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Facebook fans of SUCCESS magazine ask questions about high anxiety in today’s marketplace, which includes the fever-pitch environment of websites, social media and global selling. I hope my responses—which include more questions in some cases!—will help you grow your business.
Q: I’m looking to expand my online business. How much is too much money invested in marketing or advertising?
A: There are two kinds of spending on marketing and advertising. Short-term spending has to pay for itself every day. These are things like direct mail or coupons. Your short-term spending budget should be infinite. If it works, do it more.
The longer-term stuff, of course, is much harder to measure. My vote there is to spend effort and guts and time before you spend cash. Make your business remarkable to your customers first, and the branding money will take care of itself.
Q: Traffic to my website is down, but I feel like I’m doing everything exactly the same as I was a few months ago. What would you advise me to do first, in terms of strategy?
A: Google and other search engines continually change their algorithms. As a result, your search traffic is going to go up or down even if you don’t do anything at all. That’s why it pays to build a strategy that isn’t dependent on an algorithm you can’t control.
Instead, you should focus on three things: why your customers will eagerly tell others about you, why people who visit your website will return, and why visitors will ultimately convert into customers. All three of these are difficult to achieve, but all are going to be more productive than simply hoping for traffic.
Q: There are a lot of impostors touting themselves as “experts” in SEO (search engine optimization) or social media. What should I know or ask before hiring a consultant?
A: The brilliant Rand Fishkin has a 10-question litmus test for SEO that will separate the winners from the posers. Be sure to check it out.
Just as important, though, are the questions you ought to be asking yourself: What do I want? What’s it worth to me? In order to get more website traffic from SEO, how much am I willing to change what I do and how my business comes across online? Am I hoping for a significant, ongoing advantage over our competitors? If so, why do I think hiring a consultant is going to deliver that?
Q: There is a huge movement of crafting from home startups to profitable Pinterest projects. What advice can you give on where to find incubators or funding that caters to this industry?
A: If you need outside funding for a home-based startup, you’re probably thinking about it the wrong way. I wrote a book that I now offer for free (Here's a free chapter of The Bootstrapper's Bible). The bootstrapper doesn’t fund her business with banks or money from venture capitalists. She does it by finding customers willing to pay in advance for things they truly want.
So instead of spending your time trying to please your bank or your investor, you should be spending your time trying to delight your customers.
Q: I own a small publishing company that has suffered from the boom of big websites like Amazon. How can I sell more books using similar marketing or social media tactics without discounting my products too much?
A: First you’ve got to face the fact that Amazon isn’t going to go away. Then you have two choices: 1) You can either figure out how to work with Amazon to expand your distribution and thus focus your energy on creating books that people will happily pay for, or 2) You can decide to own your niche, to go deep instead of wide. If you build a list of people with similar interests, this tribe of fellow travelers will support you as you support them.
The one thing that won’t work is doing what you’ve been doing: cursing the efficiencies that others are exploiting online.