I think the answer you seek lies in solving the dilemma that centers around that statement.
No point in marketing if you do not have a really good product, or service to promote. Start there… focus all of your resources on locating a great product, or service, to promote. Once you have a few candidates, negotiate with suppliers to get the best possible margins, then begin marketing.
One thing you need to realize is that there are more people every day learning marketing, and many of those that do it full time is getting better with each passing day. You can no longer use marketing that worked in 2012 for today’s consumers.
The one “constant” trend in marketing is that “what works today will not work as well, or at all, in the near future.”
One of the recent trends I have noticed in PPC advertising for Search is that consumers are beginning to trust the rankings of ad positions more than ever, and most sales/conversions now come from the top 3 ad positions. If someone is in the mood to buy, they often make their purchases from the top ad positions, while generally ignoring the lower ad positions.
The relative difference in conversion rates, based on ad position has expanded dramatically during 2013. It is not uncommon to see conversion rates for that exact same ad and landing page combo convert at a rate that is 3 times higher in the top ad slot as compared to the 4th ad position. Naturally, this varies from niche to niche, but it is a broad trend for many niches.
As marketers react to this recent trend they are forced to compete heavily for those top few ad positions, only the very best marketers, with the best strategies, and offers, are able to compete successfully for those few ad slots. If your competitors have better profit margins, then you are not going to be able to compete, except within niches where only 1 or 2 serious competitors are active.
The techniques and tools that marketers use today are not the same as was used in 2012. If you are not up-to-date with all of your marketing strategies, tactics, and tools, there will be no room in the market for you. I had to up my game several times during 2013, as my competitor’s devised more and more clever strategies. For example, I had to write sophisticated bidding algorithms because competitors have improved theirs to compensate for the consumer trend to purchase almost exclusively for top advertisers.
I now have to use dozens of combinations of signals, and time frames, to combine bidding strategies into multiple layers with hundreds of possible counter-strategies just to combat all of the possible bidding strategies devised by today’s competitors. It’s now a game of automated bidding algorithms based on sophisticated marketing strategies, you must be good at this new game or go home.
Conversion rates based on position are not the only broadly changing trend in marketing during 2013. We also noted a broad shift in user devices. For example, we had a business that was dominating a small, but very competitive niche, after the successful implementation of a strategy to drive out the weaker players. But then suddenly, over a period of only 45 days, we saw a radical shift in the market share where one of the strongest competitors nearly doubled his percentage of market share.
After many hours of analysis, we finally discovered the cause. This one competitor had very subtly shifted his web design to Responsive Web design to take advantage of a major shift in consumer use of mobile devices. We didn’t even realize he had made this change until we tested his website at smaller screen portal sizes. That prompted us to launch immediate redesign projects on many of our websites. It took months to regain lost market share.
Today’s competitors are much more sophisticated than those you encountered in 2012, there is no longer easy money at nearly every turn, you must work harder than ever to earn. And, even if you have superior marketing, you are still at a disadvantage if your competitors have better profit margins. So start there, find a supplier that can offer you a competitive advantage, then get busy upping your game.