In Marketing, the Internet Is Not the Universe

Article by C.J. Hayden“I have a great website and publish a regular blog,” my client complained, “but I’m not getting any clients from it. The only new client I got this month was a referral from a friend. What am I doing wrong?”

It’s a common complaint of self-employed professionals that they spend a great deal of time and money on Internet marketing and social media with minimal results. You build an attractive website, launch an ezine or blog, set up a couple of social media profiles, and maybe try a Google AdWords campaign. But for all that effort, not much seems to come of it. What’s going on?

Alone on ComputerThere’s so much hype about online marketing that it’s easy to lose sight of some of the basic marketing principles for professional services. To begin with, much of the marketing online is nothing more than advertising, and advertising is, overall, the least effective marketing strategy an independent professional can use.

A website that says simply, “hire me,” with no educational or interactive content included, is just a large, expensive ad. Unless you put even more effort into attracting people to visit, this ad doesn’t even have much circulation.

Other forms of online marketing that fall into the category of advertising are any post or broadcast that contains little helpful content for the reader (these could be ezines, blog posts, social media posts, or broadcast emails), online directory listings, and of course, banner or text ads that you pay for.

If advertising is at the bottom of the list as far as effectiveness, what’s at the top? For self-employed professionals, the three most effective marketing strategies, in this order, are:

  1. Direct personal contact with prospects
  2. Networking and referral building
  3. Public speaking

Of course all three of these strategies can be employed online. You can send personal emails to prospects and referral sources, make networking contacts via email or social media, and speak via webinars and teleclasses advertised online. But why limit those strategies to the Internet?

The reality is that for most independent professionals, direct contact with prospects is more effective in person and on the phone than it is by email. Networking and referral building, even though it may begin with an online contact, gets its power from the personal relationships you build by interacting with people one-on-one. And virtual public speaking is great for reaching people outside your area, but when most of your clients are local, speaking to them in person has much more impact.

Notice that my client who complained online marketing wasn’t working for him stepped right over what was working. A friend had referred him business. Further questioning uncovered that he had lunch with that friend shortly before the referral. So if that produced a client, and his website hasn’t, why not schedule more lunches instead of doing more online?

The online world can be a useful setting for marketing, but it’s not the whole universe. As recently as fifteen years ago, millions of professionals were successfully marketing their services without using the web at all. They called people on the phone, sent letters, met with prospects in person, had coffee with referral sources, and spoke to live audiences. If you think about it, it’s obvious that none of those techniques have stopped working just because the Internet now exists.

So the one remaining question is whether online marketing is somehow more effective than traditional forms of marketing. The answer lies in recognizing that the Internet is not a marketing strategy; it’s a marketing medium, like the telephone, for example, or postal mail. Its power depends on how you use it, not on whether you use it or not.

The same basic principles of professional services marketing still apply, regardless of what medium you use. The most effective strategies are those that include personal contact and build trust and credibility, like the three I mentioned above. If you can do those things better or more efficiently online than on the phone or in person, by all means use the web for marketing. But before choosing to rely on the Internet as your sole source of clients, think twice.

Marketing your business exclusively online often serves as a handy excuse for not talking to people. It’s all too easy to hide out behind a website, email, and social media, and never experience rejection or step outside your comfort zone. Marketing done the old-fashioned way — calling prospects on the phone, attending networking events, asking people to lunch == may be much more confronting. Those live, personal conversations, though, may be just what your marketing needs to take off.

So if you’ve been feeling stuck about getting clients, try getting off the web for a while. Instead, get on the phone, and get out of your office. There’s a whole world out there of people eager to talk to a live person. You may just find that marketing in person turns out to be not only more effective, but more enjoyable, than marketing online.

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Reader Comments

You’re spot-on, as usual. I use social media to prospect, but not much will happen without some kind of personal contact. One phone conversation will get you further than 100 tweets. 🙂

CJ, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been very informally coaching a few great folks on building their businesses and this is one of the primary points I’ve made. Very well put – I’ll be sending this around to some folks and sharing on Facebook! great article!

Thanks, Steve and Diane, I’m glad you are in agreement! I appreciate your shares.

This just answered the question I was having about marketing through social media. Thanks