My wife, Erin, and I celebrated our daughter Violet’s first birthday recently. We joked that the celebration was really for us surviving a whole year with an infant. If you have kids, then you know exactly what I mean. That first year wasn’t pretty, but boy was it worth it!
In 365 days, Violet transformed from what I endearingly call her helpless, alien-looking newborn days, to a walking, babbling, playful, and extraordinarily cute baby girl. Looking back on 2013, I find there are many similarities between raising a 1-year-old and launching new marketing campaigns.
- Both require realistic expectations about results to avoid frustration.
- And there’s no question both are well worth the investment.
Recognizing these similarities will ensure you create a more realistic marketing plan and should help you push through the inevitable rough patches.
Invest the Time Required
Everyone knows children (especially babies) need a lot of attention. Even when they sleep, most new parents find it hard to relax. Then, as the infant grows, starts to sleep through the night, hold their own bottle, and even play by themselves. I found the first three months were the most stressful and required the most investment of time, but each subsequent month became easier and easier.
The same is true when launching a new marketing campaign. Let’s use Google AdWords as an example. When you set up a new AdWords campaign, the first few months are going to be the most stressful and time consuming. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error to figure out what works.
Sure, there are commonalities among top-performing ad campaigns across different industries and offers — just like every infant needs sleep, clean diapers and food. But you won’t figure out the specifics (e.g., the best time of the day to run ads, or the best ad copy and bid for a particular keyword) until you and your “baby” have spent some quality time together. So as you launch, keep these tips in mind:
- The first three months will be tough. This is true whether you’re implementing in-house or outsourcing to a marketing company. It’s going to be stressful and you need to commit the time required to learn what works in your particular market.
- Don’t launch more than you can handle. Be realistic about how many new campaigns you can launch in a year. I can’t imagine having another newborn right now. I’m simply not ready for the time commitment. With that in mind, take a look at your annual marketing plan and make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin by launching too many campaigns. Otherwise, you could end up babysitting a bunch of failed campaigns.
Set Realistic Expectations
The biggest cause of frustration with online marketing comes from unrealistic expectations. We now live in a world where we want instant gratification. I frequently hear stories about businesses that unsuccessfully tried Google AdWords, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, email marketing, or some other marketing tactic.
When I pry, I learn that the business “tried” it for a month or two. That’s the equivalent of getting upset because your baby is not walking at 6 months old! To be clear, I’m not saying you should continue to invest in an ineffective marketing campaign. However, as a general rule of thumb, I find that most businesses give up too quickly because they don’t have realistic expectations about how long it will take to see significant results.
For example, in one month we sold 85 seats to our Google Analytics training by sending a couple emails to our in-house email list. Clearly, email marketing works. I could go on and on about all the benefits of email marketing, but I don’t need to. The sales speak for themselves.
However, we worked very hard over the past three years to build our email subscriber database, form a strong ,and continuously provide value to our subscribers. There’s no way we could have sold 85 seats if we had just started using email marketing in the past 6–12 months. That’s about as realistic as Violet reading one of her books tonight.
So, be more realistic with your sales projections from online marketing. SEO, social media, and email marketing are all long-term marketing tactics. AdWords advertising can generate sales within hours, but it will typically take months to dial in your advertising so that you’re consistently generating a positive return. The most successful businesses use a long-term portfolio approach to marketing, similar to savvy investors.
Focus on Incremental Improvements
I realize I haven’t painted a very rosy picture. Maybe I’m a little cranky from so many sleepless nights with Violet this past year. But seriously; I do believe business owners need to hear this if they are going to succeed in marketing.
Competition is fierce, and I’m sorry to say that the days of “set-it-and-forget-it” online marketing campaigns are over. The businesses that take a long-term approach and implement pig-headed discipline will come out on top.
I’ll never forget the day in Central Park when Violet started walking on her own for the first time. It took almost a year to go from rolling over, to crawling, to walking. Every day she improved just a little bit more, until finally it all clicked, and she toddled away from me while uncontrollably laughing.
That’s the approach we all need to take with our marketing. Don’t expect overnight miracles. Focus on incremental improvements in your online marketing campaigns throughout the year.
Phil Frost is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Main Street ROI in New York, NY. Main Street ROI teaches internet marketing strategies that actually work for small businesses. Click here to get ‘The Ultimate SEO Checklist’ to help you rank higher in Google. A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.
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