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6 hidden costs of small business internet marketing

hidden costs of internet marketing

by Kenneth Rudich

The good news is: whether you’re a small business or goliath company, internet marketing has ushered in an unprecedented opportunity to make a meaningful connection with your customers and prospects.

The bad news is: it isn’t always as free or inexpensive or easy to leverage as it may initially appear on the surface.  In fact, it can be full of hidden costs, and they can be especially devilish for the small business concern.

A lot of the hidden costs, or at least the ones I’m referring to, lurk amid a dense forest of freebies.  They sit tucked away in the shadows or camouflaged in its underbrush.  In many instances, they don’t come out until you’ve already incurred them.  And even then they may not be all that readily visible for the naked eye to see.

the internet marketing kingdom of freedom

As someone who regularly canvasses the internet for new and novel marketing tools, I come across countless examples of what has now become an internet marketing maxim.   It goes something like this: you don’t sell to customers, you court them.

One offshoot of this approach has been the widespread use of giving away something free to bring prospects in and befriend them.  There are free apps, free platforms, free monitoring tools, free information kits, free trials, free this and free that – in the internet kingdom of freedom, the already astonishing number of freebies seems to be growing sizably larger with each passing day.

And yet, paradoxically, with everyone giving away something for free it still ends up exacting a cost.  What’s worse is you can’t avoid it, no way, no how.   Heck, even if you were somehow able to confine yourself to using free and only free stuff, you’re still bound to encounter the reality it produces, which is that it inevitably drives up the cost of doing business in one way or another.  And nobody but nobody gets a free pass on that.

no free passes on internet marketing costs

How it drives up the cost of doing business will vary by circumstance.  Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean:

  1. Discovery Costs – This is the time it takes to break through the clutter of freebies just to find the few that are relevant to your internet marketing initiative.  If time is money, this represents the cost of time.  Additionally, if it takes time away from something that would have been a more productive use of your time, then you get slapped with the double-whammy of a lost opportunity cost on top of it. 
  2. Learning Curve Costs –This is the time it takes to learn the basics of new applications, tools and techniques; and then, of course, there’s the additional time it takes to actually master them.  I refer you back to the discovery costs up above for a glimpse of the cost implications associated with this.
  3. Application Turnover Costs – The rapid cycle of innovation that keeps the internet moving forward in leaps and bounds typically forces you to either frequently upgrade an old version of something or replace it with something new.  This may come with a material cost in terms of cold hard cash, or it may be just another bleeder of time.
  4. The Cost of Staying Competitive – Given your druthers, you might not want to do any of the above work.  However, if your competition has been lured in by the freebies and is now doing something that has yielded a competitive advantage, you may very well face the dual cost of having to do it anyway, along with the cost of playing catch-up because now you’re lagging behind.
  5. Outsourcing or New Staffing Costs – You’ve outsourced or brought aboard new staff with internet marketing expertise to handle it.  As a result, you’ve traded one cost (time) for another (money).  This is the principle of “an equal and opposite effect.”
  6. The Cost of Doing Nothing – The risk of lost opportunity costs, of being competitively impaired, or becoming obsolete and/or irrelevant comes with the decision to do nothing.  Particularly if your business caters to the under 45 age group, the risk grows increasingly larger with each passing generation.  After all, they’re weaned on these technologies, and they heavily rely on them in their daily lives.  

you can’t flee it, so face it

In the contemporary business climate, it’s probably impossible to hide from the hidden costs of internet marketing, so you might just as well face them head on. 

Ipso facto, the question is not how to avoid the costs of internet marketing, but how to successfully contain them (or at least prevent them from running away on you); or even better, smarter, and truly productive, how to establish a good ROI from your internet marketing investment?


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