Disgust at digital marketing gurus.

It’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. The disintermediation of business processes has meant that manufacture and marketing of half and fully baked ideas is now cheaper and faster than ever.

This article appeared in Mumbrella 2016, republished unedited here

It has been argued that a certain generation feels entitled, a necessary confidence to have. Examples of excessive successes by college drop outs are a part of popular culture. Add to this often the enforced flexibility and casualization of the workforce, and it adds up to a perfect storm of entrepreneurial opportunities.

This is a good thing. The more small businesses are around, the better for everyone. But this perfect storm has produced a crop of entrepreneurs whose existence depends on helping small business owners become entrepreneurs, and who prey on those having a go with promises of digital marketing with a short rainbow and a large pot of gold.

Why should you, as a marketer, care about fools parting money? Well, these gurus used to be content with the motivation business, but they are coming for your customers now. They have evolved into one stop content producers, social media strategists and marketing advisors. SMEs are their target.

Their evangelical fervour make them attractive to your customer. And your customers aren’t fools, they are just mystified by new marketing and trained by culture and technology to underestimate the time it takes, making them easily swayed by persuasion professionals to believe the opposite.

After all, they are only humans in the 21st Century. Its not just advertising that is presenting us with exaggerated ideal selves anymore; we are reminded daily, constantly, of our friends and acquaintance’s ideal lives.

We see our current self and feel we need to bridge the gap to the ideal. The #inspo is always there too, summarising in distressed type just how easy business can be, if you just believe in the power of your dreams. Each time we see it we are reminded how easy it has been for others.

Key alert. We are hardwired to think that when someone else succeeds it’s circumstance, but when you succeed it’s all you, baby. The more you see a former punk now lives in a Manhattan apartment, or a failed call center manager is now a millionaire, the more you believe in your own abilities to do the same. A generation that is more assertive, more self-empowered and narcissistic is more responsive to claims that making lots of money is easy with social media.

And as TED has shown us, every subject is so condensed and easily digestible. We know content to be listed out, checked off, summarised in 30-second stories. Therefore it stands to reason that marketing and business must really boil down to a book, only $39.95. Or a web series, free today.

The other trouble is, there is just so much damn knowledge out there. I don’t have time to do this, I have a container full of acai candles arriving next week.

I know I need to rank in Google and use social media, but when I Google how to, it gets very confusing. So it’s tempting when someone says they have done it before and can show you the hidden tricks. Such a strange thing, I was just Googling how to do that yesterday and now the answer has popped up before a Youtube video. It’s a sign.Google

So it’s understandable when it’s time to do marketing in this digital world that it’s at odds with our expectations. It seems like a mystery, and nothing should be.

It’s easy to turn to someone that has the followers, who has the videos, that is so rich already. It’s understandable too then when they convince me, why would I actually sell acai candles, when I can blog my laptop lifestyle instead?

It’s only a few grand investment, that’s better than 500 candles. And so the prophecy is fulfilled; another business that will never make anything or employ anyone.

Business owner, I hope you find this before it’s too late. Here’s a bit of sexy #inspo for you: No-one knows anything. No-one. At best it’s an educated guess. That then leads to a better educated guess. Especially about digital marketing.

So please don’t invest your redundancy pay in a person who shows small businesses how to succeed in digital marketing in three, four or even five steps; they have only succeeded in digital marketing by selling tickets to others on how to succeed in digital marketing.

Unless your product is digital marketing, find the smallest agency or freelancer in town.

I’m talking about actual makers. You need collateral, both for yourself in the form of a marketing strategy that takes into account your unique context, and for your customers to begin to know what you do or sell.

This collateral takes time. Ask them: can they make this for you, and can they tell you where to put it so your customers see it? Ask them what their education is, and start guessing with them.

Small agencies and freelancers, here is your opportunity to find more small business.

If these gurus are pulling in the revenue they state, make your claim for it. Go to their seminars and hand out your card. Comment on their posts and pages. Find their customer segments and explain why there are no shortcuts.

These small business customers deserve better, and your profession needs to be defended.


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