I got an email from a client that said he had the chance to barter for a new website and wanted to get the codes to change to the new service. He had a serviceable, modern, mobile-friendly website already, so why is he leaving? I know I could get into a back and forth discussion about this with him, resulting in me having to show how I could do more for him than someone who has yet to work for him and has promised to fulfill his every desire. I can't compete with that, so I won't really try.
The fact is that this client, like most, did not want to have to write content for his website. I initially convinced him not to buy some kind of content-writing service, assuming he'd figure out how important it is, and then it would happen. Nope. Empty categories and no links from other sites (except mine). The point is that the client imagined he would be able to do the work necessary to make the website a marketing tool. Instead, it ended up being more of an online business card.
The marketers and advertisers can convince clients who don't add a single article to their own websites that the current web developer is inept or that the current design is outdated. They might even talk about magic tools like SEO. In fact, SEO specialists, who were rolling in money a few years back, are probably trying to steal my clients right now. They were always cheats and liars, but now they are desperate cheats and liars. And the salesmen or marketers who work for these failing firms are also more desperate than ever to sign folks up.
A reputable marketing/advertising firm would have told the client that they could work with a current web designer who had the latest Joomla website built on the best Joomla host. But something more fly-by-night or scam-tastic would tell the client to get the domain on their server so they can handle (and now own) all content. A reputable marketing firm would have told the client to write an article a week to post to the perfectly good website. Scammers will tell the client to let them post articles and "fix the problem."
What I've heard all too often from clients as they try to get out of these kinds of deals is that the promises were empty and tactics were predatory. Sure, they can drive traffic to your new site, but they either rehash content or use other underhanded techniques to get a website optimized for search engines. I cannot argue that these firms use some of the same marketing recommendations I made with the client, like a Google+ Page, claiming free business listings, and I'm sure they handle some of it for their clients, but then they own all marketing aspects of the business.
That said, there's a need for business owners to avoid spending all their time doing things like writing website content. As a web designer who understands the power each post can have, I'd say that writing for your website might be the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT task you perform in support of your business, and people will want it to come from you, not some greasy SEO mechanic. For under $1000, you can get a great website that needs just one post a week to exceed your marketing expectations. You could also pay someone else to write the content and handle social media, but why would you do this on a system that belongs to someone else. Take control of your small business marketing by getting a quality website that you keep updated with relevant content.
Like I said, I won't fight the client leaving. He's been convinced, probably with charts and graphs and other data. That's fine. I'll keep his website as a subdomain and wait for him to come back when he realizes how little his new marketing firm plans on doing for him and that he could have done it all for himself in the first place. I told him from day one that HE was the expert who needed to be the authority on his website.
As a web designer and as a teacher, it's frustrating when others do not fulfill their potential. However, it's even worse when scammers make a living off of honest business owners who just want to succeed.
Let me say this one more time, in case anyone missed it. The key to your small business succeeding online is writing something relevant and compelling every day. On your own website. Using other means to direct people there. I'm not saying that recommendations and advertising don't work. They do. But so does a simple website with updated content. Try it for a year: one article a week within your niche on your own website. It will work, and it won't be the hollow marketing many companies try to use.