Are you scared of Online Marketing?

photo by BGLewandowski 

A friend of mine – we’ll call him Dave to protect the innocent, recently met with a local Online Marketing company to learn more about how to get started with online marketing – specifically email marketing (sending online newsletters to contacts that you know).

It turned out to be a scary encounter…

I wasn’t at the meeting (which is why I’m not naming names), but I did get a pretty clear breakdown of the conversation.  I checked out the company’s website and unfortunately I’ve seen plenty of other examples like this one that fall into the same category – companies that take advantage of small business owners that don’t know any better and try to sell them expensive solutions that they don’t need.

They walked Dave through their proposed solution and quoted a price of a few thousand dollars for up front design and a per mailing cost of a couple hundred dollars.  This is for the creation of an HTML and Graphics newsletter template that would be emailed out on a regular basis.  Their hook was that using eye-catching graphics and a customized look and feel would drive a significant spike of prospective clients to Dave’s door.

They asked Dave what he thought of the proposal.

Dave’s honest answer was that he had no idea if that was worthwhile or not.  He didn’t know enough about the subject in general to have a valid opinion (although he suspected that it was an expensive answer).

So here’s the problem – or problems…

Dave is a smart guy.  Dave is a successful business man with a lot of varied experiences in the marketplace that he works in and is a trusted advisor to a lot of people.

Dave is smart enough to know that it’s important for the longer term success of his business to start doing more online and to take an active approach to Online Marketing.

However…Dave doesn’t know anything about how Online Marketing works, what the options are, how to get started or what is a legitimate value added solution for his problems.

So the first problem is that this Online Marketing company:

  • Didn’t ask Dave what he needed or why he needed it
  • Didn’t ask what his budget was
  • Didn’t understand that Dave needed educating before he could even think about buying
  • Didn’t offer any sort of choices on what was possible out in the marketplace

The purpose of selling, if you’re doing it right, is to solve a customer’s problem, which implies that you have to first understand where the customer is coming from and what their problem really is.  I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that this company was more interested in selling their ‘solution’ than they were in solving Dave’s issues.

The second problem

The second problem with this scenario is the overall questionable value of the solution – regardless of who the buyer is.  Their email marketing solution offers things like personalization, list segmentation, tracking, SPAM filters, avoiding blacklists, feedback loops and bounce management and custom design for the email template.

Now I’m all for paying good money for quality design work.  If Dave’s company was larger and was up against several high tech competitors, then it might make sense to make the investment just for the unique design piece of it.

If that’s what you’re trying to do, then it’s worth it to spend good money for good design.

However if your issue, like Dave, is that you need a cost effective solution that will allow you to send a quality email newsletter with some customization to your list of contacts that’s at most a couple of thousand people.  Then $2000 or $3000 for up front design just doesn’t make any sense (not to mention $100+ for each mailing).

As a comparison to the service above, I know another company that offers extensive list management, industry best compliance and blacklisting measures, detailed reporting and tracking including bounce management, and several ways to easily customize your website to support online sign-up and maintenance for your prospects.

On top of that, this company offers over 300+ high quality HTML templates that are easily customized and the opportunity to develop brand new design for less than $600 if you need one.

Oh…and the cost is $15/month for a list of 500 names or less for unlimited mailings – going up to $30/month for up to 2500 contacts.

Constant Contact is a service that I use and would personally recommend, especially for anyone that’s fairly new to email marketing, their support and help is very good.  (By the way, if you’re interested in signing up with them, let me know and I can refer you and get us both 2 months free!).  iContact is a similar service that I’ve heard very good things about and it’s even a little cheaper than Constant Contact.

These are mainstream providers that are designed for businesses like Dave and they offer lots of proven capabilities at a very reasonable cost.

So what do you do to avoid the scary players?

For starters, try to get a little educated.  The blessing and the curse of the Internet is that there is an abundance of information out there – if you want to learn something, more than likely with some time and effort you can.

Secondly (start shameless plug here) you should come and check out my workshop on August 21st – How to Market Online.  It’s going to be a 2 hour discussion on 5 straightforward strategies that small business owners can adopt with manageable costs that fit their budget and start marketing effectively online.

The good news is that this isn’t as hard as it might seem (or as difficult as some companies like to make it sound…)!

I’d love to hear some feedback on experiences with Online Marketing – share them here or with me.

Shawn Kinkade