A great idea poorly sold is called failure.
Entrepreneurship is about big ideas, but the problem that most entrepreneurs face is that there is always someone else around the corner with a bigger idea. The good news is that you don’t always have to have the biggest idea to win. What you do need however, is the ability to tell a story.
“The biggest fallacy that entrepreneurs often fall prey to is believing that their great idea will sell itself,” said David Schutzman, president of David Schutzman Marketing, a virtual marketing communications and public relations firm specializing in small to mid-size businesses and startups. “You’ll often see instances where the entrepreneur with a product that’s just ‘good enough’ will end up being more successful than the entrepreneur with a superior product. Success isn’t about how great your product is – it’s about how well you communicate that greatness to others.”
Slogans only go so far
Minimalist ad campaigns that rely on visual cues, brief slogans and images of hipsters in curly mustaches and fedoras have a place, but that place is after you have already become recognized. Until then, you have to focus on telling everyone precisely why your Big Idea is so big. You can’t do that in Tweets, taglines and banner ads.
“Entrepreneurs, and even seasoned marketers tend to be afraid of long-form content,” said Schutzman. “When introducing a new product to market, this fear can be your downfall. Younger consumers demand more information when making a buying decision. An education-based marketing campaign will fill that need a lot quicker than will a 140-character Tweet.”
Those thought leadership campaigns offer up a lot more than just lengthy sales pitches. “Campaigns that offer meaningful information, thought leadership on how your customers can succeed, and thoughtful commentary on issues that relate to your business are going to position you as a respected member of a community, and will drive sales and increased loyalty,” said Schutzman.
Marketing isn’t an afterthought
You’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on development, infrastructure, a new office, and production equipment. You paid a team of union electricians top dollar to come in and wire your machinery, and you paid an attorney $300 an hour to draw up your incorporation papers. You rely on other professionals like freight brokers, printers, accountants, and computer programmers to do what needs to be done, and you don’t question the fees they charge. That’s all well and good, and you need those professionals. But then . . . you think of marketing, and you’re out of money. Then you see an ad from an online marketing agency or an SEO specialist with a $99 a month special, promising to get you on the first page of Google.
Responding to that ad is the beginning of the end. “When a new business believes that marketing comes last, they are more likely to fail, and fail fast,” said Schutzman. Everybody understands that an unskilled accountant may land you in trouble with the IRS, a bargain-basement electrician may cause your equipment to fail, and the drywaller you hire in the Home Depot parking lot may not do as good a job as a licensed and bonded contractor.
Why then, do businesses feel that they can hire an amateur using boilerplate tactics and spammy content sourced for a penny a word to be their public voice?
“Marketing is the most strategic driver of revenue, and seeing it as an afterthought is a critical mistake. Before you have the first pipe in your office plumbed, before your accountant logs the first receipt, and before you print your first business card, take time to create a marketing strategy that defines your message, and lays out specific tactics for creating your voice. Without that, all other spending is useless.”
You’re using the wrong marketing tactics
So why doesn’t anybody listen to your Big Idea? It’s Big, and it’s Great, and it will change the world as we know it. But you’re relying on the wrong people to get your message out. “Having a big voice means not just being part of the industry – it means defining it,” said Schutzman. “Too many business startups focus their entire marketing effort on the website, believing that a great website will drive traffic. It won’t. You need a great website with plenty of information, but it’s a destination that people look for only after they have learned about you through sustained mentions in the media, bylined articles in publications relevant to your industry, and an active influencer campaign to get others on your side.”
No matter how many SEO tricks you use on your website, it’s never going to be a primary generator of organic traffic – and simply hanging an SEO-optimized website on a server and waiting for the dollars to roll in is a strategy doomed to failure. Rather, you need to focus on driving traffic to that website through a sustained campaign of meaningful content. Schutzman shared a few tips for building awareness and driving meaningful traffic to your website:
Repetition. “Positioning yourself as a leader in your industry isn’t a one-and-done deal,” said Schutzman. Getting a mention in a popular magazine is great, but the boost isn’t going to last long. You need to keep a steady stream of brand mentions coming in.
Create news. News outlets aren’t going to care that much about you, unless you give them something to care about. News about your relatively unknown company launch isn’t going to capture the attention of editors, but news about how you are changing the industry just might. Think fewer business announcements, and more thought leadership.
Leverage content. A great article may start in LinkedIn Publishing, or on your on-site blog, but it doesn’t need to end there. Use that wonderful content to elicit quotes in other publications, and as a foundation for gaining recognition as a respected author in more prestigious media outlets.
Reach out to influencers. Who can help you in your mission? In addition to recognized editors and journalists, other influencers – social media stars, industry experts, and anybody with an interest in your industry that has a large social media following – should be cultivated as followers.
Enlist the help of professionals. Just like trying to wire your own factory floor may result in frying your own fingers, doing your own marketing and content development may yield similar consequences. Reach out to a qualified marketer with the ability to understand your business, who will take time to communicate with you, and who has connections with legitimate media outlets.
Landing on the first page of Google is important – but an approach of solely numbers-driven, mechanical tactics over meaningful thought leadership isn’t the way to get there. Today’s new era of education-based marketing means you must take the extra step to not just entertain your audience and give them five-second sound bites and Madison Avenue platitudes – you need to give them meaningful information, feature-length unbiased articles about your industry, and the thought leadership that will make them think of you as the contender that understands their needs and desires.