By John Eberhard

  • Have you ever done some marketing action, placed an ad, spent money on online advertising, etc., and felt like the whole thing was a waste of time and money?
  • Have you ever felt like marketing a product or service or company has been getting harder as time has gone on?
  • Have you given up on marketing, concluding it just doesn’t work anymore or it’s too expensive?
  • Have these phenomenon occurred more in recent years?

We know a lot has changed over the last 30 years. But have the basics of marketing really changed?

The basics of marketing are:

  • Pick a product or service to sell
  • Determine a target public, meaning a segment of the overall population that will buy your product or service
  • Find out what that target public wants, what its attitudes are, etc.
  • Get out messages to that target public offering your product or service using the information you found about what they want, their attitudes, etc.

Now have any of those basics changed in the last 30 years? No.

So what HAS changed?

I started being a marketing specialist in 1989, 33 years ago. Marketing has changed a lot during that time frame.

Of course one of the things that has happened during that time is the Internet. The Internet has certainly changed the way we market things. Many of the ways we market things today are done online using one of the many online marketing platforms, like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, etc.

Ideal Scene for Marketing Platform

Let’s take a look at what the ideal situation would be for any marketing platform.

  1. Any business could use it and get benefit. The benefit is not restricted to a limited number of businesses in any given area.
  2. Affordable
  3. Gets leads or sales for business
  4. Pay more if you want higher level service
  5. Has eyeballs of people looking for that product or service
  6. Rules on how to use the platform are clear, not hidden
  7. People controlling platform want businesses to succeed

Now let’s consider a marketing platform from the past – the Yellow Pages. This marketing avenue might seem “quaint” to marketers today. But let’s see how it stacks up against the ideal scene.

  1. Let’s take an example of dentists in a given city or suburb. There’s probably 50 in a small town. All 50 of them could advertise in that Yellow Pages.
  2. You could run a small ad for less money or a bigger ad for more money.
  3. You would get leads from it, at least in the old days.
  4. You could pay more for a larger display ad.
  5. People used to use the Yellow Pages to find local businesses that they would need.
  6. The rules are pretty clear.
  7. They wanted you to get results, which would mean you’d continue to run ads and maybe run a bigger one next time.

Now let’s look at a platform of today – Google Ads. How does it stack up?

  1. Only three of your dentists could use it in any given geographical area. The rest are out of luck.
  2. What you pay for each click is controlled by the number of advertisers and how much they are bidding. The more advertisers and the more aggressive they are, the higher your costs go. Over time these factors have driven Google Ads cost per click up to an unviable level for all but high-ticket item marketers.
  3. You can still get leads from it, IF there aren’t too many advertisers in your niche or area.
  4. You bid higher if you want your ad to be on page 1.
  5. Plenty of eyeballs.
  6. Rules are pretty clear. Although the platform has gotten more and more complicated every year.
  7. Google’s actions show they care about their income and don’t care much about your success.

Now let’s look at Google My Business, which is the section on Google that shows local listings and a map.

  1. Only three of your dentists could use it in any given geographical area. The rest would get dumped to page 2, where basically no one goes.
  2. It’s free.
  3. You can still get leads from it, IF you are one of the top 3 listings. If not, you’ll get nothing.
  4. You pay nothing.
  5. Plenty of eyeballs.
  6. Rules on how to get your listing to the top are completely secret.
  7. How could Google care about your success when only 3 businesses can succeed in any given city.

How about Google Organic, meaning the other listings aside from the Google Ads and Google My Business listings.

  1. Any business can use it, but only those on page one will get any benefit.
  2. It’s free, but to get anywhere with it you generally have to hire a specialist/ consultant.
  3. You can get leads if you get onto page one.
  4. Pay more to the consultant if you want higher level service.
  5. Has eyeballs.
  6. Rules on how to get onto page one are hidden, and are changed every year.
  7. Google has been actively working against search engine optimization actions for 15 years, so you’ll be forced to pay for Google Ads.

Many of the big tech companies that own the most popular marketing platforms and social media sites, have made multiple decisions and changes in their operations over the past 15 years that have made it harder, or in some cases impossible, to market your company using that platform or site.

With many of the newer online marketing platforms:

  • The more businesses advertising in a given niche, the higher your costs, often driving up those costs to unviable levels.
  • Many of the platforms will only display a limited number of businesses on page one, and no one goes to page 2. Any business besides these top 3 or 4 listings are just out of luck.
  • The rules on how to get your listing to the top are not at all clear, and that’s on purpose.

It may sound like I’m just complaining about all this. But actually I’ve given this quite a bit of thought recently, and realized that when the Internet first started, it was a wide open communication line. But many of the big tech companies have done things and made changes, on purpose, to make it harder and exclude businesses, especially small businesses, from competing in the marketplace.

Another factor that we have seen over the last 5-10 years, that pretty much sealed it for me on what these big tech companies are all about, is the rampant censoring of political messages that aren’t the ultra-liberal line. We’re talking Google, Facebook, Twitter.

The solution as I see it for any business that needs to successfully market itself (which is every business) is to find marketing avenues and platforms that aren’t controlled by these oppressive big tech giants, and to not rely completely on these oppressive tech platforms.

In my next article I will discuss some of the other big tech platforms and their characteristics. And how you can avoid being stopped by them.