Okay, I’m just going to come right out and say it: Marketing is actually not that complicated.
You don’t need an MBA. You don’t need Don Draper. You don’t need a slogan approved by focus groups. And you don’t need to shell out 15 grand a month — every month — for experts in some faraway office to keep promising you the success you’re looking for.
We’ve all swallowed this idea that marketing is beyond the reach of non-marketers. If we’re not in the know, if we didn’t study marketing in college, say, then we’d better find someone who did so they can help us grow our business.
I’ve seen hundreds of small businesses prove that you don’t need marketing agencies to market your business.
In fact, it's just the opposite.
Agencies hold you back. They’re too slow, too expensive, and too out of touch. The very business model they use is the very thing that makes them bad at marketing.
Marketers bad at marketing? Yeah, I know. We’re going there. Buckle up.
Your business wants to grow its brand, build its digital footprint, and start driving hordes of traffic to its website. So, you talk to a few inbound marketing agencies. Or, let's be more precise: You talk to the sales teams at a few inbound marketing agencies.
Those sales reps drag out the same old threadbare pitch: Just trust us. We know marketing. We’ll write some blog content, film some videos, build some landing pages, and — here we go — the traffic, leads, and sales will start rolling in.
That’s it. That’s the pitch: Traffic, leads, and sales. Traffic, leads, and sales. Fill the top of the funnel and more sales will come out the bottom.
Sounds great, you say. You sign up and write a check and get ready for those traffic, leads, and sales to start rolling in.
Then comes client onboarding.
You write another check.
They do research.
You write another check.
They audit your site and write a few articles.
You write another check.
You’re not quite sure that the articles sound like your brand. You’re not sure they’re really authentic.
You write another check and you keep trusting the process.
The months go by and you see a boost in traffic, but the leads are garbage. Few, if any, turn into customers.
You write another check.
After a year or so you’re frustrated and ready to call it quits.
Damn, you think. I must have picked the wrong agency.
So, you pick another agency and try again. This time, you’re sure it’ll be different.
But the problem is not the agency you chose. The problem is agencies in general. The first step to marketing success is ditching the agency and doing it yourself.
'Wait, are you telling me I can do it better myself?'
If the above story rang true for you, think about it: How much did you spend per month on your last digital marketing agency? How much return did you get on that money you gave them?
(I know the term is ROI, or return on investment — but if you’re spending and not getting anything back, I wouldn't exactly call that an investment, would you?)
Imagine you saved that money (or better yet, used it to hire an in-house writer). Then, you could have produced content yourselves. No agency-outsourced freelancers, no limited number of revisions, no inauthentic, fluffy, generic content. No agency bullshit.
More of the things you want: good, authentic content. Less of the things you don’t: costly agency bureaucracy.
'But I don’t know anything about marketing or getting found in Google'
That’s okay. You really don’t need to know much to get started. Read up on a few fundamentals.
SEO is pretty simple. It’s a few best practices and a lot of common sense. Until you start talking about technical SEO (schema, sitemaps, etc.), it’s nothing you can’t handle.
'But I don’t know what to write about!'
Yes, you do.
Think about it this way: Marketing is just sales on a larger scale.
You’ve got years of data stored in the brains of your team. All those questions your sales reps get asked by prospects. All those comments you heard at tradeshows and events. All those tickets your service team collects.
All you need to do is take the expertise from inside your company and share it with the world.
Everything you’ve ever heard from prospects, leads, and customers is fair game. Chances are, if Customer A asked about it, so would Customer B, Customer C, and so on. All the way to Customer ZZZ.
As a matter of fact, those future customers could be typing that very question into Google at this very instant.
They’re looking for an answer. If you can be the one who provides it, they’re suddenly on your website. And you’ve just checked off the hardest thing about marketing: You got them to your site.
And you said you weren’t an expert.
Marketing may be simple, but it’s not easy
Part of the reason so many millions of businesses out there try to outsource their growth to agencies is this: The work of marketing is not easy.
That’s the real difference between the company that wins and the company that doesn't.
You can’t just post one answer to one question. You need 50 answers. Then you need 150. You need to crank out thorough, unbiased answers to every question your sales team hears, every concern or misgiving a prospect has shared.
You already have the answers. You just need to commit to sharing them candidly with your audience.
This is marketing, simplified. And you can do it. Cut the agency loose and start winning on your own. Marketing is not nearly as hard as it’s been made out to be.
But remember, marketing is not a parachute
With all this said, I want to be clear that I’ve made a couple of assumptions. In order for what I’ve said to work, a few things have to be true about your organization.
So, before you cut that agency loose and choose this different path to prosperity, remember:
Marketing — even the best marketing — can’t save a shitty business. Marketing is not a parachute that will save you as you’re plummeting to your death. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you’ve already got a decent business, happy customers, strong company culture, and a good product or service.
If you do, you’re sitting on a gold mine. Or, a better analogy, you’re in a rocket ship ready to take off. When you take control of your marketing, you’re ready to start the countdown to ignition.
Your customers already ask a lot of questions. Unless you’re selling chewing gum, your customers are going to do research before they make a purchase. You’re hearing some of their questions in the sales process, but there are hundreds more that occur before they ever reach out to your team. To market what you sell, you’ll need to obsess over these questions and commit to answering every one.
If you’re just trying to win on price, you’re not set up for long-term success. If you’re looking to be the cheapest option, this kind of marketing won’t work for you. Look, I know price matters. No matter what people are buying — whether it’s a vacuum cleaner or accounting services — they need to know about price.
It’s the first thing they’re going to ask about. But if your product stands out just because it is the cheapest, your customers are less apt to dig into other details about your process and your people.
You’re willing to commit to customer education. The reason marketing has had a bad rap for so long is because no one trusts it. The kind of marketing I’m talking about is fueled by trust. It’s honest, unbiased, and customer-focused.
Remember, answering customer questions isn’t just about answering the ones that are easy. You’re going to get questions about your competitors, about the shortcomings of what you sell, about the best alternatives. You’ll need to answer those, too.
Customer education is the new marketing
The word “marketing” still feels a bit slimy from decades of glib wordplay and insincere pitches. Don’t even think about it as marketing. Just call it “customer education.”
Provide the answers to your customer's questions and you’ll do something those agencies never could: You’ll build trust, grow your following, and shorten your sales cycle.