I had two recent occasions to hear one of my favorite marketing experts, John Jantsch. Each time, he made a point which brings to mind a common mistake being made when small biz owners are trying to use emerging channels.

Putting Tactics Before Strategy

What is our Twitter strategy? How can we use Facebook? Can you add more Flash to my website? The list of questions goes on and on but are these the relevant questions to be asking yourself?

You cannot have an effective "Twitter Strategy" if you don't know what your objectives are. It's often a waste of time to plan your next move in social media or on the web if you don't know where it fits in to your overall business strategy.

Takeaway: Figure out your strategy and determine the tools that will be most effective.

Not going live with a good functional website

Seth Godin calls it Shipping in his book, Linchpin. The act of finishing a project with an end product. There are so many business websites that are stuck in the mud. They either have:
  • A domain pointing to a parked page
  • A mock up image of what the site will look like "Coming soon"
  • A beautifully designed website where half og the links are not working.

Every now and then I come back and check and there has been no progress made. Just a functionless website.

Customers don't visit your business because you are developing a snazzy website. They come because you have communicated to them that you can fill a need that they have.

Vanessa Fox, is a former Google employee who worked on the search team. if anyone knows what makes a good website it's her. She was interviewed by Jantsch who asked her if he is actually giving good advice by telling small biz owners to just start with a Wordpress or similar platform. She answered absolutely - Google loves blogs. Yet, we throw out money (both in opportuniy costs and real costs) working forever on developing flashy sites that just annoy visitors,

The web is not a beauty pageant. Customers will not buy from you because you've spent a lot developing a pretty site. They want to know that they will get good products and service. The website should only be there to enhance the process of your customers learning about and ultimately buying what you are selling them. Good design does not get in the way of that - it enhances it.

Takeaway: Get a good, useful website up now. Once you see how customers interact with it you can take it to the next level.

You can actually see a list of low-cost quick websites that we have developed for our clients right here.

Isn't e-mail dead?

Even in this age of Twitter, Facebook and Blog Feeds, e-mail is still a power player in marketing tactics. In 2009 e-mail returned over 43 dollars for every dollar spent. As other tools continue to emerge, e-mail may lose some of its luster, but for now it is a channel that should not be overlooked.

Where to start

Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting out on the trail to implement your e-mail marketing strategy.

Don't buy names. Build you list slowly, using your current customers as a starting point as well as prospects that you have interacted with. Remember e-mail marketing is often not about the size of you list but the power of your message resonating with your audience. Don't turn every business card you receive into a recipient - only the ones who have indicated that they are interested in hearing from you.

As time goes on, your campaigns can get sophisticated enough to become much more customized for the recipients.

Who to use

The one we like best is and have chosen as our email marketing partner is MadMimi. The interface is very clean and they are laser focused at helping people create emails that don't look spammy or clunky as many tend to do. Instead, you design a theme (not a template) and take it from there. I also love the level of analytics that they provide. Founders Gary and Leah Larson have hit one out of the park with MadMimi. What really sold me was that Seth Godin and 37Signals use it too and we respect their work a whole lot.

Here are a few other services that we have used as well as some more that you might be interested in checking out.

A few that are a bit more sophisticated and pricier, but it's about the value.

All of the services we have tried provide great content to help you with your marketing.

The key is to start building your list and don't pass up the opportunity to communicate with your customers.