Think about it–the experts out there writing marketing advice as part of their content marketing strategies are all selling something. They’re either selling software, consulting, or some other product. And the audience they’re selling to are marketers.
Sure, many of them have practices or history that involved marketing to non-marketers, but right now what they’re doing is talking about how to market and the audience for that is other marketers.
I noticed a long time ago that what they were saying didn’t work for my own bootstrapped company (CNCCookbook). It was fascinating to me when things that were repeated so often they seemed like gospel didn’t do me a bit of good, or worse, they actually lowered my conversion rates.
Here are some examples:
– Infographics: They’re all the rage. Personally, I hate them because I am usually reading blogs on an iPad where they take too long to download and then you scroll and scroll and scroll. But, the intelligentsia largely argues that whizbang infographics are some of the best content you’ll ever produce. So I have dutifully produced a fair number of them and they’ve all yielded sub-par results. There are likely a lot of reasons for it. For example, when marketing to marketers, a lot of the audience are marketers marketing to more marketers. An infographic that can be shared can have a trickle-down effect in that sort of niche. In my world, I actually have by far the largest blog in my space and most of the other blogs are by stodgy corporations that aren’t about to share someone else’s infographic. Disclosure: I decided to write this article more or less in response to a Neil Patel article on how he is finding Infographics less effective over time too.
– Controversy: Lots of authorities have recommended controversy as a way to get read. Some hugely popular blogs are so snarky I can hardly stand to read them sometimes. Given my own personal distaste for this kind of thing, I haven’t done much of it, but I did feel it was being recommended so much that I had to at least test it for results. Nada. No interest. Come to think of it, Neil Patel discovered some shortcomings here too.
– Social Media: I’m down to running robots that post my blog posts at this stage. Any more investment has never shown much result. Every time Facebook tweaks their algorithm you get less reach and it makes even less sense. Twitter has never performed for me. I remain convinced a huge percentage of Twitter users are bots that are incapable of being my customers, and recent Twitter disclosures seem to confirm this. At best I regard Social Media as an alternative to RSS Readers and Email for a very tiny sliver of my audience.
– AdWords: Never seen these be productive. All the good keywords are hugely expensive due to competition. If you try to go too far out on the long tail, Google refuses to deal with those words saying there isn’t enough traffic. I was so not surprised to read that eBay cancelled all their AdWords and it didn’t affect revenues. Of course Google then levied a bunch of search penalties on them for having publicized this and they missed a quarter.
– Removing navigation from landing pages. I’ve tested this many times and every time it reduced the conversion rate. Hard to tell for sure from the analytics, but the bounce rates went up like crazy. My audience are highly technical, have lots of questions, and just didn’t like being stuck on the page with nowhere to go for more information.
– Headlines on Landing Pages. This one has been particularly frustrating. I’m supposed to tell them what problem I am solving in clear and concise terms. I have tested that endlessly and it gets poor results. My audience is happiest (so far, I will keep testing this one for years) with a headline that too me seems far from benefit-speak, “Get the Latest Technology.” I’ve paraphrased it so I don’t have to tell the back story, but that’s it in a nutshell. People aren’t supposed to respond to that kind of thing. Who cares what the latest technology is, what solves MY problem? Yet it consistently beats every benefit-oriented headline I have ever tested, usually by a wide margin.
So what’s the answer? Should we ignore all the marketing advice? Should we maybe do the opposite of what they say?
The answer is not nearly so black and white, and if you think it is, you run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
What every marketer has to realize (if they don’t already) is that every niche is different. All of this Marketing Advice that’s available is great, but it isn’t gospel at all. It’s just ideas. The one critical deliverable you have to bring to the table to be a successful Marketer is some mechanism that takes all those ideas you want to try and effectively separates the wheat from the chaff. That’s really the essence of Growth Hacking as I see it. And the tools you need to do that work have to be Analytics and A/B Testing coupled with a keen analytical mind that thinks in these sorts of terms. That keen analytical mind is particularly crucial because it is an art and a talent to devise experiments and then gain accurate actionable insights from them. If you introduce too many variables (often unwittingly), your experiment may not be telling you what you think it is. This is one reason why I test the Big Gospel ideas many times before I conclude they’re just not working for me.
So, by all means, collect the accumulated wisdom that’s out there, but verify that it actually works for your niche and your business. I guess that’s what they mean by, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
(Cross-posted @ SmoothSpan Blog)