Most entrepreneurs I know don’t spend a lot of time thinking about marketing proactively. Instead, they tend to think about promotion when preparing a big product launch, seeking funding or after seeing a competitor gain a significant lift in press coverage. Most are hardwired to think about product-market fit and cash flow but tend to outsource, underestimate and generally assign marketing a lower priority.
In preparing our new book, Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online , my co-author and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan and I spoke with many entrepreneurs whom we admire. We realized that while the way consumers shop and buy has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, many entrepreneurs haven't much changed their ideas toward marketing.
Instead of embracing social media, owned content and other marketing best practices, founders are still turning to PR firms and paid advertising to get the word out. The problem is nobody knows the story of a company better than the person who conceived it and worked hard to make it a reality.
Below are the top three myths many founders have about marketing, along with some suggested tips to earn an audience’s attention and counter those fictions for good:
Founders often use social media to keep up with the news or for personal connections but don’t believe that it can have an impact on their business and brands. Last year, a study done by my company of more than 3,000 marketers showed that social media accounted for 14 percent of their total lead pipeline. Moreover, 75 percent of respondents in the Social Media Marketing Industry Report saw an increase in traffic as a result of social media.
Regardless of how success is measured, customers, prospects and leads are all using social media. So having an active presence on at least a few of the most prominent social-media networks of the relevant industry can help a company's brand and bottom line. Not sure what to post? Come up with the top 10 topics that would be most helpful to customers and build a brand presence around content that addresses those issues in a meaningful way.
Pay-per-click advertising can be a powerful weapon in the marketing arsenal, but it’s an expensive habit and one that's hard to gain leverage from over time: The second a company stops paying for it, it disappears. Eighty percent of the links that web searchers click on are organic not paid, so without a solid keyword strategy for organic search, a company could miss out on the vast majority of traffic.
My best advice: Instead of investing massive amounts of money in pay-per-click advertising, invest the time and effort to develop remarkable content around a few select keywords that are really important to the company's audience. Once that's accomplished, pay-per-click marketing can become an additional tool in the arsenal versus something the company is overly reliant upon and paying a bounty on to fend off competitors.
In a startup environment, time is often the scarcest resource available. But an entrepreneur knows his business, target market and customers better than anyone else possibly can. That's why there's no one better to tell the company's story when blogging than him or her.
An executive wouldn't outsource meeting with a venture capitalist about raising a new round. How about interviewing a top-level executive? So why outsource telling the company’s story?
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Box CEO Aaron Levie and media executive Arianna Huffington all find time to create content on a regular basis, and it has paid off massively for both their personal and professional brands. If they can find time to blog, chances are the typical entrepreneur can, too -- and customers will be thankful.
At the end of the day, the biggest myth of all has nothing to do with social media, pay per click marketing or blogging. The top mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing is telling themselves, “I’m all set.” Far too many founders rely on outsourcing or paying for their storytelling so that they can check off the box for marketing and focus their energy elsewhere.
Putting marketing efforts on somebody else’s plate doesn’t mean the executives are done. Rather they’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with their audience in an authentic and meaningful way.
The next time founders feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to tweet or write a blog post, they should think again. Taking marketing into their own hands is how entrepreneurs can create a valuable and lasting business.
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