Todd Malicoat is a marketing consultant and Internet entrepreneur with specialization in search engine optimization, social media and traffic acquisition. He has done work in affiliate marketing, ad buying, sales and more. Todd has been quoted in publications such as InfoWorld, NY Post, and Revenue Magazine. In this interview he tells us what kind of mistakes businesses make in creating their websites, what challenges new businesses may face, and other helpful insights. You can visit the site at www.marketmotive.com
When you consult new clients, what initial questions do you ask to get to know their company and their goals?
I have to admit that I’ve only done a limited amount of consulting in the last 18 months or so – I’ve taken time away from it to focus more on my own web properties, and been teaching SEO at MarketMotive.com. That said, I have been doing sales and online marketing consulting for the 7 previous years. When it comes to all things Internet marketing, I think the most important questions that I generally tried to ask in a first meeting were the following. I love watching Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank ask these same questions:
How do you make money?
What makes you the most money?
What would you like to scale?
What are your plans and resources to scale?
What makes you different than your competitors?
Some of these can be tricky questions to approach with a client without putting them on the defensive, but are absolutely necessary to answer. Notice that I don’t ask – “what do you want to rank for?” This is because a CEO’s answer to this will generally be poorly researched, and often just plain wrong. These questions helped enable me to better develop a marketing strategy that may have been missed by the in-house team, or at least provide them with a fresh perspective. It’s very important to ASK lots of questions and collect information before trying to start answering questions in a consulting role. You should always fully understand the business model before opening your mouth to offer strategic direction. As far as SEO goes, it is very important to know what I call “K.O.B. Analysis” (keyword opposition to benefit analysis.) It is a function of understanding both the competitive nature of a search result (opposition) and the business benefit of ranking for a specific keyword phrase or set of phrases (benefit). This understanding is really at the heart of creating a solid SEO campaign.
As far as internet marketing goes, I saw your post and noticed you also have some videos about how to make your website better. What are the top three mistakes that companies/businesses/people make when building their site?
Trying to plan an SEO campaign after building the website. This is like trying to bake the sugar in a cake after it’s in the oven. Too much focus on one tactic, whether it’s social media, link building, paid search, or other, it’s important to have diversity in your campaigns. Being competitive is important, but being overly aggressive techniques can really kill a campaign, and create major setbacks. Balance and diversity in strategy helps to mitigate the risk that comes with using just a single method or tactic heavily. Impeding growth and improvement from lack of education and cooperation. Successful websites require a team. The team should understand each other and cooperate. When the team starts struggling for budget and recognition the entire team will fail, and the site won’t get improved, as it should. I think cross-training online marketers on different disciplines of internet marketing is hugely important to create a strong team that will improve a website’s marketing efforts and results.
What challenges do new businesses face when they begin to market?
We all know the stats. Most new businesses fail. Obviously, this doesn’t stop ambitious entrepreneurs (we ALL think we are the exception), but it does make great ones take inventory of why even good companies fail. Online marketing is the lifeblood of new business, and every new company is trying to control burn rate while they improve growth rate. When you’re spending your marketing dollars you have to do it wisely. Many new companies don’t understand the competitive online marketing climate. Everyone and their brother now wants to do lead generation for online education, mortgages, insurance, credit cards, and other similar verticals. For good reason, these are all very lucrative verticals. Unfortunately, they have competitors online who have been creating very aggressive campaigns for nearly a decade or more now. Trying to build a site that competes with the largest sites in this vertical from scratch with even six figure budgets is borderline insanity. The barrier to entry is constantly rising. There are still plenty of verticals with opportunity, but I think the most important thing a new business owner can do is create a realistic marketing plan based on an accurate portrait of their current marketplace online. An understanding of the link-related metrics, and social media campaigns currently employed by the top competitors (as well as what these type of campaigns would cost to re-create and improve) is very important in overcoming the most significant business hurdle (making money before you run out of it).
Are there any social networks you prefer to use over others as far as marketing goes? Why?
I’m still an SEO at heart. I’ll likely focus 2012 efforts on Google plus, and using other networks to continue to improve search rankings now that they are a more important piece of Google’s algorithm. In my mind, any of the social media channels are primarily a content distribution channel that helps with getting quality link citations.
You’ve been blogging for a number of years now – what changes have you seen in marketing, whether it’s traditional or online media?
The SEO industry definitely grew from a cottage industry, to billion-dollar big business. It was an exciting process watching SEO mature and start entering the mainstream media. It felt like the Wild West, and lots of fortunes were won and lost in a decade of time. I still feel like MOST the successful businesses owe a lot of their initial success to very fundamental SEO strategies that were executed effectively in tandem with great products. The other major change is the mindset of the marketer. There is definitely a rift between the old and new guards of marketing. I think the digital guys are finally starting to win over the older wiley and treacherous “Madmen” types that ran Superbowl ads on television. The new interactive marketer mindset includes both a business perspective as well as a lot of technical prowess. The power of interactive direct marketing is the ability to track users and customers at a much deeper level. Great marketers of all ages understand and embrace this fundamental shift that we’ve been so lucky to experience. I think there's a shift from just wanting the right audience (demographic)- to wanting the right audience at the right time (intent). This is now very much a reality with the interactive nature of the web.
Daniel Milstein is the author of The ABC of Sales and the #1 Loan Sales Officer in America.