Marketing your web-based business is never an easy thing to do. You’re bound to make a lot of mistakes and waste money on things that just don’t work.
Over the past eight years, I have worked with dozens of startups. Many of these startups got acquired, but most of them failed. One trend that I noticed that separates the successful startups from the failures is that the failures made a lot of marketing mistakes.
Here are 7 marketing tactics that you should avoid with your business:
1. Useless splash pages
A common trend on the web is to create a splash page before you launch your startup. On this splash page, you probably have a message saying that you are launching soon, but you are a bit vague about what your company is actually offering.
The problem with creating a splash page like the one above is that it isn’t useful to the people visiting your site. If you create a minimalistic splash page, the chances of someone coming back to your website in a month are slim to none.
Here is how you can create an effective splash page:
- Grab people’s attention – you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. A catchy headline that’s relevant to your business is a good start.
- Don’t be shy – tell people what your product or service is going to be before you create it.
- Include visuals – if you have a screen shot of your product or service, include it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to illustrate what you are creating.
- Promise a solution – tell your ideal customers what you are going to do for them.
- Collect emails – at the end, you should collect people’s names and email addresses. This way, you can send them an email when you launch.
2. Links at the bottom of each page
Who doesn’t want to get ranked at the top of Google? Not only does search traffic convert well, but it also usually provides a high ROI. So what’s the best way to get ranked at the top of Google? Well, it isn’t by adding a ton of rich anchor text links at the bottom of every page going to other internal pages.
There are a few things that are wrong with the image above:
- Internal links do help increase rankings, but external links are much more effective.
- Internal links are typically more effective when they are placed within your content.
- Rich anchor text links are a great way to increase rankings, but, once again, it is more effective to have rich anchor text links coming from external sites.
3. Meta keywords tag
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell search engines what keyword they should rank you for? The most common way to do this is to create a meta keywords tag and list all the keywords you want to rank for.
The problem with meta keywords tags is that you would probably include every keyword you can think of even if your site wasn’t 100% related to those keywords. For this reason, search engines ignore them. They determine what keywords your website should rank for based on your content and the websites that link back to yours.
4. Blogging for Diggs
One of the most common trends startups are riding is creating infographics, comic strips, and other viral related content on their blogs. By creating potentially viral content, they help their traffic skyrocket.
It’s a great idea, but only if the content is relevant. For example, Mint.com does a great job of creating viral content that is related to finance. If it created viral content that wasn’t related to finance, it could have probably still increased its traffic, but those visitors wouldn’t have signed up for its service.
So, if you are creating viral content, make sure it is related to your business. If you don’t, you won’t see an increase in your revenue, which – at the end of the day – is all that matters.
5. Creating unnecessary buzz
Doesn’t it sound like a cool idea to get covered by popular blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb? If you have a tech related business, then, yes, it is cool. If you don’t, those blogs probably won’t drive that many customers.
For example, if you have a business that is targeting moms, it doesn’t matter if TechCrunch writes about you or not. It does matter if the top mom bloggers cover your business. You’ll get a lot more moms over to your website if a mom blogger writes about you versus TechCrunch even though that mom blogger probably has a thousand times fewer readers than TechCrunch.
At the end of the day, don’t get bloggers to write about you for just press and traffic. Get them to blog about you because your product or service solves a problem for their readers.
6. PR helps build brands, not revenue
When you are starting out, it may seem like a great idea to hire a PR firm to get you into the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but that won’t necessarily help you increase your bottom line.
I have been covered in over twenty major publications like the Wall Street Journal, and although it helped with my company’s brand, it didn’t get us many customers. If we put more time into marketing efforts that had a direct ROI, we would have been better off.
Now, if you are approached by a journalist, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to him or her. If you can use a New York Times logo on your website to increase your conversion rate, that’s great. Just don’t go crazy and spend a lot of time seeking a full-page story in the New York Times. If it comes to you, great…but don’t chase it.
7. Bribing customers isn’t smart
Contests, prizes, and gifts are great ways to get potential customers coming to your website. But if you have a good product or service, why should you have to stoop to that level?
Your product or service is great, so customers should gladly want to use your product. If you keep giving stuff away for free, people will just continue to expect it. And, more importantly, you’ll find yourself gaining customers for the wrong reasons.
Although throwing contests may seem tempting, use it as the last resort. You’re better off spending that time and energy building a better product or service.
There are tons of ways in which you can market your startup. But the worst ways are usually the easiest ones. Before you start marketing your business online, really think about what’s best for your business and customers.
There is no reason to rush things as it will just cost you time and money. Plan things out, and if you happen to make mistakes, learn from them and adapt quickly.