Do you like when other people prove you wrong?

I think it's probably safe to say that most people don't like to be wrong--it's kind of like the natural aversion to the nails-on-chalkboard sound.

Recently, I asked my fans to send me examples of marketing tactics they've tried for their businesses that ended up failing miserably.  

I got a ton of really good responses, and, as I read, I noticed many of them converged into the same sorts of admissions.

Pay close attention, because there's a good chance that you can relate to one of these most-definitely bad strategies.  

Bad strategy No. 1: "Spray and pray"

The core philosophy behind "spray and pray" is that more is always better. This is also known as the "shotgun approach": If you make 10 calls and none of them work, make 900 more. Seems legit, right?

It's the same approach many people take to getting a job these days--submit 100 résumés and see what sticks. 

This is the approach one reader took when he canvassed his entire neighborhood looking for customers for his fitness business (personal training)--and the results were brutal:

Wait ... 2,000 free sessions?!

OK, I'm hoping that 2,000 free sessions was a typo, because if not, yikes.

Why the spray and pray strategy doesn't work

First of all, I'm not knocking the hustle. It will take tons of grit and rejection to make your business stand out. It's tough in the beginning, and I've taken this approach too. So there's nothing to be ashamed about.

That being said, here's why spray and pray rarely works:

1. If the demographic you're targeting is too large, it's much harder to determine who truly needs your product or service and who is not a good fit.

2. If you're using this type of broad-based approach, it's likely that you're going to be cold calling--meaning that people don't know you or trust you yet. This creates another barrier. It's much easier for them to just close the door, hang up the phone, or ignore the email.

What to do instead

You have to find a way to target the exact type of person you want to speak to. If you find people who already want what you have to offer, there's no need to convince them, because they already want it!

Approaching people who are already warm to your product or service will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. 

Bad strategy No. 2: Expecting word of mouth to blow you up

You just launched your business. It's your baby. You've been slaving away for weeks (or months) creating something that you're genuinely proud of, and you know people are just going to love it!

You think, worst-case scenario, your friends and family will be supportive and show some interest.

(I just did some quick research: The average Facebook user has 338 friends. That's a lot of people to spread the word, right?) 

So you launch your project.

You're excited for the viral buzz to start cascading through the interwebs.

Then nothing happens. As one reader put it:

Been there. Hurts.

I remember when I first launched Rich20Something in November 2012. I had such a hard time getting people to acknowledge that the site even existed.

I was doing epic interviews with really successful people, and all my so-called friends were freaking crickets. My Facebook news updates were regularly getting zero comments! 

Now, fast-forward to 2016, and I can put up a completely ridiculous (albeit fun) meme with Leonardo DiCaprio and this happens:

What's the difference? How come one approach got hundreds of people to spread the word digitally while my younger attempts fell completely flat?

Why the word-of-mouth strategy doesn't work

Let me just say, first and foremost, I'm a big fan of word-of-mouth marketing--and I think that in some cases, it can work.

But most of the time, it doesn't. 

When we launch something into the world, it's completely normal and natural to expect that the people who love and care about us will support it. They support us, so by logic it follows that they will they support our work.

Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case.

The reality is, people are wrapped up in their own worlds. Everyone has his or her own challenges and struggles going on. Everyone feels busy. Your friends love you and want you to succeed--but unless your ideas really resonate with theirs and they are invested in your cause, it's unrealistic to expect your network of family and friends to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to spreading the word. 

What to do instead

Instead of depending on Mom (a.k.a. your family, friends, and acquaintances) to open the floodgates of public awareness for your business, you have to purposefully cultivate a community of people who are: 

1. In line with your ideas and used to talking about them

2. "Trained" to share these ideas through constant interaction

The reason my second Facebook post got so much more attention than the first was that I spent a lot of time cultivating an audience whose members care about the specific message--and I simply shared something that I knew they would like. 

Bad strategy No. 3: Overreliance on Facebook ads and paid traffic

Are you in the mood to waste a ton of money and get no results? If you are, you can skip this section.

But if you're sane, you'll be very careful about using Facebook ads as your method for breaking through in business.

This was by far the biggest mistake that readers reported to me when I asked what marketing strategies they'd tried that had failed.

Here's one example:

Sadly, I got a surprising amount of these. I'm only showing a few here, but I have at least 20 people in my inbox saying that Facebook ads literally flopped for them.

Clearly, this is an issue, so let's talk about it.

Why Facebook ads don't work

To be clear, it's not that Facebook ads don't work all around. They certainly can work, and they do work for many businesses. The problem with FB ads is twofold:

1. Although the interface for setting them up is relatively simple, actually making the creative (a.k.a. the artwork), tweaking all the settings, finding the right audience, and then determining ROI are things that take a long time to master. Most businesses that are crushing with FB ads have a team (or at least one person) whose only job is Facebook marketing.

I should know: We hired a team to do our ads, because I have no idea what I'm doing in that department.

Unless you're a pro, it's going to be very hard to get results. Facebook ads take a lot of work to manage.

2. The even more obvious downside for early-stage businesses is that you stand to lose money for making mistakes on this platform. If you don't know what you're doing, or you don't have your product funnels set up correctly, you'll basically lose all your money and get very little reach.

Not a great way to get started.

What to do instead

If you're just starting off (and even well past the startup phase), you should be taking full advantage of every opportunity to get as many eyeballs on your work as possible for free.

Last week, I discussed how I optimize social media and regularly connect with my tribe. I guarantee this method will work for you and your business.

Don't spend money or time on Facebook marketing until you absolutely have to. If you're wondering when that will be, there's no need to ask. You'll know once you've exhausted every other potential lead source.

Published on: Feb 22, 2016