Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are You Trying to Use New-Style Marketing for an Old-Style Business?

I've recently been re-reading Seth Godin's 2007 book "Meatball Sundae", because it's the next book we are discussing at our business book club. Although the book is now a few years old (2007, which is a lifetime ago in Internet years!  ), its main message is relevant more than ever today: You can't use modern marketing techniques to sell "old" products and services.

Here are some examples ...

Here are some of the most common questions people ask me about their Internet marketing:
  • How do I reduce the amount of incoming e-mail?
  • How often do I need to blog in order to get a high Google ranking?
  • How much business can I really get from Facebook?
  • How can I use Twitter to get more leads?
  • Why isn't anybody active in my forum / membership site / on-line community?
  • How can I make my YouTube video go viral?
These are the wrong questions! When I dig a little deeper, I usually discover the person asking the question is running a traditional kind of business, and is hoping to bolt on new Internet tools to their marketing.
For example, it might be:
  • A trainer who has created a password-protected area of their site (and is calling it a "membership site"), and uploads occasional material there.
  • A coach who doesn't want clients to e-mail her questions between coaching sessions.
  • An author who is releasing extracts of his book on his blog.
There's nothing inherently wrong with these things, as long as you've got the right mindset about your business. But if you're hoping these new marketing channels will help you promote the same old business you've been running for the last decade, you're wrong.

Hopelessly wrong.

If you're an author who's hoping a big-name publisher will pick up your book, then you probably don't care about building a reputation by blogging and podcasting.
If you're a trainer whose password-protected "membership site" is merely a way of adding perceived value so you can charge a higher fee, you don't want pesky members asking you questions!
If you're a coach who bills by the hour, you definitely don't want your clients to interact with you by e-mail, Twitter and Facebook between your coaching sessions.

If you've got an "old" business, use old marketing channels.

I'm not saying you can't run this kind of business (although I do think you should keep a very, very careful eye on what's around the corner, because many of these old business models are falling apart). But if you do choose it, don't expect Internet marketing to help you very much.

By all means, keep building those relationships with bureaus, taking your clients out to dinner, seeking publishers, and all that stuff that used to work. These are all good things to do, and they will probably continue to work for you (at least, for now).

But if you want to change your marketing, change your business as well.

The other option is to change your business (before somebody else changes it for you). Look at my list of questions above and flip them from negatives to positives:
  • In what circumstances might you want to increase your incoming e-mail?
  • What if you were blogging because you had something to say, not just to increase your Google ranking?
  • What if you never got business from Facebook, but used it to build relationships that got you business indirectly?
  • Is it possible that you could never send a tweet but still make Twitter a vital part of your business?
  • What if your on-line community became active because the members themselves took ownership of it?
  • What if "going viral" isn't the purpose of putting videos on YouTube?
All of these things are possible, but only if you change your mindset to embrace them, not just tack them on to your business as an afterthought.

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