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Offline clients are robbed blind!

Once again a small businessman has been sent to talk to me because his partner feels they are being ripped off.

The rip offs are the usual culprits, SEO services, web site maintenance, local marketing and general discombobulation.

I am absolutely sick and tired of all this offline crap that is being used to SCAM small businesses out of huge amounts of money. There are far too many cheap, cardboard, imitation gurus out there selling “click of the mouse” automated software telling prospective clients “we will help you destroy your competition”. With mounds of techno babble and gallons of alphabet soup, these cardboard gurus get their prospects so confused and discombobulated that they are no longer able to make a rational decision. Even worse, these are not one hit scams, these are scams designed to milk a client for months, years or even decades.

I know that many people want to be in the internet marketing field and that they feel the only way to succeed is to tell other people what to do (even though they do not do it themselves). I also know that the vast majority of suppliers in the SEO and web site fields are flying under false colours and only giving the impression that what they do is of benefit.

Let’s start off with these ridiculous claims that they can “destroy your competition”. Does nobody think that, as an ambition, this is rather self defeating? Look around any town and find one that has a sole supplier of a specific type of product. Only towns with one shop will be in this position. Why? Because competition creates opportunities for success for all. Many businesses will not want to destroy their competition because their competition is a support mechanism. Competitiors will meet up and discuss trends and ways for the exploitation of new products, methods and group activities. They will also bail each other out if necessary – especially if a particular product is required by one supplier but only held by another. A group of competitors can hold a significantly wider range of stock than a single business.

Now let’s move on to web sites. The average local business does not need an all singing, all dancing web site. For many, the web site is more of an affirmation that their business does legitimately exist and that they can be contacted. Despite all the blather from offline product promoters, the vast majority of local people do not boot up their computer if they suddenly discover that they need something. In all probability, they already know all the suppliers in their locality and the ones that they do not know, their neighbours will. A lovely web site with flash banners, nusic and videos is only of value IF it is the primary contact medium between business and customer. For most businesses, WordPress can provide a very acceptable web site for absolutely no cost. Hosting charges of a few dollars a month and an annual registration fee of around ten dollars for a domain name are the only additional costs.

Finally, SEO. This is like a religion. It calls for levels of faith and belief in miracles that seem to be over ambitious. For most businesses, SEO is a total waste of money because the optimisation that is possible is almost totally restricted to strange and exotic long tail search terms. Certainly you can create a number one search result for any search term that is used on the site if it is unique enough. The problem is – NOBODY actually uses that term to search! I used to be number one in the Google results for “redandyellowspottedpaint” with a web site I created simply to demonstrate this aspect of SEO but nobody ever made a search with that key word. It is the same if you make a web site with the search phrase “red bicycle with chromium hooter and stainless steel pedals” – you will get the number one search result but no customers.

Not a lengthy expression of my sadness at the way small businesses are being robbed but let me now show some numbers to illustrate the extent of the thievery that is going on.

If you are going to provide an internet based service to an offline client, the very least that your service should do is NOT reduce the profitability of the business. You can lie to yourself all that you want to about the way your service will pay for itself but PLEASE DO NOT LIE TO THE CLIENT.

The guy I spoke to this morning is in FMCG and has a bottom line profit of 3%. The turnover and reliable customer base mean that this produces a reasonable profit each year – but the “services” that have been paid for have been extremely expensive and have produced no compensatory income.

The web site that was built for them cost €750. I find it very difficult to justify such a web site for an FMCG outlet – especially when you work out that the total gross takings needed to pay for this web site is €25,000 

The SEO service, local marketing and site maintenance are costing €500 per month. This represents €200,000 per year out of gross income!

The business can afford to pay the costs involved but THEY SHOULD NOT! If the service provider had been honest and told the business owners that his services would cost €200,000 a year without creating an equivalent increase in gross income, they would not have accepted the service.

The offline market is replete with scam merchants – please don’t join them! If you offer a service to an offline business, explain to that business how your services will be cost neutral OR produce net profit.

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