This post is in partnership with Entrepreneur. The article below was originally published at Entrepreneur.com.
By Neil Patel, Entrepreneur.com
This is not your grandmother's marketing world. There are more marketing methods than ever before. But there's a major caveat to all this marketing commotion. So many of these marketing "hacks" and bold new moves could do the opposite of grow your business.
They could ruin your business.
Risky new moves put your painstakingly built business at the mercy of the elements. One wrong move, and you're history. There's also the cost risk, which is the biggest risk in my opinion. You must protect your marketing dollar and avoid squandering your pennies into dead-end methods.
So, how do you engage the potentially awesome techniques of modern marketing, but avoid the attendant risks? Here are a few important things that you'll want to keep in mind.
Keep your goals front and center.
Every good business has goals -- and not just the pie-in-the-sky goals of "get bigger" or "make more money." The goals of worthy businesses are specific, measurable, attainable and timely. They also change often: Yearly, quarterly and strategically.
Goals keep a business on track. When the marketing winds change, and they will, all you need to do is look at your goals and ask, "Is this going to fulfill our goals right now, or will this simply distract us?"
Answer the question. Sometimes, you may need to go with your gut. Sometimes you may want to take a risk. But most of the time, you can play it safe. Your goals are important. Don't sacrifice them.
Do more hacking than spending.
I'm a huge fan of growth hacking. Unfortunately, growth hacking is misunderstood. I usually contrast growth hacking with the traditional methods of marketing. Conventional marketing methods cost money (a lot of it). Growth hacking costs money, too.
It just doesn't cost as much. That's why it's the method of choice for many startups. I suggest thinking about growth hacking in a simple way.
First ask, "How much does it cost?"
If it's expensive, then avoid it, postpone it or make sure there is zero risk.
If it's free or costs very little, then give it a try.
Here's why I propose this simple method. Most often, the big-dollar marketing methods are not as effective for small businesses, businesses targeting millennials or businesses looking to grow in a postmodern market. The free or low-cost methods have their risk, too. The risks, at least from a financial standpoint, aren't quite as risky.
Hire someone who is budget-conscious and ruthless.
Unless you're totally solo in this entrepreneur thing then one of the most important people you can hire is a marketing professional.
Make sure you're hiring for the right reasons. Whomever you hire must have a proven track record of growing businesses. But, equally important, look for these two qualities:
The marketing leader must know that budget is important. This will force him or her to make moves that are strategic instead of haphazard. Ruthlessness doesn't describe the personality as much as it does the determination to achieve goals.
When hiring a marketing professional, you can expect to pay him or her $40,000 to $65,000 per year, on average.
Make your customers your evangelists.
You can't fail with turning your customers into evangelists. They will be more successful at marketing than you can ever dream of being, simply because they're customers.
As you brainstorm growth hacking methods, don't forget about this largely untapped source of marketing potential. As long as they are satisfied, your customers want to be evangelists. All it takes is a little nudge from you, and a few instructions on how to do it.
Evangelism takes many shapes and forms. Sometimes, it's incentivized by compensating your customers with a free premium version of your product or service. But the most effective techniques happen spontaneously and eagerly. In which, if you make a great product, treat your customers right, and then give them a nudge, they'll gladly evangelize your company for free.
Content marketing is one of the most effective means of growing a business in the modern information age.
Content marketing isn't some novel technique anymore. Companies that don't do content marketing are in the minority. In order to succeed at it, you have to work harder, publish better and get more strategic.
I often see companies bail on content marketing because, as they claim, it's "not working." Usually, the reason is because they haven't been doing it long enough. Content marketing isn't a quick dash. It's a marathon marketing method.
There are ways to enhance the power of content marketing. The first way is by building an email list and harnessing the power of email marketing to enhance your published content.The second way is to use a variety of content forms. Hint: It can be more than a blog. Content marketing can include videos, forums, infographics, LinkedIn publishing, white papers, ebooks, etc.
Promote your personal brand.
The final, and perhaps most important method of keeping an opening marketing mind while protecting your business, is to promote your personal brand.
Businesses may fail, but you as an individual are going to stick around. You're going to start more businesses. You're going to do more stuff.
Your brand is more important than you realize. While you're throwing your time and energy into the effort of building a new business, don't neglect your personal brand. You can use your personal brand to grow your business, and your new business can help to grow your personal brand.
If your business fails, you'll have your personal brand to fall back on.
Marketing is a fun and risky ride. There's nothing quite like finding that sweet spot that starts delivering a steady torrent of visitors.
It can take you a while to find it or to build it. In the meantime, keep testing, keep exploring, but keep protecting your business. Keep an open mind, but protect what truly matters.
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