You don't need to get very far into the story of Pinocchio to realize that little wooden boy didn't have much sense of judgement rattling around in that hollow head of his. Trouble not only followed him, he turned around and became its friend every chance he got. That's why the blue fairy appointed Jiminy Cricket to help Pinocchio make good choices. When it comes to your online marketing plan, you'd be wise to find a Jiminy Cricket of your own.
That brings me to the fourth lesson in this series: Listen to trusted advice.
In this six part series, I'll be exploring six valuable lessons you can learn from the classic story of Pinocchio and offering up some input on how to apply it to your own marketing plans. If you are just joining the series, catch up on past articles:
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part One: Search Engines Want to be Real Boys
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part Two: Online Reputation Means Straight Talk
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part Three: Don't be a Social Media Jackass
Why Would We Expect to Find Our Way on Our Own?
If you think about all the things you've tried to do in your life, chances are you needed to be taught most of them. You likely had to be taught how to ride a bike, how to balance a checkbook and maybe even how to make friends. You had to learn manners and business sense and how to recover from blunders. Whether you learned by observing others or were actively taught, chances are high someone helped you figure out the best way to do things in life.
The world of online marketing is no different. Just this morning I sat in on a PSRA event focused on media relations and listened to seasoned journalists and public relations professionals wonder out loud how they need to use the new tools of social media. They all knew they needed to engage people with these tools, but few (if any) had any idea of how to do it.
What they needed was someone who could offer up some sage advice and common sense based on their own experience in the social media world.
They needed their very own Jiminy Cricket.
Everyone Needs Their Own Kind of Jiminy
Of course in the world of online marketing, sage advice rarely shows up in the form of an animated cricket unless you've knocked back one too many after a long day at a conference. Instead, you'll need to find your online conscience in one of the more standard forms.
Here are three of the most common routes people take when they're looking to find a mentor or consultant.
Now it's important to note most people will need a combination of two, maybe even all three of these information sources to get the knowledge they need to make good choices. The key is to consider how you learn best, how quickly you need to learn and what you can afford to pay. With that in mind, let's break down the three key places you might find your Jiminy Cricket of online marketing.
Bloggers and Forums
Those of us who have been involved in the industry since the early days mostly got our start on the various discussion forums that used to be scattered around the web. It was those forums that allowed experimental marketers to come together from around the world sharing tips, ideas and research on strange new ideas like search engine optimization, paid search, email marketing and web development.
While there are still some very active and excellent forums out there (including our own Small Business Ideas forum) the majority of the conversation seems to have shifted to blogs and Twitter. Blogs simply give people a better platform to share more in depth ideas and research and to cultivate a community around a more specific set of ideas and concepts. Lively conversation and debate often moves from blog comments to other blogs and on to Twitter as readers and industry vets alike break down the points and ideas of a post.
If you're still new to the world of search, social media, blogging and the like, it's best to start out reading a small staple of bloggers and then expand from there. Some great starting points are anything by Matt McGee, Mack Collier, Amber Naslund, Stoney deGeyter or Beth Harte.
Consultants and Outsourcing
If you don't mind spending a little more money in exchange for more personalized counsel, you may want to consider building a relationship with a consultant or outsourcing your project. In fact, many companies find the money saved in wasted hours far exceeds the cost of bringing an expert in to help them do it right the first time.
Full or partial outsourcing tends to be the most popular way to get a third party's input on how to manage your online marketing, but small businesses on a budget should give consideration to keeping a consultant on retainer. Purchasing a handful of phone or email hours each month can give let you have an expert available to answer your team's questions quickly and accurately while still letting you enjoy the cost savings of doing it yourself.
You can get more insight into making the decision to outsource by checking out Stoney's article from earlier this week. You can also check out an article of mine from last year for a great example of why having a consultant on hand to guide you through the rocky waters of social media is so handy.
Classes and Conferences
One of the most common ways people seek wise counsel and advice is at conferences and seminars. This can be a great way to gather a wide range of opinions and to explore a lot of topics quickly. It can also be a great way to get a feel for some industry experts and to swap stories and meet other people you can swap ideas with.
There are quite a few fantastic shows out there. Big shows like Search Engine Strategies and Search Marketing Expo cater to larger companies and individuals wanting to get a broad overview of a lot of topics while smaller shows like Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer and our own Small Business Marketing Unleashed give companies a chance to get personalized, in-depth training in a more intimate setting.
There are quite a few online training programs available these days as well. I outlined some of the most popular SEO certification options late last year.
Listen Up and Listen Good
Wherever you go to find your Jiminy Cricket, the fact remains...you need to find one. If you learn no other lesson from the story of Pinocchio, let it be the need for guidance. Time and time again, Pinocchio's troubles came from his refusal to listen to Jiminy's sage advice. Don't make the same mistake with your business.
In the next installment in the series we'll take a look at why your company and Pinocchio should both be doing whatever it takes to earn a visit from the blue fairy.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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