SEO is a Myth, and Other Myths

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People will say almost anything only to get attention – including stating blatantly untrue facts. We all know the problems that this can lead to.

In the marketing arena, there are a great many people posing as “experts” and spouting off advice that, if unheeded, would cause no harm whatsoever. The problem is, people who don’t know the truth read this advice and then go and apply it to their business.

For this reason, some prominent myths have propagated the internet, been read and shared and implemented, only to negatively impact the company or person who believed the lies in the first place.

Let’s review a few of these dangerous myths:

1) SEO is a Myth

Too many people claim that SEO – search engine optimization – is not real. They claim that all the companies that make money selling SEO services to other businesses are scams. That Google’s search algorithm is too big of a secret for any of the common SEO tactics to truly work.

But sadly, this is not true. Though I know many people who have been burned by poor SEO practices, there is still a place for strategic SEO services in the business world. Smart SEOs can track patterns across the sites that tend to rank well on Google and help other sites improve their odds of getting ranked higher.

There are tried and true methods, most of which we might consider best practices for a good website, that are almost guaranteed to help Google rank your website. And if people don’t think this is SEO, they simply don’t understand what SEO is.

2) Negative Reviews Are Bad for Business

Every business fears a negative review. That, by itself, is not a bad thing. The problem is that there are too many companies that believe the myth that one bad review is going to destroy your business.

Every company gets bad reviews. It is nearly impossible to make 100% of your customers happy. And instead of spending your energy hiding from or deleting bad reviews, you can take actions that actually benefit your company when you get a bad review.

For example, you can respond and try to make that customer happy. Or you can use it as a learning experience and change something about your product or service so that you don’t end up with the same problem going forward.

3) Email is Dead

Email is alive and well. It remains the marketing channel with the highest ROI across industries and types of companies. “Experts” have been claiming that email was dead since the first marketing emails were ever sent. But if they gave up on email then, they have missed out on years and years of effective marketing opportunities.

4) The Lowest Price Wins

Too many companies compete on price. That’s because they believe that they only way to win in any competitive environment is to offer the lowest price.

But all we have to do is look at a company like Apple to see how mistaken they are. Apple has never competed on price. Instead, they developed a high-quality brand that people will pay to be a part of.

Lowest price wins when there is no difference between your product and other companies’. But if you can differentiate, you don’t need to constantly compete on price.

5) A Website Redesign is the Answer to Lagging Sales

There are some cases when a website redesign is necessary. Unfortunately, it has become one of the go-to strategies whenever an online business is struggling. And that’s because there are a lot of web design services out there who have been peddling that myth for a long time.

The truth is, you need to do a good bit of research to diagnose where exactly your problem lies. If it’s your website, fine. A redesign might help. But it’s not a cure-all.

6) Your Business Has to Be on Social Media

It’s a good idea for companies today to have a social media presence. However, there are far too many companies out there on social media just because they think they have to be. And it shows.

When your company has a page on Facebook, or a Twitter feed, and you are adding nothing to the larger conversation, you are just posting for posting’s sake. And it is not adding any value to your business.

If you can’t figure out how to make social media work for your company, you don’t belong there.

Best Algorithm Wins

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The age of AI is upon us. As marketers, we must embrace it. If we do, and if we can find the opportunities to use artificial intelligence to our company’s advantage, there will be nothing but success in our future.

Those who don’t, those who fight back against the changing tide, who insist on doing things the old way, are going to quickly find themselves out of a job. They will be passed over for promotions, will lose existing responsibilities to machines and those who realize their power, and will either go down with the sinking ship that is their company or will be shown the door as their company moves into the future without them.

It’s no longer a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN. How soon will the algorithms come for your job? Or, put in a more optimistic way, how soon will the algorithms make you better at your job?

First Mover Advantage and AI

The algorithms that will help us become better marketers will help us in a number of ways – from targeting new users to optimizing our offers and pricing. But regardless of what they will do for us, there is one thing that bonds them all. They need data to function. They need data to learn, to grow, and to succeed. That is why there is such a large first-mover advantage in AI.

Those companies with the greatest capabilities at the end of the day will be the ones that are investing in those capabilities right now. If you come late to the party, you may be permanently at a disadvantage. That is because your competitors will have better algorithms than you do, trained on more data, over a longer period of time.

When We All Have AI

When all companies in a place are using artificial intelligence to their advantage, it becomes a question of whose algorithm is best. And there are a number of factors that will come into play:

  • Who has the larger data set?

  • Whose algorithm has been around longer?

  • Who has trained out the initial bugs best?

These are still early days of implementation of machine learning and other technologies in the marketing space. It’s not too late to claim that first-mover advantage.

But what should you do now to set your company up for success in the future?

How to Move Your Company Forward with AI

There are a number of things you can do today that will help your company succeed in an AI-driven future:

  1. Do your research. Find out what other companies are already doing. Talk to experts, attend conferences, and network. There is a lot to learn, and people will spend their whole lives learning the intricacies of this new science. So don’t expect to pick it all up or become an expert overnight. But you can become the go-to source for information and innovation in your organization.

  2. Make the case. Once you have a basic understanding of how companies are going to be using these new technologies to improve their marketing, it’s time to loop in the decision makers. To get them on board, give them real-life examples. How will your company save money? Grow revenue?

  3. Partner with early-adopters. There are a lot of big companies out there that are already making gains with these new technologies, and they are willing to collaborate if it makes good business sense. A great way to get started is to take advantage of the tools that these first-movers produce, and partner with them to expand your own capabilities.

When You Emphasize Everything, You Emphasize Nothing

This is a post about design. But it could just as easily be a post about copywriting, or pricing and offers, or marketing strategy on the whole. Because the concept is the same no matter what we talk about.

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But to really hone in on the message, let’s use an example. Let’s say that you are responsible for marketing at a company that sells doggie treats. Your boss/CEO/manager puts you in charge of a new campaign to launch the latest line of doggie treats.

“There’s a lot riding on this,” she says. “But I’m confident you can get the job done.”

You are working with your web team and your email team and your social team (or maybe that’s all one person, and maybe it’s you) to put together the initial announcements and offers, and to create the landing page on the site that you will drive interested dog owners to.

Your web designer might ask, “What is the most important element of this page?”

Several things enter your mind, and you start saying them aloud:

  • The name of the product
  • The special introductory offer
  • The “buy” button
  • The main product image
  • Our 5 star rating on Facebook

Notice the look of panic (or disgust) on your web designer’s face. She asked you what the most important element of the page is and you have already listed five different elements of the page.

And that’s the point – when you are creating a web page, or an email, or an ad, or anything else, everything can’t be the most important thing. We have to put the emphasis on one, maybe two things, and let the designers and copywriters do what they do best to highlight those things.

In your mind, you might say, “Well, those are all important.” What you mean is that they are all important to you. Or that you don’t know which ones are more important than the others.

But if everything is important, you end up emphasizing nothing. And then the prospective customer doesn’t know where to look or what to read.

By highlighting what’s important, you guide their thinking, and shuttle them through the purchase funnel.

To get into this new mindset, it helps to pay attention to how other companies emphasize certain things. Look at websites, and billboards, and marketing emails and ask yourself, “what is the most important thing here that the designer/marketer wants me to see?” The answer should be clear. It should jump out at you.

Then ask the same question of your own stuff. Do you notice a difference? How well are you guiding consumers toward those points of emphasis?

Better Promotional Offers: A 3-Step Guide

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Specials, discounts, and promotions are a marketer’s best friend. They are used because they work. They drive people to your products and services and increase the likelihood that they purchase.

But just because you have an offer available doesn’t mean the customers will come running. Even if your offer appears to be working, there are ways to make it better.

There is a science to this art – one that has been perfected over the years by many marketers smarter than both you and I.

If you want to create better, more effective promotional offers, here are three steps you can take.

Step 1: Create Urgency

No more forever deals. Forever deals aren’t special. While I think it’s great that I always get free shipping when I order from your website, that fact alone is not going to spur me to action. It may win business from competitors, but it’s not creating any great sense of urgency.

Instead, tie every promotion to a specific time period. When you introduce deadlines to your sales and special offers, you drive more business.

Consumers have a natural fear of missing out. A great offer with a deadline entices them to act now, before it’s too late.

Step 2: Add Variety

We all know the companies that utilize the same offers and sales month after month and year after year. Eventually, these become easy to ignore. And an offer that is easy to ignore is not one that is going to help your business.

To keep customers interested in your brand, use a variety of different offers. This month it might be free shipping. Next month it might be buy one, get one free. Come Christmas, it might be 25% off orders over $100.

While it may be true that some offers work better than others – meaning they bring in more sales – you still run the risk of diminishing returns over time if you continue to run the same offer over and over again.

Step 3: Promote

If you build it, they will come. The famous line from Field of Dreams may have been true for Kevin Costner, but it’s not true for companies today. If you have a special offer meant to boost sales, you need to make sure people know about it.

You can promote your special offers through all the major channels that you use to advertise your business – from traditional avenues like TV, radio, and outdoor, to online channels like social media, search, and display ads. Also consider all the opportunities you have to promote your offers to existing customers – email, phone, direct mail, etc.

When you let people know about your offers, you drive the traffic necessary to achieve success.

In conclusion, the companies that make the most out of special offers are constantly working to improve their effectiveness. By taking the three steps discussed above, you will drive an increase in sales for your business.

Is Your Value Proposition Unique?

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We don’t call it the Unique Value Proposition for nothing. It’s got three elements:

  1. Unique
  2. Value
  3. Proposition

If your value proposition is not unique, it means that you are offering the same value as your competitors. And that means your customers could just as easily buy from them. That’s a problem.

What makes you unique?

  • Is it your price? Do you offer a lower price than your competitors?
  • Is it your service? Are you more hands-on with your customers?
  • Is it your location? Are you closer or more convenient?

Whatever it is that makes you unique, that needs to go into your value proposition. It is the thing that distinguishes you from all the other companies that your customers might go to instead.

If there is nothing unique about your company in relation to the competition, you don’t have a reason to exist. You can’t just do the same thing as someone else and think you deserve to grow and take market share from them. You have to be different to survive and succeed.

What should you do if you don’t have a unique value proposition?

The first thing you should do is be honest about that fact internally. Call together the decision makers and start talking about it. That’s the only way to move forward affectively.

Next, you should decide as a group what your strengths are relative to the other companies that you are competing with. Are you able to improve your product or service without adding any cost that would be shared by the consumer? Are you able to lower your prices (without starting a price war with your nearest competitor)? Are you able to make the buying process simpler for customers? Are you able to offer a higher level of service?

The key to creating a unique value proposition is to leverage your strengths. It needs to become a core piece of who you are, and exist as a part of your overall strategy. It’s not easy to be the price leader or the most convenient.

“But I Know My Company is the Best”

It’s true, you know your company better than anyone else. And that means you know your company better than your prospective customers.

But that’s not always a good thing, because it can be a blinder. It can cause you to miss critical issues because you’re not seeing your brand the way they are.

The best way to determine why people buy from you (in a sense, what makes you unique) is to ask them. Surveys and focus groups can help you uncover a unique value proposition that you didn’t even know you had.