In college I was involved with a campus group. Every so often we would host our brother or sister chapters from other campuses. One week my roommates and I were asked to host a group from UC San Diego. Being a house full of teenage males, we really wanted to impress the group from SD; mainly because girls were coming. We had a roommate meeting and decided to go all out… BBQ Steak Dinner! No cheap burgers or hot dogs at this party. Steak was the plan. There was just one problem. I was a 19 year old video store clerk working for minimum wage and a couple of my roommates were barely making rent with their financial aid checks. Whether it was ego or the allure of impressing the ladies, we still decided to serve steaks. (I promise I’m going somewhere with this story)
I drove to our local supermarket and started looking at the filet mignon, porterhouse, and beautifully marbled rib-eye steaks. They were marvelous cuts, but they were expensive. Not knowing much about cuts of meat, I looked over and saw the packages of top round. These were cut into very large steaks at a fraction of the price. As a bachelor on a tight budget, the choice was simple… I loaded up the shopping cart with top round steak.
The night of the BBQ had arrived. Our house was packed with about 30 guests. I vividly remember carrying a stacked tray of seasoned steaks on my way to the grill to the “ooohs” and “aaahs” of the crowd. Yes, I was a rockstar. I grilled the steaks and dinner was served. All the hungry guests grabbed a paper plate and plastic utensils to dig in. Within seconds there was the sound of plastic forks and knives snapping into pieces. The few souls unlucky enough to actually cut a bite sized morsel of leather steak were left chewing on it like a cow chewing cud. The lesson of the day: it’s not about “expensive” or “inexpensive”. It’s about “cheap”.
“Cheap” is a word that is too often defined as “inexpensive”. This is a mistake. The top round steak was both cheap and inexpensive (you get what you pay for). Some things can be cheap and expensive (Rip Offs). Other things can be inexpensive but not cheap (Value). But generally speaking, things that are not cheap are almost always expensive. A lot of people we speak to feel internet marketing is, or should be, “cheap”. Let me dissect this by splitting up the word “cheap” into two camps:
First, cheap is defined as low quality. Search engine marketing (SEM) is highly targeted, easily trackable, and nimbly scalable. When you understand SEM and fully digest the proper keyword strategies, it becomes the highest quality advertising medium available today. High quality is NOT “cheap”. Thus SEM is not cheap.
Second, “cheap” is often interchanged with “inexpensive”. I’m generally defining expensive as ‘high perceived price tag’ and inexpensive as ‘low perceived price tag.’ My experience working in 2 dot-com’s and 2 traditional companies taught me that good advertising always seems “expensive.” Sure I can send mailers out to a small handful of zip codes for less money, or set a very low daily budget in my PPC campaign but I’ve realized advertising generally takes a significant investment to do it properly; and reap the full potential benefits. Print costs alone for a small, local circulation will run well over a thousand per month. Relative ad costs are the same online. Expensive or inexpensive, advertising is an investment. Solid advertising investments always seem nerverackingly “expensive” at first, but once you receive a positive ROI it magically seems “inexpensive” after all.
The truth is Internet Marketing is not cheap (low quality). When done properly it is an efficient, high quality channel to gain new business. Much like a first class airline seat, a luxury car, or a Rib Eye steak, quality is rarely cheap or inexpensive. However, the benefits usually outweigh the cost when done right. Many SMB’s find it tough to invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars into their advertising. I empathize with you. However I encourage you to lower risk by exploring your options and chasing the higher quality ad channels to ensure you get a positive ROI. Avoid the cheap ad channels… and by cheap I mean low quality.
“Cheap” just leads to broken plastic forks and a lot of painful chewing.