The False Economy Marketing Problem

I went cycling on Christmas Day. It was wet and cold, but very few cars were on the roads. The only open store was the petrol garage.

I approached the garage pedalling fast. As I passed the entrance a car moved away from the pumps and towards the garage exit. At the exit the car slowed, but didn’t completely stop.

With barely a glance my way the driver pulled out in to my path. I squeezed the brakes. I didn’t slow down much, but my wheels screamed.


I’ve been meaning to buy a new pushbike for about four years.

In my mind I have reasonable objections to replacing my current bike. We’re planning to move abroad later this year, and the last thing I need is more stuff.

After narrowly missing that car on Christmas Day I fired up Gumtree. Gumtree is a UK website where people place classified ads for things they are trying to sell. Within a few minutes I had found an appropriate looking bike. I contacted the seller and went round the following evening.

The seller pulled the bicycle out of a dark garage. It clearly hadn’t been used in a long time. The pedals wouldn’t turn, and there was obviously a problem with the chain.

“It’ll be okay,” he says, “with a bit of maintenance.”

I realised I didn’t know what I was looking for. I realised I didn’t have the knowledge to gauge the health of the bike just by looking at it.

In short I couldn’t be sure whether I was getting a good deal.

It seemed like a good deal when I found it on Gumtree. If I was a competent mechanic it might still have been a good deal, especially with some negotiating. But for me the bike was a false economy.

Everyone who has ever hired marketing help of Elance is familiar with the False Economy problem.

Hiring a developer in the Philippines for $12 an hour might feel like a bargain, but it never works out as a bargain.

Hiring a copywriter you found on Fiverr might feel like a bargain, until you take delivery of the final work.

Phoning Google for help with your AdWords account might feel like a bargain. Perhaps this is the biggest false economy of all.

The only way to spot false economies seems to be to have your fingers burnt.

Based on my own finger-burning experiences I’m putting together an email series called ‘False Economies: The Top Five Ways To Blow Your Marketing Budget’.

Email one starts tomorrow.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond is the founder of the Confusion Clinic. Rob is an Infusionsoft Certified Consultant and copywriter.