Let's get one thing straight: much as we like to play God, Internet marketers are not the omnipotent beings some people think we are. The Earthly truth is that we're just some really driven people with a lot of knowledge about working the web to your advantage. And most would agree that this knowledge, when put into action, is worth a few bucks. Of course, it's easier to continue believing in the omnipotent marketer. As in, if you pay someone enough money to market your business for you, then that person is accountable for your business' failure to turn a profit, right?

Okey dokey.

Back to Earth now.

If the Internet has made you a believer, I commend your optimism. If your faith has blinded you to the fact that there are no absolutes in marketing--and just a handful of foreseeable truths--your wake up call is coming. Because no matter how irritatingly detailed your web marketer's contract is, I'd bet the farm you harbor a pile of assumptions about what's included and what isn't. And the assumptions you make today, tomorrow and throughout the marketing process dramatically impact the results you've been praying for.

Let's blow up those assumptions then. The following reality check will keep you grounded, keep you sane, and ensure you get your money's worth:

Assumption: Web marketers can anticipate the precise combination of copy, design and functionality that will attract and covert the ideal customer to my website.

Reality: When you hire a web marketer you are hedging that he can make a better (read: more informed) guestimate than you can regarding what will motivate your target market to act. Besides, if we could anticipate such things do you really think we'd give out that information for the price you're getting?

Assumption: My website operates in a vacuous digital environment that will send me customers if I pay an Internet marketer enough money.

Reality: There are countless external forces--online and off--continuously acting on the environment in which you do business (e.g. interest rates, the housing market, consumer spending, search engine algorithms, what Paris Hilton is wearing, etc.). If marketers could control these forces, they probably wouldn't be working for you.

Assumption: If I'm ready to sign a contract and make a deposit, I'm ready to let the right consultant revamp my marketing strategy.

Reality: If trusting the instincts, experience and educated guesswork of a well recommended marketer causes more than a lunch hour's worth of teeth gnashing, you're not prepared to make good use of a consultant. Hire a technician to implement your ideas instead. It's cheaper and allows you total creative control.

Assumption: If sales don't increase within at least a month or two, my marketing consultant should figure out what he did wrong and fix it.

Reality: If at least 6 months pass, you've resisted the urge to change your strategy 37 times, and performance still falls short expectations, reflexively blaming the marketer is not sensible. Tweak the investment you've already made. Then test the results. Tweak again. Test again. There's a pattern here. And it works.

Assumption: We closed the project last month and conversions have soared. That web marketer I hired is brilliant.

Reality: Thanks for the accolades, but if you're pulling strong conversions out of the gates, you just won the web lottery. The other 99.99% of us mortals should put away our horseshoes, hunker down and do some audience awareness exercises (read: analytics, testing, research, and so on).

Assumption: My marketing consultant should work with me until I see satisfactory returns on the project cost, at no additional charge.

Reality: There are millions of websites on the Internet. If you want to be a superstar, prepare to pay for activities like testing, monitoring and maintenance. (Contrary to popular belief, us web beings need more than our computers and some stale air to survive.)

Assumption: I'm not a marketing expert, and that's why I'm paying someone else to market my website. Answering all these many questions about my target market, the history of my website, bla bla bla ad nauseaum is not the best use of my time.

Reality: The marketer you hire is a key player in the game but he's just one. Do not underestimate the impact of your input, where you started from, and those pesky external forces. No one knows your business better than you, and that's how it should be.

The bottom line is that web professionals do not hold all the cards. Yet many seem to think that a lucky few of us do. This not only sets you up for disappointment, but you're more apt to fall prey to unscrupulous marketers who would rather take your money than help you make some. At the end of the day, this is your mountain to climb. Are you up for it?
May 22, 2008

Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a virtual consulting firm providing business communications and Internet marketing services to the progressive entrepreneur. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit http://www.snap-va.com for more information. Click to follow Karri on Twitter.


Great post. Time to go back to that old time religion (2.0 style).

He's in IT, so he can fix my PC. Even if the poor bugger is just a graphic artist.

Misconceptions. It seems that anyone who is uncertain has a blind trust that anyone slightly related to a topic will just make it work. Truth is like a diesel mechanic is very different from your standard auto mechanic so to is every aspect of the internet. I just wish there was a way of instantly explaining this. But while you have the few jack-of-all-trade's out there many will continue to believe that one guy does it all - and efficiently.

Oh well... we plow on.

Clients who expect you to read their minds and know their business better than they aren't exclusive to the Internet Marketing realm. Some of my writing clients have been guilty of these same sins. Great article - and I feel slightly vindicated.

I think one of the best points you make is that clients expect internet marketers to give them results right away. Unfortunately, a lot of clients don't understand that a lot of marketing initiatives take time, and they basically assume they're being ripped off by the marketer. It can really make for an uncomfortable situation for all of the parties involved.

Great post--I really enjoyed reading it!

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