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Published 09/16/10

I”m trying to figure out when marketing for businesses became a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have?  It”s obviously a common issue faced within the “local” design community- I use that in a loose “Canada wide” sense.  And really, it has to be a problem faced within all shops of our size.  A few reasons for this must be related to scale. i.e. we are not working with national brands located in major city centers therefore the clients budget is virtually non-existent.  I guess I”m just always trying to get into the heads of my potential clients to see where their thoughts on this topic are.

It”s so common for us to see a start-up come in through the doors and sit down with us and they literally have no expectations on what they want to spend.  No budget allocated-at all.  Not only do they not have a budget, but they haven”t even thought about what the cost of marketing their business could potentially cost.  It”s like they spend so much time and effort getting set up with products and locations and other crap – that they leave this part (the most crucial part) to the bitter end.  The bitter end. When the money”s all gone and the idea, product, brand itself  needs that money the most.

Could it be that we”re just getting these unprepared folk by luck of the draw?  I”m pretty sure we aren”t targeting “website development for free” in our keywords.  Do we present a “come see us – we”re cheap” brand when people arrive at our site?  I don”t think so – in fact I see the worry spread across peoples faces once they step foot in our office.  The creased brows, the beads of sweat on the upper lip, the nervous glances around the ultra modern office, which is a hub of loud music and a flurry of people in and out.  I know we don”t look cheap and I sense they feel that. I also know we don”t talk cheap (value and information wise – not dollar wise).  So where”s the disconnect between people wanting to part with their cold, hard cash?  Many of you reading this will stop right there and say well you elitist bitch! It”s obvs that you”re image is not relate-able enough to the GP. But I already know that”s not the case.  People love us. We”re all pretty normal, salt of the earth kind of people round here.  Not an issue.

What I do think is that people generally have a total and complete distrust for what it is that we do.  It”s the industry that they don”t buy into.  They don”t see the value, they don”t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They don”t even understand what “really good” marketing could potentially do for them.  I think that generally people are scared that they”re going to get burned by some technological hoo-doo voo-doo that likely they could find a basement dwelling, entry lev to complete for them.  It”s the age old adage of myfriendofafriendofafriend can do this for me – “they”ve got a Mac, therefore they must be a dee-zine-er” kind of logic.

Even worse are the ones that do buy into it, but only 50% of the way.  They”re the dangerous ones.  They pay the money, but then they think that just because they”ve paid – they should be given the right to- wait for it- have a majority say in how things should look and feel.  Design by client, our portfolios all suffer from this.  Why the client goes out and hires a marketing company, but then feels the overwhelming need to steer things back the way they originally had it is a whole other issue.  TheOatmeal.com illustrated it best with this post on how a web design goes straight to hell  http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell This has easily become a classic in every design shop”s backroom – for us it”s front and center.  We”ve even considered attaching it to our proposals and estimates.

I”ve been doing this long enough now that I don”t get frustrated anymore by the sticker-shock-dance that people do to avoid further contact and justify their tightfistedness. In fact it”s quite the opposite – I often find humor in people”s almost squeamish reaction to the numbers, which they”ve just received and almost always try and pretend to understand.  Trust us we have literally heard it all from – “It shouldn”t take as long as you”ve said – I just want something simple.”, to my personal favorite, “Oh well, what I”m asking for really isn”t that hard! Can”t you just copy what Facebook”s done for me?”.

Really?  Really? Do you go to the dentist and say that?  Like “Hey, Dr. Toothman.  My root canal should only take you about 15 minutes, so charge me accordingly.”  Well, I guess if you are doing that, then kudos to you for having an immensely high tolerance for pain, because I can pretty much guarantee that you ain”t getting any freezing in those gums, the extraction instrument is not sterile and the paper hanging in Dr. Toothman”s “official” looking frame was printed off the home computer.  What is it with people who pretend to know how long something will take when they”ve never walked a day in their shoes?  I know the thought of pulling a tooth seems quite simple.  In fact there are likely different ways of doing this too.  String to door handle rings a bell.  But that doesn”t mean just because there are other ways that they are the best way or for that matter that I”m going to start doing my own flipping dental work.

I guess what I”m trying to say in a round about way is that at some point, if you”re a business owner, you have to relinquish marketing control over to an expert if you”re ever going to get ahead. Spend the money folks.  Do it right the first time.  Don”t go out and ruin, tarnish and F*&% up your first crack at making an impression over a few thousand bucks.  Trust me – you”ll get it back three, five, ten fold if you do it properly. I mean what are you really saving?

Do you have any idea how many people we have saved from fall outs, fly by nights and one offs?  Hundreds.  Do you know how many people walk out the door with sticker shock, leaving to go out and find an entry-lev, who will take the project on because they”re ambitious, they”re starving and  they don”t understand scope and scalability? Thousands.  Yep. Thousands.  We sit and hear their stories everysingleday. From lawsuits to good money after bad, to even worse in my books – lost time.  Time is invaluable and if you cheap out that will be the biggest thing that you can”t ever get back.

So if you aren”t looking at growing your business, scalability of your marketing isn”t an issue that you intend on facing and you just generally have a love of spending more and more money on something that will never be successful- than have at “er folks!

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Posted in blog / Business Strategy / Website Design

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