Reality Check – Don’t Believe Everything You Read

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What I mean is that every day we are bombarded with advice, tips and articles on business -- particularly Internet marketing -- but how much of it is actually true or actually appropriate for your own business?

Where does this advice come from?

Do you really stop to think about whether all this advice is coming from experts who run their own successful businesses, or is it ‘stuff’ that is just recycled time and time again from people simply wanting to make money. How much of it is out-dated? How much of it is evidence-based? How much of it can you actually apply to your business?

The truth is that most of the content you read are written with the purpose of increasing links back to somebody's website -- they are traffic generators that may be of little practical use in your particular business. The vast majority of it is material that has been copied and rehashed or even generated by a machine. Do you really want to entrust your business success and your livelihood with second-rate information?

All I am saying is that you should be careful where you get your information from because the Internet is full of second rate, recycled material. Basically crap, forgive the language, but I can’t think of any better word I can use (in print anyway!) The truth is, anyone and his dog can write practically anything they like on the Internet, so just be more discerning about where you get your information from.

People can buy popularity

Don't be fooled by the number of ‘likes’ on Facebook or by a long list of glowing reviews because there are plenty of ways to buy these, and all for a fiver or less! You should always get your information from a reputable source and don't get pulled in by the hype. If you want to double your business, you need a genuine reality check before you can start to build a robust and profitable business.

For example – social media

For example, there is a lot of advice out there telling you that you absolutely should be spending hours developing your social media marketing -- posting on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter and so on. For some businesses, social media works extremely well, but for others it's a complete waste of time and there is some evidence from recent studies to show that social media marketing is not all it's cracked up to be – especially for a small business. I assume you are not already a billion dollar corporation…

You may already feel resistance to getting into social media marketing but I will give it to you straight and tell you whether or not it could be good for your business. Don't feel you are missing out if you don't have a Facebook page but on the other hand, there are some very good reasons to get into social media marketing -- not least because it will help your search engine rankings. I will go into details about this later in the course but for now, here are a few statistics for you to chew over....

Let’s look at Facebook advertising – the reality is that only 20 percent of US Facebook users said they had bought products because of ads or comments they saw on Facebook. It gets a lot less for the older age groups: 12 percent for the +55s.

And this is ‘earned media activity’ from major brands (Reuters, June 2012). Note that this is for major brands with enormous marketing budgets and whole marketing departments dedicated to social media, not a small business like yours!

Also, there was a 12 percent dip from 58 percent a year ago, according to a new report by Shop.Org, the online retail division of the industry trade group National Retail Federation.

The point is that it takes a lot of advertising to an awful lot of people to make your fortune if you have and want to grow your small business! There are many more effective ways to achieve sales.

I will be giving you lots more on social media marketing and advertising in the coming modules but I just wanted to give you a bit of a reality check – social media can be worthwhile but not necessarily (this also goes for a lot of the other marketing you may be doing…). Stop believing all the advice out there to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon. A lot of social media is about how you are perceived, not actually generating sales. You have to evaluate it for your business based on reliable data and evidence and that is what I will be providing you with throughout this course.

Shipping issues

In fact, rather than keep fruitlessly plugging away at social media, you might be better off to offer free shipping on your products.

A survey in February 2012 (comScore) shows that three of the top five responses from shoppers were related to shipping – and top of the list was a desire for free or discounted shipping by 58 percent of respondents.

Next they wanted easy returns and exchanges by 42 percent of respondents. Simply by offering free shipping and easy returns, you could significantly improve your sales conversion.

In fact, shipping also came out as one of the main reasons why shoppers abandon their shopping cart before completing their purchase. The same survey showed that 57 percent of respondents said they wanted to get an idea of the total cost of an item with shipping and 55 percent said that shipping costs made the total purchase cost more than expected and this is why they abandoned the cart halfway through the buying process. What a shocking waste of a perfectly good customer who was in the process of buying something!

The survey also found that 51 percent abandoned their shopping cart because the order value wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping and 40 percent abandoned the cart because shipping and handling costs were listed too late. That’s around half of sales lost because of shipping costs and poor communication with customers.

Clearly, addressing some of these issues based on recent data like this would suggest to me that you could make a significant difference to your profits simply by being upfront about your shipping costs so that people don't abandon their cart halfway through the buying process -- but better still make it a selling point that you offer free shipping and you could capture those dissatisfied customers for yourself!

Other issues

OK, here are some more statistics for you to ponder over. 63 percent of online shoppers check a retailer’s returns policy before clicking to buy. If you offer a concrete money back guarantee you will immediately reassure those 63 percent of people that they are not risking their hard-earned cash when they buy from you. Studies show that the extra sales you can make from offering a guarantee more than compensate for the few that actually call you on the guarantee.

44 percent of email is read via webmail and email views on the iPad jumped by 12 percent between March, when the iPad 2 launched, and April 2011(Return Path, December 2011). This could indicate that you should focus more on email marketing than some other forms of marketing. Now people are more mobile with email, your emails are more likely to be opened and read.

Search engine ROI

However, ROI (return on investment) increased by 18 percent quarter on quarter throughout 2011 for search engine marketing. This means that paying more attention to SEO and focusing on getting to the top of the rankings would be time better spent than posting daft messages on Twitter while also neglecting other forms of marketing that could actually bring real results. Astonishingly, though, that is what many Internet marketers do because they follow the herd and listen to second rate advice. Then they wonder why their business fails…

Having said that, it does pay to have a presence on the social media for several reasons, not least because of the SEO benefits it brings – but there will be a lot more about social media in a later module and I will show you just what you need to do to get the right formula when it comes to social media.

I want you to succeed

I have been in business for over 25 years and I have seen for myself how business owners get sucked into following bad advice from people who don’t know what they are doing and ultimately their business fails. Don't let that happen to you.

If you have joined up as a full member, you will get comprehensive training in building your business which is based on evidence and facts -- not recycled hype. There will be no namby-pamby, wishy-washy advice here, I promise to give it to you straight -- no false promises, no false hope -- just a realistic assessment of what works and what doesn't work in business today.

Another reason to not believe what you read is because if you read the stories in the media recently, you will see that everyone is complaining and worrying about the economic downturn and how impossible it is to succeed in business right now. That can itself be a cause of failure and is a long way from the truth.