That's it. You're on a time out.

Ian Lurie

This post might just get me fired. Some client somewhere will read it and be horribly offended that their behavior drives me crazy.
To them, I can only say: My kids drive me crazy, too. But I’ve stayed up all night with them when they’re sick, driven them to the emergency room, helped them learn to read, add, multiply and to play Lego Star Wars. They’re smart, just like you. They’re sophisticated, just like you. And while I might not jump in front of a speeding car for you, I will do everything in my power to help you succeed.
Wear your ability to drive me to distraction as a badge of honor. I like you. I’m passionate about your products. But I’m sending you to sit on the stairs for 10 minutes.

When will we see results?

You just hired me three weeks ago to manage a product launch, a political campaign or what-have-you. You want my team to run multiple social media campaigns, an SEO campaign and analyze the results. When we talked, I may have pointed out 50-100 times repeatedly that we’re looking at a long-term, 3-6 month commitment, minimum.
Yet there you are, a week later, telling me we have to produce results Right Now Dammit or we’re fired.
Internet marketing takes time. Not much time. In the Bad Old Days you’d spend months and tens of thousands of dollars shooting a TV spot, then cross your fingers that it worked. Now, you roll out your campaign in a few weeks and start collecting data right away.
But it still takes time. I’m not ignoring you, neglecting your campaign or somehow failing you. We are hard at work. Be a little patient. Just a bit.

Why does this other site outrank me?…

We’ve been optimizing your site for 6 months. You’ve got lots of new content, some quality links and your organic site traffic has gone up 50%.
It just drives you nuts, though, that you don’t rank number 1 for that one phrase.
The truth is, I probably have no idea why that site outranks you. Google won’t tell me. I can analyze backlinks, review content and check their site all day long. It could be that Google favors sites with ‘S’ in their address over sites with ‘G’ in their address. I have no idea.
What I do know: If we keep adding quality content, keep your site visible and stick to the plan, success is inevitable. I’m way too obnoxious to lie, so trust me.

What else can you do?

Your CMS is broken. Your development team says it’ll take 2 months to change your title tags. You don’t have any budget for link work or PPC. And you won’t let me launch a blog or another site.
So, Ian, what else can you do?
I can remain upright on a bicycle without moving. I can also recite most of The Raven from memory. And beat 4 people simultaneously at Starcraft.
However, I can’t help you with your internet marketing campaign unless you’re willing to take ownership. Fire your developers, no matter how much it scares you. Get a new CMS. Pull it all up by the roots and start over if you must. Sometimes change hurts, a lot, and I know you have enough problems without me coming in and playing the pouty consultant. But we internet marketers have your best interests at heart. Listen to us. A little. Once in a while. OK?

Have you seen this new tool…?

You just found a neat new gadget that will let visitors spin your product around on your site, zoom in on the minutest detail and then custom-order it.
It’s cool! I agree!
But I think we’d better:

  • Fix your shopping cart so it has less than a 90% bailout rate;
  • Get your site more than 10% indexed by search engines;
  • Set up analytics;
  • Stop the bleeding in your PPC account.

I agree – I think it’s a great tool. But you have to set priorities. Sales should be your first priority. Not coolness.

We’re not getting conversions. What’s wrong with you?

Too be honest, it ain’t us. You hired someone else to build your site, another company to design your landing pages, another company to write your copy and then tacked us on to buy PPC ads.
I know it made financial sense, but you’ve got too many cooks. And frankly, most of them are stirring the soup with their hands because they don’t know any better.
Fire us, and everyone else. Start over with a single, competent team that can pull it all together. You’ll be better off in the end.

Nothing but love for ya

I sincerely, really do like all of my clients. I don’t work with people I don’t like. That’s the benefit of working 15 hour days for 14 years – I get to choose.
I also know you’re smart. That’s why it sometimes drives me a little loopy when you stick your finger in the internet marketing outlet. Ask me next time, before you do, OK?

I pondered whether to publish this for about 2 hours after I wrote it. I finally did, figuring most of my clients know I’m totally insane anyway, and will likely ignore this entire post. I’m backing away now, sloooowwwllly…

Ian Lurie
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, 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

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  1. YOU FEEL MY PAIN… thanks for letting us know that we’re not the only one suffering. It is like extended family – you care for them but sometimes they just drive you crazy.

  2. Kudos to you, if your clients are as ‘cool’ as you think they are then hopefully they will see your points and laugh at how true they are – its something most internet marketers recognise to be sure 🙂

  3. Oh wow, that sure hit the nail on the head! Client: “Why aren’t we seeing any results yet?” Me: “Because it’s only been three days.” (We’ve been over this haven’t we?) And the conversions part you mentioned is great too. Sometimes I don’t want to beat around the bush, and say to the client “Let’s open up your competitors page side by side with yours. Now which one REALLY looks better? Which one looks like it was designed in 1996? Which one is better organized? Which one if you were a customer would REALLY draw you into it? You have to re-design your HORRIBLE site!!!!!”

  4. Feeling your pain, Ian. I do my best to manage clients’ expectations ahead of time, but no matter how much I tell them to keep their eyes off that one #1 ranking, for example, and explain why it doesn’t represent success, they invariably ask about it two months later.
    I try to take it as constructive criticism in a way – if clients are coming back to me with questions and complaints that I tried to preempt months ago, obviously the message didn’t get through as I’d hoped. Maybe next time I try standing on the conference table and screaming. Maybe balloon animals or a puppet show. Gotta convert them somehow.

  5. Whoa. Have you been snooping around our office? LOL. What an accurate picture of how a sales driven business forgets that everything must start with market research. It sounds to me like the powers that be are looking to you to be thier savior in making their numbers next quarter. My guess is this is mostly coming from the sales department. Am I right?
    I feel your frustration Ian. Heck, I’m not even the marketing expert where I work (Design Manager). Just try to relate everything back to business-value and hopefully they’ll get the connection.

  6. #1 for the one phrase, man that one gets me. I had a client with a pet phrase that they were convinced would dramatically increase sales if they had top rank for.
    I showed the client that w/ PPC ads in the top three for their phrase and some organic traffic coming from a #11 rank for the same phrase that the traffic was not converting as well as a dozen other phrases that we were working with.
    No matter, they still wanted to pursue “their” phrase. Thousands of dollars in PPC and SEO later they finally ranked organically #3 for the phrase. This resulted lots of traffic and almost zero sales. Other, more specific, terms were converting well.
    If a client is using search engine rank as a measurement of success then they need a time out to realize that ROI is the better measurement for most campaigns.

  7. Ian, this is great! You said what we all think on a daily basis. This is why finding and keeping great Project Managers is one of the most difficult things to do for an Internet marketing company. This is also why Project Management is THE single toughest position at any marketing company! But you and I have been through this before in conversations and I know that you agree.

  8. Kudos! Believe it or not, this is what needs to get said on occasion. It’s not over the line; it’s honest and to the point, while humorous at the same time. If they fire you over this, they would have fired you anyway.

    Is it possible to deal with every one of those points in a single day from a single person? I believe so! Your post has you solidly in my favorites list, congratulations and thank you.

  10. LOL. I think we share the same clients. Sometimes, those clients need a professional push back. If they fire you…are these really the type of clients you’re trying to attract? Weed them out and get rid of them early on.

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