I think it’s safe to say that 2017 was a wild ride for so many entrepreneurs who use internet marketing to grow their business. 🙂
Whether you have an online business, a service business, a coaching business, or an offline business that uses the internet to get new customers, the rules of the game are changing… and they’re changing FAST.
While you could say that internet marketing is always changing and evolving, 2017 saw the most rapid change I’ve seen since I started my business in 2011.
The Wild West Days of “anything goes” is over as savvy customers are demanding a greater level of market sophistication, accountability and high-touch support.
The 2017 annual Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that trust is in crisis around the world. Trust in the 4 key institutions that drive our society — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined across the board. According to Edelman, “without trust, belief in the system fails.” There’s a sense of injustice that the system is rigged, a lack of hope that hard work will be rewarded, a crisis of confidence in current leaders, and a deep desire for change.
Without a doubt, it’s a tough climate for business. But, in the face of these challenges, we have 2 possible responses:
- Get worried, give up hope, do nothing and get left behind
- See the incredible opportunity to step up and do things in new ways that better serve the market
As many established businesses choose to respond the first way, I believe that leaves a wide open playing field for the next generation of online superheroes to step forward. The entrepreneurs who are willing to be flexible and change with the times. You. Yes you.
Business and internet marketing are not going away, they’re just evolving and the question is: which side of the change do you want to be on?
I wrote this post with Live Your Message Marketing Director Don Crowther to share what’s working now and what’s not.
While some of these trends may seem discouraging on the surface, others are setting the stage for significant growth in 2018 for those brave enough to change with the times.
First, let’s talk about what’s NOT working as well as it used to…
1. Large Launches
Most of the big launch events in 2017 delivered only a fraction of what they used to. We saw product launches that sold $1 million or more in 2016 generate less than $400,000 in 2017. And sales weren’t the only thing that suffered. Opt-in rates during launches are also down, with fewer people getting emails and clicking on links.
I’m proud to say that we were one of the few companies that saw increased sales and opt-ins in our 2017 Experience Product Masterclass launch (read the predictions section below to find out how we did it).
2. Email Marketing
Blame Google for moving marketing emails into the Promotions tab, hackers who pounded opt-in forms with millions of real email addresses (meaning that people were unknowingly opted into lists that they didn’t want to be on), and millions of people moving away from email into chat as their primary means of communication. Whatever the cause, it’s harder than ever to get your emails even seen, much less opened and clicked on.
3. Live Event Audience Building
It’s getting harder and harder to get people to commit to traveling to attend a live event, even at low ticket prices. Again, we’re happy to see our live event sales stay consistent and what looks like our biggest turnout yet. We’re also committed to leading the way to doing business with more heart, authenticity and alignment.
4. Advertising Costs & Effectiveness
As network television continues its long, agonizing death, more and more money is being poured into online advertising by advertisers with deep pockets. At the same time, the ease of getting into online advertising with Facebook and Google attracts hundreds of thousands of new small advertisers into the fray each year. This combination of big brands and new advertisers forces more competition for a limited supply of ads, driving ad costs higher.
At the same time, neither Google nor Facebook deliver the ability to properly target potential buyers. So marketers are hit with a double whammy of higher ad costs with poor sales results. Google gives us keyword-searches (purchase intent) but doesn’t give us the proper targeting capabilities to show ads only to those who are most able and likely to buy. Facebook gives great targeting, but doesn’t give us the ability to advertise to those who are likely to purchase. These factors must change for the advertising model to support ever increasing click costs.
Unfortunately, most of the leads and profits for companies and people marketing information-based products, coaching, consulting and services online come from these four sources. So, for many people it seems like we’re up the proverbial creek with no paddle.
Or are we? Are there other sources of leads that can affordably convert into sales?
The simple answer is yes.
So what are those areas?
I’ll tell you what we think they are. But you should be aware that most of these negative trends became significantly more serious in the latter half of 2017. In other words, we’re currently in the process of testing our suggestions below to see what’s really going to move the needle. What I’m grateful to say is that we’ve continued to grow this year while many of our peers are seeing declines.
Here are our predictions for the internet marketing strategies that show the most promise in 2018…
1. Relationship Building
In our internet marketing industry, more than almost any other, building and maintaining relationships is key. And fortunately, technology can assist in that process. Facebook Live broadcasts, chat, Facebook messenger, conversational email, even engaging with your audience on social media can all help.
It’s important to remember to interact with your audience as people, not numbers. And it’s important for you to communicate like a real person. The more authentic, aligned and vulnerable you are, the more your tribe will feel that you’re a real person who believes in what you do. Not just someone trying to make a buck online. It’s time to turn up the dial on your level of expression and build a business that expresses who you are.
2. Breakthrough Content
In spite of the negative market forces we’re seeing, the one constant that remains is that people are constantly searching online to fulfill their needs. Whether that need is for information, healing, entertainment, business building or experiences. Whether it’s delivered in the form of blog posts, articles, special reports, podcasts, videos, or emails, the content that breaks through, providing fresh, actionable solutions that truly fill those needs, will win in 2018 more than ever before.
Along with that comes another shift – the days of frequent (daily) publication of low-value content are rapidly dying. Experience shows that a single powerful piece of content presented once or twice a month will yield better results than weak content delivered daily.
Ideally, everyone wants to be given exactly what they want, and nothing they don’t. Mass emailing to “your list” usually means that a large percentage of recipients will get a message they don’t want.
But it’s not hard to use tools like surveys, data-driven marketing, and behavioral marketing to separate potential buyers from those with little-to-no interest. By using these strategies you can exclude everyone who’s not interested in certain topics from those promotions, decreasing spam complaints, increasing the effectiveness of promotional spending, and positioning you in the hearts and minds of your customers as providing exactly what they need and want.
4. One-on-One Interaction
One-on-one interactions are a logical extension of segmentation. People want their questions answered, to know if your solution will work in their specific situation, or to just be assured that there’s someone who cares on the other end of the line. Chat, Facebook Messenger, interacting with people on Facebook and YouTube Live sessions, and providing the ability to reach a real live person on the phone are all tactics that fill this need.
As a quick aside, one thing most of the successful launches had in 2017 was a behind-the-scenes sales team working to provide those one-to-one interactions. This was one of the key factors we used to reach our first 7-figure+ launch this year.
The overall trend towards valuing experiences over information and things continues to increase. Online, experiencification can be used to deliver programs and courses, through Facebook and YouTube Live broadcasts, well-marketed and delivered webinars, online challenges, and one-on-one video interactions like Zoom or Skype. Online videos that pull viewers into the experience and well-edited podcasts also turn information into an experience.
6. Automation & Artificial Intelligence
Automation has been playing a key role in promoting products and services for years through tools like Infusionsoft and Active Campaign. But 2018 will see automation, specifically artificial intelligence, becoming more and more important in marketing. We are already seeing Google offering ad campaigns where you submit a series of headlines, pictures and copy, which they then mix and test until they identify the best combination of ad elements and audience targeting to deliver the highest return (supposedly for the advertiser ☺.) We anticipate seeing artificial intelligence tools to write copy, structure ads, deliver different page elements for each person visiting a page, and much more over the next 2 years.
So what does all of this mean for us?
First: we can’t put our heads into the sand and keep trying to get better results from the same strategies, tactics and tools. We as an industry have to change if we want to see improved results in the coming year.
Second, we’re going to have to get creative and identify new ways of going to market in this changing world.
Third, we’re going to have to actually do the thing everyone talks about, yet rarely actually does: testing. Creativity and willingness to change does no good if you make the wrong choices. And the only way to know you’ve made the right choices is to test.
Fourth, internet marketing is going to have to become much more of a real live function in our businesses, with money being spent to acquire talent (whether in-house or outsourced), invest in technology, and to test. Those who try to do internet marketing in their spare time will soon see (and already are seeing) their sales plummet as those who are investing in real marketing take their customers and profits.
I personally recommend finding a way to fall in love with marketing yourself and see it as the transformational process it can be. As Ray Edwards said, “Marketing isn’t something you do to people, it’s something you do for them.”
Finally, our measurement criteria need to change. No longer will the leaders in the field be able to rest easy knowing we have a list of 50K email addresses (only a small fraction of whom have even seen an email from us in the last 6 months).
No longer will we be able to judge a business by the size of its list or social media following. Even sales revenues will no longer be useful as many businesses are spending more money to acquire a sale. The only things that will really matter in 2018 and into the future will be the profit that can be put into the bank and the impact you’ll have.
The good news is that means that the playing fields are leveling.
About the only thing that’s guaranteed to happen in the next 12 months is that things are going to change.
In the process, we can either be part of that change or we can try to resist it and see our results suffer.
Maintaining a personal relationship with your existing tribe will be the easier part of this equation, because those relationships and the means to maintain them will naturally evolve as the year progresses.
The problem is going to be acquiring new customers using internet marketing. That’s the part that’s becoming more difficult and costly. I recommend integrating more direct, 1-1, high-touch forms of marketing, rather than relying on internet marketing alone to do the heavy lifting for you. Sometimes you still gotta “smile and dial”. Or as I like to say, “Before you can make money while you sleep, you have to be able to make money while you’re awake.”
It’s also time to invest your time and energy into creating better products, services and customer experience. Ideally, the members of your tribe will be so well-served that they will be your ambassadors, bringing in new customers through word-of-mouth alone.
The biggest question is whether that will be enough. Can we as an industry bring in enough new customers over the next two years to both replace lost customers and create growth?
How we deal with that challenge is the real test of this industry for 2018-2019. But more importantly, it’s the challenge every one of us needs to individually face to accomplish our goals for the future.
Relationship-building, breakthrough content, segmentation, one-to-one engagement, experiencification, and automation can play a major role in bringing in new customers, providing them with the transformation they seek, and creating the growth and impact we need.
I still believe that now is as good of a time as any to grow your business and build your tribe. It’s just important to go in with your eyes wide open, be flexible and evolve with the times.
I for one am not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. Please leave a comment and let me know how we can better serve you. After all, without you, I can’t Live My Message.
You’re the reason I’m doing all this to begin with. Happy new year! I look forward to helping you make this your best year yet.