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Wanted: Internet marketing professionals who get it!

In my day job, I consult with companies classified as SMBs (small and medium businesses) regarding their Internet marketing efforts. Many of these companies are a bit skittish these days regarding the adoption and implementation of Internet marketing. There are any number of reasons including the economy and lack of understanding of the Internet and its benefits. I think there is one reason that might actually be inadvertently perpetuated by the industry itself: being intimidated by the “hugeness” of Internet marketing.

My experience with Internet marketing providers has made it clear that we consultants are our own worst enemies when it comes to presenting our services to those less savvy in this discipline (read: almost all other businesses people). Imagine you are a marketer who has awareness of Internet marketing, knows you should be involved and even has stuck your toe in the water. It can be intimidating because there is so much to know and learn. So you go to an expert to help sort this out. My experience has been that the experts then bury the prospect in ALL the things they should be doing. Rarely is there consideration for the actual business needs of the clients. Sales people in SEO are notorious for this “baffle them with BS” approach to selling services. To sum up, this industry comes across as unprofessional more often than not.
There are two possible outcomes here. The first is that the prospects actually signs up. Often, these brand new customers are not certain what they’re getting and how they’re getting it. They can say, however, that they are doing it and no longer staying on the sidelines. The trouble is that several months into a yearlong engagement they might start to question the value. Even worse, they see results then wonder what their provider is doing now that the work is done. The second outcome is that they become so overwhelmed that they walk away because there is too much to digest and they suddenly develop excuses for maintaining the status quo in their marketing programs.
Why does this happen? I believe it’s because of the “all or nothing” presentation that the Internet marketing industry presents to the world. We like to talk about how a company HAS to do search engine optimization and ALL the elements that make that area a success while concurrently doing paid search and managing ALL the elements that make that a success. Those are the easiest ones. Then we pile on how the client HAS to do a blog and get involved in social media projects. No wonder these folks are skittish. You are taking them from driving a 15-year-old Honda (their current marketing efforts) to putting at the helm of the space shuttle (all the Internet has to offer to marketers).
The solution? Well, I don’t want to sound crazy here, but we need to actually listen to where the client is and then make the appropriate recommendations for services that fit their needs and available resources (time, people and money). The industry has to stop stuffing everything down the throat of these people. We actually need to consult with them and prepare a roadmap of Internet marketing success. We must help them to understand that this can be staged, and that there are areas of Internet marketing that they might not even need to do! What I just said is considered heresy in Internet marketing circles, because part of the “secret sauce” mentality is that because it is so big and daunting you can never do it yourself Mr. SMB. You need us. Well, my take is that the first thing the SMB needs is a comprehensive picture and roadmap of options from which to then decide what is next–strategically and not impulsively.
I actually agree that the SMB needs professionals in Internet marketing. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t. However, what they need are professionals who listen. They need professionals who understand business and professionals who are wise enough to know that biting off more than you can chew often leaves you feeling sick. As a professional in the internet marketing industry are you there to baffle them with BS or guide them to success? Your success and your client’s success will ultimately be determined by how you answer that question.

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