I keep having this recurring nightmare; but then I wake up and find it’s really happening to people I care about. I’ll call this disturbing “dream” The Great Internet Marketing Lie. Here’s how it goes…

A business owner with no plan, no strategy, and no idea why he or she is using the Internet at all jumps into social media, SEO, local search, and other costly activities in the name of not missing out on an important marketing wave. These people waste time, they flush precious money down the seemingly-never-ending black hole of this marketing cash drain, then they sit back and hope something great will happen. And, of course, it doesn’t.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Internet isn’t magic. It isn’t free. And it isn’t the tool that has replaced all other marketing tools. Those who would have you believe these lies are either blinded themselves, or simply out to sell you something that benefits them, and not necessarily you.

The Internet is a tool. It is a vehicle that, when used properly, can carry your message effectively to your targeted, intended audience. It’s a place to be found by those looking for what you offer, right at the moment they need it. That’s pretty cool! But none of this happens as a result of random shotgun blasts in the general direction of people who just happen to be surfing by.

I’ve watched many decision-makers throw thousands upon thousands of dollars at SEO services to get on the first page of the search engines. And you know what? Many of them have made it there! But it hasn’t made them a dime because they didn’t have the rest of their strategy and system in place to convert clicks into cash. (That last phrase sounded a lot like sleazy Internet marketer talk; but I’ll leave it for effect.)

I’ve also witnessed many other business owners invest large amounts of time and money into social media, only to have thousands of followers who are not engaged. In most cases this is because they fell for the lie of “bigger is better,” focusing on quantity of followers instead of quality.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Am I saying the Internet isn’t a viable marketing vehicle? Of course not. Am I suggesting people should not engage in SEO activities, social media pursuits, and other Internet-based marketing practices? Not at all.

What I am saying is, “Wake up!” Realize the Internet and its accompanying accoutrements are marketing vehicles, not “marketing” in its entirety. We still need to research our audiences and get our messages in the right place. We need to have the right message for that right audience, too. We must have a big picture that clearly outlines our strategies for advancement, and campaigns to turn those strategies into action. Then, if the Internet shows itself to be one of the vehicles we use to grow our businesses, we know why we’re using it, how we’re using it, who we’re getting in front of, and what we’ll do to convert those viewers into engaged followers and, ultimately, repeat clients.

Please, stop torturing yourself over The Great Internet Marketing Lie. If what I’ve said here makes sense and you can take a few steps back and see your way clear to analyze your company’s use of the Internet, great! If you need your team to assist (which I highly recommend), get them together and talk through what you are trying to accomplish and how the myriad possibilities presented by the Internet may fit into your company’s plans for greater success.

If you don’t have your team yet, or can’t otherwise see your way clear to getting a handle on managing the barrage of information being thrown at you with regard to online marketing activities, I’m here to help. Ask your questions . Let’s get you out of any nightmares you may be living through and into the fulfillment of the pleasant dreams you had when you decided to go into business.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope