Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Why Most Digital Entrepreneurs Don't Have Their Priorities Straight

Accepting new changes in the digital marketing world is key to succeeding.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I love marketing. I’ve been obsessed from the early days. Done right, it gives you the ability to “buy growth.” How much do you want to grow your business this month? How big is your budget? That’s how much growth you can buy. That’s why I went into direct-response digital marketing. Not only was it a great way to provide value to B2B clients, but it was a personal passion of mine. I get really nerdy about it.

When I mentor aspiring digital entrepreneurs, I tell them to niche down. Don’t try to be generalists. Don’t offer a full-service agency. Pick one thing that you can become the best at. Maybe that's web design and only web design. Maybe you love graphic design, or maybe you are a copywriter. Whatever it is, make it one thing.

But it’s a lie for me. Sometimes we do one other thing. Sometimes we design landing pages for our clients, but we offer this extra service under a very special, specific circumstance — if the client’s website or landing page is no good.  As direct-response digital marketing specialists, we could use Google and Facebook ads to drive all the traffic in the world, but if we are driving that traffic to a bad landing page, none of that traffic will convert. We are offering no value to our clients in the form of increased revenue, so we lose the business. We sometimes offer this service as an extra, just to make sure we can offer real value.

This may seem like inside baseball. It may seem obvious. But there’s a nugget of revelation in that fact that I see so many digital entrepreneurs miss — a seismic shift in the entire game. Most digital entrepreneurs are putting the cart before the horse and hobbling themselves right out of the gate. When you put marketing ahead of value, you’re getting it backwards.

Related: Building in Public: How Tech Companies Master Product-Market Fit

The golden age of digital marketing

When it comes to marketing, I’m downright stodgy and conservative. We stick to Facebook and Google ads because they are tried and true. There’s a vast body of data to draw from, along with our own personal experience. It works. 

I have watched digital marketing grow from its infancy. That gives me perspective, and here’s one thing I can tell you from that perspective: In the early days of digital marketing, you didn’t even have to have a good product to make money. You just had to be good at marketing. Think about that. You could be selling absolute garbage, but the technology was so new and groundbreaking that with a tight digital marketing apparatus, you could still make money.

This is nothing new. Snake-oil salesmen have always made money. Just watch Glengarry Glen Ross if you want proof. But Google Ads and especially Facebook lowered the barrier of entry and created a generation of snake oil salesmen.

Then what did those successful early adopters do? They wrote books. They created courses. They set themselves up as gurus and offered eager students the chance to follow in their footsteps, unaware (or uncaring) that the trail they blazed was becoming overrun by tourists. The result: An even bigger successor generation of wannabe digital entrepreneurs, indoctrinated with a previous-generation way of thinking about what it takes to succeed in business. 

They all have their peccadillos — Facebook ads, web funnels, email lists, SEO — but they’re missing the big picture. They’re missing the fact that the ground has shifted under their feet.

Related: If You're Using These Marketing Tactics, You're Hurting Your Brand's Credibility

The new landscape of digital business

See, the cat’s out of the bag. Digital marketing isn’t new anymore; nearly every small business has done Facebook ads. Did we really want to live in a world where it was that easy to sell someone something worthless? I’m quite glad that the market has corrected itself. The new order of digital business is value first, marketing second. 

Which digital entrepreneurs would I place my bets on to succeed? The ones who go to the market and identify a problem that needs to be solved. The ones who put their noses to the grindstone and focus relentlessly on the quality of the product or service they want to bring to the marketplace to solve that problem.

It might be lonely. They might spend years on their grind while the cool kids chase TikTok, new funnels or whatever flash-in-the-pan digital marketing technique is enjoying its 15 minutes. But value will win out in the end. Focus on building great products or services, focus on product-market fit, and the rest will be easy.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks