DIY Online-Marketing

The reality of do-it-yourself online-marketing

Online-Marketing is THE shit, nowadays. Especially, for everybody and his brother and you, handsome business owner.

Not a month goes by without an agency reaching out to me, trying to convince me to give them money, so they can bring in customers by the cart load.

Why do online-marketing myself?

I have a small service business. We are three people at the time of this writing. Marketing is a tough field, so shouldn’t it be obvious to hire an agency that does it for you?

Here are my three reasons why I think it was better for us to do it ourselves:

  1. An external service provider usually wants to get paid. As a small company you have to watch every penny that wants to go out the door. So, paying someone the equivalent of a salary to find customers doesn’t make sense, when you have available time left because there are not enough customer to serve yet.
  2. Hiring an agency is a gamble. No one promises you that they find enough customers to offset the invoice that they write. Nor can most of the ones I met point to 10 projects where this has been the case. (I offered all of them to work on a very high commission for new business. 😉 So far everyone refused… 🤷‍♂️)
  3. You have to build up the skill within your company, eventually. If you don’t, you will never find your authentic voice in the market. No outsider has your style, tone, humor, standards and so on. So, as long as your marketing material is done externally, there will always be a disconnect between what you promise (= marketing material) and what you deliver (= you).

Expectations from online-marketing for a service business

My first round started when I bought a little language school for children. There hasn’t been anything done online by the former owner. So, I put up a website, was really confused what the difference between a post and a page was and tried to make it as cool as the professionally done websites. Of course, I failed.

The lessons from the beginnings in online-marketing

Lesson #1: It takes time to rank! The expectation was that I put up a website and within a week I should have the first visitors on the homepage. Of course, I ranked for the company name after a week, but not for anything a potential customer would search for.

Lesson #2: Conversion is the toughest game of all! After I tried everything on social media I could think of and my google ranking improved, we did get visitors on our website. (At the beginning it was mostly bots, I should later learn…) Getting a visitor to hit that contact button proved rather impossible. It took me about a year to figure out how to do that correctly.

Lesson #3: Google is not the main reason for success! And it’s better this way. We tried putting out flyers and leaflets for example. Real old school stuff, I know. But it worked predictably. Put out a thousand flyers and gain a new customer was my mantra back in the days. (I know this isn’t true for every business…) The other strong marketing tool I discovered was our actual service. I’d guess about 30%-50% of new customers were referred to us by existing or former students.

My current struggles in online-marketing

I moved on since I had the language school. It was a hell of an experience in the good and bad sense. Today, I run a bookkeeping service. I know, quite a drift but that’s another post. Online-Marketing has changed a somewhat. Still there universal lessons that probably help me in the future.

Lesson #4: Consistency rules! Actually, this is what I struggle with the most at the moment. However, it is absolutely necessary to be consistent! Every search or social algorithm ever written favors novelty and mass to some degree. So, you have to dedicate resources to constantly produce, otherwise you will fall behind. The sooner, you (or I for that matter) wrap your head around this, the sooner you will reach new levels of success.

Lesson #5: Google is still not the main reason for success! Even for the new business we found a way to reliably find new customers faster than through our website. It took us a year to find it, but it was worth it. This fact tells me, that strategically I will always try to find ways to generate business where I am not at the mercy of some company with an algorithm. (Mind you, that is my experience and I know you can be rich following the algo of youtube…)

DIY-online-marketing in a nutshell

Sure, there have been more lessons in my development, but these are the big ones.

If I were forced to bring it into a single sentence it would look something like this:

Online-marketing is an affordable and accessible marketing channel that needs a long-term commitment and a learning curve of two or three years before things click into gear.

I hope the post has helped you. If you want to continue reading, I can recommend that you deal with “What makes marketing successful?”.

If you want to have something more specific on the subject of new customer acquisition, then take a look at our article “How can I promote my small business – The 2 first principles you should never ignore”.

If you want to change the subject, then I recommend “Strategy”. In my opinion, this is the most underestimated and at the same time relevant part in many small businesses. I’m actually a little proud of the article “How do you write a small business strategy?“. (Yes, I know, pride goeth before destruction…)

If you want something for entertainment, try „You should read shit“. 😉

Stay focused, lean and keen, and always remember: “There’s more to life than just work.”


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