Frustration: One of the 5 emotions owners feel about online marketing

In the prologue of Clicksand, I describe five emotions that many business owners have in common these days. If they’ve tried online marketing and have been unhappy with the results they’ve seen, they tend to experience some or all of these emotions:

  1. Frustration – Why isn’t online marketing what we were promised it would be? It seemed so simple when it was sold to us. Now, we’re having endless meetings, discussions, and debates, but not getting the sales we expected.
  2. Confusion – The terminology and geek-speak involved in online marketing can sound like an alien language. It feels like a full-time job just trying to understand it all. Who can keep up with it?
  3. Fear – Even if it’s not showing any benefits, don’t we have to keep trying to make online marketing work for us? Or do we risk being left behind by competitors who are using it (and winning with it)?
  4. Dissonance – Even though everyone seems to be using online marketing these days, there is just something about it that doesn’t feel quite right in my gut. I just have a feeling it doesn’t fit the values we built our company on.
  5. Isolation – It feels as if everyone in the world today is so enamored with online marketing that I’ll look like an out-of-touch dinosaur if I question its value. Am I the only one who feels like the emperor is wearing no clothes?

I want to discuss each of those emotions in upcoming articles to help business owners who are feeling them know that a) they are not alone, and b) they should trust what those emotions are telling them!

It starts with frustration

Let’s talk today about the first emotion that business owners feel: frustration. The owners I talk to who are unhappy with the results of their online marketing all tend to express a similar feeling that things aren’t working as promised: They’re not heading in the right direction (and, in fact, are getting further off track all the time).

They are also frustrated with the fact that most of the people around them (their online marketing company and even many of their own employees) don’t see things the same way they do. Business owners become increasingly agitated as they find themselves sitting in meetings where everyone else feels as if everything is on track even though no significant new sales are actually coming in from their efforts.

Sometimes they’re even frustrated with themselves:

– “The online marketing pitch made so much sense in the beginning, so how can it not be working now? It seemed like such a sure thing…even to me!”

– “What changed from when we first looked into this idea (and it was so promising) to now (when it seems like a big waste of time)? Are we just doing it badly? Do we need to spend more? Should we stay the course or scrap it?”

– “Something that seemed so straightforward has evolved into a program that is consuming more time and resources without the success we thought would certainly follow. It’s so…frustrating!”


The reason this frustration builds up is that online marketing pitchmen use an old sales trick: the bait-and-switch. As consumers, we’re all familiar with the bait-and-switch technique, where we’re lured into a store by a fantastic deal advertised by a retailer only to find, once we get there, that things are not as promised.

Sometimes there is a limited quantity of the advertised item, so it’s not actually available to purchase. Other times there are fees or charges that were hidden in the fine print of the ad, making the deal a lot less attractive than it seemed in the advertisement. In the end, the result is the same: What was originally promised fails to materialize.

Online marketers use the bait-and-switch technique in a subtler way. They bait businesses by promising sales results, but once the contract is signed, they focus only on marketing results. The sales pitches talk about how customers will appear once the business gets to No. 1 on search engine lists, how just the right combination of keywords in an online ad will help new customers find their way to the business, or how repetitively sending emails to prospects will help them decide to hire the business.

Once the program is up and running, you stop hearing about sales results. Instead, the pitchmen focus only on their own self-selected “success metrics.” They will show how traffic to the business’s website is increasing or how the business is growing its list of social media followers. They’ll celebrate these kinds of marketing stats and declare the program to be a big success. Meanwhile, the business owner is left to ask how the program could be considered successful if no actual sales are coming in as a result.

‘Activity’ and ‘progress’ are not synonyms

The answer from the pitchmen is that it’s just a matter of time—that the marketing metrics will eventually translate to actual sales. Over time, however, owners begin to learn one of the aphorisms that govern the online marketing industry: Just because there is a lot of activity, it doesn’t mean anything of value is being accomplished.

If you need help analyzing whether you’re on or off track—“Is it really just a matter of sticking with the plan, or should we just quit altogether?”—we’d be happy to help review things. Contact us.