The ULTIMATE Guide To Marketing Expectations: Fantasy VS Reality

by | Business, Marketing, SEO | 0 comments

We love a challenge. We really do.

And at CreativeJC, they come in all shapes and sizes.

But perhaps the biggest challenge we face is helping clients understand the playing field that ad wizards face in today’s constantly changing markets. There’s a hell of a lot of information out there on marketing, and unfortunately, some of it… Well, it ain’t that great.

We’ve seen and heard just about every curveball you can think of, in terms of customer wants and needs.

Many of our client’s requests are completely vanilla and straightforward. Sometimes however, we get an inquiry that is fuelled by techniques or misinformation picked up in outdated publications.

We want you to succeed. Success in marketing means understanding what is and isn’t possible. Working with (and within) established frameworks to achieve results.

While going against the grain can be great in art and fashion, with marketing and particularly SEO, there are systems in place that we marketers must respect and harness to hit your goals.

With all that in mind, I’ve done the work to wrangle together the ultimate list of the most common kinds of misconceptions or false expectations faced by marketers, as well as an explanation of exactly why those expectations are unrealistic, and what is the realistic alternative expectation to have, to avoid disappointment.

Unrealistic Expectation #1-

Pinpoint “Guaranteed” results

If you’ve ever run a business, you’ve probably been bombarded with adverts or cold-calls from companies promising exact “guaranteed” results from their marketing efforts on your behalf. The truth is that in an incredibly competitive market, it is basically impossible to guarantee exact metrics, or exact dates for timelines. As marketers employ techniques to increase the reach of your business online, they are continuously facing off with the ongoing efforts of competitors who may very well adjust their own strategies to counter those employed by your marketing agency. These “turf wars” can be messy, and mean that timelines for achieving a certain metric such as a certain #1 spot may be drawn out into an ongoing war of attrition between rival agencies/companies.

Reality: Anyone guaranteeing exact results such as a #1 rank by an exact date deadline should be treated with as much suspicion as the man who promises you with 100% certainty the outcome of a highly contested horse race along with the time the winner will cross the line. Your best bet is to work with marketing agencies which offer realistic timeline “windows”, who offer results not by a given exact date, but within a range of months (or years depending on how ambitious your marketing goals are, of course). A good agency will also work with you to give you a realistic idea of the window of achievable results. An example would be offering help with achieving a rank within the top ten of your target platforms within an approximate timeframe, as opposed to #1 by a specific date.

Unrealistic Expectation #2

Bargain basement pricing

As the concept of SEO evolves, the understanding of the work involved continues to lag a little behind. Moreover, the internet is rife with charlatans who promise the world for a penny, which further drives the gap in knowledge between the public and those doing the marketing gruntwork. It’s not uncommon for those unfamiliar with online marketing to hear about dirt-cheap guerilla marketing campaigns that cost next to nothing. These sound great, but unfortunately, it’s not the daily reality for those in the trenches. The reality is that there is a broad array of professional services involved in not only achieving, but maintaining a high profile online. Effective marketing DOES come cheap, but only when you understand what you are getting for your money. Here’s a great article that offers a solid perspective on what you get when you hire an agency, and the rationale behind the pricing structure:

It’s not uncommon for those unfamiliar with online marketing to hear about dirt-cheap guerilla marketing campaigns that cost next to nothing. These sound great, but unfortunately, it’s not the daily reality for those in the trenches.

Reality: Before talking with an agency, research online to discover what online marketing involves. A good agency will regularly create and update content across all platforms, performing analytics and market research, writing blogs, creating videos, A/B testing and much, much more. As your understanding of the work involved grows, you will see how incredibly economical the services of a good agency can be. This is especially so when one considers the huge increase in profits that an effective agency brings to the table for your company.  

Unrealistic Expectation #3-

Selling Junk Products

Occasionally, marketing companies are approached by individuals whose products/services are simply poor quality. Furniture so badly made it is basically defective, Karate lessons from some “master of the dojo” that got his black belt for 5 bucks off the dark web. In these instances, the only correct and honorable course of action for a reputable marketing agency is to inform the customer that their products/services require some polishing before being able to attract an audience. Quality marketers genuinely want to help good businesses thrive in the marketplace, not just collect money regardless of the product being offered. This also applies where the product is of questionable legality. The reputation of marketers hinges on their performance. If a product is dodgy, then it will likely not sell. Ultimately, poor sales and engagement will reflect poorly on the business marketing the product or service, not just the product or service provider.     

Reality: When seeking the assistance of a marketing agency, be aware that quality and/or legal issues may preclude the company from wishing to work with you. Remember that a company that turns down a contract for these reasons is doing you a favor, as you do not want to waste your money and time on advertising a product doomed to poor sales. Be mindful that when an advertising agency works with a company, they are in part tying their reputation to the market performance of that company’s products. There is always more time to further develop your offering before again seeking the services of professional marketers.

Unrealistic Expectation #4-

Expecting to conjure demand where there is none

Similar to #3, though different in key aspects. Occasionally a customer is looking to market something that simply lacks demand, and no amount of marketing will change that. The product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be bad quality. In fact, it could be incredibly high-quality. A tube of laptop keyboard whitener, slow-fermented by artisans in the backstreets of Tokyo- however well made- is simply never going to fly off the shelves. There just aren’t that many people looking to whiten the keys on their laptop. To be successful, a product must fill a tangible, measurable public need or want. Google “chindogu” if you want to see more examples of such oddities.  

Reality: Be mindful of the utility of your product or service. Some marketing agencies are not willing to work with obscure products/services. Advertising an item with questionable utility. As with unrealistic expectation #3, marketing agencies take on a certain risk when contracting to help market a business, and not all companies will be happy to attempt to market something that few, if any, people really want.

Unrealistic Expectation #5

Having unrealistic revenue or sales goals based on ‘industry standards’

With much information available online, it is easy to look around and find out how others are performing in terms of sales and to think that it is reasonable to copy the benchmarks being met by your competitors. However, based upon your own situation and current market standing, your goals may need some recalibration.

Reality: Talk with your agency to get an understanding of what a realistic sales goal will look like for your unique situation. Your success is of the utmost importance to any company you choose to work with, and so you can rest assured that it is in their interest to do the work to help you set realistic KPIs, as well as a strategy to meet higher goals over time. There are alot of individual factors influencing what level of performance you can reasonably expect from your marketing efforts, and these will need to be examined in order for you not only to get an idea of what is possible, but more importantly, why.

Unrealistic Expectation #6

Expecting overnight results

A hallmark of those new to the concept of SEO, is the expectation that results will be immediate and visible within days or even hours of the beginning of a marketing campaign. Whether or not this will be the case, as well as what degree of success will be visible, is dependent on a multiplicity of factors. Regardless, it is incorrect to think that large tangible changes, such as massive increases in follower count or page rank on Google, will happen overnight “with the right strategy”.

Reality: The overwhelming consensus with online marketing is that while massive increases in traffic, subscribers and sales can be made, these are goals that must be worked towards, and typically involves months of dedicated work by a team of professionals.  Factors such as keywords, backlinks, internal links, your XML sitemap, page speed and more must all be considered and accounted for.

Unrealistic Expectation #7

That money can quickly buy you organic influence

While it is true that more money spent on marketing can immediately result in more traffic, it is simply not possible to replicate the organic process of creating loyal subscribers and followers to your content. Even big businesses and celebrities with millions of dollars at their disposal are subject to this immutable, concrete law of the internet. In the case of celebrities, many have been caught simply pumping their numbers with fake followers, which can be useful for creating a false consensus, but this carries reputational risks at a great cost.

Reality: Growing a loyal base of customers takes time and consistent, honest effort. There is no shortcut to sustained success with online marketing. Vast sums of money cannot make people choose to like you and support your business. The key to growing a genuine following is utilizing proven methods and putting in work regularly. Marketing agencies offer a way to steadily increase your customer base in a way that feels natural, not forced. While there are “dark arts” and dirty tricks that can be used such as buying followers, people are turned off by the fakeness of companies that have artificially inflated numbers. Moreover, paid advertising can quickly drain your financial resources or prove ineffective when the chosen advertising platforms and methods employed are not thoroughly researched beforehand.

Unrealistic Expectation #8

Expecting to rank high on Google for incredibly high competition keywords

A staple of online marketing is SEO, and the point of SEO is ranking high on google search results when your prospective customers search for certain keywords related to your business. It is not uncommon for individuals to have unrealistic ideas about what keywords they wish to dominate, such as insurance companies that wish to be the number 1 result when people search the word “insurance” online, anywhere in the world.

Reality: For certain keywords, the insane amounts of competition created by companies all trying to rank for a popular word at the same time creates a situation where for the vast majority, ranking for that keyword is no longer economically feasible. Believe it or not, some keywords have so much competition that it would literally take years of dedicated effort by a marketing team before a business would even begin to show up on the first page of a Google search, LET ALONE rank as #1. At CreativeJC, we discuss all the keyword options available to the customer. Oftentimes, it is much easier and profitable to dominate keywords or key phrases relating to your local geographical area (such as “best insurance company in Phoenix Arizona”) instead of highly generalized keywords like “insurance”.

Unrealistic Expectation #9

That more traffic means more sales

Traffic is great and all, but too much traffic can cause issues- just ask anyone who has ever experienced a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Considering what level of traffic your online business infrastructure can handle is critical to making the most of any momentary surges in interest that may occur. Moreover, increased traffic of a poor quality can result in strained customer service resources, as you and your team are forced to handle an excess of tyre-kicking half-baked enquiries that go nowhere.  

Reality: Quality of traffic is often more important than quantity. Depending on your resources and intention, a more effective marketing strategy may involve an approach that is laser focussed on lower volumes of traffic, with very high conversion rates. If your intention is to sell a lot of products for example, it isn’t really helpful to have thousands of visitors a day that don’t buy anything, rather than a couple of hundred highly motivated customers who actually follow through with a purchase. Bigger volumes of traffic are not always better. A good marketing agency will help you get the best bang for your buck by creating a strategy that is the most effective (in terms of KPIs) with your available resources.

Depending on your resources and intention, a more effective marketing strategy may involve an approach that is laser focussed on lower volumes of traffic, with very high conversion rates.

Unrealistic Expectation #10

That the content you put out “has to be amazing/perfect”

Perfectionism is hard to avoid, especially when you have a strong emotional connection to your business idea. The natural inclination to put your heart and soul into every bit of work you publish is understandable. It would be excellent to have every blog article you post be a masterpiece, and every video an arthouse classic. But for the purposes of growing your brand online, this kind of perfectionism is not only unnecessary, but in the vast majority of cases, counterproductive.   

Reality: In the world of SEO, consistency and strategy are more important than specific quality of content from a human perspective. Google’s algorithms are not yet at a point where content can be graded on its artistic value. Rather, other mundane factors such as the type of websites you link to and your use of keywords are what determines your website’s value as a resource to Google, and therefore your rank. In order to sustain the interest and growth of your following, it is necessary to ensure that you have a stream of content that is just “good enough”. Of course, it is best if you can sustain a consistent high quality, but a cursory glance at a handful of some of the high performers on social media clearly demonstrates that even for the big hitters, regular posting is critical, high quality or not.

Unrealistic Expectation #11

That people should always respond positively to your content

Another built-in assumption many have is that you should make things that people love. That there should be positive interaction with your content.

Reality: While it may sound unorthodox, whether or not the majority of viewers like your content is not necessarily as important as whether they are engaging with it. Engagements such as comments and “retweeting” drive conversation, and conversation drives viral spread. A clever marketing strategy can harness all types of engagement, both positive and negative. This is especially the case across the different social media platforms (such as Facebook), which have their own unique systems for determining how content spreads or is shared, that is not solely based on “positive” interactions. “Outrage marketing” is a concept in the marketing world, which hinges upon the concept that “any press is good press”.

Unrealistic Expectation #12

That SEO and marketing can be “completed”.

SEO and online marketing have become buzzwords in business and entrepreneurial circles. There can sometimes be the perception that SEO or marketing is something you do, and then your site ranks higher on Google, and your business becomes more popular online.

Reality: SEO and online marketing are best thought of as lifelong parts of running a business in the 21st century. The landscape of online marketing is constantly changing, along with Google’s algorithms. This means that to both build and sustain popularity, you have no choice but to stay up to date with the constant changes made to all the major current platforms, the Google algorithm, as well as adapt to any new platforms as they arise. Doing so takes a lot of time, and this is the reason so many businesses turn to marketing agencies for assistance.

Unrealistic Expectation #13

That long-form content is best to establish authority

Generally speaking, any content over 2000 words is considered long-form, whether video, audio, or text. Given the sheer amount of information that can be packed into long articles, it stands to reason that greater amounts of information means your site will be seen as an authority in a certain area of knowledge.

Reality: In the eyes of Google, authority is not measured in terms of the quality of the information presented, but rather by a multitude of factors such as the sites linking back to your content, and the keywords found in your content. In the human realm, becoming established as a subject matter expert is a tricky subject and open to personal differences of opinion. It is worth noting that online authority is therefore different to authority on a subject in the real world. For the purposes of business, it is possible to establish your website as “an authority”, and therefore rank higher in search results, regardless of whether you only stick to long-form dry, technical content. In fact, if anything, becoming an authority online inevitably involves a mixture of strategically deployed long-form AND short-form content so as to maximize interaction, and therefore the generation of genuine high quality backlinks, for example.


Unrealistic Expectation #14

That you need as many backlinks as possible

SEO experts understand that link building and backlinks are two of search engine optimization’s most crucial components. According to Google, backlinks (links that lead back to your website) are one of their top 3 ranking signals. Google in part ranks your site based on its relevance, calculated according to the backlinks to your site. So it makes sense to want a lot of people to link to your site, right? The more backlinks, the more relevance, the higher the page rank in Google searches? Not quite.

Reality: To have a decent domain authority and therefore rank higher in Google search results, it is indeed true that links to your site are crucial. However, the quality of those links is far more important than the quantity. Links from well-respected sources will be much more powerful than no-name blogs. In fact, it’s said that a single high quality link is worth more than 100 from bad or low quality sites. Not only that, too many links from dodgy websites can actively harm your domain authority, and thus cause you to appear even lower in Google’s page rank. Rather than focussing on a high volume of worthless links, it is better to work on good quality content that will be organically picked up by other respected sites, that will refer back to you. There are certain types of content that are better for attracting shares and backlinks, such as how to articles, thought-provoking pieces, or infographics etc. Listing your site on Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yelp is also recommended.   

Unrealistic Expectation #15

That the information found online or in a book about online marketing is 100% going to work for you

FYI I am not trashing online self-education. Just a warning: There is an innumerable multitude of marketing gurus out there, and more information than you can poke a stick at regarding strategies for increasing your presence and reach online. Books, ebooks, videos, podcasts, articles, conferences etc etc…

Reality: The landscape of online marketing is constantly changing. It’s very easy to read a book, watch a video on youtube or read an article online without noticing that the information is outdated. Not only that, depending upon the strategy you have heard about, changes can be as recent as within only a few weeks. This is especially the case regarding SEO. What works today, may not be what works next year, or even next month. While you can find good info online, there is a lot of misinfo and exaggerated promises regarding the performance of certain SEO “hacks” or tricks that can boost your engagement and reach. Regular cross-checking of info is necessary to validate what has been read. Oftentimes the reality of online marketing is that sustained growth is a steadier, less explosive process than many marketers would have you to believe.  

Unrealistic Expectation #16

That you can avoid learning about SEO as a business owner

With many types of services, the process is simple. You call a plumber, stay out of his way, and he fixes the leak. You don’t need to know anything about plumbing, you just pay the guy and that’s it. But is that how it is for online marketing?

Reality: A commitment to effective results means that business owners must at least learn the basics to understand the lingo and motivation behind online marketing. Marketing agencies can better communicate with you the reasoning for particular choices made in relation to content when you understand the underlying functions and logic. A firm grasp on SEO is necessary to create content that improves your reach online. The truth is, time spent on content that doesn’t meet SEO standards for online marketing amounts to a waste of your time and energy, as the content goes unseen and unappreciated. The truth is that knowledge of SEO is an unavoidable necessity.

Unrealistic Expectation #17

(sounds crazy, but…)

That you can “get to #1 on Google” 

For those unfamiliar with SEO, there is sometimes a misperception that you can “get to #1”, as though businesses are ranked on a big list and that list is stored on a database somewhere at Google HQ.

Reality: When marketing agencies talk about helping you reach the #1 spot with Google, what they are referring to is making the necessary optimisations to ensure that when people search for specific target keywords of your choice, that your business will be at the top of the list of search results. Rankings of search results are given based upon a variety of factors that correlate to the specific keywords used by the person searching online. It’s not that there is some list that Google has with every single business in the world or every single business in a certain category ranked from 1 to 100 for example. Rather, Google dynamically determines what websites to show to the person searching based upon the specific keywords used, and their relevance in accordance with Google’s algorithm. In other words, while you may be able to have your website consistently attain a high rank for certain keywords, for others, it may be incredibly difficult to even appear in the first 10 pages of results, let alone the #1 spot on the first page of results.

Unrealistic Expectation #18

That a good agency can get you to #1 within a few weeks

Reality: Good SEO takes time. Anyone can figure out clever and novel ways to attract trivial and fleeting attention, but it takes a team of professionals working full time to build sustainable growth that lasts the distance. Google search results in particular typically take months to see results, and this is especially so in highly competitive areas of the market.  

Unrealistic Expectation #19

That SEO is all there is to learn

SEO is super important. Obviously you want to rank high when people search Google using keywords related to your business. But is that all there is to learn?

Reality: Professional online marketing goes beyond knowledge of optimizing for search engines. Depending on your product and unique goals, you will also need to be utilizing the various social media platforms, as well as marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and Ebay, and understanding how not only their systems work, but how their metrics can be integrated and tracked centrally as a campaign is refined.

Unrealistic Expectation #20

That you can learn marketing quickly

Having a “go hard or go home” mentality is admirable. Wanting to hit a subject hard and fast and learn as much as you can in the shortest time possible is a very understandable goal. This approach in marketing however, could burn you out.

Reality: Marketing is incredibly complex. Keeping track of all the necessary metrics, harnessing the available information, putting out content that is received well and generates positive engagement, learning all the peculiarities of the various platforms and how they can integrate, is hard work. And that’s just a small snapshot of the full picture. The truth is that if you are new to marketing, you have a years-long road ahead of you as you figure out through trial and error what works and what doesn’t, what information is solid, and what is rubbish. There really is no substitute for experience, nor is there any kind of fast-forward button you can press that will give you the knowledge equivalent to someone who has been working hard at marketing for decades. Though you may find you learn quickly, you will also quickly learn that the sheer breadth of aspects encompassed by the subject of marketing is quite overwhelming, even for the most zealous student.  

The Final Word

Just like every other aspect of the internet, online marketing is constantly undergoing new advances and innovations to tweak and improve how we connect with audiences. It’s tough to keep up, and even tougher for a public bombarded with all manner of information from salesmen with incredible claims that often distort the truth about what it takes to effectively sell online. After reading through the article, you may have noticed a common thread that pervades the reality faced by businesses: marketing is complicated work, and requires a dedicated team of professionals to achieve consistent results. Obviously it’s not impossible to get out there and do everything as a one-person team, but my goal here is just to help you understand the reality that you, I and anyone else faces when attempting to build a profitable online presence.


If you are aware of the effort involved in online marketing, it will help you make better strategic decisions concerning your allocation of time and financial resources while your enterprise is growing. By working with a professional team like ours, leveraging our up-to-date market knowledge and years of experience, you can maximize your growth while avoiding the bulk of the stressful daily grunt work that marketing inevitably involves.

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