The Five and a Half Ways Business Owners Tackle Digital Marketing

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The phone rings and you think, Oh that could be a potential customer. But then the canned message says they are from Google and you need to fix your local listing. Ugh.

As a business owner, I get these fake phone calls several times a week. And they are getting trickier by using local numbers. I used to be able to just ignore the out-of-state phone numbers.

And then there are the emails. The one I got recently started off like this, “Hello, my name is John and I am a website marketing expert. I came across your site and I would like to know if you are looking to convert more sales from the web?” Again – more scammers.

I’m concerned business owners get these calls and throw all digital marketers in the same pile. Most business owners don’t know how to winnow the good from the bad. They are experts in their own fields – whether it’s installing HVAC, pouring a driveway, or providing accounting services – but don’t know much about digital marketing.

Through 15 years of running a digital marketing agency here are some things I’ve observed about business owners regarding digital marketing:

Business owners go with an inexpensive company because it’s low risk

A business owner will choose to spend $200-300 a month because it’s a small risk and they can afford to take a small hit, even if it doesn’t really work. They feel that at least they are doing something.

They want a quick, easy fix. They underestimate the amount of work it will take to get to the top of the search engines. They don’t realize that these people are taking up a lot of their time and $300 a month really adds up after a while.

I did a website for a retail store that hired an online directory company to do their social networking. They were paying $300 a month for a directory listing and for them to do Facebook posts several times a week. Two problems arose. One, this company didn’t do any posts for eight months even though they were charging my client’s credit card every month. Two, once this was pointed out they started doing posts about products they didn’t even sell. Plus, they didn’t offer any refund for the eight months they didn’t do anything.

Business owners respond to getting their ears tickled

There are some really good salespeople out there and they convince business owners with mumbo jumbo and claim to have a secret sauce for getting better results. Some owners will even jump to these charlatans from their current marketing vendor even if their current results are good.

I had a law firm client in a very competitive category move to another marketing company because they offered their services at only $800 per month. Their competition had been doing online marketing for a decade so they were way behind. They needed a ton of new content and incoming links, and one cannot do that for $800 a month. Their competitors are probably spending 10 times that per month on digital marketing.

They do the digital marketing in-house

I’ve run into this several times over the last couple of years. They’ll have one of their office folks do their SEO and paid search. It can be good to have someone do social media who is internal if they know what they’re doing. However, the SEO and paid search can result in a lot of lost time and money spent on marketing that’s ineffective.

From a financial perspective, you can get more bang for your buck by using an outside agency rather than using an internal person. For example, let’s say you are paying someone $3,000 a month and half of their time is spent on digital marketing. That’s $1,500 per month being spent on digital marketing. You can get a decent amount of work done by an agency each month, and there will likely be 2-3 experts working on your account.

They don’t use digital marketing at all

Some business owners are so old school they don’t have a smartphone, they do their accounting on paper, and they shy away from digital marketing. They use marketing tactics from 10 or 20 years ago because they worked 10 or 20 years ago. They put their marketing dollars into many other things that aren’t likely to work.

I pitched a remodeling company on different occasions but each time they didn’t have the budget. The owner once had just committed to spending $3,000 for a magazine ad. The owner was starry-eyed from a woman coming in with a tight skirt and a low-cut blouse — he was a goner. I look horrible in tight skirts.

They use a company they trust even if they don’t know what they’re doing

Some business owners choose to do their digital marketing that seems like it’s close, like a web designer or computer networking company. A company may do their computer network support so they think since it’s in the computer realm then they must know something about SEO.

The problem is their expertise is in other areas and often they just have a cursory knowledge of digital marketing. They don’t eat and breathe digital marketing. And they can make matters worse with the things they do. A legitimate digital marketer will likely have to clean up the mess these other companies leave behind.

They hire a good digital marketing company that gets them the leads they need at a reasonable cost

Not all business owners make bad decisions about their digital marketing. There are plenty of them that realize they can’t do it themselves and rely on good companies to do the right things and they get a good amount of leads at a fair price. I applaud those companies.


Lee is a business owner I met at a gathering who received a proposal from a digital marketing agency. I told him I’d be happy to look it over since he was the friend of a friend. The company offered its marketing at $750-1,750 per month in a non-competitive industry. The proposal focused on setting up digital marketing correctly (a good thing) but was completely missing the boat regarding content marketing and link building. After two months this company would be doing nothing besides sending reports each month.

Before thinking about digital marketing agencies you should nail down these things:

  • What is the lifetime value of a new customer?
  • How can digital marketing help me keep my current customers?
  • How well is my website currently performing?
  • Can I afford to spend more on my marketing to get more results?

If you’re already outsourcing your digital marketing, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you getting a good return on your investment?
  • Is my agency tracking the source of your leads?
  • Do I know how much these leads are costing me?
  • Do I need to increase my monthly investment to get the number of leads that I want?

If you’re not outsourcing your digital marketing, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are you doing now to get leads through search engines, social media, and email marketing?
  • What is my competition doing with their search engine marketing?
  • Whom do I know who is successfully using digital marketing?
  • What are some marketing tactics that I can halt to put toward digital marketing?

Quick tip for finding a good digital marketing agency

If you need to get a digital marketing agency, a good place to start is with your peers or friends who are doing well with their online marketing. They will likely tell you who they are using or at least who to stay away from. And once you talk with an agency, find out exactly what that company will be doing on a regular basis and what kind of results you should expect.

  • They will charge a reasonable amount of money for your industry: be aware that this might be $500 or $5,000 per month.
  • They will provide documentation of the quality leads that have come in as a result of their work
  • They will give you comprehensive reporting that is understandable to you
  • They will do the actual work and rely on you solely for feedback and suggestions: you are busy running your busy so you should be actually doing tweets or writing content.


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