Promotion is at the heart of any business, no matter its size. However, not all entrepreneurs have the necessary marketing knowledge to promote their company in a modern market.
This reality enables the existence of businesses such as Small Business Mentor, dedicated to helping business owners promote themselves more effectively.
Although we seek to make our services as advantageous for customers as possible, not all marketing agencies do the same, making the process of hiring one a lot riskier. The founders of Small Business Mentor worked for marketing agencies that used smoke and mirrors to take advantage of small businesses. After trying unsuccessfully to change the company culture at these agencies, they decided to start their own, more equitable.
So, to help avoid the traps that some agencies may lay to take advantage of a customer's goodwill, we compiled a list of things to look out for when making your choice.
Every marketing agency will have different contract length requirements. A longer contract protects the agency, giving them a guarantee that you'll be paying for a certain amount of time. The problem with this practice is that as soon as you sign that contract, you won't be free from it until it expires, even if you're not getting results. Alternatives to this type of arrangement are month to month or shorter-term, both of which help keep agencies honest.
For example, here at Small Business Mentor, we have a month-to-month contract so you can do a monthly review of results and jump out whenever you feel unsatisfied.
In an attempt to keep you from leaving, some marketing agencies will put your website, your Google Accounts, and your ad accounts they are working on under their name. This essentially handcuffs you to the agency in question because if you eventually decide to leave, you won't be taking any of the digital assets and will have to restart from scratch. Or, you'll have to navigate a tricky situation as you leave.
If you get into a dispute with the marketing agency, they can take your website offline and keep all your data, leaving you empty-handed. They may claim it's easier to create the accounts and manage them for you, but you're paying them to be problem solvers.
You should own your website, your data, and all of your accounts. No questions asked.
We have heard many agencies claim they have a special relationship with Google, Facebook, or even Yelp. Some even claim to get better ad pricing due to this partnership. While they may meet specific requirements that guarantee them this partner status, that does not mean you get any special perks or benefits from the grantee.
Often, these distinctions mean the company is spending enough money to meet a certain threshold. The more clients they have, the more money they spend on Google, so the tech company gives them a "badge" of sorts.
The "badge" is not worthless. It gives validation that they know what they are doing. However, we have all have known someone who got a college degree but isn't as knowledgeable as someone who hasn't.
If an agency you talk to claims they receive any unique benefits from Google, Bing, Facebook, or Yelp, you can be confident that they are lying to you.
One of the most common models adopted by marketing agencies is charging a reoccurring fee to "manage" your website for you.
Most of the time, this means that they are charging you for 5-10 hours of website development work even if you don't use it. It works just like a gym membership, where just because you're paying for it doesn't mean you'll see any results without acting on your own.
It's in your best interest to pay for website development on an "as needed" basis. Unless a company uses plugins or reoccurring services, it costs next to nothing to have a website sit on the internet.
If you are paying for website management, ask the company to keep a log of what they are doing. Staying updated will keep the marketing agency honest and allow you to see if your spending is worth it.
To improve advertising and conversions, Google, Facebook, and other advertising platforms have something called a "pixel." It is a tiny snippet of code that enables you to collect data on whoever is visiting your website at any time.
This data is essential for building a marketing strategy based on the target audience that your business attracts, or even for finding new target audiences you didn't realize you had.
The problem lies in that some agencies will use their pixel or their ad account. Meaning you are spending money to gather data, but you aren't the ones collecting the data.
Just like your website and other online profiles, make sure you own your information.
The easiest way to avoid this trap is by demanding that the marketing agency use your pixels and ads be run from your account.
When contacting a new marketing agency, they may try to attract you by promising a set number of likes, shares, comments, and other forms of engagement. Some will even go as far as to promise you guaranteed top ranking in search results.
The issue with the first promise should be reasonably obvious. After all, anyone goes on Fiverr and pay for spam comments, like bots and other less than honest sources of engagement.
As for the second promise, the problem lies in the fact that no agency has any control over the search results, no matter how good they are. We have noticed that marketing agencies will usually promise results but won't tell you how long or how much money it will take to get the results.
There are no shortcuts. Producing quality content, following best practices, and being consistent is the best way to achieve long term success.
If you hear a marketing agency making over the top promises for results it can bring you, approach it with extreme skepticism, or better yet, don't approach it at all.
In any industry, no matter its age, there will be people seeking to take advantage of others through unethical means.
This is simply a reality tied to human nature that does not reflect the marketing industry's collective character in any way.
That being said, to ensure you do not fall prey to the predatory methods of some bad apples, you should stick to the services of agencies that will put your needs as a customer at the forefront.