3 marketing changes to expect in 2017

That personal website might be segmenting you from potential consumers, rather than amplifying your brand. Are connections and larger content sites a better option?

Here are three drastic marketing changes I have implemented to survive and thrive in the online world:

1. Goodbye, website.

I have long believed that your personal website was crucial to your online presence.

Every social media network and blog were means to drive traffic to your self-hosted site, where the real conversion of clients happened. The idea was logical: You have control over your self-hosted website, and the content belongs 100 percent to you. On social media networks, you give away power and are susceptible to their rule changes.

Of late, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like have morphed into content-producing behemoths with massive audiences.

I just set up an Instagram account, and even though I’m an artist, I know it’s bad. Still, within the first month, I’ve already attracted a couple of clients. Every user sees my artwork updates and can easily interact with me, which is not the case with the portfolio page on my website.

Another good example is Medium.

The content platform is a better choice than my website. Like Instagram, it has a targeted, built-in audience (sophisticated content readers) that is segmented into topics, such as “technology,” “diversity” and “productivity.” That means a niche-specific tech blogger finds an audience more quickly on Medium than on his personal website. It’s like a comic doing a gig at a popular club versus making the audience come to their house.

The reason content networks can help you is that they’re familiar, trusted venues, as opposed to your personal website.

2. Connecting beats creation.

My Twitter and Facebook connections are far more valuable than my personal website.

Here’s why: Being the best just isn’t good enough anymore. Blame content shock, but there’s simply too much great work in nearly every niche for you to stand out. You have to be exceptional and extreme, and that’s hard to pull off if you’re an even-tempered human.

Over the past two years, I’ve seen something fascinating:

  • Friends recommended my sci-fi books, which they’ve never read. (I asked them.)
  • Online buddies referenced my illustration work, even though they’ve never seen a single piece of it.
  • Offline pals told other people to check out my blog, even though they barely read them. (Again, I asked them for specifics.)

It’s not that they were lying; it’s that they’re human.

Seth Godin once said people value connections over expertise—meaning they’d rather recommend a lesser, capable person (if they know him/her) than the best (with whom they’re never connected). You’d recommend good old Johnny, who fixed your mother’s toilet, rather than the best plumber in town.

The personal connection colors your perception.

Even though the people in my network knew little about my works, they recommended me because they valued me as a person. We rode a similar wavelength and had built rapport, so whenever someone in their network needed an illustrator, they mentioned me. Whenever someone liked sci-fi, they tweeted them my books (while @mentioning me).

I know creators who are way better than I and who get fewer commissions because they haven’t built connections. I also know creators who are far worse than I and make way more, because they built even better connections.

3. Simplification means sales.

This relates to the demise of the personal website. In the self-publishing world, I see independent authors setting up their fiction membership sites. For $5 to $15 per month, you can read a series and stay in the loop. It makes business sense: The author gets recurring income and is financially independent from e-book juggernauts like Amazon.

The downside: It’s not customer friendly.

First of all, even $5 per month for a single series is too much if the customer can stream the entire Netflix library for about $7. Not to forget the hassle: you have to sign up, pick up the right e-book format (PDF? Mobi? ePub? AZW3?), which you then have to download and drag to your device, for which you need the right reading app.

On Amazon, you click on the e-book and immediately get it on Kindle (or the app). It’s easy and comfortable, which is a combo that wins every single time.

I haven’t seen a single author subscription website that’s profitable. Even big players failed, including Oyster, which branded itself as the “Netflix for books.” It ultimately gave up because of Amazon’s convenience.

Dragging people to your site is a hassle for you and for your potential customers. Instead, meet them halfway. Selling books on Amazon, showing artwork on Instagram and writing blog posts for Medium are far more convenient for clients.

The downside is loss of control. Still, it’s not about the content producer’s needs; it’s about the customer’s. Simple sells.

A version of this article first appeared on Mark Schaefer’s blog, {grow}.

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