Traditional media channels are expensive. They are expensive because advertisers are guaranteed that their message is going to reach a certain size audience. Before advertisers throw a bunch of money at an ad on TV, they rely on tried and true formulas for success.

Billy Mays infomercials were not exactly creative. In fact, they were down right annoying but he sold a lot of stuff based on approaches that delivered the most bang for the buck. Then, he went to that playbook over and over and over.

The internet marketing playbook is still be written and will never be finished. While there are certainly a lot of best practices being developed, new ways to distribute media are evolving faster than marketing experts can write blogs. SEO practices change constantly and social media wasn’t even around a few years ago. Predicting marketing ROI is so tough now that it is probably a waste of time. Can you really be expected to predict your reach with any degree of confidence, let alone your impact? Creating a video and putting it on Youtube may make you famous overnight or it could sit there with five views forever.

Just because the internet makes your head hurt, doesn’t mean that you should stick your head in the sand an spend another $100,000 on your yellow page ad. This crazy online marketing stuff actually works. Just ask Aaron Wall with his Free SEO Tool or Gary Vaynerchuk with his low dough (but high entertainment) wine videos. Their excellent content helped catapult these guys to internet fame on a limited budget. While individual online marketing efforts are highly unpredictable, there are ways to manage marketing risk online.  Here are 10 ways to manage the risk in no particular order:

10. Set Goals

Before you whip out the camera or put up that blog, make sure you understand what your goals are. Is your blog purely for SEO purposes or do you want to connect with existing customers? Often these questions don’t have strictly black and white answers, but you should know what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t just do it because you heard Chris Brogan speak.

9.  Be Creative

I can’t tell you how to be creative, without going all “new-age-California” on you, but if you do something that everyone else in the world is doing, it is going to be very hard to get noticed.

8.  Don’t Be an Idiot

I know I just said to be creative but make sure that your marketing effort don’t undermine or destroy your brand. If you are the CEO of an accounting firm, smothering peanut butter on your face and putting it on Facebook will probably get you attention, but I don’t recommend it.

7.  Keep your Initial Cost Low

Don’t bet the farm on some great idea you had in the shower. Yes, it might be the best idea in the world, but it probably isn’t. When your great idea fails you will probably learn something and have a better idea. You’ll need a few bucks for that.

6. Dedicate Resources

Make sure you have the resources to see your idea through. This seems obvious, but a lot of people get pumped up about an idea and then don’t spend the time or allocate the staff to truly see if an idea is going to work.

5.  Leverage Your Success

When your idea grows, you will know you are on to something. Reinvest in that idea to take it to the next level. If you don’t there is a good chance that your competitors are going to see your winning (and low cost) idea and get jealous. If you reinvest you will likely gain an even larger audience and keep competition out.

4. Recycle

Once you get that winning idea, think of ways you can recycle it. Not everyone reads and some people don’t like to watch video while they pretending to work. Usually a good idea can be used in several different way and distributed through different channels.

3.  Don’t Neglect Your Bread and Butter

Just because it is a new idea doesn’t mean you should take attention away from things that are working well for you. I know everyone is talking about social media, but if email marketing is working for you don’t neglect it.

2.  Know When to Fold Em

So that new idea didn’t take off like you thought? No big deal. Learn, cut bait and move on. Don’t get caught up in pride or doing something because other people are doing it (they might not be making money either).

1.  Track It

Before you do anything, make sure you have a tracking mechanism in place AND make sure you are tracking whatever metric you deem to be important. The metrics that matter will vary, but they should be based on your goals.

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