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Don't Waste Money on These 4 Types of Marketing You would think that scoring a cameo or placing your product on the news would move the needle. You'd be wrong.

By Adam Callinan Edited by Jason Fell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


As an entrepreneur in the ecommerce space, I can personally appreciate the risk that comes with investing time and money in online marketing and advertising. I can also attest to the fact that once you're up and running, what seems like dozens -- or more like hundreds -- of companies magically appear that claim to possess the magical capacity to increase your sales via their unique marketing approach, channel or access.

Related: Marketing Has a Marketing Problem

The reality is, some work well and some don't work at all and while you're spending time and money on those that tend to be less effective, your customer acquisition cost -- an important indicator -- is shooting through the roof. Now, of course there are exceptions to the following list, but for the most part, it's fantastically difficult to convert traffic from these four digital media outlets at any reasonable rate.

1. Suggested content

Have you ever noticed that when reading an article online there are often suggested alternative articles at the bottom of the page, which look like they're naturally brought to your attention by the publication you're reading? They're not. What they are is paid-for content that directs you to another page or site.

Having attempted to advertise through channels such as these, I can say that this customer acquisition model is purely ineffective (or the avenue just didn't work for our particular ecommerce business).

2. A TV or movie cameo

At Beachwood Ventures we invest at the intersection of entertainment and technology while leveraging unique access to the world of influencers -- which means that we get to see how effective, or ineffective, certain product placements are. Let me tell you; the reality of anything other than a short-term blip on the radar from placements in TV or film is, well, just not realistic. Sure, if your product or service is discussed in detail within the segment or content, it's better, but you just can't rely on anything substantial to come out of it.

Good for ego, not for revenues.

Related: 4 Keys to Building a Self-Sustaining User Base Without a Marketing Budget

3. Product placements in news segments

This is a classic mistake that entrepreneurs make when trying to get their name and brand out there -- they put a PR firm on retainer that has some relationships and the capacity to get them in some on-camera opportunities. Now, I'm sure this can work for highly targeted market segments -- which is rather hard to do on traditional TV -- but if you think that you're just going to get your product on the morning news for your city or state and it's actually going to have a noticeable impact, think again.

For example, we just had BottleKeeper on the "Father's Day" episode of KTLA, one of Los Angeles' largest news outlets, and it didn't even move the needle. Audiences for programs such as this are just too diverse. Maybe if it were on Good Morning America or The Today Show it would be different story, but we haven't done that yet so can't speak to it.

4. Mass media print

Yes, getting your new app in TechCrunch or Gizmodo would be nice, but what are you doing spending time soliciting The Wall Street Journal or any other major news outlet? I get the ego kick and the "supposed" legitimacy that comes from being able to say that you were in those publications and the fact that you can list their logo on your website, but unless your product or service is a financial one -- or at least something that broadly appeals to their reader bases -- the traffic just isn't likely to convert.

This can be a tricky one as you really need to know and understand your audience. For example, I know that despite how many times I mention BottleKeeper in one of my articles here at Entrepreneur, it's just not the target audience for the traffic this outlet targets -- and as a result have never had a single conversion from the rather large amount of traffic this column pushes. It's not a bad thing and certainly not the fault of this publication -- it's just not the right target audience for the product so it won't convert like you might think.

Related: A Startup's Guide to Micro-influencers

Adam Callinan

Entrepreneur and Venture Investor

Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.

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