Research, Research and more Research
I’ll start by saying there’s no embarrassment in being seen to be asking questions. I do it all the time! I even ask questions when I know (or think I know) the answer – just to get a different view or clarification.
Here at WebMorf, we are all experienced programmers and internet marketers. It’s how we all started, (way back in the late 80’s) and we are proud of our skill levels, but unless you’re an ‘expert’ in every single area of internet marketing (which is doubtful) there is always going to be some aspect you need to find out about and there’s always some new method to learn. We all have to start somewhere and it’s usually at the beginning. Where online marketing is concerned, you can start ‘not’ at the beginning. In fact, there isn’t a definitive beginning point as many marketers have many different ideas of where to start.
I personally think a working knowledge of computers has to be the starting point but Pete (our marketing man) disagrees… He thinks a working knowledge of marketing is the base foundation… and many others would disagree with that – until their router goes down and they can’t connect to their FTP!
When I look back at some of the sites I’ve made, complete with cheesy colours, terrible layout, bad copy, poor SEO; I’m embarrassed, but at the time I built them, I thought they were the dogs dangly bits!
Never be embarrassed about any websites you make – until years later, when you’ve learnt much more and can look back at them warm-heartedly but constructively – and then have a good laugh!
So; Internet marketing – Where exactly do I start and what do I do first?
This seemed a simple question to answer but after writing a page or two, I realised it’s not so simple, scrapped it, reconsidered and this is my final answer, which I can sum up in this one sentence:
The fact that you’re asking this question means your immediate starting point should be ‘research’ and developing the right attitude before you even think about starting marketing!
It doesn’t matter how many people tell you how easy it is to do something, if you don’t know how, or where to start, it may as well be rocket science – or Esperanto if you’re a rocket scientist.
When I say research, I mean reading, listening to audio or watching videos and anything else that will give you the relevant information. If you don’t know where to start, your first port of call is ‘finding out’.
You can’t just start doing something – especially online marketing. I believe in Nike’s slogan; ‘Just do it’ but you can only physically ‘do’ what you know.
This very beginning point leaves many stuck straight away as there are so many people giving or selling information, so many different blueprints or methods to look at and so many different systems and techniques to try, how do you know which is the best one to start with and when you’ve decided this, how do you find out about it.
There are only two ways; you can either find out yourself, or get someone who knows to teach you (paid or otherwise) and there are pros and cons for both.
Finding out yourself is very time consuming, you can’t be sure you are researching the right things, or if your decision to find out about a particular method is the right one to begin with. You may spend months reading about all the different marketing systems and still not know which to start with.
You may need to find out about several areas of marketing before you can begin, i.e. you could decide to start with a niche mini site but after having read up on a few different strategies for this, if you don’t know about domain names, hosting or webpage design, you’ll have to find out about that as well before you can even start your strategies. So, each in its own place applies.
However, there are so many ‘freebies’ being given away nowadays (which is a technique in itself) and some of them are so good, it’s not difficult to quickly figure it out. Keep looking and you will soon find something that ‘seems’ right and occasionally, you’ll find something that inspires you to get-cracking! If you find something that you try and it works, keep doing it while you learn something else.
A drawback to finding out for yourself is ‘information overload’. I’ve done this myself and very occasionally, still have a little ‘binge’ for an hour or so. Because there is so much info out there it becomes really easy to grab this and that and grab the other and then a bit more of that and if you don’t monitor yourself, it can turn into a frenzied file-grabbing exercise which goes on for far too long.
After a few months of that, you’ll find you have gigs of files sat on your drive and when you finally make the decision to stop grabbing and start looking – which one first? You can’t know everything before you start, but you need to know the things that are relevant to the method you’ve decided to start with.
There comes a point, when you’re grabbing more rubbish and rehashed repeats than real content. At that point you have to lock yourself away and start reading it. One thing I’d suggest is to use an expendable email address which you can keep just for all the spam and rubbish you’ll undoubtedly receive forever after.
However, if you are going it alone, as long as you can keep a grip on yourself, I advise ‘organised’ file-grabbing. It’s a great learning curve. It shows you what’s out there, what others are doing and what’s new and as you get on, you can see how things are done, grab ideas, see how not to do things and copy anything that looks really good. If you see something that really gets your goat, like for example, having to click eleven pop-ups just to get off a page, you can learn from that.
One word of warning; don’t be duped into buying the first thing that sounds great or in fact, anything until you’ve fully researched it. Rarely is anything as it appears!
If you decide to pay someone to teach or coach you, you are still going to have to do lots of research before you choose. There are nearly as many coaches, teachers, gurus and mentors out there as there are systems to choose from – which do you choose? Not all have your best interests at heart! Decisions, decisions, decisions?
Google anything or anybody you’re interested in, find out about them, see what they’ve done and check them out. You have to figure out who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. Just because you see a post somewhere saying how rubbish a particular coach may have been doesn’t necessarily mean they were. The fault could have been with the student not putting into action what they were taught? It’s easy to blame the teacher! I was a teacher for many years and I’ve seen it many times.
If you are totally new to the industry, rather than deciding to try a specific marketing model, I would recommend a ‘nuts and bolts’ course. This will give you a broader view of the whole concept of online marketing. With this ‘bigger picture’ in mind, you’ll be better equipped to make a starting choice.
As well as learning about the actual marketing techniques, you also need to develop your personal and business state of mind. If you’ve only ever been employed, you’ll need to learn the basics of self employment and not least; good business practice.
This is where your PMA (positive mental attitude) needs to kick-in. There will most likely be some set-backs which ever way you learn and you have to put these behind you, learn from them and apply your new knowledge to move on.
Along with persistence, PMA is your key to success. Your attitude is an expression of your values, beliefs and expectations. You’ve probably heard many mindset anecdotes such as; like attracts like; replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and start getting positive results; what we think, we become etc. All these sound a bit cheesy but are the basis of success. If you go into this half-heartedly, you will severely limit your chances of success.
As far as good business practice is concerned, you need to apply this to everything you do. Get spreadsheets up and running. If you don’t know how, that’s something else to add to your ‘to do’ list. Get a business plan started. You don’t need a full cash-flow system at first, but some basic costings should be planned. If this is going to become your business, you’re going to want to know where your money’s going.
It is possible to get just about everything for every single area of online marketing free, but these free accounts are often restrictive in some way and don’t compare to the paid versions. You can get free business bank accounts, free hosting, free domain name, free websites, free autoresponder etc.
All this sounds great, until you start to take-off and then you’ll encounter problems. For example, a free hosting account may cap its bandwidth at 100mb. I can hit that a month just by FTP’ing up and down. A free autoresponder service sounds good – until you reach the restrictions, then an alternative paid version may work out a better option than upgrading the free one, and then it’s a real pain transferring all your follow-ups to a different provider and having to set them all up again.
N.B. A fully featured autoresponder is paramount to an online business.
Get your goals, aims, objectives and targets written down; these should all form a natural part of your business plan.
Write down all your business and personal goals, including financial, family, health and spiritual and read them often to keep focused. When you’re setting them, be specific. ‘I want to earn loads of money’ is not targeted. Include goals, aims, objectives, targets and purpose
Just to clarify a few points that many people get mixed up…
Your ‘Goal’ is the actual thing you wish to achieve. For example, I want to make £6,000 in the next six months! As soon as you hit £6,000, you’ve reached your goal (and need to raise it). In this example, ‘£6000’ and ‘six-months’ are the lowest targets. In practice, to achieve £6,000, you would probably aim for £10,000.
Your ‘Aim’ is the direction you intend taking to reach your goal. It refers to the changes you hope to achieve as a result of your actions.
Your ‘purpose’ (in doing this) is the reason why you are putting in place all these aims, objectives, targets and goals.
Your ‘objectives’ are the things you plan to do in order to achieve your targets.
Your ‘targets’ are the milestones you plan to achieve at certain points in your aim.
That’s just a brief summary and if it all sounds alien to you, a spot of heavy Googling is on the cards as there’s much more to it than that.
Once you’ve decided which direction you’re going in, you need to manage a learning/doing system. I’m not good with mornings, so I often still spend a morning reading up on new things, or old ones (or writing articles) which is easy to do. Then spend the afternoons and nights ‘doing’.
It is possible to begin doing, while you’re still learning, but it needs to be monitored carefully. Don’t ‘do’ until you’re sure you know enough about it to not ruin your hard work by getting it wrong.
To end, I would say that an absolute starting point for anybody interested in online marketing, is research, research and then some more research – for as long as it takes to acquire the necessary knowledge to move onto the next stage, which might be still more research or paying someone to show you how, which involves yet more research.
Sound boring? It’s not all Ferraris, Lambo’s, Cruise Yachts and villas in St. Kitts. In fact, unless you’re one of the ten percent who never give up and get it right, it rarely is! …and ‘never’ is after just a few weeks – as some would have you believe.
The truth is; internet marketing is very complex and again, contrary to what current sales-copy would have you believe, it ‘is’ a skilled job that takes a long time to set up properly.
You do need to know about computers, the internet and all manner of software applications. If you already know this bit, everything else will be so much easier.
When I say ‘know your way around a computer’ I don’t just mean being able to type a letter and check your emails. I mean knowing how to use databases, spreadsheets, HTML editors, online software and all manner of other apps including FTP, photo editors and animated gif apps, video and audio apps, autoresponder and hosting apps such as C-Panel or PLESK (my favourite) and have experience of general computing hardware and software issues. Only then will online marketing come easier.
Even if you do know your way around a computer, marketing techniques and web scripts are something else. Ask any IT teacher if they could just update your WordPress SEO and analytics plugins and set your content/plugins back to 755 and see what they say …and they know about computers!
Hope this helped. It may have not been the answer you were looking for, but in my opinion and experience, this is pretty much how it is.
As usual, any questions, just fire away: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a message and I’ll do my best to answer any question or comment.
Who is Daniel?
I’ve been on the internet since the eighties. I can remember when 286’s with 1mb of memory were the most awesome thing! I can remember Supercalc and Lotus 123. I remember my Amstrad PCW 8512 Green Screen with Lemmings on a three-inch floppy disk – fond memories! I can even remember Windows 1! … and every version since!
In the late 90’s, I become one of the growing number of internet marketers making a stand against the hype and misinformation that plagues internet marketing sales-copy and it’s associated products.
A little hype is acceptable and justified if the product does great things but ‘7-clicks to $10,000 per week’ and ‘$44,283.26 in just 20 minutes a day guaranteed’ are just scams!
I’m also a firm believer in GBP – ‘Good Business Practice’ and apply it to all my sites.