With the endless clatter of marketing advice from blogs, consultants, and colleagues, how does the e-business know where to invest their limited resources? I’ve noticed 2 problems with a good portion of internet marketing advice:

  1. It’s biased: If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In other words, the SEO consultant believes that natural search is the key to your growth, while the social media guru says Facebook is the goose that lays the golden eggs.
  2. It’s unprioritized: It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a mega-list of recommendations. I’m a fan of top 10 (or top whatever) lists, but they do have a tendency to produce unprioritzed advice that can easily swamp the small business owner.

With plethora of marketing options (e.g. email, SEO, PPC, social media)  competing for your attention, how do you decide how to allocate resources? Here’s some guiding principles: (that are prioritized, of course)

  1. Strategy before Tactics: You need to know where you’re going before you choose the vehicle to get there. Some marketing vehicles are better than others depending on what you’re doing, and who you’re trying to reach. If you’re shooting for a 55+ audience, twitter probably isn’t the best place to start. If a consultant says you should be doing such and such, first stop to consider whether their recommendations gel with your strategy.
  2. Leverage what’s already working: Is 50% of your business coming from natural search? There’s a good chance there’s still some low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking. A 10% improvement on your top performing marketing tactic is more effective than a 50% improvement on your worst performing one. Study and live by the 80/20 rule.
  3. Budget for the future: While the point above may imply only sticking with what’s safe, such would be a short-sighted plan. It’s easy to get too comfortable with what you already know, and ignore what’s up and coming. It’s the classic innovator’s dilemma: why seek something new and improved when what you already have is working fine? Because you never know how long it’s going to work. Plan for obsolescence.
  4. Imitate the Innovators: If the competition is already engaging in a certain tactic, there’s a good chance you could be missing the boat. You don’t always have to be the first in order to be the best. Stay on top of what your competitors are doing.
  5. Fail Quickly, Fail Inexpensively: There’s no harm in trying something new that doesn’t work, just cut your losses early. Don’t invest too heavily, despite what any of your peers say, until you see promising results.
  6. Demand Tangible Results: While the benefit of every marketing activity is not as easily quantified, you should be seeing results in some way. Don’t accept “branding” as an excuse for poorly performing banner ads, or “higher link-popularity” for ineffective search engine optimization. Insist on bottom line results.

The good news for internet business owners is there’s 1,000 things they can be doing right now to improve their business, the bad news is that not all 1,000 are equally important. Choose wisely, because the order in which you execute is critical for success.