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Online marketing should never be a mystery for small business owners

mystery marketing

We met last week with a new client in Athens, Georgia, who has been struggling with website content and understanding how best to use her company’s social media accounts.

We talked initially about what she’s done in the past for marketing and then we described to her how we approach brand journalism and adding a storytelling component to her content to produce compelling and shareable articles and videos that she can use on social media to drive customers through her door.

When she was talking about her previous efforts at marketing, some of what she said really struck us.

Her story is typical of what we hear from clients. She paid a lot of money to have someone build her website. Then, she paid a lot more money to have someone else make her a new website. She has hired individuals and companies to produce content for her site, but those efforts only ever provided marginal results with large invoices.

She’s had companies quote her prices that were astounding to us – more than $20,000 to build a new website!

She’s had a lot of people offer to do this or that for her – from website content to social media management – and the prices quoted are beyond unreasonable. And then when she’s needed her vendors to be responsive to her, she’s been unable to get their attention … for months! These are people she’s already paid thousands of dollars to, and they won’t respond to her emails when she needs help.

She readily admitted to us that she doesn’t know much about websites, social media and online marketing.

Our clients usually fall into one of two categories:

  1. They don’t have any idea how to make their websites or social media drive customers through their doors, or
  2. They know how best to use these tools but they don’t have the time or skills to produce the content.

When we work with clients who fall into that first group – those who don’t know much about digital marketing or how or why it works – we’re always amazed that the people they’ve worked with in the past seem to have been okay with their clients not knowing.

For this particular small business owner, it seemed like the website and digital marketing companies she’s worked with in the past wanted the things they did for her to remain a mystery to her. It’s like they were doing top secret, classified work and she was not on the need to know list.

Part of what we want to do is give our clients a clear understanding of the why and how to what we do.

Often, when people are immersed in a particular industry’s culture, they develop a jargon that becomes inaccessible to people outside of that culture. If you find yourself talking to someone – especially a sales person – and they are talking around you or over your head because they are using terms that you do not understand, you should stop them and ask them to define those terms.

If, as a small business owner, you ever find yourself sitting across from a sales person and the terms they’re using make no sense to you or you don’t understand what they’re asking you to buy, we would encourage you to find another vendor. You should understand what you’re paying for.

We never expect a client to hire us because we know things they don’t know or because there’s some magic or secret to what we do that is inaccessible to them.

Sure, maybe the skills we have are not skills our clients have, and that’s why they hire us. But none of this is classified material. There’s a pretty clear strategy to how we approach digital marketing for our clients, and our clients should understand our strategy so that they can have informed expectations and be on our team as we produce their content.

So what are we going to do with the business owner we met with last week?

We scaled out the work she’s looking to have performed, and we’re making a proposal to her that will charge her exactly what we charge any other client for the work she needs us to do. We didn’t decide that we’d found someone who could be overcharged or upsold into things she doesn’t need. We’re not going to charge her for the website design work – we’re just going to do it. The thing was, in talking to her, we could sense her frustration. She very much felt like she’d been abused by some of these vendors who have charged her thousands of dollars for products and services that left her unsatisfied.

And, we suspect, after a couple of months of working with us and not being mystified by classified work that we don’t bother to explain to her, she’s probably going to tell some people she knows that they should hire us, too.

And we’ll feel good about treating them fairly as well.