When to Shut Down Paid Media

shut it down gif

Most articles I read about marketing or digital media for startups are fairly self-serving to the marketing people and agencies – and mostly lacking in specifics that could actually help.

Check out some of the headlines from a recent “marketing startups” search on Google News:

  • 10 Proven Online Marketing Opportunities for Making Your Small Business Successful
    • In other words, “A generic list that says thing like “use social media marketing” and “use email marketing”. And I shit you not, the hero image is a guy in a suit with a thumbs up (below).
    • Keep in mind: While the channels may be “proven” in some verticals or companies, they may not be proven for YOU.

The image issued to you when you make clickbait marketing articles.
  • 6 Low-cost Marketing Tactics to Boost Your Startups’ Presence
    • I’m not Bill Shakespeare, but I think this headline’s apostrophe implies you own multiple startups, but are having trouble with posting on social media.
    • Keep in mind: Depending on your situation, low-cost for you may be $0 and that’s OK.
  • What Struggling Startups Are Missing About Marketing
    • What the author thinks you’re missing: “Prioritize brand-building and traffic-driving at every stage of your company’s growth”. In other words, always be spending. This was penned by someone in the Forbes Agency Council. If anything, they have native advertising nailed down.
    • Keep in mind: If the source is coming from an ad agency, especially an ad agency that makes money by getting you to pay for more media.  
  • Five Essential Marketing Strategies For Any Startup
    • “#4. Use Paid Search Advertising” Also someone in the Forbes Agency Council.
    • Keep in mind: Beware generalities like “for any startup”.

I would agree there are some general rules of thumb, but damn. It’s like the only solutions available are purely driven by paid marketing activities.

Here’s a few reasons to table, pull back or shut down paid marketing & media investments.

  • You have a kick-ass product and you don’t need to amplify your benefits. If you’re 5 stars with thousands of reviews on Amazon, I’m pretty sure you’re doing OK. You may want to supplement some positive press once in a while or hold off a competitor, but you’ve earned the right to pick your spots.
  • You don’t have a product at all. Generating tons of handraisers for an upcoming launch could be appropriate, but comes with risks if your launch date slips. Someone who jumped on a Kickstarter product that never ships is likely not too pumped about that product right now.
  • You’re not measuring the results. If you ask, “How is channel X performing vs. our targets?” and the response is a room of shrugging shoulders, shut it down. Why did it start with so little planning in the first place?
  • If you or your agency run a test in paid media, and the test concludes and the suggested next step is to “run another test” for an exorbitant amount of money. If you’re going to fund that second test, I’d suggest just getting some new office chairs or something. At least you’ll experience the benefit from our expense.

Your product/service and goals should drive your marketing and paid media strategy. Just because platforms like paid search, Connected TV, direct mail or [insert channel here] exist, that doesn’t mean they make sense for your startup. But when you find some that make sense, make the most of them!

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