How your company presents itself on the web is crucial to attracting the kind of customers and clients you actually enjoy doing business with. But too often, I see small business websites suffering from what I'll call "online marketing schizophrenia."
In a nutshell, online marketing schizophrenia occurs when a business is unable to choose and act upon a clear, consistent message and strategy. This indecisiveness spawns multiple online "personalities" that conflict with each other, confuse your customers and ultimately hurt your bottom line.
Here are a few common symptoms:
1. Sending mixed signals
Imagine you're in the market for a new Mercedes. When you pull up to the dealership, you're greeted by a 20-foot-tall inflatable purple gorilla in sunglasses and boxer shorts. Would you feel comfortable dropping 50 grand on a luxury car at this establishment?
It's no different online. Your website and your marketing campaigns should reflect the image you want customers to have of your business.
If a bargain hunter is not your ideal customer, you should think twice about slapping a gigantic red Clearance Sale banner on your home page. When you're choosing PPC keywords, consider whether the words "discount" and "cheap" represent what your website has to offer.
2. Lack of a compelling and clear USP
What makes your company different from your competitors? Why would customers choose your business over theirs? If you can't answer this question, chances are pretty good that your customers can't either.
One of my favorite web apps, Wufoo, is an excellent example of a company with a clear and compelling Unique Selling Proposition. From the moment you hit their home page, you know that Wufoo's goal is to make web forms "easy + fast + fun." Also featured prominently on their home page is a link to The Top 10 Reasons to Use Wufoo.
3. No consistency or regularity
Testing and experimentation are wonderful things. But there's a big difference between experimenting and just flinging everything at the wall to see what sticks. The word "experiment" implies that you've done your research, crafted a sensible strategy and followed through with data collection and analysis.
The word "flinging" implies poo. (What your results will look like.)
Choose your marketing strategy thoughtfully, and be determined to follow through on that strategy until you can confidently say whether it's a success or a failure. In other words, you can't give up on your monthly newsletter after the second month. You can't make a big fuss about your new blog and then stop posting a few weeks later.
Or bail on Twitter after a month. Oprah.