While listening to the chatter about how independent professionals like us grow our businesses, I always hear lots of talk about “internet marketing.” I’ve even heard people call themselves “Internet Marketers” as a vocational title — as if to say that they’ve spent time figuring out how to market things on the internet and they made gobs of money (or not), and they’ll teach you how, too.
Now, being a bit of a marketing snob, I almost find it offensive that people who don’t have a lick of academic training in marketing, business ethics and best practices would call themselves “experts” in anything marketing-related. I think it’s bad for our industry and bad for your business. Frankly, a lot of these “Internet Marketers” are touting crappy strategies and tactics that can quickly diminish the value and credibility of your expertise. As an independent professional, I think you should be very wary of any “marketing” person who talks only about websites and sales letters and squeeze pages, with no real attention given to your platform, your offerings and the messaging that is going to be leveraged by those websites, sales letters and squeeze pages.
There are two cornerstones to a great strategic marketing plan:
1) A strong offering that solves real problems in the marketplace
2) A solid understanding of your customers, their “flocking” habits, and their needs, frustrations and goals.
When you understand who your customers are, how they’re organizing themselves in the marketplace, and what messages connect and resonate with them, you can better-evaluate which marketing channels are right for you, and what messages are right for those channels.
Now, let’s talk internet marketing again. Internet marketing is a CHANNEL. It’s one avenue by which you can connect with your customers. The snob in me can always tell when someone *really* gets marketing because they refer to Internet marketing within the context of an overall strategy. A solid marketing strategy is going to include both offline AND online efforts. Good marketing is also going to be based on “deep drilling” that has profiled well both what you offer and who your customers are, with effort and intention devoted to getting the messaging right.
With the right strategy, Internet marketing is priceless. It can help catapult your business to a whole new level when the right conditions are in place to leverage the impact of your Internet marketing channel (including the two cornerstones mentioned above).
The moral of the story: Approach Internet Marketing wisely
1) If you’re looking for in-the-trenches help with your marketing, you need a partner that’s going to understand both the messaging and the channels. Choose wisely. In your preliminary talks with them, you should feel like they “get” you, and they should challenge you with good questions that compel you to dig deep.
2) If you’ve nailed the messaging and have some momentum in your business, testing out some strategies from “Internet Marketers” might be useful. I subscribe to the Walgreen’s philosophy on these things: crawl, walk, run. Don’t bet the farm on a single strategy or tactic. Test it, figure out how to get the channel to work for you, then scale your efforts to reap big rewards.
3) Use “Internet marketing” wisely and don’t let it become a snake oil that keeps you from doing the deep work required to really grow your business. Without the proper context, Internet marketing will rob you of a lot of time, a lot of money, and possibly a lot of credibility with your audience.