It is difficult to discern quality in everything we purchase. When you test drive a car can you tell which one has a high-quality transmission? Can you tell which restaurant is using high-quality ingredients? How about which electronics equipment, such as a tv, consists of high-quality parts?
The truth is that we often depend upon the word of others to help us make sense of quality and value unless we have some insider expertise.
Here I will give you five warning signs that might indicate that you are dealing with a low-quality Internet marketing provider.
1. They Promise Results
Marketing is complex. For it to convert into sales, there are an infinite amount of factors involved. How trustworthy does your site look? Is it getting in front of the right eyes? Does the copy speak to the reader? Do the images inspire and attract? Is the user experience strong? How easy is it to make contact with you? How do you answer (or don’t answer) the phone? The tone of your voice? The words you use? Etc.
Marketing companies don’t control this entire process. We just run one segment- that of presentation and promotion. And, sometimes we don’t even run the presentation- sometimes we inherit a website- so all we can do is get it promoted to your target client.
Any marketing person that guarantees sales for your design firm is stepping beyond their what is within their control and is making false promises to close the deal. We cannot know if our marketing will work for you with 100% certainty. That is impossible.
What we can know is if we’ve helped similar clients succeed. This will help us predict success, but still, we cannot promise success.
For example, we’ve seen that our very same actions have reaped much greater rewards for busy firms with large portfolios, more online reviews, locations in affluent areas, and more polished sales skills than for start-up firms without any of those strengths.
The challenge in hiring is that you want to hear signals of confidence, and often the salesperson of the least compatible marketing firm will be the one sending you the strongest signals of “don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” It is human nature to believe this voice. But, it doesn’t make good business sense. When promises start to fly, run fast. Your medical doctor cannot guarantee that you will stay healthy, and your marketing provider cannot guarantee that they’ll hand you your next sale- especially not if the timeframe is short and your service is a luxury. Marketing is brand building- it takes time. But,
Marketing is brand building- it takes time to build your reputation and visibility locally. Once the benefits start to happen, they tend to continue with consistency. But, the timing is outside of our hands.
2. Your First Contact is With a Salesperson
There are many “aggressive” Internet Marketing companies out there who are focused exclusively on their own growth with little concern for their client’s growth. One sign of these is that they hire salespeople to close deals. The problem with having a salesperson close the deal is that they tend not to be as deeply familiar with the technologies and with your needs. They are more likely to think short-term, not caring much what happens past the time of contract signing.
When you are dealing with a person whose income is solely dependent upon you signing a contract and not on the performance criteria of finding you the best fit, you can assume that all they care about is that signature. Exceptions exist, yet this is the norm in this industry.
I have been hired many times to help get clients out of messy situations with unscrupulous providers. Whenever I do audits on the situation, I find the root of the problem is in a lopsided and inappropriate contract written between the salesperson and the client, neither of which truly understand the depths of Internet marketing. If the company doesn’t have the time to have an expert evaluate your needs from the beginning and fit you to an appropriate contract, you can be assured that it won’t happen later.
3. Your Second Contact is With an Account Manager
The next game that self-serving Internet marketing companies play is that they assign an account manager to you. This is the middleman between you and the people who are really doing the work. This is the person who is a professional multi-tasker, and for the most part, their goal is to minimize time spent by themselves and their team on your project.
It frustrates me to deal with these people often, as they typically know so little about Internet marketing. They are trained to go through checklists in getting the Internet presence created. And, they are trained to pat themselves on the back for high performing sites even when they are falling short of expected outcomes.
Recently I was on the phone with one of these account managers on behalf of a client for a quarterly report. She didn’t understand half of the things I asked her, she made excuses for her failures, and she constantly pointed at the contract as her excuse for not offering more.
Account managers are like the workers at the circulation desk at the library- they are paid much less than the people in the back offices and they deal with a lot more stress through exposure to the public. More often than not they are squeezed from above through an overload of work, and they have no time, enthusiasm, or industry knowledge to be good strategist and partners.
Account managers are liaisons between two faceless big businesses. If you are a small business owner, they too often are sources of disappointment and frustration. When you work hard for your money and choose to make an investment in marketing, you want a provider who shows up as a partner, as an insider who is fully aligned with your goals.
4. The Company Is Abroad
The people of the third world are deep in my heart, yet I would never trust them to run a marketing campaign for a Western market.
Internet marketing is not just about learning and executing technologies. It requires vision, understanding, and creativity. It demands that the campaign creator can understand the client, the client’s goals, and the mentality of the client’s customers.
The only way for you to optimize your marketing is to have a marketing partner who understands your market. Overseas providers can offer affordable prices, and they can surely build you pieces for your campaign. But they are generally incapable of bringing the parts together.
The key for any successful operation is for the management and the quality assurance people to have standards that exceed the clients’ and match the expectations of the target market. This rarely happens when you hire an overseas firm.
5. The Company is Huge
Huge companies are often designed to be huge. Their size is embedded in their business plan from the beginning. This keeps their management focused on their growth, not on their clients’ needs.
For example, read this bio of a CEO of one of these huge Internet marketing companies…
… he was the Co-Founder and CEO of xxxx, a wireless connectivity solution provider based in Silicon Valley, which was sold to xxxxx [NSDQ: xxxx], a publicly traded corporation. The company is recognized as a market leader worldwide in wireless connectivity space. He took the company from start to a $14M annual revenue run-rate with over 80 employees. As CEO of xxxx, he raised more than $65M in venture capital financing from premier Venture Capital firms like xxxxxx (Google, Yahoo) and from strategic corporations such as Dell, Inc.
I once had to speak to this CEO as my client’s account was entrenched with problems. All of the work was being done in India and all of the content, from the copy to the SEO tags, was a total mess. Misspellings were everywhere, expressions were wrong, lists had no order… it was total chaos. And my client was paying big bucks for this lousy product.
What I quickly realized while on the phone with him is that he is a CEO, not an Internet marketer. And all he wanted was for me to be contented with as little effort on his team’s part as possible. He was a man of dollars, not of marketing. He spent much of his time touring the country as an industry expert while his very organization was performing poorly. His focus was on dollars, not on people and their stories.
The short of it is if you want personal attention deal with a person. When you hire a marketing provider, you aren’t hiring a company, even though they will spin it as such. In actuality, you are hiring the person who will be working with you and taking care of your account. When you hire a big company or an offshore provider, you have no idea who you are actually going to deal with. You can only hope that your account doesn’t get assigned to the new guy or one with a bad attitude. It is the difference between going to a specific dentist because you trust him/her or going to a generic dental group’s office where the dentist on duty is the one who sees you. It is the difference between feeling respected and feeling used.
I hope this helps you in evaluating your current provider and as tools for discerning your next one. It doesn’t cost more to hire a marketer that is available to have a positive, supportive relationship with you.
Here is the shortlist spun in the opposite, positive way. Look for a provider that:
- values you and your business goals,
- designs your marketing to meet your goals and maximize your ROI,
- is available to toss ideas around, brainstorm, and engage in creative solutions,
- understands you, your business, and your customers,
- stays focused on the daily marketing needs of clients (not on themselves)