I am so lucky. I own a small professional coaching business that helps clients build skills and confidence, so they can progress in their careers and be more fulfilled. I love helping people, and it hardly ever feels like a job.
One unusual part of this business is connecting with potential clients. Word-of-mouth is the typical way to build a client base, but many people want to learn about coaching long before they discuss it with other people. So we’ve gotten creative and invested in digital advertising, which helps us reach people where they are – online, searching for help to advance their careers.
Affordable digital ads have been a huge driver of our business growth. Without them, we’d be in serious trouble. That’s why I’m deeply upset that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and his Washington, DC colleagues are considering legislation that would destroy the digital advertising systems that help us succeed.
Before starting the business, I was just like my typical client. I hated my job, which didn’t pay well and was sapping my enthusiasm. The good news was I had a passion – helping people with their careers. In my spare time I helped people improve their resumes, negotiate salaries, and make career choices. In 2016, I took the plunge and turned my career services side hustle into a full-time consulting business.
I quickly discovered that the career coaching industry is intensely competitive. To find new clients, I ran digital ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter, experimenting to see which platform and what advertisements helped us stand out and connect with people looking to improve their career trajectory. Digital ads work because they effectively and affordably reach people interested in the services we offer at the very moment they are thinking about it. We also post on social media, and ask our clients to post reviews and help spread the word. The results have been incredible, and today we’re a thriving small business.
So why is Sen. Richard Blumenthal waging war against digital advertising that helps small businesses like mine find clients? He is co-sponsoring the poorly named AMERICA Act, which targets online technology companies for being too big. The bill would force Google, Facebook, and eventually other large platforms to sell off their digital advertising divisions, all in the name of increasing digital advertising competition.
When I hear talk of breaking up large ad companies, I hear politicians wanting to force me to work with several different ad platforms and technologies instead of a handful that work really well. That would force me to spend more time managing my advertising and less time working with paying clients. Time is money, and Congress needs to understand that.
Here’s my question. Does Senator Blumenthal think this bill will help small businesses? It won’t help us. We love today’s digital advertising marketplace because it works and fits within our budget. I also don’t understand why some lawmakers believe small businesses are forced to use Google and Facebook. That’s ridiculous. We have plenty of digital options – including Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Attacking the companies that affordably help us find clients might satisfy an academic who is searching for theoretical competition, but it won’t lower our prices, extend our reach, simplify small business advertising, or make us more competitive.
We certainly can’t afford television ads, and billboards don’t cut it.
I agree with Sen. Blumenthal that big corporations should play by the rules, and I’m sure he has good intentions. But if legislation or litigation break the digital advertising and marketing systems that work so well, giant corporations with billion-dollar advertising budgets will be fine, but small businesses like mine will pay a heavy price that we can’t afford.
Valerie Martinelli is the CEO & Owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting in Waterbury.