5 Pitfalls of Online Marketing to Avoid

Online marketing can help bring in a lot of business. Here are the mistakes to avoid, and an easy five-step marketing plan to follow.
October 16, 2012

If you want to attract more customers, where should you invest your time and money? Online marketing is the most cost-effective channel for reaching prospects. However, there are definite pitfalls for first-time entrepreneurs to avoid—I know from experience.

Over the past eight years, I’ve started several different businesses, and while I've created many successful online marketing campaigns, I've also had my own share of failures. I’ve also consulted closely with dozens of entrepreneurs over the years and I've seen the same mistakes repeated again and again.

If you’re not satisfied with your online marketing results—or you're considering embarking on a new marketing plan—here are five common mistakes to watch for.

1. Lack of focus. Don’t “throw spaghetti against the wall” when you’re just getting started with your marketing. Many new entrepreneurs think this approach will minimize risk, but it’s usually a mistake because you probably don’t have the resources to execute well on multiple fronts. As a result, you’ll just end up with a big mess. Instead, assess your options and pick one. If that one doesn’t work, try the next one, and then the next one. Once you get something working, put everything you’ve got into it, so you gain momentum.

2. Lack of diversity. The next big mistake is to put all of your eggs in one basket. Lack of diversity can be disastrous. For example, if you’re reliant on SEO for all of your traffic and customers, you could go out of business overnight when Google rolls out their next algorithm update. You can avoid that situation by diversifying. However, the sequence is critical. The right time to diversify is when you already have something working. Why? The hardest thing to do is get something in motion, but it takes significantly less resources to keep it in motion. Remember: Focus first, then diversify.

3. Not tracking results. 
Of all the mistakes you can make, the biggest is not tracking your ROI from your various marketing efforts. If you’re not tracking, you’re flying blind—and this will hurt you regardless of whether your marketing tactics are working or not. If you’re losing money in certain areas, you won’t know how to stop the bleeding. And if your marketing is working, then you don’t know where to reinvest for maximum growth. As John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” Fortunately, with today’s technology, tracking your ROI is easier than ever.

4. Not following up. 
The vast majority of your website visitors aren’t ready to buy from you. A typical visitor-to-customer conversion rate is 1 percent, which means that 99 out of 100 visitors land on your website and then leave, never to return. If you don’t have some means of following up with your website visitors, you’re losing sales every day. One option to plug this inevitable hole in your bucket is to offer something valuable in exchange for your prospect’s contact information, and then follow up via e-mail marketing. Another option is to use retargeting advertising.

5. Not testing. 
If you’re not continually testing, you’re leaving money on the table. Specifically, I’m recommending you implement A/B tests on your website, where you show one message to 50 percent of your website visitors, and another message to the other half. If you can boost your website conversion rates by 25 percent, you can increase your sales without increasing your marketing budget. Remember, there’s no such thing as perfect. You can always beat the control.

Marketing Plan Cheat Sheet

If you want to attract as many customers as possible and generate maximum ROI from online marketing, follow this simple 5-step marketing plan:

  1. Focus on getting one aspect of your marketing working first.
  2. Once you have one thing working, diversify to find the next one.
  3. Track your ROI, so you know where to reinvest.
  4. Follow up to convert more prospects into customers.
  5. And finally, always be testing to improve your conversion rates.

Pete Kennedy is co-founder of Main Street ROI, a company that teaches small business owners how to implement online marketing best practices. Download Main Street ROI’s latest report, The 10 Steps to Dominate Google AdWords, for free. Kennedy is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) , an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched#StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Photo: Thinkstock