your marketing campaigns, ensuring that each component, including SEO, email, social media, content marketing, PPC, and more (and each person responsible for it, if you have a team), supports and empowers the others.
For example, a high quality blog helps your SEO, but also gives you quality content to share on social media and through your emails. And using the blog to leverage your position as a thought leader and authority can improve your website conversion rates, which increases the ROI on your PPC and all other marketing.
Performing marketing tactics independently without a cohesive strategy is like telling a basketball team they aren’t allowed to pass. Expecting each player to score on their own without allowing them to leverage the other assets on the court is not going to win you any games against a decent competitor.
Online marketing is a never-ending task. And anyone responsible for it, from an individual at a small company to a C-level executive leading a department, always wishes there were more hours in the day.
So it’s essential to stay focused on what will truly impact ROI. Knowing which tactics and strategies are a waste of time is as important as knowing which ones are crucial to pursue.
Hopefully, I’ve finally killed some of the persistent myths that result in unrealistic expectations and wasted efforts. If you’ve got any others to share, be sure to comment below.
About the Author: Michael Epstein founded an ecommerce business 15 years ago in his college apartment with $500, and generated over a million dollars in sales the first year. He continued to grow his company until it was acquired in 2013. He now advises other online companies, from startups to $100M+ retailers, on digital marketing strategy. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit his blog.