Usually on Copyblogger we talk about how to grow your business with online marketing, get more customers, increase your conversion rate, build thousands of daily readers, and all the rest of it.
But you also need to know about the factors that will kill off your business. Sometimes it’s a question of attitude, like when you’re sick of it, when it’s only a hobby and you don’t want to take it too seriously, or when you’re equally scared of success and failure.
And then there are just downright mistakes, which, fortunately, can be corrected.
If you want your business to thrive, watch out for these warning signs. Get them straightened out and you’ll get your business on the road to robust good health.
#1: A sucky attitude
Your attitude about your own business will affect everyone else’s attitude about it. Every web visitor, every person you speak to, every twitter and FaceBook contact. They’ll know, without you telling them, exactly how you regard your business.
What are some of the warning signs that your attitude may suck?
- When you don’t post for weeks on end.
- When you haven’t put out a new product or service for the last six months.
- When you say your business would be great if it wasn’t for those $#%^& customers.
- When you whinge about how hard business is and how all those successful A-listers must have had friends in the right places.
- When you’re expecting to be an overnight success and you’re surprised that you aren’t both rich and famous after six months.
#2: Marketing to a demographic, not a niche
The best and simplest definition of an online marketing niche that I’ve seen is “a group of people with a common problem who congregate together.”
What isn’t a niche? Freelancers are not a niche. Work at Home Parents (mums, dads, or both) are not a niche. Small business owners are not a niche. Copywriters are not a niche. Women over 40 are not a niche, neither are men after retirement.
Those are all demographics — and they’re all groups that I’ve seen people try to market to.
It’s only a niche when they share a problem.
So what’s the problem in your niche, and how are you going to solve it? Where does your niche group together so you can market to them specifically?
It’s an online marketing paradox that the more you narrow your niche, the more successful your marketing will be.
Have a look at who you’re aiming at now and ask yourself if it’s a demographic or a real niche.
How can you narrow your message down to their core problem — the one that you solve brilliantly and uniquely?
#3: Looking like a cheapskate
It’s so easy to set up an online business these days — just whack up a WordPress.com or Blogger site and off you go.
Need graphics? Pick up some clip art. Logo and website header? $50 should take care of that if you outsource to the lowest bidder. Business cards? You can get freebies from Vistaprint, why pay money for a designer and printing? Newsletter list? Send that from your desktop with Outlook.
The only problem here is that your online presence (and therefore, your business) looks cheap. And the overall impression visitors and potential clients get is that you’re (a) broke, (b) cheap and (c) unprofessional.
There are some things you can do free or low-cost and no one will notice. Your website is not one of them.
Don’t get me wrong here, you don’t have to go to the other extreme and mortgage your house to pay for the website. You do have to make sure that your site has a clean, professional look, that it’s easy to navigate, and that your web presence makes you look worth the prices you charge.
#4: Not capturing visitor details
Someone comes to your site, looks around, reads some posts, and then leaves. Sure, they liked it and intend to come back and read some more — but they never do. They forget, lose the url, get busy. And you’ve lost them forever.
I’m amazed at the number of small businesses that don’t have a way to capture visitor details — their names and email addresses. They’re losing customers and making life harder for themselves. It takes time and effort to attract people to your site, so why let them leave without a way to keep in touch?
Set up an email newsletter list (NOT from your desktop, see #3 above) and offer a valuable free report or ebook in exchange for their details. MailChimp is free up to 500 subscribers if money is tight at the start, and you can build from there.
Once you’ve lost a visitor they’re gone forever — along with every person they may have referred you to. Do you really want to let them get away that easily?
#5: Failing to plan long term
Or don’t plan at all. Business plans are for big businesses, and for when you need to go to the bank for capital, right? Wrong!
When you don’t plan you’ll drift. You’ll chase the latest online marketing guru and technique, flit from this to that and wonder why nothing seems to work for you. What are you aiming for? What do you expect out of your business? How will you know when you’ve reached it?
You don’t need a 100 page plan full of legalese and possible budgets and financial projections that no-one but your Accountant understands.
But at the very least you do need to know what your aims (goals) for your business are, who you’re marketing to, and what makes you different from everyone else out there.
No plan = No business.
#6: All learning, no action
Are you a ‘gunna’? You’re ‘gunna’ do this and ‘gunna’ do that?
Just as soon as you’ve studied this online marketing e-course, read those 136 ebooks, listened to the 84 teleseminars and watched the 78 hours of business videos that you’ve downloaded onto your computer?
How many information products have you bought that you’ve never read, listened to or watched? How many of them have you actually worked through step by step?
We all do this, or rather, don’t do this. Me? I’m waiting for retirement before I work through my resources folder — it’s the only way I’ll ever have the time.
Ebooks, courses, videos and all the other teaching methods are great, as long as you utilize what you’ve learned. Information junkies abound. People who take action on what they’ve learned are rare.
You’ll learn more in your first twelve months of actually running your business and putting yourself out there than you will from any number of books, courses and videos. Information is great, but nothing beats taking action.
Looking for the online marketing advice we talked about at the beginning: how to grow your business, get more customers, increase your conversion rate, gain several thousand daily readers, and all of that good stuff? You’ll find it on the free Copyblogger newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. Come join us today!