6 Online Marketing Mistakes that Will Kill Your Business

6 Online Marketing Mistakes that Will Kill Your Business

Reader Comments (156)

  1. Excellent advice Mel. A cheapskate approach never serves anyone: I know of several companies who downsized after the financial crash to get their in-house marketing folk to take over the job that content professionals really needed to do (researching and writing great newsletter content). The resulting copy was not clean, not compelling and I’m pretty sure lost some readers.

    Whether it’s content for your newsletter/website or, quite urgently, professional design elements for a blog or website or even twitter background, cheapness always announces itself at the top of its voice. And what an opportunity to distinguish yourself as a company: just by investing a bit in the design or content-creation relationship that not only gives you a professional looking output, but also lets you bounce your ideas about how you see your business off an outside professional who can bounce them back to you in a new way.

    It’s not just quality output you get when you invest in a relationship with pros, it’s a new perspective.

    Sheila Averbuch – ENN

  2. Melinda,

    Nice article! Just to clarify, your niche is expert business planning to the demographic of work at home moms, correct? Any examples of a niche that would be too broad? And are you capturing visitor details from people signing up as a VIP on your site? I just thought it would be interesting to use your site as an example. All great points, particularly #6!


  3. Great post.
    So many people think that making money online from a blog is as easy as throwing some free wordpress theme up and writing great content.

    Things are wayyyy more competitive than that these days so that just doesn’t cut it. I completely redesigned my blog and it made a hell of a lot of a difference in terms of sales, and subscribers.

    Awesome post


  4. I don’t agree completely with the niche definition.

    In my opinion a niche is “a group of people with a common interest.” That is it. The “having a common problem” factor may be present, but it is not necessary.

    For example, there is definitely a niche of “ferrarri lovers”, but they don’t have a common problem to solve, they simply share a common interest.

  5. Daniel, and an effort to simply target “Ferrari Lovers” without a better niche focus (in other words, smart positioning that distinguishes it from every other “me too” Ferrari blog or website) will fail. I think that’s the point being made.

  6. it’s amazing that sometimes we forget the most basic tips.

    I especially agree on the website – most people think they can get away with a cheap-ass design and presentation, when in fact they are killing their business right from the start.

    Taking massive action is also a new mantra I hum everyday. I used to belong to the category: buy it and read it all without ever taking the required action to make the magic work !

    Thanx for reminding to get the basics straight, Melinda.
    may the force be with you !

  7. I made many of these mistakes when I first came online to market my business. I really fell into a trap of learning everything I could and ultimately did nothing. I’m out of that loop now and I’m seeing results. So point on with this post. I love it and hope others can benefit from it. Thank you.

  8. Actually, I like the “common problem” definition because it matches more closely to a product you might be able to sell them. To me it’s a helpful way of making sure you’re not thinking too broadly.

    Anyway, I think you’re right on when you talk about the need for some kind of plan. But I can’t be the only person who doesn’t get around to this, am I? Do you have any before-and-after case studies of people who have actually pushed through and made simple business plans?

  9. I agree with your ‘Looking like a cheapskate’ point. Just curious if you have a list of recommended web designers or web design companies that deliver the professional look that you described?

    Also, you talked about not having to mortgage your house, but what is a reasonable expectation to pay for these services?

  10. Great tips here! Businesses these days are presented with so many choices on how to position themselves online that they often end up with a shotgun approach to outreach. Your tips here really get right to the core issues with this approach. Plus, no one should have a “sucky attitude”! As Bad Brains said, it’s all about that PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)!

  11. Hi,

    Very practical advice. It is amazing how so many people miss and ignore this.

    I did have some of these problems. My attitude was a bit on the ‘other problematic side’. But since then, I have changed my attitude and now I carefully follow these steps for my business. It is essential if you want to have any success in a business.


  12. Thank you for this tips, it’s incredible how usefull they are, when you are a beginner you read so much resources in a day, how to do this and that but, at the end, a simple to do list is exactly what we need. A list of arguments you need to be focused on! I’ve missed the number 4!

  13. I like the red font! I was just thinking about this how comfortable we can become by learning so much and not applying it! What about just dropping in to see clients and leaving an article or something you’ve learned? It all starts in our largest organ….

    Love your stuff!

  14. I feel like this article was written specifically for me. “Information junkies abound. People who take action on what they’ve learned are rare.” Sad to say, I have become an information junkie.

    I am finally going to finish and sell my products so that I can make a million dollars and buy a house big enough to store all the ebooks, marketing e-courses and information products I’ve printed over the last year. Thank you for helping me see what was holding me back and get me moving toward my goal again.

  15. Wow, great post! A lot of specifics in there that are easy for people to overlook or miss in their rush to get something going. The point about the niche is especially important. Most people I talk to are afraid to narrow things down to a single niche because they’re afraid of “all the sales they’ll lose” – and actually nothing could be further from the truth.

  16. The definition between a niche and a demographic is uber useful – many people (me included) often get them confused and/or use the terms interchangeably. This very simple explanation of the difference should help us strengthen our marketing and positioning strategies – thanks heaps!

  17. Some food for thought, and all of it bang on.

    Niche is difficult to define though, and like another commenter here, although what you say is right, I’m not sure your definition of niche tallies with mine.

    (Which is me saying: I’m probably wrong and you’re almost certainly right)

    I’d say that your niche is “what you’re about” and your demographic, or target market, is “who you talk to”.

    For example, you might talk about funky email marketing (your niche) to stay-at-home moms in Quebec (your target market)

    Or you might teach Vespa maintenance (your niche) to Italian guys who don’t have enough money to buy a new scooter (your target market).

    I particularly like your point about all learn and no action. Definitely applies to me – and, I’ll bet, a ton of other folk reading this.


  18. Wow! Great information in this article, really grabbed me. The whole concept about marketing to a demographic vs a niche really resonated with me and I can completely relate and when I get honest with myself I’m marketing to a demographic and not a niche. Guess mes got some thinkin’ to do!

    I’ve know for a while that I need to get clearer on my marketing message and this post has been very timely. It’s motivated me to move on that part of my business that needs clarity!

    Thank you….

  19. These are all great points Mel. Thank you.

    I’m very guilty of #6 and I take full responsibility, but the Copyblogger team is not making it easy for me. Apparently I was one of Pavlov’s dogs in a past life because everytime a member of the Copyblogger team releases more awesome content here or at a sister site, I hear bells and salivate until I read it and hand over my credit card (when there is money involved).

    OK, I’m off to join InformationJunkiesAnonymous. Not surprisingly, they don’t have a website yet 🙂

  20. All learning, no action

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    That’s pinned up on my wall. The resources gathering folder is now officially closed.

    Except for fillips from Copyblogger, of course!

  21. Great article and it is amazing to see how often people focus so hard on the newest trick and forget about the basics.

    I especially like #1: A sucky attitude. When someone in your organization is not 100% on board with what you are doing it will be obvious to your end customer and bring the morale of the entire company down.

    This also holds true for members of any group. I was recently out in San Francisco and out of 11 people, one did not want to be there and it brought the entire group down. We ended up deciding to call it a night early.

    So, do everything you can to target the right niche and run the best marketing campaign you can but do it only if you are excited about it and believe in it.

  22. This is really neat-I think finding folks with “passion” is not necessarily a niche or something that can be targeted.

    Brian is right in that most people need to solve a problem
    1. A hungry couple needs a relaxed bite to eat-now
    2. A luxury car owner needs a place to get serviced-that treats him with respect and class.
    3. A IRS dogged single mom needs a tax attorney-but one that has credentials she can trust completely.

    Is this more targeted?

    What about folks who buy for pleasure? That’s a need too-a desire- (Iphone 4)

  23. Every point was a gem. Although I don’t suffer from “sucky” attitude, I can see it in the web sites of others. You can tie that poor attitude to visitor capture, too. You may have gone to the “trouble” to set up an info capture system, but if you get sloppy and don’t keep in touch regularly with those customers…you’re setting yourself up for failure.

    The “all show..no go” in number six really comes back to bite you. I view countless people in forums and chat rooms who have learned a lot about the business. Most have an opinion on everything. I look at their number of posts and wonder what they are thinking! You can’t spend your life on forums and expect to make any money.

    I think some people have put all the pieces in places, but can’t seem to buckle down and do the hard work required to be successful. It’s easier to hang out all day in forums, pontificating, than plan your work and work your plan.

    These are just some ramblings from an old sales manager. I have had people with all the talent in the world and are well prepared to sell. However, they just can’t seem to make themselves get out and compete against other equally well prepared salespeople. They leave the office and go home for a nap or hang out in coffee shops, instead of presenting themselves and their product. I have a theory that they are fearful of success, because they might have to work harder to stay successful.

    Thanks for your post, Mel. Very pointed and well written. It makes you examine yourself. That can be uncomfortable!

    Steve Benedict

  24. A lot of very good material in this article, but to me one of the most resonant points concerns addressing / selling to / focusing on niches, rather than demographics.

    In my own business, providing home care, especially for seniors, the tendency to think in generalities is rampant. The ability to move beyond that, to focus on the needs of pretty specific niches is key.

    The needs of a spouse providing care for a loved one with dementia are very different from a senior who needs help with some subset of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

    Excellent points, well made. Thank you.
    Bert Cave, Support For Home

  25. The part that particularly hit home for me was #6.

    For so long, I kept thinking and dreaming about creating a free piece of content I could give away in exchange for email contacts. However, it was my delusion that I needed to get everything just perfect before I began the writing process.

    I had a discussion with my mentor and he bluntly said “planning is good, but doing is better. Stop thinking about what you need to do and just start doing it.”

    At first, I was a little mad but I thought a lot about what he said. I literally wrote all 9-10,000 words over the next few weeks at the University library in between classes and released it a few weeks later this past November.

    I then wrote a guest article titled “Planning is Good, Doing is Better” for TheChangeBlog.

  26. But if my demographic is stay at home moms, then would be writing content for health and tech tips (facebook, email, and other basic stuff) be too broad?

    I mean stay at home moms are interested in health tips and might also be interested in tips for facebook and other sites. Wouldn’t this be a type of lifestyle blog.

    Great article though and I’m definitely saving this one!

  27. I was crippled by #5 for years. Everything had to be successful within 30 days. Problem was – nothing (legitimate) really works that way. Also the short, unrealistic time frame smelled like desperation that scared away customers and partners.

    Taking a step back and realizing that you will need to INVEST time is huge. Thanks for the reminder!

  28. Melinda,

    This is such great advice. #6 hits home for me – hi, my name is Heather and I’m an info product addict. LOL. It wasn’t until I joined Dave Navarro’s More Buyers Every Month that I took action and created products.


  29. I certainly saw some of myself in this post—thank you for the gentle tap on the shoulder.
    I realized that I am guilty of learninglearninglearning and am not spending enough time implementing the new skills.
    I just need to shut up and do it!
    I am a knowledge hoarder…

  30. I went for the longest time without a clear long term business plan and things were working out sort of ok.

    I’m so thankful to the person who made me finally realize that “sort of ok” is dangerous ground to walk on.

    Less stress, more fun, better payoffs, and more inspiration – not bad for spending two days to seriously plan my business.

  31. These are really great pointers. Another mistake that I have often observed is that people wait for too long. One apprehension or another keeps them holding back. When I launched my content writing business I didn’t have enough money and I also didn’t want a mediocre design for my business website. I went ahead and created a completely text-based layout (just black and white and no other color) and it became a sort of a novelty among my clients. Those days people had just started hearing about CSS layouts.

    So if you have an idea you can always launch a bare bones version — you don’t need to look like a Fortune 500 company. But just make sure whatever you have, whatever you offer, it works, and solves the problem you claim it does.

  32. I totally agree with all these 6 mistakes (Because I’ve done it in the past… And still do it some today)

    Mel, it is really great post. But I still don’t get the second point, “Marketing to demographic, not a niche”.

    I’m not going to argue anything with you (because your post is superbly awesome).

    But can you explain more about targetting a niche? Where I believe that this point is most people failed to understand.

    Thanks Mel. 😀

  33. Ouch! Ooh… that “Gunna” one hit right where it hurts. I’m guilty of that! Oh yeah… I’m “gunna” work on it 🙂 – but seriously, that particular point has been very true for me. I’m not sure exactly why I’ve not taken massive action after learning something new.

    I guess it’s time for a serious sit-down with myself to get those priorities right! And then DO IT.

    Thanks for the nudge. I needed it!

  34. Targeting your niche is so important! If you have gotten yourself into a business that caters to a niche, you should target it. Marketing your business on sites and directories where people would go to look for that niche is important. As an example, if you are a personal injury lawyer, you would market yourself as such, list your company in directories for lawyers/personal injury lawyers you wouldn’t just put yourself in a general directory.

  35. First, your #1 point is a great reminder for ALL business owners, no matter what you’re selling! I have been guilty of this one and it’s 100% true that a bad attitude will bring your business down. I have now delegated the things I don’t like to do so that I can focus on all the things I love, allowing me to be passionate about my industry again.
    I teach business classes to massage therapists and have always taught that we must market to a specific demographic. Your comments made me think…hard! I like the problem solving angle and think I will modify my teaching materials. Hmmm…..
    Preach what you teach, right? I’m in the midst of a complete website over-haul. The old site was antiquated and difficult to navigate. The new one will be worth the $6k or so I’m investing. I’m forward your article to the designers and highlighting the MailChimp comment!
    Every student I teach is required to write a business plan, even if they don’t intend to go into business for themselves. If nothing else, they might gain some appreciation for what their future employer went through to start their business.
    Lastly, your “gunna” comments hit me square in the gut! I dabble in free-lance writing, but spend more time reading about how to write than I spend actually writing!
    If you’re going to be successful in any business, DIVE RIGHT IN and start swimming! The water is just fine.

  36. Wow these are spot on, Mel. Quite uncomfortable reading though as I think I’ve been guilty of all of them at one time or another!

    It’s lovely when an article like this drops into the in-box though to give me a little nudge to keep focused. I’m most guilty of all planning and no action (so what am I doing here? Better get on with doing something and stop learning stuff….)

    Thanks Mel for another top post – I’ve scribbled down all points and pinned them to my noticeboard! Elle

  37. Some great tips..Adding a newsletter to your site is definitely one of the most important things for repeat visitors. Even though people may bookmark your site, they may still forget about it. Make it easy for them to remember!

  38. I’ve been guilty of #6 lately (I think the heat has sapped my energy).

    @Aquif/Nick: I’d say a niche is a specific group of people who share a problem or a need.

    Say, freelance business owners in the US who need health insurance. Or, people of Italian descent who want genealogy research.

    Personal injury lawyer is too broad – how about personal injury lawyer for people injured by defective cars.

    One other thing, using Outlook for your newsletter not only makes you look cheap, it’s risky – it’s way too easy for addresses to be visible to everyone or make a mistake adding or removing names of subscribers.

  39. Great post. I’m a life-long learner so definitely guilty of taking classes for the fun of it and then NOT applying it! It’s always a challenge finding the balance but I do love the trial and error of it all.

  40. Your PS mentions the email newsletter. You might be interested to know that I haven’t subscribed to the newsletter because it is unclear whether it’s a different thing from subscribing to the copyblogger RSS.

    Perhaps others have wondered the same thing?

    Even great sites can use feedback. 🙂

  41. Number 1 is such an interesting point to make, and most people dismiss it too easily sometimes. (I know I’m guilty of it too!)

    Part of it is having a great, everyday attitude towards your business. Always moving forward on at least one issue on your “to-do” list. Commenting. Engaging. Writing. Etc.

    But the other part of it is handling your stress levels. No matter how positive and “get-go” your attitude is, if you don’t know how to manage your stress, you can burn yourself out quick, and then you really are stuck with a “sucky attitude”.

    Great article, Melinda!

  42. Wow, one problem with being on the other side of the world is that I wake up and there’s 46 comments before I’ve even had breakfast! LOL!

    @ Sheila, I’ve seen companies do that too. Cost cutting, and the customers notice, even when they’re not aware that they’re noticing. They just know that ‘something’ has changed and they’re not as comfortable as they were.

    @ Vince, the narrower you can define your niche the better. If you’re having trouble working out how to market to your niche then it’s probably too broad. If you can’t decide what problem to address first, then it’s probably too broad.

    Yes, I’m collecting names and emails via the VIP signup box in the sidebar as you said. It is in the sidebar, yes? (realised late last night it wasn’t so put it there at midnight… LOL)

    @ CJ, it’s a rude shock for people when they realise that just putting up a blog and slapping a few quick posts up doesn’t make them a millionaire. After all, isn’t that what the get-rich-quick internet salespeople are promising?

    Glad to hear your redesign worked, heading over to check it out now. 🙂

    @ Daniel, ‘Ferrari Lovers’ is a demographic. Sure, they’ve got something in common – they love Ferraris. However! All Ferrari lovers are not equal. Some of them own Ferrari’s. Some are waiting for the day they own a Ferrari. Some are just dreaming about Ferrari’s as they drive their 15 year old Ford to work each day. Who’s your target market there?

    Assuming you’re going to target Ferrari lovers who actually own a Ferrari – because they’ve got the money to spend on your products – what are you going to talk about with them? Sure, you’ll talk about new colours and models coming out. Races Ferrari won and the men who drive them.

    You’ll also be talking about subjects such as: how to protect your Ferrari’s paintwork, theft prevention, new gadgets that can be installed, how to wash it yourself and get that professional shine. All problems that you’re solving, yes?

  43. @ Brian, my point exactly. 🙂

    @ Mars, may the Force be with you as you take ACTION! Go for it and let us know how you go.

    @ Val, I’m sooooo writing from experience here! I’ve made every one of these mistakes and more. Great to hear you’ve broken out of that and are getting the results you deserve.

    @ Joe, I don’t have case studies *yet*. It’s only very recently that I put it all together into the Two Hour Business Plan structure. Before that I was working individually with clients and didn’t keep that kind of record. Yeah, another lesson learned….

    @ Jason, check out Men with Pens http://menwithpens.ca/ James and his team do brilliant work. Not cheap, definitely brilliant. If you’re after more of a budget solution, try Johnny Truant http://johnnybtruant.com/

    As to pricing, how long is a piece of string? Know how much you can afford and invest as much as you can in it. Check out a designers work and see if you can find referrals from their clients.

    @ Jessica, thank you. Let me know if I can help you with the launch at all.

    @ Jon-Mikel, Bad Brains? You know I’m going to have to google that now, right? LOL.

  44. @ Nabeel, best of luck and keep that good attitude!

    @ Josh, I’m happy to have made your day!

    @ Sylvia, I’ve been online for about five years now, and I’m still inundated with resources. I’ve learnt to be very picky in what I read – as you’ve noticed, you can spend all day reading good stuff but nothing gets done.

    @ Jerry, I was wondering what you meant by ‘red font’ and then I started typing replies to comments… It’s nice isn’t it – very unusual.

    You’re right, so easy to become comfortable reading information, but it won’t make you any money until you apply it.

    @ Jennifer, please invite me to that house when you’ve got it. I think you’d lose me in the library. And remember the trees – you’ll need to plant trees to make up for the printing paper. I need to plant an entire forest…..

    @ Mark, it’s hard to explain isn’t it? “Yes, narrow your niche down. No, you won’t lose sales. Please, just trust me and do it!” People are scared, they work so hard and it’s scary to do something that feels so counter-intuitive.

  45. @ Rochelle, you’re welcome. It’s almost a mantra for me, explaining the difference between a niche and a demographic.

    @ Matthew, you’re welcome to disagree and discuss, I love a good discussion with an opposing viewpoint!

    Target Market is something else again from Niche and Demographic. Your target market is where you describe your ideal client, what they’re like, where and how they buy, likes, dislikes, personality, what they read and watch and listen to.

    Your niche is what you do for (solve) a particular group of people who have that need (problem) in common.

    You know what? If you work on your definitions, you’re going to get there. Because whatever you call them, you’re narrowing it down and being specific. And that’s the main difference between a niche and a demographic.

    @ Renee, let me know if I can help you with narrowing down your niche at all. Good luck with the clarity – it always helps.

    @ Mike, I KNOW! Copyblogger makes it so hard! Bad Copyblogger…. LOL.

    I’ll, um, get that ‘information-junkies-anonymous’ website up soon, after I’ve gotten around to putting up the ‘procrastinators-anonymous’ website. 😉

    @ Neil, I have a very short list of people who’s blogs I read and products I buy. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed with the marketing promises and yet never apply it to your own business.

  46. @ Brian, sorry to hear about your experience in SF. Don’t you hate it when one person has the power to bring everyone else down? It’s the same in business, yes?

    We’re not always going to be on a high, none of us are Pollyanna. But we have to believe in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That is what will convey itself to others.

    @ Lawton, finding people with a passion for what? If you’ve got a passion for something then you’ll be wanting to improve how you do it, to do it better, faster, cheaper – there’s your ‘problem’ narrowed down.

    Re your question on need vs desire and the Iphone (yes, I want one. No, I’m not getting one) Aren’t most of our purchasing decisions based on desire rather than a genuine need? Exclusivity? Scarcity? Apple has their marketing down brilliantly, they know exactly who they’re targeting and how to push their buttons.

    @ Steve, you’re absolutely right. I was nodding all through your comment. Totally spot on.

    I remember Naomi from IttyBiz commented once that spending five hours a day on Twitter and calling it ‘Marketing’ was just deluding yourself. so much easier to be busy than to be effective.

    @ Bert, your niche is helping provide home care for seniors? What an awesome niche to be in. And you’re spot on about generalities and them not applying to everyone. Sounds like you may have learned that the hard way?

    @ JC, awesome! Isn’t it amazing how much content we can come out with when we’re challenged? Great work!

    @ Steve, Stay At Home Mums (or Moms, sorry) is a demographic and is very broad as you said. Healthy eating can be applicable to anyone – why is this specific to SAHMs? How do the two tie together? Or are you more interested in the healthy eating, and SAHMs are one aspect of your marketing?

    Be unique and specific – I can read about healthy eating AND SAHMs on a million blogs and forums. Why would I read yours above anyone elses? Answer that and you’ve got your niche.

  47. @ Stanford, I think most people make that mistake at some point. We’re such an instant society these days, if it’s not fast then most people don’t want to do it. That’s why the get-rich-quick crowd will never fade away.

    Mind you, the flip side is that for those of us who have that realisation and decide to stick it out, there’s less competition over time. I’ve seen stats that say around 95% of blogs die within one year. Perseverance is a one of the essential ingredients in success.

    @ Steve, # 4 – capturing visitor details. Offer something of value to visitors in exchange for their name and email. I’m offering a free copy of ‘Non-Planners Quick’n’Dirty Business Plan’ if you join the VIP List. Copyblogger offers their ‘Internet Marketing for Smart People’ – which is an awesome resource, by the way. Make the free gift of value, of use to the reader, and make it something that you only have to create once, not keep putting your time into, such as free consulting – that’s a fast road to insanity.

    Make your sign up obvious. Top right of the sidebar is a good place, or even a pop-up (personally, I don’t like them, but you might). Promote the sign-up regularly. See how Sonia added it to the end of my post? Nice and easy suggestion to help people, no hard sell.

    Mention it on your blog posts – people often don’t visit your actual site. Blog readers may not realise it’s there.

    Make it easy for people to sign up. Ask for just their name and email. Use a system such as Aweber or Mailchimp and be professional about it.

    @ Heather, me too, me too…. LOL.

    @ Jill, knowledge wants to be shared. It’s a social beastie that will sour and wither when kept inside. Let your knowledge out with your own personality stamped on it and be amazed at yourself. 🙂

    @ Andy, Yup. People don’t want to take the time to plan, but they’re ok with spending weeks and months being aimless and unfocussed. Crazy isn’t it?

  48. @ Dredd, glad to be of help!

    @ Amrit, Right. Better to get something happening and take action than wait until it’s perfect. It’s a balancing act, hey? Being good enough to start, but not delaying for ever.

    @ Aqif, I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking me here, sorry. A demographic is just a group of people with something in common – bloggers, stay at home mums, work at home mums, copywriters, chicken-killers, ferrari lovers. It’s very broad and general, how do you market to that?

    A niche takes a demographic and narrows it down to specific issues and problems. Bloggers seeking a larger audience, stay at home mums trying to keep the house clean, copywriters who can’t get clients to pay more than $5 an article. They’ve all got a specific problem that you can solve, and you can target your market towards that problem.

    Does that help?

    @ Kathy, hehehe, nudging is my specialty! Is it still nudging if I use a sledgehammer???? LOL

    @ Nick, your business SHOULD be targeting a niche, or it’s going to be lost. Not ‘if’ your business targets a niche – if it doesn’t target a niche then it’s unlikely to be in business long term.

    And your right, don’t describe yourself in general terms when there’s something specific that you do.

    @ Linda, teaching business classes to massage therapists sounds great. So many people gain their technical skills but never get taught how to create a business around those skills.

    I’m also in the middle of overhauling my site – not that it ever really ends! More clarity, more focus.

    @ Elle, you’re welcome, glad it’s helped you.

  49. @ AJ, bookmarking your site is good, but people very rarely remember to go back. RSS and an email newsletter – essential for all online business owners.

    @ Jodi, heat? What heat? It’s winter here and yesterday was the coldest August day for three years! LOL.

    @ Bert (again), nice post!

    @ Elena, the challenge of learning is great isn’t it! And it keeps you young, I’ve been told.

    @ Lia, the P.S. refers to the Copyblogger newsletter that is separate from the RSS. (I’m pretty sure that’s right, Brian will be in to correct me if I’m not)

    @ Paige, I’m nodding along with you here. There’s power in momentum. When you stop moving forward it’s so hard to get moving again, way harder than keeping going would have been.

    And I’m hearing you on the stress levels and burnout. Been there, burnt that…

  50. You hit me in the gut with this post. Especially the part classifying a niche. Had to re-read this post a few times to get past my first reaction. Wow!

    I like your idea of having a business plan for the website. I thought about that but just shrugged it off, like you said, thinking it was only for regular businesses. That is an excellent way to incorporate goals into your business and get ideas going. Hmmm… “gunna” have to check out your site 🙂

    Here’s a suggestion for anyone needing to focus on short-term goals. I have studied NLP, neuro-linguistic processing, which is a communication method using body language and specific words. The basic learning chapter 1, I guess you could call it, is goal setting. I have had a problem processing this information, but found a helpful book this past weekend, at a flea market sale. 🙂

    It is a workbook that guides you through the route of setting measurable goals. The example given is a computer programmer going into a vet tech career. I found this book helpful because if you take the time to write down your goals, for personal and business life, your mind starts thinking in that direction. You start seeing yourself where you want to be.

    Jim Cairo’s book then walks you through setting goals you can do in a month or longer. I spent about 4 hours working on my goals last night and made lists that I can check off. I recently had trouble focusing on writing and after making the goals list and contract with me for achieving my goals in the future, I found I could concentrate on getting stuff done today.

    Amazon still sells the book called “Motivation and Goal-Setting: How to Set and Achieve Goals and Inspire Others” by Jim Cairo. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Motivation-Goal-Setting-Goal-Setting/dp/1564143643

    It is not an affiliate link.

    Issues Melinda listed here can turn it into goals to overcome. Put a positive spin on it. “Sucky” attitude could become “building relationships” with customers or other Internet marketers. Each of these Melinda listed are goals when written positively and with measure to work on. Thanks, Melinda, for bringing these to my attention. I think I have more to add to my list and a plan.

  51. G’Day Mel,
    Your post is full of sound and valuable advice. I’ve only been online for two years. But I’ve run a successful consulting business for 32 years.
    Of course, that merely means that I’m living proof of John Wooden’s observation “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
    As a relative newbie to internet marketing, I’m astonished with internet marketers’ virtual obsession with “niche;” or “nitch” as so many pronounce it.
    As far as I’m concerned two things are more important
    *a clearly defined business focus
    *a very specific narrowly defined target market
    I think a demographic can be a niche if you must use that word. But they usually aren’t because, as a viable target market, a demographic usually isn’t narrowly defined enough.
    Make sure you have fun.



  52. Love this list, especially the comparison between marketing to demographics or marketing to your niche. I had never considered it like that, thanks for the great info

  53. I really like the first one. Makes a person really think about the amount of postings… I think it is good to face one’s problem instead of just finding an excuse.

  54. Make your sign up obvious. Top right of the sidebar is a good place, or even a pop-up (personally, I don’t like them, but you might). Promote the sign-up regularly. See how Sonia added it to the end of my post? Nice and easy suggestion to help people, no hard sell.

  55. @ Gabrielle, Business Plans are for ALL businesses. Have a look at my Two Hour Business Plan – it’s been written specifically for micro and at-home businesses. http://twohourbusinessplan.com

    Hehehe, yeah, you can ‘gunna’ that! I love the sound of that book – I’m also NLP trained and anything to do with how we think fascinates me. Thanks for the recommendation.

    @ Leon, a niche (or ‘nitch’ – really dislike that pronunciation) is exactly what you said – a very specific narrowly defined target market. We’re all talking about the same thing here, just using different words.

    Your 32 years experience will be invaluable in what you’re doing online.

    @ Nat, you’re welcome!

    @ Michael, finding excuses doesn’t ever help anyone.

  56. @ Lia The P.S. blurb is just to get you to click the link and read the landing page for our newsletter, which goes on and on (and on) about how it’s different from the regular Copyblogger feed/email list. 🙂

  57. And of course, it goes without saying that all of the Copyblogger customers take their information and turn it into action, so we don’t really count for #6.


  58. Interesting discussion on marketing to a demographic, and not a niche. I believe most marketers make this mistake by picking a general category or group to market too. We’ve never really thought of our market as a group that share a common problem that needs to be addressed.

    All the points in this list are so true today, especially about looking like a cheapskate — because I’ve seen many businesses like this! Looking professional is really important. Afterall, your website and the rest of your marketing materials are the face of your business — so it’s never wise to go cheap on them!

  59. I guess #6 is more to do with lack of confidence which makes you feel you are missing something. You end up postponing productive activity for meaningless monotonous tasks.
    Habit # 1 of highly effective bloggers complemented with the rule of 24 should do the job. Great post Melinda. Thanks!

  60. Some good advice there. I’ve known many people with a “sucky attitude” It’s like they are doing you a favour even doing business with you!

  61. I appreciate the insight of point #2 here regarding the niche. Defining it as an area with a common problem instead of simply splashing your blog out to “anyone that works from home” was perfect. I am working on this issue currently and believe that targeting more specifically will increase both opt ins and sales-

  62. I am going to have to take you to task over number 3.

    I often tell my readers that I am a cheapskate and am in this to make money not spend money to make money.

    That is why a lot of them keep coming back because they know they will receive information about how to make money online without paying out huge fees.

  63. Bam! Tell it like it is, Melinda!

    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen in a long time…

    Especially number one and two. There is so much “sucky attitude” out there, where the blog owner posts like crazy just to create content for the search engines, and then tries to keep sending people back to posts from 2005.

    Number two is soooooo important, especially when the customer pool is very incestuous, like the blogging arena, or the small biz arena. I have been guilty of marketing to more of a demographic myself, and I thank you for pointing that out.

    When you are not solving a problem for the customer, you are not showing them how your business is going to help them, and they definitely don’t care about you, so you have to solve their problem or you will sink.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  64. @Melinda, it’s better today, but the weather has been in triple digits (100-103F) or approx 37-39C! I think I saw a guy with a pitchfork go by…

  65. I made quite a few mistakes at first online, but these mistakes help make better people and Bloggers.
    Good article though, nice to see a few other people have made these mistakes, shows that you can pull through and come out better off at the other end.


  66. Nice post! i love the one of “all learning, no action” that’s what make an online marketer look lame! kip the good work up!

  67. I think I’ve broken about…all 6 of them at some point in time. We certainly need a better way of tracking our metrics (we use Google Analytics, but I don’t think we’ve even touched the surface). Giving our customers a way to keep up with us through e-mail is so simple, but again, we don’t do a great job at it.

    Thanks Mel.

  68. I seriously like your distinction between demographics and a niche.

    At the end of the day, it’s about connecting at the values of the tribe and solving meaningful problems in that niche.

  69. I was just thinking about #3 today after looking at some new followers on Twitter and checking out their profile with no background or picture. Also, when I clicked on their website to find out more about the person that took the time to follow I keep noticing certain WordPress themes that were thrown up with no design or effort put into the theme. Some of the themes out there need a designer, otherwise it makes you look like everyone else. And these are people that are suppose to help other people with websites and internet marketing?

    Thanks for your post.

  70. All great advice. I think that wading through endless resources is important to a certain point, but I do have to say that I love free ebooks, and suprisingly, most of them are written pretty well.

  71. Mel,

    Terrific post…Also, I forwarded it to some of my blogging buddies.

    The niche vs demographic definition really hit me between the eyes. Once I share my blog title you will know why.


    At 8 months of blogging (with this current blog) and almost 400 posts, I am at a crossroads of how to take the blog to the next level. I struggled last night and thru the day today (Thurs. here in the US) with your post.

    I kept asking myself “I know Boomers are a demographic but are they a niche.”

    Bottom line: I keep asking myself…”Do I change the focus of my boomer blog from quotes, inspiration etc to focusing on problems of the boomers?” I view some of the problem examples as: dating, obtaining a new job, finances, health (weight), providing care of our parents.

    So do I take each problem, blog about it, and offer a solution to my readers that they can purchase? Is it really that simple? As bloggers do we make things toooo complicated.



  72. @ Elmar, glad you liked it.

    @ Nathan, that’s a great point and I think you’re totally right. But the marketers press that button that says “this is the magic bullet that will give you instant success” and we fall for it.

    What’s the rule of 24?

    @ Ruth, LOL, those one’s are fun to fool with, then leave and go somewhere that wants to serve you.

    @ Steve, Yes! Targeting more specifically will improve your marketing, make sure it’s directed at the right people and increase your sales. No doubt about it.

    @ Dean, hey, we’re all in this to make more money than we spend. But as with any business there’s going to be expenses – and believe me, I want to keep mine as low as I can.

    However, and this is the point I was making, not to the extent that my site looks cheap and amateurish. I charge a reasonable amount for my consulting and when a person checks out my site I have to look worth it. They don’t meet me in person, my website is my online representative. If it looks cheap, if it looks like my business is broke, then they’re not going to value me or my services. And they’ll leave.

    There’s a balance there between spending as much as you need to and as little as you can.

  73. @ Joshua, thank you. Love seeing you around in the comments!

    @ Jodi, LOLOLOL!

    @ Stuart, everybody makes mistakes. That’s how we learn. Just recognise them as boo-boos and don’t do it again….

    @ Michele, what you don’t do is often as important as what you do do. As long as you’re taking action, you’ll do fine.

    @ Jan, a lot of people seem to like that distinction. I nearly didn’t include it, eek!

    @ Samuel, thank you.

    @ Chase, check out http://www.statcounter.com I use that as well as Google Analytics, they show different stats.

    @ J.D. *nodding in agreement* great way to put it.

    @ Jason, I’m a sucker for the free ebooks too, but still never seem to find time to read them. 🙂

  74. Hey Melinda 🙂

    I read this yesterday in my feed reader and was amazed to find myself mentioning your ‘demographic is not a niche’ advice to a friend later in the day. I thought I’d only sped read it but apparently it was important enough to lodge somewhere in this head of mine!

    And they found it a really useful perspective so I had to come back here, read the whole post again more slowly and thank you. Great advice delivered with a smile.

  75. Mel fantastic! Really succinct, useful definitions that create a clear dichotomy in an otherwise blurry area (niche vs demographic). I’m going to steal that idea (I’ll attribute it of course!).

  76. Thanks for this great insight Melinda!
    I had an aha moment while reading about the difference between a niche and a demographic. What i needed precisely in my new web adventure!

  77. Dead on with #2 (Niche vs Demographic). I am a firm believer that you have to peel back the layers of a targeted group to find common concerns. Then provide valuable content to address the concerns.

  78. Hey Mel
    Great post and as I was reading I thought ‘have I read this before?’

    Yup … my brother Marc had sent me an excerpt this morning and we’d emailed back and forth with ideas and thoughts on your niche point [which seems to have exercised everyone!].We’d already spent hours a few months ago working thru one of Sonia’s articles on a similar kind of theme to develop the Value Offerings and Promise to our niche.

    And just now as I was sipping some red wine to celebrate a fab week I was looking at the Mashable articles and started reading yours.

    Clear and concise and very very practical.

    Marc and I are always sending each other Mashable articles and have used them to help us refine the online business [Life Dreaming] that we are building together.

    And action happens as we launch the blog in 2 weeks [and the site in Jan 2011] … [deep breath and happy dance in the background] using heaps of the tools you and other writers have shared.

    I’m very lucky as Marc is a web designer and brand manager so he’s worth all the money I don’t pay him.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply to peoples comments. Copyblogger writers are consistent in being part of the conversation … unlike a few other big blogs I visit.

    It’s also a pleasure to read other peoples comments and the businesses they are developing … good luck to you all.

    • and my brother pointed out that I mentioned you guys as mashable when we know you’re copyblogger!

      my only excuse was Friday Fatigue! in my head I knew I was talking to the copyblogger crew and many thanks to Mel [got her name right] for responding.

      and this is just one more thing to remember when you blog … always be prepared to admit your mistakes … and then blush with shame!


  79. Melinda,

    These were very good points that you made. I have a website that I guess is more like a hobby. I would like for it to be more of a business but I spend too much time reading ebooks and listening to webinars and not taking enough proper action. I need to change my attitude about this online business.

  80. I love the demographics vs niche.
    I think I am focusing on pregnant moms.
    But really I am focusing on pregnant moms who are worried about birth.
    Thanks for helping me clarify!

  81. I especially agree with number 4, not capturing the details of your customers. This is essential to success in business, is the ability to continually follow up (and add value) to your customers.

  82. @ Tito, I think a lot of people had the same ‘Aha’ moment – glad it helped you!

    @ Walter, I love your wording of ‘peel back the layers’ that’s exactly what it is. (and now I’m thinking of that line in Shrek where he says “Ogres are like onions, layers…”) LOL

    @ Liz, glad it’s been of use to you and best of luck with your launch (Hey, send me the link!)

    @ Brad, it’ll become a business when you get your head around it. Having a hobby is fine, if that’s all you want. What do you really want?

    @ Sheridan, right! Sounds like a great niche, and could even by narrowed further – why are they scared of birth? Which aspect of it?

    @ Robert, yes, I see this one a LOT. So many newbie business owners don’t think of it when they set up their website, and a fair number of web designers don’t think to mention it either. And a good launch is a great time to drive traffic and collect names….

  83. Hi Melinda,
    Thank you so much for the post! It surely reflects my current condition. I have to invest in my blog if I have to attract some quality prospects who can pay me good money for my services.
    I also feel I’m – the all learning no action – guy. I don’t know I need to move ahead. I got stuck to post in my blog for a long time.
    Anyway, your post came as a blessing to look at my blogging keener.

    • Hi Solomon, it’s up to you to change from the ‘all learning, no action guy’ into someone who takes action. Make a decision, decide what’s the most important thing that will move you ahead and do it.

  84. Hi Melinda,

    Loved your post. Great points!

    Presenting a professional image is absolutely vital for your business. You only get ONE chance to make a first impression. “Cheap” is no good!

    Now I have to admit, I started out on Blogger, but only because I didn’t know any better. As soon as I found out that Blogger wasn’t really the platform for business, I moved over to WordPress.org, got a Domain Name and hosted my blog myself.

    Great article and great advice! Thank you!


    • Hi Ilka, oh, well done! The hosted blogger and wordpress are great to get started and get a feel for it, but a serious business wouldn’t (shouldn’t) use them.

      Congrats on seeing the light!

  85. Great post. More business owners need to understand that you can’t in actuality just create a success overnight without planning and you can’t go thinking that all you need is a wordpress theme or some quick site and spend no money or time making it happen. Success takes time and commitment. Even SquareSpace (easy) takes a little time to navigate in order to create something presentable.

    And yes, please have a business plan. All too often most business owners think they can just craft one when the time is right. Well, the time was right when you decided on the idea you were going to run with for a business.

    • Hi Frederick, who was it who said it took them fifteen years to become an overnight success? Success takes time, hard work, commitment and then more hard work. And investment of money as well.

      I did a survey of at-home and micro business last year and the one’s who had a business plan were earning tens of thousands more than the one’s without a plan – they’re absolutely necessary.

  86. #3 is one of the points I see very often. Most surprisingly some of those cheap looking websites get even shared on facebook like they are the big design-deal. Most of the recipients tend to stay silent when seeing those beautiful online real-estates. No wonder…

  87. Thank you for pointing out some very basic but very important points about marketing. i think we all tend to jump in with both feet, get over excited, and not really think.

    • We sure do, and also I think we get caught up in doing everything and we try and cut corners, both time wise and financially. We’re under so much pressure to get it out there and under budget we don’t think of the real cost, down the road.

  88. Melinda,

    What a great post, I see myself making these mistakes and hopefully not for too long. I have been your site, it is pretty neat! I like what you doing and thanks for the wisdom. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up on other silly thing that business suffers.

  89. What a great job you’ve done here of covering the basics. In almost every point I found myself going “Yikes!” Thanks for the motivation to get moving again, Melinda. The great thing about this article is how beautifully you’ve summarized some of the greatest obstacles to our own success. Then, how easily we can overcome them! Kudos!

  90. Great advice. Especially love the “I’m gunna” analogy. Know I could be accused of gunna do that! My resources box is full and I’ll never find the time to read it all now, let alone if I continually keep finding new stuff.

    • I’m still guilty of that Tania, I keep catching myself signing up for one more course, one more rss….

      What I do (now) is declutter every few months – both RSS feeds that I receive and my resource folder. If it’s something I’ve downloaded I don’t usually delete it, but I’ll move it from my hard drive onto an external drive and save it all in a folder with a date. If I find I need something I’ll move it back to my hard drive.

  91. Great post with some really good advice. It takes time to build a successful online marketing campaign and more people need to read this and become aware of that. A great looking website and also considering SEO can really add to the effectiveness of your campaign.

  92. Hi Mel,

    I am posting my first comment again below to see if I could get your response to my struggles.

    You have been great in responding to everyone’s comments and did not see a response to mine.

    Your feedback would be most appreciated….



    Terrific post…Also, I forwarded it to some of my blogging buddies.

    The niche vs demographic definition really hit me between the eyes. Once I share my blog title you will know why.


    At 8 months of blogging (with this current blog) and almost 400 posts, I am at a crossroads of how to take the blog to the next level. I struggled last night and thru the day today (Thurs. here in the US) with your post.

    I kept asking myself “I know Boomers are a demographic but are they a niche.”

    Bottom line: I keep asking myself…”Do I change the focus of my boomer blog from quotes, inspiration etc to focusing on problems of the boomers?” I view some of the problem examples as: dating, obtaining a new job, finances, health (weight), providing care of our parents.

    So do I take each problem, blog about it, and offer a solution to my readers that they can purchase? Is it really that simple? As bloggers do we make things toooo complicated.



    • Oops! Sorry Mark, I don’t know how I missed replying to your comment because I do remember reading it! Thanks for persisting and bringing it to my attention.

      Eight months and 400 posts? You’re a blogging machine! I really don’t want to do the maths on that one – it’s more than one post a day!

      Ok, I’ve had a quick look at your site and I think your issue goes a bit deeper than taking it to the next level. My first impression is “Who’s it for?” You’ve got your blog on the front page with a million excerpts of posts and nothing is jumping out at me, to say READ ME!

      You’ve got a huge lot of content (I’m still stunned at 400 posts in 8 months!) but I don’t think you’re using it as well as you could.

      But to answer your original question with a few more questions:

      What’s the purpose of your site and blog? Is it a hobby or a business? (your legal disclaimer says it’s a personal blog)

      Who’s your target market? What are you doing for them that no one else is doing? Why would they read YOUR posts? What’s the value that you’re offering them?

      What’s the ONE THING that you really really want to do for your readers?

  93. Dang! I need to take action! It’s so easy to read and read, but you really only learn something when you do it. Reading can only go so far. Doing takes you all the way. I’ve noticed that most of the time I want to perfectly know how a project will go before I start, but I’ve learned recently that it’s important to start a project before you know how it will go. It’s better to start and make changes than to never start and having nothing to change. Thanks Melinda!

    • I’m trying to think of a project that actually went the way I’d planned it and coming up empty… LOL.

      We all want guarantees and certainty, but in this business it’s just not going to happen – have a plan, take action and deal with the changes as they happen. Most of the time the changes are for the better I’ve found. 🙂

  94. Very well crafted post… I love the point on attitude – that can’t be said enough. I’ve written about it several times myself after having a small business owner stand up and take the microphone away from me in front of 300 people and give testimony to how a change in her attitude – with NO other business changes – had directly improved her bottom line. Memorable no doubt.

    Niche vs. demographic – great point. Made me think and then think some more.

  95. Hmmm gulity as charged on 4, 5 & 6 and slightly guilty on some of the others. Little wonder I suck or at least suck less than I did at internet marketing.
    Great post that is both informative and inspiring. Very thought provoking

  96. Last point is correct to my case as you can learn all the time but no success if you do not take any actions 🙂 Great article!

  97. Happy that I have learned what exactly a niche is.

    I always thought niche is a group of people with similar interests. It was your brilliance which made escape the delusion.

    Thanks a ton.

  98. I am just getting started in the blogging world and any info at this time is of great help. Whether is be what to do versus what not to do. Appreciate the tips.

  99. I agree with all of your points, but #6 in particular. I fell into this category for quite a long time. I read and read and read, thinking that I was going to eventually know exactly what to do and be a success overnight. This of course never happened, because all I did was read.

    Once I finally started DOING, I was amazed that things actually started happening. Learning is important, but DOING is what gets you there.

  100. Great article and you’re so right about having a sucky attitude – that won’t get you anywhere. What do all you think about being purposely negative to try and invoke a reaction? For instance, on our website we often use the lone ‘marketing doesn’t work’ in our headline statements. When we use this statements as a clickable link we actually find more people click through in comparison to other links. Ok it’s a bit negative but it captures attention. This one has always divided opinion though so it would be good to know what you guys think about it though.


    • Ryan, for what it’s worth, I think you need to be very careful with that idea. It sort of falls under the heading of short-term thinking. It’s the same sort of thinking that creates quarterly profit goals rather than trying to make a successful long-term business. Sure, you can have a headline like “Marketing doesn’t work”, then have everyone read an article about how to make marketing work.

      The problem with that is that some people may have memories that last longer than 3 minutes, so the next time you try to pull a stunt like that they might just tune you out forever. So now you have a whole new audience of idiots with short-term memories and you have to think of new ways to keep their attention (i.e. more clever lies). It’s just not worth it.

      It takes years to build a reputation and perhaps only a few minutes to destroy one…

      I realize you weren’t even asking about the headline, but about adopting a negative tone for effect. Still, the material issues from the mental realm, and this is one of those unanticipated consequences that can getcha.

  101. Im totally agree in the point of getting a niche market, not a demographic group thats a sixties theory hehehe…

    Also i think its something quite important to get the data of the users, so you can define your target market and define strategies.

    Thanks for the advices…

  102. It all comes down to writing for your readers, providing valuable, relevant content for them in a way that is professional, caring, consistent and dependable!

    – Tim

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