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Web, Search And Social Marketing: DIY Or CTM?

By October 29, 2014February 1st, 2018Marketing Insights & Strategy, Podcast, Readings
Web, Search And Social Marketing: DIY Or CTM?

Ralph And I Have A Shared Philosophy When It Comes To Things Like Home Improvements, Automobile Repair And Event Planning.

It’s the CTM philosophy and it involves one or the other of us picking up the phone to Call The Man.

It’s our generic way of saying, “Let someone else deal with it, preferably someone who knows what they’re doing.”

We’re big fans of Calling The Man, whether a room needs painting or a tire needs changing or Thanksgiving dinner needs planning.

And of course in some cases we Call The Woman but for practical purposes we keep it simple and just call everyone The Man. (Kind of like we call our podcast audience Fred. If you’re not one of our Freds yet, go take a listen and join the fun.)

On the other hand are the DIYers of the world and they’re the ones who we’d borrow a screwdriver from if we were ever inclined to pick up a screwdriver. They’re big on Doing It Yourself. No job is too big or too challenging.

It’s in the spirit of DIY vs. CTM that I want to talk to you about your web, search and social marketing today. The question I want to address is not can you… but should you. After all, even I can hang curtains. It just takes a whole lot more time, spackle and 4-letter words than if I had more wisely Called The Man.

Building Your Website

These days it doesn’t take much more than the ability to drag-and-drop to get a website up and running. Tools like WordPress, Squarespace and about four billion other “website builder” tools promise fast, easy results. The cost of entry is pretty low and the temptation to DIY pretty high. So… should you?


There is exactly one pro to building your own website and that’s cost. Doing it yourself requires an investment of your time but very little, if anything, out of pocket.

That’s quite often enough to drive businesses to DIY. Sadly, it’s all downhill from there…


Remember me and the curtains? The last time I tried to hang a set I ended up putting the claw end of the hammer through the wall (don’t ask) and missing the stud, which involved buying a molly and starting over, followed by buying spackle to patch the hole and paint to fix the patch and wine to smooth the whole thing over.

In the end it probably cost me more than if I had called my favorite contractor and asked him to stop by for half an hour.

Yes, the cost of a website can sometimes sound like a whole lot but consider the cost of doing it… let’s not say “wrong”, let’s just call it “not as effectively”.

Building a good business website is no small feat. Despite the glitzy promises otherwise, it’s neither fast nor easy. Dragging and dropping isn’t even the beginning of its challenges.

A good business website requires planning. What’s its purpose? Who is your audience? How will you get people to do what you want them to do? What about those leads and sales, anyway?

All that thinking has to happen before you even start.

Then there’s more thinking… how should pages be structured for best user experience? How do we want to lay it out so it’s clear what your business does and why it matters to a visitor?

There’s also content. Who is going to write it? What will it say? Is the message clear and will it entice someone to buy from you or are you just filling pages with words like “leverage” and “solutions”?

How about SEO? Page titles? Descriptions? Imagery? URLs? Structure? Robots file?

It’s also important to consider design. After all, first impressions count and your site needs to appeal to someone within the first few seconds or they may never get to your content, no matter how wonderful.

If all of this is stressing you out a little, it should!

There is a whole lot more to building an effective business website than drag-and-drop.

Sometimes they’re things you wouldn’t think of yourself. After all, you’re busy running your business, not being a web professional.

Sometimes they’re things you might think of… and not know how to do. When that happens, DIYers often take a “shove it under the rug” approach and that can lead to missed opportunities.

Other times, even if you know exactly what to do, you may just, in fact, be busy. And your website may languish somewhere on a list with “hang curtains”.

None of the above makes for a business website that generates leads and makes sales and moves your business forward.

The Verdict

Sure, you can build your website. But unless you have a ton of time to devote to it, and to learning and understanding what goes into an effective site from layout and design to content and SEO, then you shouldn’t.

CTM and let your investment pay off by helping your business grow and succeed online.

Social Media Marketing

The interesting thing about social media marketing is that not only does everyone think they can jump on Facebook and do it, but a rather large subset of “everyone” thinks they have sprouted overnight into social media experts and gurus.

Opening an account on every major network is free – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram – so that makes the idea of DIY very tempting indeed. And we humans are born with an innate need to be “social” so that ups the temptation factor by about a billion.

It sounds like a no-brainer so is this really a simple case of DIY?


Again, “free” here makes a strong argument in favor of DIY. Of course, you do have to count your time investment, but ultimately you can set up and use social channels for zero dollars.

For businesses on a budget, social media is a pretty forgiving way to try out your marketing chops. As long as you’re smart enough to leave sex, religion and politics off the table, you can experiment, socialize and see what happens.

Another nice benefit of managing your own social marketing is that you get to do it 100% in your voice and you get to connect and build relationships with the people you want to do business with.

Sometimes companies that CTM take too much of a hands-off approach and let a marketer or agency take over the content and tone. That can have the effect of distancing you from your own marketing and given the “social” nature of social media, it could be kind of weird if you weren’t ever actually social.


For lots of DIYers social media marketing takes more time than they have to invest. That too often results in a haphazard approach that doesn’t yield results or a limited approach because it’s too overwhelming to think of being active on more than one or two social networks. Then DIYers walk away thinking social media “doesn’t work” and they give up.

Even if you do have the time, you may not have the strategy. After all, it is marketing, and that means work. And it may be social but it’s not an actual party.

Without a plan, a strategy and metrics to test the outcome of it all, you may simply be wasting your time. You may be missing opportunities. You may, in fact, be doing more harm than good because the time you spend not succeeding at social marketing could have been put to better use doing something you’re really a pro at – and that’s your business.

The Verdict

It’s a bit of a split decision. If you’re going to DIY, make sure you have the time to invest and that you have a plan and a good strategy behind your efforts.

If you CTM, be sure to take part in the process, even if it’s as simple as spending time teaching your marketer about your brand personality and then approving social posts before they go out on your behalf.

I tend to favor a hybrid approach on this one – CTM for planning and strategy but DIY for building stronger relationships and personal connections with your customers.

Search Engine Optimization And Marketing

Take one Google Webmaster video. Add a dash of “expert advice”. Mix in a DIY attitude and it seems like everyone these days has at least tried their hand at SEO.

You can’t go two blog posts without someone telling you what to do and what not to do, so it seems like a pretty simple matter of finding the recipe and cooking up a batch.




I’m absolutely serious.

Go hang some curtains.


In the good old days of dial-up internet, you would have been able to throw a whole bunch of keywords on a page and dominate search results.

These days it’s more like… if you have exactly one keyword too many on a page you will be banned forever from Google’s index.

Obviously I exaggerate but SEO is fraught with nuances that become dangers that become major problems for many websites.

Use keywords in anchor text. Sometimes. But not too much.

Make sure you have an exact match for a keyword on your page. But not really because “semantic search” understands synonyms and related terms. But not really, so use keywords. Except if you put too many keywords on your page it looks like spam. What’s too many? Who knows.

Then there are the billion things you’re not thinking about because remember, you’re running a business. Map listings. Citations. Internal linking structure.

Not to mention the next animal-themed Google algorithm change (Penguin, Panda or Hummingbird, anyone?) that sends even the professionals into paroxysms of speculation and strategy shifts.

The Verdict

Do yourself a favor and CTM on this one. And make sure it’s a reputable Man who can tell you exactly what is being done and employs only aboveboard practices that won’t give you quick results now for pain and aggravation later.

Blogging And Content Marketing

I lumped these two together but really blogging is just one part of content marketing. It’s also the most common and widely understood part so it gives us a good point of reference.

If you’ve got a keyboard and a website you can DIY. And yet the question remains: should you?


The essence of content marketing is to share your voice and value with your audience, and nobody is better equipped than you to be you.

When you blog as yourself you get to imbue your ideas, insights and personality into your writing. You can also capitalize on timely topics. So if one of your customers walks through your door with a fantastic question and you want to turn that into a blog post for tomorrow morning, you can jump right on it instead of waiting for your next scheduled release date.


The problem with all that freedom to be you is that there are plenty of people who don’t quite know how to do that on paper. Business blogs end up coming across as stilted and “professional” (translation: boring).

And too often, content marketing ends there. After all, blogging is no small feat. It takes time, effort and discipline to sit down, draft your ideas, polish them and then do all the setup necessary to format and publish a blog.

Once that’s done you may sit back and relax, thinking you’ve nailed content marketing. But what about the email campaign you should be running to let your list know about that content? And what about the social posts to spread news of your content far and wide?

There’s more to this thing than “sit down, pound on keyboard”.

There’s also scheduling and this is where most people fall apart. Lots of people have all good intentions of sitting down and blogging every week but good intentions never paid a bill or generated a lead.

Blogging not only takes time to do but it takes time to work. We blogged here at Web.Search.Social for a year before we saw a single qualified lead come directly from our efforts. That can be discouraging and drive people to quit before seeing any results at all. Without The Man to put together a schedule, a strategy and to keep your content marketing plan on track, it’s quite easy to let it slide until you’re not really doing content marketing at all anymore.

The Verdict

Some people can sit down, come up with ideas and express them quite well. They’re disciplined, they’re comfortable putting their brand personality on paper and they get it done. If that’s you, get blogging. Just don’t forget the strategy part, or the fact that there really is more to it than blogging.

So for those of us with the time, the drive and the ability, it’s a perfect DIY project. Get yourself out there in front of your audience and let your personality and company shine.

But if you can’t look yourself in the eye and say, “I’m a blogger” then CTM. If the thought of all that work starts to feel overwhelming, CTM.

If you have a ton of great ideas but not enough hours in the day to bring them to light, CTM. If you don’t have a ton of ideas and you often wonder what on earth you could possibly blog about… CTM.

The Man will put you on a content schedule. The Man will see that the schedule gets adhered to. The Man will strategize and measure and help you set realistic expectations and goals.

The Man, however, will not be you. Whenever I take on a writing project for a client I spend a great deal of time getting to know them and their company because I know that I don’t want to churn out generic marketing copy. I want to create content that reflects the people it represents. And the only way I can do that is with the insight and input of my client.

So when you’re someone’s client, don’t forget to be part of the process. You have a ton of valuable insights and information in your head. That’s what will drive your content marketing, no matter who is doing the execution.


If you thought there was going to be a simple answer, I must have disappointed you. But if you’ve been listening to anything I’ve said for any length of time, you would know how I feel about things being “simple”.

The truth is, there is a lot that goes into marketing. From planning and strategy, to execution, metrics, adapting and learning.

I know people who are quite good at DIY. They manage to do it all and run a business, too. Of course, they sleep a lot less than most humans but they do it.

I also know people who wouldn’t know marketing from a cheese sandwich except they know eating one keeps them alive and doing the other keeps their business alive. They CTM because they know their limitations.

Somewhere in the middle lies a gigantic gray sea of people who do some things on their own and hire out for others. If you take only one thing away today I want it to be this: marketing is not an either/or choice. You don’t have to do it completely on your own, nor do you have to hand it off to someone else and walk away.

In fact, the best marketing efforts are collaborative. Nobody else has what’s in your brain. If you can bring that to the table both in your own efforts and as part of a team with a marketing professional, you’re headed for a win.

So as you think about your marketing, your budget and limitations on your time and ability, know that there are some things you can (and probably should) do on your own and some that you most definitely shouldn’t. The rest… well, like everything in marketing, it depends.

If you’re not sure how to tackle your marketing, let’s connect! I can teach you, help you or do it for you depending on what you need. Email me or find me on Facebook or Google Plus.

This post is part of the Word Carnival, a monthly group blogging event where business owners across the spectrum get together to talk shop. This month’s topic is The Jekyll and Hydes. We’re talking about things that have two different schools of thought and where we fall on the spectrum. Read the rest of the fabulous posts here.

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Balance – that’s what I like about this, Carol Lynn. You’ve laid out some good scenarios for figuring out when to CTM or go the DIY route. And even if you’re a DIYer, sometimes you might need a little help.

  • About 90% of my clients are DIYers — mostly because they’ve got more time than money. I wholeheartedly support them AND in my commitment to their best interests, I always say they should outsource first the things they don’t want to get good at. Eventually, as a business grows, they should lean more heavily on CTM and focus on being the CEO of their kingdoms. But until then, folks gotta have options. I think the trick is to give yourself a limited amount of time to tackle something. I tell my clients, if you’ve been working on it for more than 30 minutes and you still don’t know which end is up, call me.
    Education (like watching a video on SEO) is a great place to start because if we ever hope to manage The Man’s work for us, we need to know what the heck to expect in terms of outcomes. And watching that video might be enough for someone to realize, “Hey, I don’t want to learn this stuff. EVER.” And then it’s time to definitely CTM. 🙂

    • Like me and painting. I can. But I hate it. Plus I make a giant mess, so there’s that. I know it’s tough to CTM when you have a tight budget but some things are going to suck up way more of your time than money. It’s just important to know what those things are and take small steps to get to where you want to be.

    • Caroline says:

      I have to agree with you on the ‘”we need to know what the heck to expect in terms of outcomes”.
      If we don’t have an understanding of the process and what it can do, how can we effectively manage it?

      In respect of outsourcing business tasks, I get a little tired of folks making a case to just outsource stuff. What many folks forget is that it isn’t an abdication of responsibility – you have to take time and effort to research, source, test and manage the whole caboodle.

  • Every summer under my roof is carpet shampooing season (You know, that time of the year you wish your feet were stepping on hardwood flooring.) I inevitably … and stubbornly … decide to tackle this task in D.I.Y. fashion. And why not? I have the right equipment to get the job done. Well, let’s just say I own a carpet-cleaning device. It’s cumbersome and heavy equipment and I always end up with a miserable backache and carpets that look marginally clean. So I end up cleaning them a second time. But do I CTM, instead?! No.

    Moral of this story? Even if you have the right [biz-building] tools and you know how to do the work, it’s sometimes better to Call The Man – if for no other reason than to ease some of your burdens. Doing everything yourself takes a toll.

    I’ve said it before, Carol Lynn, but I love the audio versions of your posts! 🙂

    • Oh Melanie, I have owned and given away every DIY tool imaginable. Carpet steamers. Power washers. Hand saws. Paint tarps. These days I own one screwdriver for things like “my chair fell apart”. And a kitchen sponge. Whenever I have one of those DIY moments (hey Ralph, why don’t we just paint this room, we can do it in like, one weekend) – I always slap myself with a dishtowel, open up a bottle of wine and remember that I not only stink at that stuff but I hate it, too.

      I’m fond of CTM. And if I can’t afford to, then it doesn’t get done. I am much happier that way!

      • You have now provided me with a brand new approach to D.I.Y. household projects: “Slap myself with a dish towel and open a bottle of wine.” I’ll drink to that! LOL!!

  • Annie Sisk says:

    OH MY GOD. I love you. Seriously. I also love this post. I’m bookmarking it and sending it to the next delightful person who tells me “Oh, I can do just as good a job and I don’t charge myself THAT much,” after seeing my fee schedule.

  • Carol Lynn with another smashing post.

    I so hear you on the hands-on house upgrades. Scarier still, I just got done babyproofing, which had no end of anchoring shelves into the wall, latching cabinets, safely securing TVs to the furniture so they won’t tip, and adding bumpers to corners so tumbles don’t cause brain damage.

    Throughout the whole process I was frustrated because things *I knew I was doing somewhere in the realm of correct* would go horribly, horribly wrong.

    Like, how hard is it to put a freaking anchor in to the wall? Turns out, pretty freaking hard… for one reason or another, over and over again I’d hit a knot in a stud or a weak spot in the drywall or turned the anchor one quarter turn too much and now I have a gaping hole rather than a solid landing.

    Stud finders don’t find knots. They don’t sell pre-made kits to anchor stuff into the wall just so. They don’t make guides on your furniture to tell you “This is exactly where you should be drilling to stabilize this stupid thing against a babyquake.” Even so, a weekend later, everything is nicely mounted into the wall, the holes are patched and painted, and I can’t shake anything loose even with considerable effort.

    It’s like my taxes. For YEARS (YEARS!!!) I’ve begged, pleaded even – with my money people. “Please, explain to me what levers I’m puling that contribute to my tax amount.” And every quarter it’s a new surprise amount with no explanation. Three separate professionals and not one has figured it out. I still can’t make heads or tails of my taxes.

    Now, on the flip-side… I used to think the trifecta of skills that would make me a unicorn was coding, design, and writing. I’ve written for clients to great effect. I’ve coded their websites. I never got around to learning the design side of it because the design side was “A bridge too far”, you know?

    Fast forward to today. Here I am writing a book for my son that I want to give to him on his first birthday – illustrated like all his other books. I price out the cost to illustrate and it’s way over the “nice birthday present” price point. It’s in “omg, I’d better kickstart this puppy” territory.

    So I pick up Illustrator and buy $10 in Skillshare classes in Illustrator. And a few weeks after I started my first class, I have characters designed and a nice understanding of Illustrator. But it took me a month to dedicate the time to START to learn. And then a week in between lessons.

    The moral of the story is this: if you truly, truly want to go the DIY route, understand that it takes time, money, and considerable mental effort in addition to the actual work. CTM when things go south and the fix eludes you. CTM when you don’t have the mental space to take the detour.

    • So Nick, the next time I want to write a blog post I’m just going to ask you to comment on something 🙂

      You made the perfect case for DIY (holy-cow money and that’s soooo not happening) and the perfect case for NOT (still costs some money, and takes a stack of time and effort and learning).

      It’s a trade off. And you have to figure out what your abilities and limitations are. And when it comes to business you have to figure out what your return is (or isn’t) based on your choices. Too many people “try” something with the limited time and knowledge they have, decide it doesn’t work and skip the whole thing. It might sound cliche but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

      Anyway I commend you for your tireless baby-proofing. I don’t have that type of commitment in me. CTM all the way 🙂

  • gf says:

    I work for a major e-commerce retailer, so friends and family frequently turn to me for advice on digital strategy/content strategy/web development/social media… you name it. So there is a 3rd option that many micro businesses exercise.

    CAF Call A Friend.
    If Carol had a handy cousin she could invite over to hang her curtain rod for nothing more then a home cooked meal it might be a better option for her, especially at first. For a micro business (2-5 employees) the cost of CTM is daunting, and in many cases a significant percent of revenue. It is not a case where they don’t see the value of Digital, it is simply that in the landscape of their business – where sometimes making payroll at the end of the week stretches credit lines – they can’t make the tough choice to CTM. They begin to read various resources about how to DIY and many of them are conflicting or completely wrong/outdated. (how about your 80/20 curated rule Carol?)

    So my friends call me. We talk. If they have an issue identifying, “What’s its purpose? Who is
    your audience? How will you get people to do what you want them to do?
    What about those leads and sales, anyway?” then I know why they are struggling to make payroll. Those questions need to be clearly addressed in every aspect of your business – not just your website or Digital campaigns. Sometimes talking them through they steps they need to take before they begin Digital leads them back to that dusty business plan they wrote to secure a loan to start in the first place.

    I know that some firms fear the “Expert Friend” in the background, a guy who took a dreamweaver class at community college a decade ago, but many very small businesses need a support system to grow to the level where they can afford to CTM. That support will give them confidence and reassurance once they start to navigate the countless hacks that claim to be “Social Media Experts” or “Web Marketing Gurus” when all they do is want to bill at high rates with little ROI.

    Thank you for a post/podcast that made me think, and please lose the cheesy tin can sound effect when you read headers.

    • That’s an interesting perspective to add. Funny enough, I am also the friend in the CAF scenario – I can help out friends who aren’t clients and do it in a way that also shares with them the benefit of my experience. If you have a friend who is wise enough to help then that is certainly an option for the micro business or the one just starting out without a workable marketing budget.

      It would be worthwhile if that friend had some background in web and marketing obviously, but it can be a better option that purely DIY because everyone needs support sometimes. Ralph teaches web development to college students and I’ve seen his students build better websites for their final project than some DIYers do – so if you have a friend with that background, it’s better than struggling through yourself.

      As an aside, I’d be curious if you have a suggestion for reading headers. The goal was to make it stand out so it wouldn’t be confusing or sound like a sentence fragment.

      • gf says:

        The podcast (highly recommended by the way) uses a transitional sound/music to divide segments and sub segments. It is easy to hear when fast forwarding to the next segment, or going back to catch the start of the segment again. It may be a little more work in post, but it adds polish and I think they don’t record a whole episode in the same day, so you don’t notice shifts in audio as much.

        Some of your podcasts are more conversational, maybe even when it is a dictated post work in more conversational language for the headers?

  • I love this post, because it reminds me that I need to CTM more. I’m a huge DIY-er, and sometimes I try to tackle too much. Even if I can do my own bookkeeping and accounting, should I? How else could I spend my time? One of my upcoming goals if I reach my income benchmarks this year is to start handing off a lot of the little stuff to The Man. So I can spend my time using my brain to make more money and have more meaningful relationships with my cliens. (And have more fun, of course! My work-life balance is leaning a little too far toward work right now.) Great insights 🙂

    • Quite true, sometimes we do things because we CAN. Then we get this false sense that we’re saving money but we are still spending time and if we could better use our time on something more profitable – and that we enjoy more – then that’s a better way to get things done.

  • SandyMcD says:

    Oh my, but you write a good post Carol Lynn. I have distinct ‘post envy’ with this one.

    Instead of trying to DIY one myself, I am just going to CTW and put this in front of every single business owner I know who is trying to market for themselves. You put the case for either with laser sharp clarity. Are you sure you aren’t a top class barrister in disguise?

    Something I need to learn from this too is to tune in more quickly when those I am coaching to DIY don’t want to DIY. That can be a missed opportunity for both parties.

    Between this and Tea’s exhortations to take marketing a little slower while relishing the process, a weight has lifted off my shoulders. Been struggling under the DIY load because I can and DIF (do it fast) for too many years!

    • We always put the most pressure on ourselves to get things done, don’t we? Sometimes delegating is the hardest of all! Sometimes it comes down to budget so you’re stuck taking things on yourself. But lots of times it’s a matter of deciding where your money (and time) is best spent. We don’t HAVE to do it all!