Are you stealing attention or earning it?

It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of marketing dollars than using your budget to steal attention.

Paying an influencer to promote your post, promoting a click-bait article or video, or tagging people and leveraging popular hashtags that have nothing to do with your post— that’s stealing attention. You’re not adding value to a conversation or experience. Instead, you’re waving your arms in the air and hoping someone stops to see what’s going on. If that’s what you’re depending on to grow your brand and earn repeat customers, you’re in trouble.

A startup founder I recently met at a Hackathon told me he acquired most of his customers after a tech influencer wrote a Medium blog post reviewing his app. After seeing that kind of traction, he focused all his marketing efforts on earning another endorsement like that every month in order to scale the business to the six-figure level. By his estimates, he’d be “cash flow positive” before the end of the year with this plan. Good luck with that.

This is how most people first learn about PR and growth hacking. They believe they have a product or service worth paying for, so they look for the easiest, fastest way to get the word out about their brand. Spray and pray. Get the word out, check a box, and move on.

That’s not to say influencer marketing and the like doesn’t work. It absolutely can, but there has to be a purpose behind the action. These band-aid solutions are not dependable, nor are they a scalable way to grow your business. You need to solve a problem, start a relationship, earn trust over time, and create a system that works without a constant stream of publicity and promotion. Some ideas:

  1. Implement a referral program that incentivizes users to share the word for you. (It worked for Dropbox)
  2. Create a community of users that will add and enhance value. (It worked for StackOverflow)
  3. Offer a product or trial that leads users down a marketing funnel. (It worked for Microsoft)

All of these can be used simultaneously or individually.

There are a lot of ways to earn attention, but stealing attention is a waste of time and money.

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