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My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"
If you’ve read “Web Design is Dead” you will already understand why the old generalist web designer/developer/webmaster role is facing imminent extinction, and why I believe that “marketing strategy” is a viable evolution for web professionals who are both smart and multi-talented.
In this post, I’d like to dive a little deeper into that idea of Marketing Strategy as a discipline: why we’ll benefit, how it may work, and what kind of future we could build around it.
It’s the answers to questions like these…
To sum up,
How are we going maximize our chance of success when we go to market?
My position is: if you go to market without having very good answers to these questions, you will waste time and money. (You’ll waste some time and money anyway, that comes with the territory, but having a clear, flexible strategy will help you to minimize the amount you waste, often making the difference between success and failure.)
As publishing technology has matured and the technology benefitted from increasing investment, the barrier to entry has dropped like a stone. Practically anyone can publish a great bare-bones website now, with zero technical skills.
That means the web is rapidly getting busier. There is more competition for customers’ attention. Even though most of the competition is poor, the place sure is getting noisier!
A by-product of more noise is more customer apathy. We have tuned our bullshit meter to a hair-trigger.
We don’t want more content or information… we want more intelligence, editorial guidance, trustworthy brands that can help us to navigate daily life more easily.
So publishing online is no longer enough to differentiate. Winning is not about publishing more, or publishing faster, or even reaching more eyeballs. It’s about reaching the right people, with a compelling message, earning their trust, turning them into customers, and then nurturing them through a long-term, mutually-empowering relationship.
We can sum up that strategy as qualitative. We need intense research, deep understanding, focus, and commitment. Scatter-gun, “Chuck it at the wall and see what sticks” approaches won’t work, only add to the noise.
I guess I’m saying that what’s most crucial is having a strategy that’s clear, good, and responsive. If you don’t know in exactly what direction you want to go, how will you know if you’re heading there? And how will you know if the next webinar that’s offered, or the next cool piece of software, or the next coaching programme will help you?
Know exactly who you are. Know intimately what group of people you choose to serve. Know what their problems are. Know what questions they’re asking. Know where they’re asking those questions. Know how to reach them. Know why what you’re offering will help them in a way nothing else can at the price.
Don’t guess. Know!
You (or your clients) can’t try everything. You will break the bank in the attempt. And there are more potential marketing channels today than there have ever been, with more coming online every week.
Whereas a few years ago, you could count the viable channels on two hands (TV, radio, outdoor, point of sale, print ads, direct mail…), today there are literally hundreds of channels.
Plus, success depends on applying focused force. If you spend a day trying AdWords, another day trying email marketing, and the next trying blogging, you will undoubtedly fail at them all.
It may be that there are one or two great channels among the hundreds, where the majority will drain your resources. Or it may be one PR story, one relationship, or one subtle message that outperforms everything else.
The point is, you cannot figure out your path to greatest success by trying everything. Paradoxically, you also can’t figure it out on paper before you start. Sure, research is essential, but sooner or later you also have to try stuff in order to test your assumptions and actually find out.
So strategy is not about figuring it all out up-front. It’s about figuring out how we’re going to find out. That requires discarding a bunch of options early-on, based on logic alone, and then coming up with a plan for cyclically testing and learning using a reduced set. (This is the area where we can learn a lot from the Lean Startup movement.)
Here are a few questions that the Marketing Strategy process should be able to answer…
I believe that it should be possible not only to answer all those tough questions, but also to do so using a system. We have some handles on some of the logic already (for example, don’t even consider SEO for a short-term campaign, and Facebook organic marketing is unlikely to be profitable for a B2B proposition).
When I look at my work over the past few years, I can tell that the problem of systemizing marketing strategy has permeated most of what I have done. That really is the big problem that I would like to crack.
The Circuit Questionnaire took a few months to develop, and now gives us a great foundation for what questions we should ask. The next challenge is the logic, and I think that’s a much bigger one. The Stack model is also proving to be very useful.
When I started Open Source Marketing, my vision was to create an automated wizard that would take your answers to the Circuit Questionnaire and print out the bones of an effective marketing campaign. I would like to believe that’s still a possibility.
It may well require some human intelligence, or to ask a bunch more questions, to reach final conclusions, but if this decision-making process can be simplified in any way (even as simple as, “Should I use AdWords Yes/No?”) we should try!
The Stack teaches us that, whatever the market, there are potential customers at every level, from the free DIY user, through the “self-serve” paid DIY, coaching, mentoring, and consulting models.
Of course this holds true for the “market” for marketing strategy. There are small business owners who want to know how to invest $100 per month in marketing, who have time and desire to learn. At the other end of the scale, there are large businesses who invest $100M per month in marketing, and who want to hire the best person or team they can to do the heavy lifting for them. Both (and everyone in between) deserve access to the right kind of marketing strategy intelligence for their needs.
One of the things I like to do when considering a Stack model is to ask how we can take learning from the point of the stack (the DFY, hands-on consulting end) and let that knowledge filter down to the other levels.
(You can apply this thinking to many service businesses. Even, for example, a vacuum cleaner repair guy! Now, you might think you can’t get more of a hands-on business than vacuum cleaner repair. But even there it might be possible to generate DWY or DIY streams. If the repair man diagnoses a particular fault that’s common to a certain model of vacuum cleaner, he could make a video of the repair job and sell that online for a few dollars. Or he might create a self-study course in vacuum cleaner repair, including all the training videos plus some centralized marketing support. The principles are: there are always people who need your skills, and they always want those skills packaged in different ways.)
So let’s start to put some flesh on the bones. If I’m serious about creating a real marketing strategist discipline, what would that look like, and what would it require?
The first thing is a personal step for me, which would require stepping into the “Mr. Marketing Strategy” shoes. I teach a lot about the importance of finding your genius, choosing your niche, and putting your roots down in that space, so that you become the most intimately-connected brand. Essentially, you become equivalent to your niche.
(Personally, I have struggled for years with how to brand myself. The main reason is because I have enjoyed some success at a range of different things. Each of us needs to find the environment that complements our unique capabilities, desires, and interests. What appeals to me about marketing strategy is that it allows me to indulge my interest in everything!)
At the top end of the Stack, we need a model for a new kind of marketing agency: i.e. a marketing strategy agency. I think this is a very interesting idea indeed.
By focusing entirely on one area (in this case, strategy), one can increase one’s knowledge and expertise faster than by being a generalist.
One of the cool things about hiring someone only to do your strategy is that it can increase trust by removing the conflict of interest. If you go to a marketer who specializes in SEO, they’ll offer to help you with your SEO (for a fee), and the same goes for most other professionals in most other disciplines.
But when you go to your marketing strategy person, if they’re paid on your success (say a percentage of turnover), and if they do not actually deliver your marketing campaigns themselves, it is not in their interests to sell you an idea that won’t benefit you. If I’m paid when you succeed, why would I propose you hire a PPC person, unless I’m confident that PPC will be profitable? It is really interesting how aligning the service provider’s success to the client’s success changes the decision-making process.
Clearly, we would need more than one agency, so a model for an agency is required. How does a marketing strategy function efficiently? What business models should we use? How do we write up contracts, manage compensation, and resolve disputes? WebPro2 could expand to fill this space, i.e. an open-source pattern that anyone can use to set up their own strategy agency.
I am already on this path, as I am now choosing to work with clients more on strategy (including keyword research and high-level copywriting) and less on “lower-level” delivery tasks.
There is always a range of possible DIY products, both paid and free, including courses, ebooks, and online content in various formats.
My thinking is that the Open Source Marketing project is already the natural home for the “how-to” of marketing strategy. There is a big space there that remains unfilled: the exact steps for designing a marketing campaign that has maximum chance of success.
So, as the agency does its stuff, what we learn should be turned into useful DIY materials, useful both for DIY clients who want to do their own marketing, and also for people who want to develop their marketing strategy skills to market to clients.
That leaves the middle band, the “done with you” section of the market. There are a few possibilities here, among which a coached course, which combines live and pre-recorded material, for prospective strategists is likely to be the most appealing.
However, first I still need to make progress on developing the discipline. Right now, the process of strategy has very little shape (beyond the Circuit and Stack models, which prove to be helpful in practically every instance).
Another interesting option could be to have a working group of end-users (i.e. businesses, not marketing professionals). I ran a program called Breakthrough in 2015 along these lines, which was very effective.
I’m giving serious thought to how a marketing strategy agency might work, and am enjoying developing ideas using my existing clients. To launch a dedicated agency would massively accelerate this learning.
If you know that the marketing strategy discipline is for you, or if you would love to be part of an early working group, feel free to reach out to me and perhaps we can set up a working group.
I plan to continue to develop Web Design from Scratch Premium, and to open it up to more providers, so we can keep a good flow of web design best practice, always anchored to “the right way.”
All feedback welcome. Please leave a comment.
At the end of today (February 29th, 2016), I’m removing the early-bird 50% discount on Web Design from Scratch Premium.
Tomorrow, the price will double to $19 per month.
It’s a growing library of tutorials on a range of topics. Basically, I want to give you everything you need to do web design and online marketing the right way in 2016 and beyond.
If you’ve read “Web Design is Dead” you’ll know that a lot has changed in the past few years. Publishing a great-looking website that works across browsers, works on mobile, is accessible, and SEO-friendly is no longer something that only an expert can do.
Today, anyone can get a basically great website quickly and cheaply. Fact!
So the bar has lowered, and that simply changes the problem we’re faced with. If anyone can get a good website, what do we need to do to compete?
Well, that’s what WDFS+ is all about…
So that’s what I want to give you with WDFS+. All those core skills, plus whatever else you’ll need to travel light and fast in this new era (see below).
I want to train you to be lean and mean, to be highly efficient, so that you can out-meneuver your competitors.
Someone asked me this on email today, and quite rightly.
There are a few good reasons why I’m charging for this new material…
Well, I’ve got a pretty good idea about some of what’s needed. And a LOT of that is going to be around strategy. (In fact, I’m planning to create a new agency model that delivers marketing strategy exclusively! So that’s going to help me really accelerate the learning process in this area.)
And… we have a blank sheet, so we can create whatever we want!
So I’d like you to tell me what your biggest issues are. Let’s make this collaborative!
When you sign up for Web Design from Scratch Premium, I would love for you to tell me your questions and challenges. And I’ll see how I can use those real-life problems to create new guidance to help everyone.
In fact, I’ll commit to responding to every single feasible request.
Would you be interested in having a private, secret Facebook group exclusively for WDFS+ subscribers? We can use that to ask quick questions, discuss issues, get support, and help out each others’ businesses!
If YOU want a secret group, with direct access to me and other experts, let me know and we’ll make it happen!
Web Design from Scratch Premium is happening. It has some great content NOW, and it’s going to get a lot more great content. Every month, it’s going to get better and better and better.
You may choose to be part of it today, or you may choose to be part of it in the future.
The difference is, if you join after today, you’ll pay an extra $9.50 per month. Hey, at $19/month it will still be great value! But it’s still $114 each year that you could use for other things.
I hope you’ll join us, and be an active part of the next generation of online marketers. We’re the ones who’ll outperform the competition because we’ll out-evolve the competition. We’re fast, we’re lean, we’re smart, we’re not wasteful, but we’re also real, and honest, and (perhaps most importantly) love doing what we do.
50% Lifetime Discount Expires at the end of February!
I’d love to get your thoughts on this idea. Watch the short 5-minute video I just shot in my garden.
In the post-“Web Design is Dead” world, most businesses should never pay huge sums for “Big Bang” website projects.
One critical reason is that the true success of a marketing campaign is rarely designed at the beginning. It is more often figured out interactively over time. A “Big Bang” design or redesign is logically guaranteed to deliver a sub-optimal product.
Success comes from on-going optimization and adaptation… keyword research, content production, experimenting with traffic channels, testing lead-generation techniques, split-testing sales messages, etc.
That’s why the ideal model for businesses and for service providers is going to be Web Pro v2…
…at least for larger businesses!
Clearly, Web Pro v2 does not scale that well for small businesses. If a business is turning over a modest amount, target-based or profit-share compensation models will not be interesting for good marketers, who can get greater results faster for clients who have bigger turnovers.
I’m convinced that the answer is for most of us small business owners to do our own online marketing, with some affordable assistance from professionals.
So I think we need the right combination of specific skills and strategic guidance, in order to deliver a situation that’s predictably profitable for all small businesses!
Fortunately, the good news is that we have a great selection of tools that we can use to promote our own businesses and trade online (including WordPress, Shopify, Etsy, eBay, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) These are either cheap or free, and often very accessible and easy to use.
YES — You can do your own online marketing today, without investing half your time learning new skills!
However, there’s a flip side, which is that this ever-expanding range of possible tools can be overwhelming.
So how does a small business actually manage the process of executing its own online marketing, in a way that genuinely saves money without eating up too much time?
That’s the problem I’m proposing to address with a new stream in “Web Design from Scratch Premium”, and I would love to get your feedback…
Do you think a “Small Business Marketing DIY” course sounds like a good idea? Please add your comments below.
Following a recent email from an email subscriber asking how all the stuff I’ve been talking about in the past year fits together, I just made this 30-minute video for you.
In this, I’ll explain the massive breakthrough I had recently regarding my “genius” (it’s probably not what you think), and how this impacts everything I’m doing.
I talk about Open Source Marketing, the Ethical Marketing Group, a new ethical marketing channel, WebPro v2, a massive new book project, another book project, and finally a revenue stream for 2016!
Please watch this right through, and feel free to comment.
I got this message recently from someone on my email list.
Im a novice in this but i was studying a lot years ago. The thing that made me step back in it was that in my quest for knowledge i found out this thing about The Internet Marketing Syndicate.
Could you if possible clear for me if there any truth on this Scam and what are the guys i need to avoid get info from?
The thing is that im from Brasil and i know now there are some Internet Marketers promoting similar stuff there. Similar to Lauch Formula of Jeff Walker. Is there any good in this stuff or are only hype?
Thank you in advance.
Here’s my response.
Obviously, I’m not in a position to comment on the Syndicate, and I really know nothing about “game”. Of course, there is obvious and clear history linking a lot of these “marketers” together.
I am happy to talk about Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula”. In my opinion, it works. That’s obvious, because everyone’s using it, and have been for ten years.
Why does it work? Because it systemizes a model of scarcity and pressure-selling. For me, that’s unethical. Sure, if you have *real* scarcity (like if you only have 2 boxes of the product left, or you’re offering coaching and there are only so many hours in the week) then that’s the truth and you can use it to increase urgency in your selling message. People have been doing that for thousands of years.
But PLF is about creating artificial scarcity. It says, “Instead of just offering the world what you sell, create a buzz around an limited window of opportunity.” Then there’s a lot of stuff around the tactics of how you build up that buzz, and create multiple opportunities to buy, etc., all stuff that’s been tested and pretty much perfected over the years.
At the end of the day, it’s fundamentally unethical. So the question is, what do you want? If you want to make as much money as possible, by persuading or coercing people into buying your stuff, use PLF.
I choose a different path. I prefer to build real trust over time (sometimes a long time) and to earn a small tribe of loyal followers. Not “get rich quick” addicts. People who are like me, and who want to build the same kind of world that I want to build.
It’s down to your own ethics and your own choice, my friend.
Please comment below, thanks.
If you’re a business owner, you have probably already been burned on marketing projects.
Most likely you risked a significant budget on a website or marketing campaign that would never repay you. Maybe that happened multiple times.
Isn’t it crazy that business owners and entrepreneurs — the champions of innovation in the world — have been expected to gamble their hard-earned profits on the whims of web designers and so-called “marketing experts” for the past twenty years?!
As I explain in this 25-minute video, I’m as guilty as the next web pro!
In fact, I’m pissed off enough to do something about it.
In the video/audio below, I’ll explain what’s so shitty about the current system, and introduce my “Web Pro 2” model, which I think offers the solution we need.
I believe that Web Pro 2 will revolutionize the way we deliver marketing services for ever.
It will be an open-source project (an evolution of the OSM Client Service system). That means we’ll publish the “how-to” so that anyone can pick up and use the Web Pro 2 model.
At the end of my talk, I invite any businesses who are interested in working with this model (who wouldn’t?) to contact me with details.
If you would like to be part of the beginning of “Web Pro 2”, please email me with a short overview of what you currently market, giving your website address, and stating what you would like to achieve. I’ll then review and we’ll take it from there together.
I have a group of amazing consultants ready to go, who’ll work alongside me to help you achieve real growth — at practically zero risk to you! Rest assured, you will get our priority attention.
The only caveat I would add is that you should be willing to let us share at least some details of your success as part of a case study for WP2.
Anyone who knows me is clear on where I stand on ethics in marketing.
I see a lot of dishonesty, manipulation, and pressure tactics being used online — and it pisses me off!
What’s more, I’ve learned I’m not alone. And this is really exciting!
Just check out my posts on Ryan Deiss’s bullshit, his other bullshit, or this from Frank Kern. Notice they all have a LOT of comments? That’s because there are a lot of pissed off people. Perhaps you’re one of them.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks who have told me about paying good money for some course.
The more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems that the real problem is not that most marketers are cheats.
The real problem is simply that the ones who are make the most noise.
The picture in my head is of one of those classic cowboy movies, where the bandits take to the streets and the good folk of the town all quickly bolt their shutters and hide indoors until the gunfight is over.
You see, there are only a few bandits. But they’re loud and dominant, and that makes it seem like the town is lawless.
But… I believe there are a lot more of the good folk! We are in the majority. The ones who want to trade fairly and with integrity, earn an honest living and live in peace.
Three years ago, I dreamed of setting up some kind of Ethical Internet Marketing Association. (I wrote a blog post about it here. However I was busy with other projects, and it never happened. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe I didn’t care enough back then.
I deeply believe that ideas have a Right Time. In fact, that’s one of the big lessons I have learned in my series of “Cracking Content” interviews. If you want to make a real difference, you need to be intimately connected with your Tribe, your right sector of the market, so that when you feel a powerful idea emerge in you, it’s likely to be popping for other people at the same time.
Well, I think that NOW is the time for ethical marketing to get a voice!
A few weeks ago, after meeting with a few like-minded marketers, I was inspired to revisit that idea of some way that consumers (which includes all of us) could more safely navigate the minefield of Internet Marketing.
I reckoned, what if we developed a code of practice for ethical marketing? Then those of us who wish to show the world that we stand for fair business can say, “We subscribe to that!” and customers who want to deal with ethical marketers can see our declaration.
So that’s what I’ve done. I have spent the past few weeks building the foundation for The Ethical Marketing Group, and it took its first blinking steps into the light today!
Here’s how the website looks now. You can see that, at the time of writing, we have just two members.
This is literally day one, so there’s still a lot of work to do!
The core idea is the Code of Practice. Any vendors — whether you’re an info-marketer, or you promote products and services, or even market a brick & mortar business online — all of us can simply say, “Look, we follow this.”
And you can do that for free. Just grab a line of HTML code, and put the “Supporter” badge on your website!
There are also three different levels of membership, which show increasing commitment to ethical practice, backed up with support from myself and a small group of ethically-minded marketing consultants I’m building.
(We’re going to have lots more different badges that you can use on your websites and email templates.)
So, if you want to do it yourself, you can! If you want a listing on the Ethical Marketing Group website, you can get that too. And if you would like ten hours of consulting from experts, to help you keep your marketing compliant AND effective, no problem! We’re here to help you to do whatever you want.
Now, for the first time, consumers can easily verify anyone’s level of commitment to ethical marketing standards.
And if you’re a Member (does not apply to Supporters), visitors to your website will shortly be able to submit a message to the EMG if they think your marketing process does not comply with the agreed Code of Practice. In that case, our consultants will do what we can to work towards a positive resolution, learn from the experience, and try to improve all our processes.
(When you work through my draft Code of Practice, you may find it challenging. I did! It has made me go back through my websites to make changes. No one said that doing the right thing is easy. But I believe it’s worth it.)
It is worth saying that the Ethical Marketing Group does not set out to be the ethics police! After all, what is “ethical marketing” anyway? It is actually quite a challenging exercise to sit down and write out what it means to you. So our Code of Practice is there simply by agreement.
We don’t wish to say that we’re ethical and anyone who isn’t part of group is not. We’re just saying to the world, “Here, look at the standard that we declare we are striving to meet.”
And, of course, that standard is bound to evolve. We will be continually testing it, improving it, adding or removing pieces. But that’s how things get better.
Let’s make things better — together!
I don’t know if you are as inspired by ethical marketing practices as I am. But if you are, I would request that you check out the ways in which you can be part of this movement. I hope there’s a solution that fits for everyone.
Do YOU want to be a Founder Member?
If you do wish to join, I have discounted all the membership fees by one third until January. That makes you a Founder Member, and you keep that discount for the duration of your subscription.
(Every member gets a sequential member number, so the next person to sign up with be Member #3, which I think is pretty cool.)
In addition, if you sign up for Annual membership, you pay for only eight months, so you save another third that way too.
Note: If you choose to join, I will assign the membership numbers in strict order of sign-up. It may take me up to 24 hours to get your listing on the website, so please be patient. Thanks.
We had a great 90-minute call on Blab today, where a group of us tackled some pretty serious questions, and arrived at some conclusions!
I don’t like writing these blog posts, but someone has to.
I got another email from Ryan Deiss, who we all know is the Fresh Prince of marketing bullshit.
Just check this out. (It’s not the whole email. I’ll spare you that.)
Okay, there are a few important things to clarify here.
That makes him a scammer, in my book at least.
Deiss, you’re a lying scammer!
(Glad we’ve cleared that up.)
Now, by all means subscribe to these guys’ email lists, because there is a lot to learn, and I have seen some really excellent articles on Ryan’s website.
I’m not saying for a minute he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. But be careful to treat any claims of “universal effectiveness” with a heavy dose of skepticism.
(See also this example, which I think is dishonest and misleading.)
Unfortunately, the world of marketing is fuzzier and dirtier and less predictable than purveyors of these cure-alls are prepared to admit. Hey, fuzzy doesn’t sell!
I can say, with confidence, that there is no pattern or model or template that works every time. (Anyone who says there is is a lying scumbag.)
The right message, delivery, tone, and length… all these things depend on who you’re talking to, what you want your brand to mean to them, and what you’re trying to sell.
And there’s no formula for that. I’m in the middle of writing a book about how to create killer content, and the rabbit hole is a lot deeper than Ryan Deiss would have you believe!
You know we all have very finely-tuned bullshit meters these days (and it’s a good job, because there’s a lot of bullshit around). That means we’re getting very good at spotting when someone’s trying to sell to us and immediately switching off.
As I’ve suggested, very often, the best way to get your message noticed is to ignore what everyone else is doing, and do something quite different. Even if received wisdom tells you that X works, don’t do it. Why? Because if everyone’s doing it, your market is likely already to be switching off.
Truly successful content is not formulaic. I haven’t cracked the whole code yet, but I can tell you, at the very least, that it requires two things:
You know what else? The key to your most powerful content is within you, right here, right now. No one else can figure it out for you. And no marketing wiseguy can sell you the answer. Just remember that.
Please watch this space. Let’s keep this conversation going.
If, like me, you feel deep down that there’s something deeply wrong in the way online marketing information is shared in this world, this post is for you!
Here’s a quick update (17 minutes) to bring you guys up to date about recent thoughts about how Internet Marketing is hollow and broken.
Plus there’s news about the three Open Source Marketing systems we’re starting to roll out, which promise to turn the whole IM world on its head.