The Client's Guide to Internet Marketers

Ian Lurie

100% pure ranty Monday goodness:

1: Some of us know what we’re doing

It’s true! You can find internet marketers who know what they’re doing with a simple question: “Do you guarantee your work?” If they say yes, flee immediately. If they say no, follow with “Can you do link building for me?” If they get a look on their face like they just got a mouthful of sewer water, they’re great. Stick with ‘em, even if they eventually agree to help you out with ’link building.’ Whatever that is.

2: We love our clients

You pay our bills. You give us cool challenges. You provide job satisfaction and security all at once. What’s not to love?

3: We sort of kind of like clients OK sometimes

Then, there are those days when nothing goes right, there’s no meeting of the minds between our teams, and we feel like we’re paddling up a whirlpool. We get frustrated, just like everyone else. We’ll get over it, and go back to #2 lickety-split.

4: You deserve clarity

You should understand what we’re doing and why.

Our contract should be clear. It should say what’s included and what’s not, and what you’re going to pay. It should call out how often we’ll talk, and what deliverables we owe you each month, week and/or day.

More important, your agency must be able to explain to you, in plain language, how all this internet marketing stuff works. They may charge you for it! Nothing wrong with a little paid training. But they’d better be able to make it all make sense. If they can’t, be suspicious. Nothing we do is in a black box.

5: It’s about flexibility

The flip side of #4: ‘Clarity’ doesn’t mean ‘specific quantities’ or a rigid checklist. I cringe when potential clients ask me, “How many blog posts will you write per month?” or “How many landing pages will you build?”

It’s not about ‘how many’—it’s about ‘how good.’

Good means: You can be proud of it. It’s professional. It gets attention. It’s sustainable. It doesn’t get you sued (seriously). It works.

Sometimes we have a huge idea that’ll take a lot of effort. Maybe we all agree we should focus on that for a month. Then, maybe the next month, we go back to the routine.

A few good projects will beat a mountain of crap any day.


6: It takes time

Even online, marketing takes time. Depending on exactly what your agency does for you, it might take weeks or months to see the full effects. That’s particularly true when it comes to content (see #5).

7: We have tiny egos

Most of us were nerds growing up. We got a lot of sand kicked in our faces. Maybe a few wedgies. We’re making up for it now. More than anything, we want to help you make lots of money and then get to brag about it. Use that to your advantage! Give a little praise here and there, and we’ll work for you like rabid Dachshunds chasing steak sauce-drenched bunny rabbits.

8: You want someone with a sense of mission

I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, all marketing is damned serious business. Goebbels was a marketer. Next time one like him shows up, I’d like to be able to bury his ass so far down the SERPs we never hear about him. JFK was a marketer. He got us to the moon and back. Every business we help is a step towards legit communications. Every person who sees our work can become another intelligent, bullshit-proof consumer of marketing information.

Yeah, I take this seriously. So do most people in this business. Seek them out.

9: You deserve a team that owns their mistakes

At some point, we’re going to err. Foul up. Make a big whupsie. I don’t mean little stuff. I mean epic, oh-my-god, head-in-hands cluster-poops. Not very often (I hope). But the the law of averages says that yeah, at some point, it’s all going to go phhhhbbbbbbtttt.

When something like this happens, we’re really chagrined. Embarrassed. Pained. And we’ll do everything we can to fix it (if we know what we’re doing – see #1).

Eventually, if we keep working together, we all have to let. it. go. Not forget it. I remember every major mistake I’ve made in an 18-year career. Catastrophically bad hires? Check. Epic proofreading fails? Check Check.

I’d never suggest you should forget about it. Just realize we’re probably pretty much flogging ourselves already, and are that much more motivated to do right by you.

10: You want people who respect their colleagues…

Please, don’t ask us to cut down competitors. If you ask us “What do you think of ______” (insert competitor), I’m not going to air their dirty laundry. If you ask me “Why should we hire you instead of ______,” I’m not going to try to tell you why we’re a million times better, either.

If you do ask an agency or a consultant either of those questions, and they give you a 90-second gossip report about penalties, mistakes and “what they’ve heard,” don’t hire them. If they can’t sell themselves positively, they can’t do it for you, either.

11: …but will also call turd a turd

On the other hand, if you ask us to review work, and we see something a previous agency did that was really bad, we’ll tell you how to fix it.

That’s not your cue to go back to that agency and demand your money back, or start a middle school-style “Well, Ian told me your work was a pimple on the butt of all internet marketing” argument by proxy. We’re looking at someone’s work months or years later. There’s no context. What they did may have made perfect sense at the time. Or it may have been the least bad choice.

We’re here to help you grow, not to indict other marketers.

12: Stuff must get done

All the meetings and discussions and plans are worthless if nothing gets done. You deserve a team that can execute. And your agency deserves access to the resources they need to execute, too. That often means you have to give them:

  • Access to analytics reports
  • Time with your development team, or branding team, or creative team
  • A single decision-maker at your company

Up next…

…the internet marketer’s guide to clients.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian'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. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Ha Ha! Great April Fools post, Ian!
    Wait, this is all pretty serious. What’s with the internet today? The only joke I’ve seen so far is Google Nose.

  2. Man, plus one for #6. Instant gratification is not something you find with almost any SEO agency. That is unless you’re willing to pay for it with PPC Ads.

  3. I see you’re rockin’ it as usual, Ian! I think I’ll share this with a couple of clients.
    I recently had a #11 moment, and the client was going ballistic about why his “gold-plated” developer had done something that he now had to pay to get fixed. When I asked him when his dev had done it, and then explained that four years ago, that was THE thing to do, he calmed down.
    Keep ’em coming!

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