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Online Marketing and the DIY Trap

by Dave on April 13, 2011

Business is about evaluating trade-offs, and online marketing is no different. When I was working in “Big 4″ consulting, we were fond of saying:

You can have it fast, you can have it good, or you can have a cheap, but you can only pick two.

It nicely sums up the dimensions of the service business and highlights the tradeoffs between quality, speed, and cost. I call it the Trade-Off Equation.

A lot of water under the bridge, and the rule still holds true. Lately I’ve seen those who believe that do-it-yourself online marketing projects can somehow void this rule – unfortunately not. It still holds true, but there are some tricks to help you make the rule work for you.

The trade-offs for online marketing

Let’s look at the options when dealing with online marketing. Assume you want to minimize costs (and who doesn’t).

Cutting back on quality results – You try a fast and cheap solution – Online marketing isn’t very forgiving – poor quality will yield poor results. Don’t even think about sacrificing quality, you’ll end up wasting your investment.

Dragging out the timeline – You can minimize costs and keep your quality up by slowing down your projects. But if you need to get an idea or campaign to market quickly, this might not be an option.

The easy interfaces and low entry costs of a number of online marketing platforms (like social media) can lead you to believe that cost has disappeared from the equation. Can get good, fast, and cheap? Not really – it’s just a different form of the trade-off.

The Do-It-Yourself Trap

Good rules work in all circumstances, and this rule is no different. Don’t kid yourself – when you attempt to execute online marketing in house or by yourself, you are “donating” your time in exchange for reduced costs. I’m sure that you or your team have other things do with your time – you’re just making an off-balance sheet trade. Not an issue until time runs low.

Time and Quality Hang in the Balance

The problem is most do-it-yourself online marketers don’t recognize that free time isn’t free or plentiful. When the time isn’t available, you have to make a choice – quality or speed. Keep the quality high and your time to market is going to suffer. If you push to market but you don’t have the time to invest, your quality takes a hit. Welcome to the Do-It-Yourself Trap.

Some Ways to Avoid the Trap

You might not be able to avoid it, but at least you can make the risk and fallout more manageable:

  • Get smart – get training or coaching to help you be as efficient as possible, especially if you are new to the online marketing world
  • Stay smart – focus in on the skills you need and keep up to date (like reading our blog)
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Set goals – both for timeliness and quality
  • Build a timetable with due dates and quality checkpoints to make sure your are keeping both your time and quality goals

DIY online marketing is possible, but requires both planning and discipline. Have you tried any DIY marketing projects? How did they turn out?

Photo credit: jronaldlee

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