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Handier Than Hobbits: Why You Need An Internet Marketing Pro

I just realized I’m a hobbit by profession.


I re-read The Hobbit (for the 6th or 7th time). For those who haven’t read it, the hero is an intrepid hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. He travels with a band of dwarves to slay a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo keeps his compatriots honest. He risks life, limb and the wrath of his employers (the dwarves) because he knows they’ve made a bad choice.

Most important, he helps keep the dwarves, elves and men from killing each other, and keeps everyone focused on the mission.
Developers are like dwarves. They make cool stuff in dark rooms.

Designers are like elves. They step lightly through the forest, killing goblins and making things pleasing to the eye.
Internet marketers are like hobbits. They keep the developers and designers from killing each other, and help them focus on the real goal.

I Am Bilbo. Hear Me Roar.

So, consider me your Bilbo. Your internet marketer keeps you out of trouble, or gets you out of trouble you’re already in. You need that kind of guidance from the start of the project.

If you first build your site, launch it and then hire an internet marketer, you’ve made a serious error.

You might think “Oh, Ian, I can save money if I leave out the internet marketing until later. Leave off”.

That’s shortsighted, and it’ll cost you in the end. I’ve been an internet marketing strategist for 13 years. I’ve seen this silliness play out again and again, in large organizations and small ones.

No Internet Marketer is No Bargain At All. The Goblins Will Getcha.

The internet marketing team must be involved from the start, or you’ll end up with a whole cave full of goblins:

  • Poor information architecture.
  • A design that doesn’t support your business goals.
  • An infrastructure that doesn’t support your customers.
  • A site that is a search engine optimization nightmare.
  • Lousy profits (if any), stony-faced developers.
  • And likely a chance to find a new job.

Let’s do a little math, shall we?

Say you’re building a smallish site that’s purely a lead-generation tool.

Each lead is worth $500. Each customer is worth $5,000. You know that there’s a universe of about 100 leads/month out there.

You talk to an internet marketer. They’re going to charge you $10,000 for their services. That’s two customers. But you decide to save the money.

Shameless plug here: My firm actually charges $10,000-15,000 to consult during site development.

You pay your developers and designers another $10,000. You get a pretty nice site. It looks great and runs nice and fast.

But, the ‘contact us for more information’ button is far below the fold.

And, while the site is just lovely, it was built to your satisfaction, not your customers’.

Even worse, the site presents a number of roadblocks to search engines, and features a popup that means you can’t use Adwords (popups violate their terms of service).

I’ll be generous and say you receive 50% of potential traffic (it’d probably be a lot worse) and 50% of the potential leads.

You saved $10,000.

You spent $10,000.

You’re now losing 50 leads/month.

Your cost/month: $25,000.

So you saved a one-time cost of $10,000, but will now lose $25,000 in possible business, every month. You sure showed ’em…

It’s a Bargain, Any Way You Slice It

The first day you decide to build or rebuild your site, get a smart internet marketing team involved. They will:

  1. Define the personas your site will serve.
  2. Figure out the potential value of a customer.
  3. Help you create an information architecture and feature set that caters to the personas and fits the potential customer value.
  4. Work with the designers to ensure usability and search-readiness.
  5. Work with the developers to ensure stability and a search-engine-friendly site.
  6. Weave analytics into your plan from the start.
  7. Make sure that customer service and support are part of your strategy.
  8. Plan marketing for the site launch and thereafter.

Why Internet Marketers Are a Bargain

We’re here to help you, and our services are a bargain.

  1. Internet marketers have no aesthetic axe to grind. We won’t force you to adopt that Bauhaus-inspired shopping cart layout we just know will win us a Webby.
  2. We don’t care what language you use to program your site. We only care that the site’s built to function, has good contingency design and makes life easy for your customers.
  3. Our only concern is that your site ring the cash register.

We’ll speak the truth, steer you the right way when it looks like you may be headed for trouble and translate when your developer starts spouting terms like redundancy, datasource, encryption or XHTML.

Most important: We’re your customer advocates, and yours. If you get off the track, we’ll guide you back.
And we’ll make sure you’re ready when the dragon comes, too.

Look out for Smaug.
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. We care a LITTLE bit about what language you code your site in. You do the whole thing in Flash, it’ll be a lot harder to optimize for search. Other than that, though, this post is bang on! Good stuff, Ian.

  2. Aren’t Hobbits just hairy footed potheads that like to sit around and eat all the time?
    I haven’t seen your feet I guess, but this is telling. Smoke em if ya got em.

  3. Well, great title. I could not resist clicking on it! Internet marketing analogies are always nice. It was great getting to hang out and talk a little shop amongst other things at SMX West.

  4. My feet are not hairy. And hobbits smoke tobacco, not marijuana. But Frodo did claim to see a firey eye that no one else could see, so who knows…

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