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The Cost of Online Marketing

Posted on January 01, 2014

How Online Marketing Saved My Relationship


A lot of people will have budgetary concerns when it comes to things they don't fully understand.  Unfortunately SEO is one of those 'black box' things where people spend money on something they don't completely understand or can't completely get guarantees about.  It's not some black magic that's going on, it's just an industry that changes frequently and so it takes constant attention to stay up with it.  PPC and SMA are a little easier to comprehend, it's just advertising online with different focuses of reach.  But I digress, the main point I am trying to make is that many people don't understand online marketing, and so the cost usually seems too high for them.  It reminded me of a time not so long ago that I nearly had to learn the hard way the real cost of online marketing, specifically not doing it.

So let me start off by telling you I like to work - a lot.  And I like to work from bed too, it's just too comfy!  However my partner does not enjoy it one bit, to the extent that we nearly split up.  I had to take drastic action, but where do I start?!  Everything was obviously important, that's why I was doing it in the first place - So did I need to hire another employee, or maybe trust an existing one with more responsibility?  Or maybe I needed to get a PA?  No those things were not the solution, I had to figure out what I was actually working on, and be critical with removing at least one thing from my plate…

What Work Do I Do?

What work exactly do I do on a daily basis?  Well at the time I ran a business that evaluated offshore call centres servicing Australasia, and provided direct learnings back into the feedback loop to give individual agents specific outcome-based development.  My responsibility was to develop robust processes around learning development, develop effective feedback methodologies for non-native English speakers, as well as more standard business activities like engaging new clients, account management and ensuring financial operations remained sound.

After I had a list of defined activities, I assigned percentages indicating time spent on each activity.  Effectively it was a depressing task to outline to myself exactly how I spent a hefty 90 hours a week.

What Work Can Others Do?

The next step I took was to mark off the tasks or groups of tasks that could be handed off to one of my employees.  This was probably the most difficult because I already had everyone leveraged to the most that I was willing to without overworking them, and allowing them to go over 37 hours a week wasn't an option.  So it made sense to expand the team right?  So I did the maths and determined I could hire a PA for $50k per annum, or an analyst for $62k per annum.  There's plenty of budget, so I figured I would get an analyst.  Then I realised it wasn't actually solving my problem - Taking on new staff would entail training, ongoing management, followup - I was trying to cut down the amount of time I spent on work.  So I can't hand off to an existing team member, and I couldn't employ someone new for this particular work.  So what else hadn't I looked at?

Well there seemed to be four main clusters of activities - 40% Development, 25% analysis, and 20% client acquisition and 15% client management.  Keeping the development work within my role made sense because that's what my key strength was.  Getting rid of the 22.5 hours a week I spend on analysis to a new employee wasn't going to save me time, so client acquisition was the next thing on the chopping block, and honestly was something I was happy to do without and wasn't my forté by any means.  18 hours up for grabs people, which marketing company wants it?

What's Now?

So marketing is what I thought I needed, and a lot of it too.  What I very quickly realised was that I never really knew what I was doing with cold customer acquisition, and on top of that what takes me fumbling around for 3 hours on a task might take a professional with strategy about 20 minutes.  I scrapped the PR and traditional marketing quotes I had that ran into the tens of thousands, and took a good hard look at what I needed to do, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I needed to get people to understand what we did, and our website conveyed that well.

I needed people to go to our website and engage with us that way.

That's exactly what I needed.  But where to first?  Twitter?  But of course!

I will spare you the details, but another 3 weeks were spent trying to master twitter and needless to say, it was not the answer.  I was getting distracted and it wasn't helping my primary problem.  Thankfully I got myself back on track and had heard about search engine optimisation.  I made the logical assumption that if my website ranked higher, then more people would visit it.  Duh!

I will again spare you the details, but I spent another week trying to learn SEO "tactics" and gave up because it was very confusing to me.  I was speaking to my mother about it and it confused her too (bless her heart), and she asked "so is this SEO person going to take over some of your work?"


Why didn't I think about it like that before?!  Don't try and do it myself, but engage an SEO agency, and not to boost my ranking, but to free up my time.  I loved it.  Aside from the fact I ended up going with a multi-pronged SEO and PPC approach, the golden egg was in what she had said.  Online marketing was going to free up my time, and that's what I always wanted.  From that point forward, I realised just how cheap SEO really is.  I eradicated 18 hours from my weekly slog, my partner was much happier, and I had professionals on the job instead of me bumbling around.  The best part, we got more customers out of the exercise!  Which led me to put this together this little tidbit that will hopefully allow you to avoid the pitfalls I encountered and stick to thinking creatively and critically:


Buying a company car

  • is about having transport
  • to go to meetings with clients
  • to have a tax writeoff
  • to benefit from depreciation



  • is about improving rankings
  • to drive more traffic to your website
  • to get more customers
  • to free up time from other customer acquisition efforts If you ever have a problem that you are trying to solve, consider looking at it from a different perspective - Because I never thought online marketing would save my relationship, but it did.

About the Author

James Richardson

Sales Director

James Richardson started his online career by running online Sports Fan sites (luckily none are still online today), with the pinnacle of the site being a write up in the Sunday Herald Sun 'Wired' column.

His professional career began at a ASX listed company, Melbourne IT, where he held various senior roles across the Sales and Marketing teams, before deciding to venture out on his own.

Running several successful online websites and businesses himself, he is well placed at understanding your business needs.

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