Business Owners Don’t Trust Web Developers

Mexican standoff
Local business owners are none to happy with web developers and online guru's.

Not only don’t they trust them; they think we’re all a bunch of rip off merchants. Ouch!  (Oh by the way that includes us online marketers too. Double ouch.)

Over the past few months I’ve been occasionally assisting one of my peers, Richard Keeves, from Smarter Web Strategies, with a program to help Australian businesses, especially retailers, deal with the issues of doing business online -

This pilot program was run in Perth, Western Australia with the assistance of the Chamber of Commerce, the State Government and other industry bodies.

Digital Roadmaps

One of the things that became clear at the outset and was reiterated constantly thru the program was how p!$$ed off most retailers are with web developers and online marketers.

As we spoke with them, we heard tale after tale of how badly they had been let down by developer after developer, by marketer after marketer.

The issues ranged from bad advice, poor advice, wrong advice; being charged exorbitant amounts of money for simple websites, the usual and despicable lock-in service agreements and gatekeeper contracts and on and on.

That a lot of this behaviour is still going on in 2013 is quite shocking for those of us who are always trying to do the right thing.


Business is Really Angry With Us

By the time these business owners had been through their third or fourth web developer or online guru, they’d had enough and weren’t prepared to listen to anyone.

And they are really angry about it. As myself, Richard and the other good guys from the local industry listened to their stories we had to wear much of the heat of their anger.

See some of their comments below and download the excellent case study comments.

The professional part of our industry at least has started to recognise this problem and the Australian Web Industry Association has launched an initiative called Widelines to try and address it.

In other words the industry is trying to clean up its collective act.

See Widelines for more and some of the common horror stories business owners encounter when dealing with web developers.Widelines


But How Did This Happen?

The common excuse from some web developers goes something like this: “We’re web developers; we develop websites, it’s up to you to understand what you’re getting and ask the relevant questions. After all, you signed off on the proposal.”

Well while that might be pedantically correct it’s still a professional cop out, and does the client no service.

It results in a sort of Mexican stand off. The developer expects the client to know what they are getting, ask the right questions; the client expects the developer to look after them, tell them what they don’t know and answer the questions they aren't asking.

Inevitably no-one is happy.

As Richard kept saying throughout the program: “Most business owners simply don’t know what they don’t know.”

Or as the business owners put it: “We don’t know what questions to ask?”


Lack of Professionalism

Another major part of the problem is that there are simply so many non professional people out there. Let’s face it, these days every second man and his dog is either a web developer or an online marketer.

But dig a little deeper and ask them do they have recognised marketing qualifications, or do they have significant experience in running a business?

Just because they know how to run Adwords doesn't make them a marketer or business consultant.

The same goes for developers. It’s very easy to get an understanding of say Wordpress and then set up a business selling websites. That doesn’t make them a developer. Check their track record and experience.

The same goes for web designers. Designers aren't marketers. They aren't qualified to give you business advice.

Think about it. In the offline world would you let your interior designer make crucial decisions about your business?

Would you ask your builder or plumber how to market your business?

You would not. You wouldn't even consider it, yet this is the exact equivalent of  what many Australian business owners are doing when they start an online project.

You need to get the appropriate advice from the right people.

The professional people will usually charge more for their services, often a lot more because they know what they are doing and what’s involved. The suspect ones will usually be offering discounted prices.

This doesn't mean you always have to go with a big agency, there are plenty of small operators who know what they are doing, usually more so than the bigger players.


You Can’t Trust a Web Developer

Seriously, the only person you can trust is yourself. As a business owner you need to educate yourself about what does and doesn’t work about websites and digital marketing.

That may seem a little unfair and harsh, but there is a lot of snake oil out there, and there’s an awful lot of hype about what you should be doing.  

If you can’t tell the difference, you are going to burn your money.

The digital industry is particularly prone to the “shiny ball syndrome” where almost everybody gets fixated with the latest flavour of the month.

Recently it was social media, then mobile, and now responsive design is the latest trend. The thing is there will always be something new in this space and there will be very earnest proponents of the hot new “thing”.

Whether they work or not in terms of generating business is always debatable. However, as a business owner you can’t afford to be continually experimenting with the latest trends.

What you need to know is what works and how to go about it.


Where to Get Honest, No BS Advice

There are plenty of resources out there to help you but it can be like trying to sip from the fire hose when trying to decide who you should read.

 I’ve been writing this blog since the mid noughties giving away all sorts of actionable tips about what works; Richard has Digital Roadmaps and James Bull has written a series of passionate articles on how to do things right.

Internationally you should read my friend Bryan Eisenberg’s blog. Bryan is an internationally recognised authority on what works in terms of getting the most business from your online assets.

If you only read one blog, then read his.

If you want to avoid all the cr@p that goes along with marketing and advertising in general then look no further than Malcolm Auld in Australia and Drayton Bird internationally.

The last two are often hilarious and inevitably politically incorrect. Don’t go there if you are easily offended.

There are plenty of other sources, but the bottom-line is it’s up to you the business owner to take responsibility for your online efforts. Nobody knows more about your business and its customers than you do.


Quotes from Smarter Digital RoadMaps for Retailers Pilot Program.  

Download the full case study Coaching Program of the Smarter Digital RoadMaps for Retailers Pilot Program.

 “I’ve learnt a lot. I spent these sessions with Richard, and one day a little light switch went on in my head. We needed a business plan for the online world. Now I know I need to draw on the knowledge of others to make it work.” Steve Ellis, National Food Service Equipment


 “... I was about 3 months into a contract with a new web developer. This stretched out to 9 months. ...We’ve been burnt many times in the past and there are lots of cowboys out there. I’ve now got this huge insight into what I can do to make my business better online.” Kelly Arfuso, Adorable Affordable


 “ open a shop online is no cheaper than opening a bricks and mortar store, and anyone who thinks it is, is crazy. It’s not that simple.” Simon Chadwick, Stride Shoes


 “ One of the constant messages from retailers is finding the right people to be able to trust, and with the limited time and resources available being able to make the right decisions and not costly ones.” Dean Phillips, Metcash Food & Grocery


 “The biggest thing I’ve learnt through this program is not to under estimate your own naiveté. In a previous life I was a database programmer, and I was technically savvy and understood computers fairly well.

"But when it comes to the online world and ecommerce, I didn’t realise how little I knew. I could tell you what the acronyms meant, but getting someone to do it for me was another story. Snake oil salesmen were all around.” Joe Mahon, Reids Bootmakers



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