This is not your typical Top Ten list of “Things to Look for in the Next Year or So!”. There are plenty of those out there and they all pretty much say the same thing. So rather than add to the noise I am going to come at 2011 from a different angle. To be honest, none of these are going to bowl you over. Why? Because most things worth paying attention to really aren’t that sexy. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Here is my “Top Ten Things Internet Marketers Should Concentrate on in 2011”.
1.Choose Strategy Over Activity – This one is a biggie these days. Many people are still rushing headlong into social media, location based services and more so they can say they are doing it. Often though they are doing it without an express purpose or goal. None of the online world works on the “If You Build It They Will Come” principle. Just being there could actually mean you are spending valuable resources and cycles on things that aren’t getting the job done. Create a strategy that makes sense and get involved only in activities based on strategy that will generate revenue. All the rest is just being busy.
2. Get Back to Basics – In the rush to stay ahead of the curve, many businesses have left the basics behind and in most cases incomplete. For Internet marketers (especially the smaller players and B to B marketers) that means making sure that the foundation for your online efforts is strong. Does your website look dated? Change it. Have you not taken the time to make sure you have the basic SEO elements (for example, keyword appropriate content matched with title tags matched with H1 keyword use) in place on each and every page of your site? This is the absolute bare minimum but it beats not doing anything at all. Have you put in basic key performance indicators (KPI’s) to measure your progress or lack there of? Do you check them regularly? You get the point. Basics are boring but they are essential. Just do them before you do anything else.
3. Spread the Wealth – Share your knowledge with others in the company whether they want to hear it or not. Why? Because more and more people are seeing that Internet marketing and social media are rare in that anyone in the company can participate. Many do and don’t even realize it. If you are educating the rest of the company on what they can do to help, you are enabling people to be involved and contribute to the success. People like that. Management likes that. Don’t horde your knowledge. Be an educator and see what others can do to help once they are empowered to do so.
4. Fire Your Consultant – This is something that many people should have done long ago. If things are not progressing with any outside or outsourced help you are paying then stop paying them. The Internet marketing industry as a whole is rife with experts, gurus, mavens and more. If there is no progress in a relationship you have with an outsourced provider then end the relationship. It’s that simple.
5. Hire A Consultant – If you are stuck and have reached the limit of your knowledge in a particular area of Internet marketing (face it, no one as in NO ONE, can know all there is to know about everything related to Internet marketing and social media) then it’s OK to seek outside help. Find someone who is willing to work with you within your current constraints but is then willing to push you beyond those constraints if it will help you succeed. You may cycle through several consultants before you find the right fit. That’s OK. When you make this step though don’t think you deserve anything for free or that experience doesn’t carry value. Many consultants are not cheap and they shouldn’t be. In this area, the expression ‘you get what you pay for’ is a very real axiom so be careful and don’t be cheap!
6. Listen More, Talk Less – We are in an industry that has everyone out in the middle of the town square yelling at the top of their lungs in order to be heard. Don’t join the fray. Sit back and listen for helpful information. Turn your bullshit filter on high and make sure you are only letting in the information that will move you forward. If you try to take it all in you will waste time, money and more and get little or nothing in return. Use tools like Google Alerts or Trackur (shameless plug alert!) to filter through the noise.
Listening is also about knowing what the competition is doing, what people are saying about your company online, what prospects are really looking for. Remember that we are given one mouth and two ears so use them in the same proportion (for those who have a tough time with math that just means listen twice as much as you talk).
7. Don’t Assume – This goes back to strategy and is important in all areas of your Internet marketing efforts. Most people work on the assumption that if something is being written about then everyone must be using it. This could not be further from the truth especially in the Internet space. Make sure that the techniques and tools you are going to consider have a real chance of connecting with your customers and prospects. If not why in the world would you even consider them? Another old axiom that is SO true in the Internet space is “If you assume, you will make an ASS out of U and ME” (thank you Felix Unger).
8. Be A Learner – Never has it been more important to be a “life long learner” than it is today. In the Internet marketing space there are no ‘set it and forget it’ options. Things change rapidly and it is hard to keep up. Budget for and invest in education regarding Internet marketing and social media. If you are not learning everyday in this space then you are falling behind much faster than you could ever imagine.
9. Effective Trumps Cool – Based on what industry you work in and many other variables like resource availability, you may have to come to the understanding that what is deemed to be cool doesn’t impact your business at all so it’s not something to consider. It’s no fun making practical decisions that keep you from playing with the cool kids but at the end of the day wouldn’t you rather have the respect of your colleagues, a potential raise, job security and more over an ‘atta boy!’ by some industry flunkie whose ‘followers’ consist of 95% spammers and automated follows? Not everyone can be an Internet marketing star and really there are only a select few worth listening to anyway. Be effective rather than be cool. But hey, if you can do both then more power to you!
10. Avoid Shiny Objects – One thing that will happen in 2011 is that there will be Silicon Valley press folks drooling over some new technology or service that comes out in January and they will need to tell you just how game changing it is. Truth be told, many of these ‘cool’ things are used by the tech insiders and that’s it. They don’t have mass market appeal and never will. The technology insider press is very incestuous and self-serving (read: self-important) and while it’s tempting to think that what they are talking about could be ‘the thing’, most times it’s not. In fact, by the time you have worked out the plan to get that latest trinket into your system they have moved on, hyped something else and left that ‘next greatest thing’ on the Internet marketing scrap heap. They aren’t much different than that kid on Christmas morning who plays with the cool toy for 5 minutes then complains that they need another cool toy. Maybe we should take a cue from the little kids and play with the box instead. It’s not as cool but it does more!
So there it is. If you made it this far, congratulations. What would you add or take away from this? Agree or disagree? Thanks for playing along.