Welcome to the (digital marketing) jungle.

Digital marketing can be like walking through a jungle.

It’s a dense place populated with predators, prey, twists, and turns. It demands you pay constant attention, that you remain alert at all times.

Like a real jungle, the digital jungle can be fearsome, dangerous, and ruthless. Take a wrong step, and it will chew up your marketing dollars and spit you out with nothing.

Brutal, I know. Been there.

So, what can you do about it?

The answer varies depending on your business, market conditions, client profile, and specific goals. But no matter your unique circumstances, there are three things you should know before investing a dime into digital marketing:

1. Set your digital priorities and avoid distractions.

Like any form of advertising, digital marketing exists to generate new business. And at the end of the day, this is the only metric that matters – New Business Generated (“NBG“).

NBG is like Polaris, the north star. It can and should be your “anchor” throughout your digital journey.

Without an anchor like NBG to light the way, it’s easy to get lost. Easy to go the wrong direction. Easy to get caught up in the jungle’s distractions, and easy to throw away your hard-earned dollars.

In the digital jungle, such distractions come in many forms… things like follower counts, email open rates, and click-through percentages, to name a few.

Sure, metrics like these are important to a degree. And they become more important with time, traffic, and growth. But when you are starting out, they are little more than a distraction.

For example, who cares if 100% of your subscribers opened your last email if 0% become customers?

This is why you need to set priorities, beginning with NBG as #1.

You must remain focused, alert, and out of the weeds. You must see things clearly.

Helpful tip: it’s often easier to work backward from your goal (reverse engineering) than the other way around. Instead of asking yourself, “What should we do next?” you might try asking, “What happens immediately before (the sale)?”

Walk through this Q&A enough times, and pretty soon you’ll know what to do next. But instead of “pushing” from the present, you will be “pulling” from the point of sale.

2. Successful digital strategies change often.

The digital jungle is constantly changing, evolving, and adapting. This rate of evolution can be so rapid, major changes sometimes occur by the hour.

This means your strategy requires growth, adaptation, and fine-tuning over time. It also means you must adopt a scientific mindset in your approach to digital marketing.

Consider the following growth strategies, many of which are discussed in the book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares:

  • Social Media Branding – What you’re posting / who you are interacting with and how.
  • Social Media Growth – Acquiring new followers.
  • Social Media Advertising – Driving new business leads with social / display ads.
  • Search Engine Optimization “SEO” – Overall strategy for getting ranked in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, of which there are several components. Here are a few:
    • On-Site Optimization – Making your site easier to find, index, and browse.
    • Social Media Factors – Driving traffic and improving ranking factors.
    • Backlinks and Influencers – Improving domain/page authority, ranking factors, and traffic.
  • Inbound Marketing – Overall digital strategy, including email marketing, based around driving leads to your website.
  • Email Marketing – List-based email marketing, often involving newsletters, blog posts, and special offers.
  • Email Workflows– Intelligent, segmented email subscriber workflows to maximize conversions + sales.
  • Cold Email Marketing –  Cold contacting potential influencers, partners, and clients to begin relationships.
  • Content Development – Blogs, podcasts or videos on your site to educate your target audience and build rapport.
  • Content Marketing – Syndicating and marketing the above-mentioned content through many digital channels.
  • PPC, PPM, & PPV Ads – Pay-Per-Click style ads. Think: Google AdWords, Bing, and other specific ad networks.
  • Viral Marketing – Developing content, videos, or ideas that go viral due to high potential for sharing and discussion.
  • Public Relations (PR) – Pursuing positive press through standard media outlets, online and offline, to raise brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
  • Unconventional PR – Orchestrating PR “stunts” to attract large amounts of attention to your brand and drive traffic to your website.

For any given business, your winning strategy combination will be unique. Moreover, market factors may shift over time and force you to reinvent your strategy periodically.

Case in Point: Becoming a #1 Bestselling Author on Amazon.com

Earlier this year, I boosted three of my books to multiple #1 spots on Amazon.com simultaneously.

This resulted in thousands of copies sold, hundreds of thousands of pages read, and thousands of dollars in profit.

It also brought hundreds of new subscribers to this blog, and allowed me to achieve overall ranking of #4 in Business & Money on Amazon.com.

This put me above Donald Trump (you can find my opinion of him here) and countless other bestselling authors, most with far bigger budgets and marketing machines behind them.

This was achievable due to a carefully planned and executed strategy, one that was multi-faceted and leveraged various openings in the market.

My books continue to sell more copies than I ever thought they would, but the market does continuously change, so my digital strategy continues to adapt accordingly.

Some digital channels, strategies, and tactics are still in my playbook; others are not, because they are no longer profitable.

The nature of this constant change is sometimes challenging, but so too it creates the very arbitrage opportunities that make digital marketing worthwhile.

Implications: digital marketing isn’t for everyone.

The “digital jungle” tends to reward the determined, adaptable, and resilient.

By contrast, you will tend to lose at digital marketing if you:

  1. Fail to adapt,
  2. Cannot embrace failure itself, or
  3. Have an insufficient budget.

1. Failure to adapt occurs when you maintain an ineffective strategy for too long. Plain and simple. Say you invest in social media for twelve months and gain lots of new followers. Engagement seems to be increasing. People are sharing your content. It’s all looking and feeling pretty good. But, have you checked if sales are originating from social media? If you log into Google Analytics and discover no sales came from social, you have a problem, especially if you’re twelve months deep. Either your social strategy needs tweaking, your landing pages need tweaking, or, it might be time to invest in another channel altogether (i.e., move on from social).

2. Failure to embrace failure is most easily illustrated with a baseball analogy. Imagine you are so afraid to strike out, you never swing the bat. Or perhaps you do take some swings, but judge yourself harshly every time you swing and miss. Well, I’ve got news for you: the guys who hit the most home runs tend to strike out often, too. What’s more, the mean batting average for the MLB player is somewhere around .265. This means about 3/4 of the time, professional ball players fail at bat. The lesson is simple: you should expect to have a few “at-bats” before getting on base, and more still before hitting a home run. It’s much the same with digital marketing; your expectations and budget should be tailored accordingly.

3. Small budgets mean you only have the resources for a single “at-bat.” In some cases, perhaps only enough to take one weak swing at the first pitch that comes your way. Not long enough to learn what works. Not long enough to optimize your campaigns. Not long enough to tie together a cohesive, multi-faceted strategy. And definitely not long enough to reach a “tipping point” where network effects occur, organically boosting your campaigns further.

Therefore, you may want to reconsider digital marketing if you aren’t properly funded, if you’re a perfectionist, or if you have trouble letting go of things when the writing is on the wall.

3. Digital marketing is usually easier with help.

Let’s say you have the right mindset. You have the budget. You have the desire. What happens next?

Do you enter the jungle alone, or do you hire an experienced “jungle guide?”

Well, only you can decide. But for what it’s worth, getting professional help will accelerate your progress.

Returning to our baseball analogy, imagine stepping up to bat during a professional game. Now imagine swinging at a few big league pitches. We have already discussed how professional ball players fail about 3/4 of the time. Given this, how might you perform?

You can see where I’m going here. It’s wise to hire a professional if you can afford one.

Speaking of which, you can expect to spend $100-500/hr for a worthwhile freelancer, consultant, or agency (of which I am one) capable of generating results for your business. And yes, it takes more than a few hours to design an effective strategy.

As this article on professional SEO services points out:

“You should be wary of any consultant that seems too good to be true… Remember, working with a specialist is an investment and you shouldn’t cut corners, look for a consultant with a proven track record and attention to deliver the performance that you need. There are cheaper consultants out there, but they tend to be much less experienced and will likely take longer to get results, if they ever do.”

This is true in most digital areas, including web design, web development, and digital marketing (inclusive of SEO and its many other branches). You will be hard-pressed to find partners with the appropriate experience, resources, or credibility at lower rates.

Yes, this does represent a considerable barrier to entry for many. But it also weeds out the professionals from the hobbyists, which is a good thing for all parties involved: agencies, customers, and the market.

Agencies who perform at a high level need to be selective with their customers, after all, because their reputation depends on it. If a customer has insufficient resources, the agency won’t be able to produce the desired results.

This also means the customer is better off avoiding such an engagement. Should they press their consultant or agency to move forward with insufficient resources, they are only postponing their disappointment.

Finally, consider the customer’s market. If the customer cannot afford a proper digital marketing effort, it won’t gather enough data to optimize its messaging to what the market wants. Bottom line, the market will end up viewing mistargeted ads, and this will annoy them because they are irrelevant to their interests.

So, what are your digital goals?

How might a professional consultant or agency help you achieve them?

How much would you expect to spend on a good digital solution?

What do you think is the most important factor in developing your digital strategy?

To schedule a free consultation to review your strategy and goals, contact me here.

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