Something For Nothing

Getting Something For...


Guide to Hiring an Effective Digital Marketing Company

Something For Nothing

Something for nothing… That’s actually a great song from Rush, but when I got inspired to write this article, it was to the beat of the Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing,” for some reason… Even stranger is that the graphic I used reminds me of a Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart song that is completely unrelated. Anyway, this article this isn’t about music… Instead it’s about choices. More specifically, it’s about customers choosing a digital marketing company to work with, and us choosing our customers.

Many years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, I would sometimes do everything I could to get every customer I could, and would sometimes fall over backwards just to please them. In fact, in 1994, I once worked for a customer, doing graphic design and making business cards, in exchange for free nuts at his shop. Yes, you heard me right. I actually traded graphic design and printing services for peanuts.

By the time I moved to the Bay Area, just a few short years later, I learned that running a race to the bottom doesn’t help me, won’t help my company grow, and it certainly does not help my customers. Instead, a fair price for service means the price based on the effort and experience put into that service. As the quality of my work improved, so did my prices increase, and my customer base grow.

When it came to digital marketing, I would sometimes be greeted by someone who swore websites were “a fad” and that they only wanted a website because they “heard friends were able to get some business by being on Yahoo.” They swore websites were a complete waste of time, they didn’t “really need one” and that their business was mainly “word of mouth,” or via traditional marketing (flyers, etc). This was back in 1997. To me, that seems like yesterday, but for some reading this, it might seem like, well, decades ago.

The sad part is, it was yesterday. In fact, I heard the same song and dance yesterday, that I would hear back in the 1990’s. I hear people who start off a negotiation process by dismissing what I do, saying how unimportant the internet is, how they already got quotes from lots of other companies, that they don’t care about online marketing, nor need SEO, nor believe web design is worthy of their money… It always comes with a “but…” though. Their statements always proceed with a “But, I need to update my website anyway, so you are lucky enough to be considered for the project.” Here’s the thing, on occasion, I do negotiate depending on the project. Sometimes I negotiate for the customer.

For example, shortly after moving to New Hampshire in 2015, I spoke with one small business that had a one page website from the 1990’s and they wanted it updated because they knew websites were important to keeping their business going. Other companies had quoted $5,000 for a new website and they were ready to choose one because they knew they needed an updated mobile-friendly website. I told them my standard price, but quoted them about half of what I would normally charge, and far less than their other quotes. The owner said to me, “my other quotes are way higher than that, are you going to do a good website for that rate; we're willing to pay more to get a good website.”

I explained to them, since they had very little content, and were asking for so little, it was only going to take a certain amount of time, and anything above that rate would be overcharging them. The owner pressed further, and said they were willing to pay more to get a good product. In this case, I almost argued with the customer to pay me thousands less. I explained that it was more than enough, and that I would create a quality website for the amount quoted.

They had no content, I had to extrapolate as much content from speaking with them as possible, so that I could create a website with some substance to help their website actually be a return on investment. I finished their website and they were happy with it. They paid for some additional services, and as of August, 2019, they are still my customers. In fact, if you are considering using our services, I can actually refer you to speak with this company to confirm my story. We have much larger companies we work with, but we treat them just as good as we did when we started working with them all those years ago.

This is just one example. I don’t want to actually share backroom negotiation deals on an article promoting the value of paying for our services, but it’s to shine a light on reasonable negotiations, and unreasonable ones. Another example of a reasonable negotiation involves a large international wholesaler, whom we had already been working with for a year doing their SEO. They paid us to create a new shopping cart website. They were going to do all the work of moving the products over, and wanted to negotiate the rate of us creating the website, with them finishing it. So, we worked out a reasonable deal.

These were examples of reasonable negotiations. Unreasonable negotiations start off much more negatively. It starts off almost like the DENNIS System (for those of you who are fans of the show, "It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia" aka IASIP). People start off by insulting our industry, saying how our services are almost useless, but they will hire us anyway. They want us to depend on them, and be desperate to get their business, and do an almost unlimited amount of work for as little money as possible. These type of people are often the ones who want to pay the least amount of money, but expect the most work to be done for them. 

One example of this is a company that told us about the millions of dollars they spent remodeling their business, but felt a few thousand dollars to create a virtual tour was too high. So, they wanted us to spend a good portion of 1-2 days photographing their business (based on the size, it would take 2 days), and then spend a few days post processing the work to create the tour. So, ultimately, we would spend about week or so on their project, and they expected the cost to be under a thousand dollars. We passed on that, thank you.

Ultimately, what these types of negotiators really need is a 30+ year old person who lives in their parent's basement and uses the world "adulting" when they use a washer and dryer... The kind of person that thinks being at the same job for a year is a big accomplishment. They will get what they pay for. They won’t get a return on their investment, but at least they will pay less for services that they don't even value in the first place.

As a marketing professional, I don’t understand this way of thinking. Personally, I won’t spend $20 for marketing if I’m not going to get a return on my investment, even if it is only $20. Marketing that isn't a return on investment is a complete waste. I will spend $2,000 if I will get a return on the money spent. That's because I understand marketing, and the value of these services.

Many companies don’t understand digital marketing, and worse, don’t see the value because they move from various cheap web designers or digital marketing companies, never getting a return on their investment, and always looking for the next cheap web designer or so called “SEO expert,” to work with to fix mistakes the first one created. The funny thing is, in every case where someone negotiates like this, they tell us that the other company is out of business, or did such horrible work.

It's no wonder people like this don't value these services; they never actually use legitimate digital marketing companies, and their website does not provide a return on investment because of their own short sightedness and desire to get something, for nothing. I wish I could have a page dedicated to showing the work of all these companies that have tried negotiating with us. Nine times out of ten, their websites are terrible, are setup wrong, and are in fact hurting their branding, and their business... But, oh well, they don't need digital marketing. Right?

This article is not just to say “you get what you pay for,” though, that’s a very accurate statement. It’s not to spend time gloating about how great we treat our customers, nor about how you should never expect to negotiate when discussing projects. Instead, this is to warn potential customers that you should think about your goals, before thinking about spending money with any other digital marketing company. Do you pay for advertising for no reason? Or, do you pay with the expectation that advertising will help generate business for you? If you get a website, what’s the purpose to have one “just because,” if you’re not going to focus on actually using it to grow your business?

If you are considering hiring us to work on your digital marketing, website design, or doing SEO for your company, do so because you understand the need to grow your business with a professional that knows what they are doing. We don’t want your business for a few months. That's a waste of your time and ours. Our intent is to remain the company you trust and use for years. Most of our clients have been with us for years, and stay with us because they know, that we know what we’re doing. We don’t design a website “just because.” We design a website to help you get more customers. Our focus is always on ROI. We don’t offer search engine optimization for fun; but rather, because SEO is the best way to grow your business.

I can assure those of you who made it this far, that you won’t get something for nothing (or Money for nothing for Dire Straits fans). We are IASIP fans, so the DENNIS system does not work on us. What does work, is reasonable negotiations and an even exchange of respect to all parties involved. You will find we are reasonable, and offer much better rates than many of our competitors. At the same time, we are not desperate for business, so that should tell you something about how effective our marketing services actually are. We have a wide range of clients, including small mom and pop businesses, and large international companies, and all of them find our rates reasonable, and our services better than they expected.

If this article made sense to you, please, contact us so we can work with you on your project. Otherwise, hit the road Jack… (Sorry, those of us in our mid-40s or older now will have that song stuck in our heads the rest of the day).


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Make it Active, LLC is a full service Marketing Agency located in Dover, NH, just minutes from Portsmouth.

We offer digital marketing services, including SEO, Website Design, Marketing, and graphic design.

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