Online Marketing is NOT a do-it-yourself thing, it’s not automatic and it’s not free

Online Marketing is NOT a do-it-yourself thing, it’s not automatic and it’s not free While a headline like “Online Marketing is NOT a do-it-yourself thing, it’s not automatic and it’s not free” seems to be carrying a little frustation on my part, I actually want the content of this post to be a service to companies starting to take their business online.

Despite the economy, I think launching a business idea is easier than ever. We have the opportunity to test them at a low cost, we can measure results faster than ever and we can fail and move on to the next idea easier than ever. At the same time, this does NOT mean we can just throw anything out there with the hopes it sticks. Competition is brutal and the consumer is more educated and more demanding than ever.

Another aspect I love to point out to my clients is the fact that today, thanks to the internet, we have awesome technology opportunities that are no longer reserved for big companies. Small business also have access to them. On the flip side, there is a “Free” culture out there that is very easily confused by these small companies, as guerilla-style entrepreneurs with very limited budgets sometimes we tend to take on this kind of tools or services that are not necessarily the best option if we intend to… gee, I don’t know, HAVE A RETURN ON INVESTMENT!

Let me illustrate, a couple of months ago while talking to a client on the phone, she mentioned that she was going crazy looking for a good image for a post. I said “why don’t you just buy one on iStock?”, she immediately responded “oh no… they charge you, right?”, she didn’t even considered the possibility. They’re like one dollar and you have been looking for an hour!

OK, it’s a little extreme but you get the point.

Online Marketing includes too many things for an entrepreneur to become an expert on it or to try to get away with “free”, we’re talking blogging, content and email marketing, social media, sales and so on. These things require of copywriting, design, development, technology, usability, lots of time. Don’t be confused, the WordPress software is free, so is MailChimp, Twitter, Facebook, even CRM’s and Customer Service platforms offer free accounts. That doesn’t mean it’s free or you can do it all on your own.

I’ve had conversations with people that say things like “I don’t wanna mess with Twitter so, can we just have the blog automatically post to it?”. In fact, you can do more, you can automatically post from your blog to Hootsuite, that will post to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin AND… to, which will do the rest of the “dirty” work for you and take the message to the rest of the networks. It’s effortless!

Let me ask you this: do you know why I have never met any of my clients on Linkedin? because I never go there!

The problem is that businesses, specially small ones, spend time establishing an online presence that doesn’t return anything but frustration. We see these individuals that have built amazing personal brands online, making a killing and spreading their influence like there’s no tomorrow, becoming leaders in their industries, turning themselves into internet celebrities. They all have 3 things in common, they have a business mind, they work hard and they have invested money to achieve those goals. This is when the old saying “no man is an island” fits like a glove, these people have surrounded themselves with good designers, programmers, maybe even copywriters and coaches.

Social Networking Is Free, Social Media Isn't

This of course doesn’t mean that every single aspect is outsourced, online marketing and more specifically social media also requires a commitment on your side. There are things that I always advice people not to outsource like content creation or front-end interaction. Not only you know your business better than anybody else but you also need to be able to interact with the consumer directly.

In the social media world everybody says “have a strategy”. When you are writing that strategy, focus on the business objectives and ask yourself what needs to be done in order to achieve them. If that strategy includes having landing pages for different products for example, list everything you need for that, it can be copy, design, programming or some PR. Calculate the cost of launching each product, the same way you would consider how much it will cost you to run an ad on a magazine.

I’ll leave you with this question: If you are conducting some kind of online marketing right now, are you getting the ROI you expected? Are you able to measure that ROI? (OK, that’s two questions…).

Why Am I Saying All This?

Glad you ask, the reason is that I see how easy it is to go online and consume all this FREE and Do-It-Yourself Hype about the internet and get confused. I want you to be conscious about what it takes and don’t buy into the “If I was able to do it, you can too!” bullshit we see everyday.

Share Your Thoughts…

Are you planning your online marketing strategy? Are you currently doing business online? or why not, are you killing it online? What are you doing? Share your thoughts in the comments section…

Happy marketing!

Photo Credit: tonx

  • BAM!! Well said bro..

    You see it everyday – this notion that you can build a business quickly, easily, using some type of system, no advertising, sit back and relax and automate everything.. it's SAD..

    the other day I saw someone asking where she could find a Free autoresponder service that was reliable.. – I was gonna recommend aweber but I could already see the response – “Aweber's not Free..”

    Thanks for sharing this with us.. it should wake some people up :0)


  • I agree with Hector, very well said. I wish more people would realize this. I should start a campaign pointing all clients looking for free and easy ways to market their sites to this post

  • AND… not to mention SEO!

  • Hey Hector, you right, email platforms are the perfect example, some people expect them to also be free.

    Thanks for your comment man.

  • Of course, what really makes me crazy is when I find myself doing the things that I get all over my clients for doing.

  • JFA

    Let me say it, fantastic post. It's full of common sense and states clearly the current situation for many entrepreneurs.

    All the best Francisco!

  • I like tha attitude in this Francisco,,lol Kinda like a slap in the face wake up call.

    lol nothing is FREE anymore. This applies to when “GURUS” say I make $20,000 a month,,, but what is not said is the $15,000 in Adwords cost it took to get the 20.

    To have real success with a business online it takes a HUGE amount of time and energy, now that either comes from you or you outsource. and the very successful business outsource almost everything they do.

    You can build a decent lil biz online, working yourself and using free tools, but to get to that “quit your job” success you will need to spend money.

    Building a biz is like building a blog,, it will not happen over night, it will not be easy, and will take YOU to BE THERE and ENGAGE.

  • Hey John, I love how you set expectations straight, the AdWords investment is a great example. The truth is that it should be treated as a regular “real world” business.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Good points! It takes an investment of time and money to make marketing work, no matter what media you're using.

  • Tom02

    I am about mid way climbing up the learning curve for my business which will be launched soon. One of the complaints I have about the many Internet business advice blogs is that they use terminology understandable to a select few. It's like they are writing for each other. You guys need to remember that we newbies, who often buy your services, must write in clear English and not the jargon of your trade.

  • That is a great point, experts write for other experts all the time, forgetting their audiences. It's all ego. If you see me do that, please point it out.

  • niya

    As I was doing the dishes yesterday (it does happen) I found myself laughing out loud at the fact that to be successful these days you need votes. For example there are talent broker sites that will only sell the work with the most 'likes' to their clients. You have to rally your friends to like what ever it is you created to survive and feed your dependents. Talk about being back in the horror of the fifth grade popularity contests all over again. Better to just cut out and get stoned with your friends. Or in my case run (track) it out.
    My point is…I LOVE this post because what is being said here galvanizes the invisible and makes it human. Just because we can't see what's happening to make businesses successful (hiring online pr folks, publicists, coding expertise, global marketing firms for example) doesn't mean it isn't what makes all the difference. On the surface it looks like the business has some special genius (charisma) when in fact, it has volume, quantity of marketing touch points who are paid to make it so.

    Thank you for this Francisco – you rock!

    And it's timely as I'm considering running some seminars to help people make their books and self publish. I'm teetering upon the decision to do it online…not sure how much time, effort and money it will take and if it's worth it. So thanks again.

  • I think a big problem with the free misconception is that people assume free platform means free period. It doesn't. You have to invest A LOT of time in social media to make it work, and like it or not time is money.

    Either you do the social media legwork yourself and don't get paid for it or you hire someone to do it for you. Either way, it does cost you money.

    Can it leads to clients and making money? Absolutely! Is it worth it? Absolutely! Is it free? Absolutely not!

  • If business owners would get really organized and start thinking of their time in terms of dollars, they would see quickly that launching a business and using “free” online marketing tools is still an investment of money. Your time = your money.

    I know how to get almost anything free online but there are times when it just makes more sense to invest in a tool that saves me time (like istock; a precious, precious site). Time is too valuable to waste.

  • Indeed, many people grossly undervalue the value of blog writing. Blog writing, though, is hard work!

  • great article indeed. Most companies do get online with no idea of how to measure their ROI, just hoping things to work out themselves. No strategy, no planning, whether you're a big company or an amateur does not matter.

    They have high expectation and forget that this works just like in the real world, with losses and benefits, hard work, highes and lows.

    Some weeks ago I had a word with the online marketing manager of one of the biggest banks in Spain (one of the biggest all over and more specifically the basque country…) and according to him and some figures he showed me (-90% roi, absurd cost per sale for products…) they just ignore the ROI perspective, pouring loads of money on online campaigns producing no benefits at all and just some branding as a side-effect…

    If this is the most common mentality amongst big corporation (I'm speaking for Spain of course, luckily enough things are quite different elsewhere…) no wonder everyone tries to jump on the internet bandwagon with the DIY kind of attitude hoping thing will work out at some point.

    just because here is 100% measurable (costs, benefits, etc.etc) people assume it's all about clicking here and there and it will work. as someone already sad in the comments, yes it is pretty sad.

  • This is all very interesting. I only understand about half of what people are trying to teach me. I know that I still have along way to go but, with helpful sites like yours, I will get the hang of it. Great post.

  • seotarunguleria

    online marketing solutions provider and associate network

  • Hootsuite is nice and i have seen many marketers using it to post automatic on twitter…you can customize it with wording or time interval.
    Blogging, content and email marketing and social media are free ways to promote your business, but at same time, you need to be expert in using these media of adverting, because anything more than normal limit is considered spam….

  • Great post, thank you. I woke up one day realizing that while I was using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, I didn't have a goal, a plan, a strategy, all the things I coach my clients to have! I was just having fun, playing, interacting with people, and while it was free, it was taking up valuable time that might have been better spent if I knew why I was doing this. You're right, a strategy with business objectives would help!

  • I agree with that. Nothing is free in life. You have to work very hard for everything that you get. The best part about the internet is that it is much easier and it does cost less than it use to, to do business. We can grow our business without leaving or homes and offices. I can search for information that will help my business with just a push of the buttons. I love the way it is now.

  • Darcy

    Thanks for the reminder. While we are just starting out it seems that we have spent so much money on courses which made us reluctant to spend money on tools. It is an eye opener for us newbies, all the training in the world is useless if you dont spend the money to implement what you are being taught because of a few lousy bucks! =-)

  • I agree completely. There is nothing that is free. You pay for everything with time or money. I hope that alot of people will read your site and know that what you say if for their own good. I hope that you continue to share this valuable information.

  • Nothing is free nowadays, when you thought you get a free template for a site, think again, look at the footer, your not allowed to remove the link. Stock photos, well free yes but not for commercial use. Nothing is really free and if you do have a business, don't you think it looks good to see from example or

    Love your article, nobody realizes the value of online marketing until they read articles that clearly spells it out like you do.


  • I said “why don’t you just buy one on iStock?

  • I actually want the content of this post to be a service to companies starting to take their business online.

  • Michael Bian

    This is how social media activities affect Online Marketing.

  • Love your article