Dear Business Builders,
We have turned hiring a digital marketer from a guessing game in the dark to a strategic strategy that when followed will result in better talent used when marketing your business. I’m afraid that the marketing industry has become saturated with self-proclaimed “experts” making grand promises towards business owners yet failing to deliver. If you are an empire builder putting in all the hard work to build your dream business, I am sure that you have seen the advertisements around the internet or been lead wrong in some way before.
To sum it up plainly without going on a rant, this disappoints me.
I have written the following resource to give business owners the insight and tools needed to put the deciding power back in their hands. A series of “checks and balances” that can help determine the quality of a digital marketing agency to prevent so-called “experts” from sucking money out of your bank account like some thirsty paycheque vampire.
I hope this brings you some value. Let me know what you think in the comments at the end.
1) Digital Marketing Proposals
We’ll start with a pretty straight forward point. If they don’t have a proposal or marketing strategy, they don’t have a plan.
Too often, I have been approached by business owners asking me to look over a proposal for digital marketing that was given to them by someone else. I would say 90% of the time, these proposals are filled with not only red flags but also lack critical factors within their service offerings that if not included, will not provide results. The sad truth of the matter is, most digital agencies would rather sell recurring maintenance packages (most often automated services) rather than deliver for their clients.
I addressed the issue of lacking substance through a different resource we put together titled the 15 Critical Factors in Digital Marketing. This is available for download at the end of this article.
A few years back, we paid our clients (that’s not a typo) to go out and get proposals from other agencies and custom web design company’s to see what they are offering. We went through 15 different “top” digital marketing agencies from around Canada and some of them from around the world. There are a lot of agencies that are offering some great work but there are also a few that we found who are overcharging, under-delivering, and inflating cost through things like “maintenance packages”.
Never underestimate a good strategy. An experienced digital marketer will be able to tell you exactly what you will need to do to achieve your business goals and advise on clear costs and an appropriate step by step timeline for delivery.
What I am saying is, take the time to learn what digital marketing consists of and apply these learnings to your business. You don’t have to be a master at SEO to understand what’s involved. A simple Google search will go a long way. Or, download our free resource at the end of this article which will explain what the most value-driving tactics in digital marketing are along with some actionable resources you can use today to start marketing your business effectively. Being lazy and failing to do the upfront research may result in wasting your hard-earned money, and rightfully so, lessons learned.
2) Website Speed Performance
The probability of a visitor leaving your website increases by 103% if your website takes 3-5 seconds to load. This is horrendous. This means you are losing a whopping 50% of customers due to a slow website before customers even read a single word of your content.
Page speed is increasingly becoming more important not only because Google favourably ranks lightning fast websites closer to the top but even more importantly when executing paid digital advertising strategies.
For a small business that doesn’t do any marketing what so ever this means you are simply frustrating the impatient visitors that view your website. However, if you are a growing business investing money into search engine optimization or PPC digital advertising, 50% of your marketing budget is potentially thrown in the garbage. This is a catastrophic waste of precious marketing dollars especially for small business owners that don’t have money to waste.
This bad practice stems from amateur digital marketing professionals that didn’t take the time to make the necessary speed optimizations to your website. Maybe they were unaware of the impact behind speed optimization or maybe they don’t have the finances or technical ability to invest. Regardless of what the reason may be, it is a serious red flag.
Thankfully, due to the beauty and transparency of the internet, there are free tools to not only check your website, but test your digital marketers’ website, their clients’ websites, and even your competitors to see how they stack up.
***Note: Redirects may give you false readings, I recommend running two-speed tests on the website. One with the “www” And one without the “www”.
***At Get X Media, we guarantee under 3 second load times on every single development because of the harsh impacts speed optimization can have on the revenue a business makes through digital marketing.
3) Digital Marketing Certifications
Digital marketers nowadays have access to all the tools and need zero experience to use them or offer them. The barrier to entry is extremely low. This means everyone is an “expert”. The unintended side effect of this is causing stress for hard-working business owners and creating skepticism around digital marketers that actually to a great job and provide an extreme amount of value for their customers. The issue is, the platforms we use don’t care if you waste money or not, only that you spend it. So they give access to anyone under the sun with a credit card number.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the industry and this is great to get more people into the industry or allow business owners to tackle digital advertising themselves but also is cause for an inflated amount of these “Marketing Secrets” or “Make Millions” books by authors who prey on the non-marketing savvy business owners. Even worse than buying something of zero value, it is paying to be lead in the wrong direction.
Anyone with a decent amount of confidence can tell you they are an expert or a pro so when you are looking for a digital marketer, check to see if they have any certifications. Google Certifications like AdWords Certified, Google My Business Certified, and Google Analytics Certified, along with Facebook Blueprint Certifications are amongst the common players.
These certifications are free and don’t necessarily prove that digital marketer is a Jedi Knight with advertising but at least it shows that the person or company has taken the time to go through the training and take the tests. This shows at least a little bit of competence.
Now an important note on creativity is that these certifications show you how to use the platform however, they don’t teach you how to be a good marketer. Things like direct response ad copy, website design, search engine optimization, and conversion rate optimization are not apart of any of this training.
One Google certification that should be noted is the Premiere Google AdWords Partner Badge. This is only given to digital advertising agencies that have actually spent a significant amount of money within Google AdWords. This is a good sign that they have experience in executing advertising campaigns.
At Get X Media, we proudly display the certifications that we have on every service page of our website. If the marketer you are looking to hire does not have any certifications, ask them why and wait for an interesting answer.
4) Marketing Portfolio of Clients
Just like most things, the experience is the best teacher. When you hire a digital marketer, check their portfolio of clients and work to see better what kind of service you can expect. When you are looking at their clients’ work you can things like mobile compatibility, content writing, blog posts, check their site speed, and use some free tools around the internet to run an SEO Report to see if the page structure has been built properly.
Keep in mind that many agencies provide different levels of service to different clients and if they are smart they will know that there is no one solution fits all approach to professional digital marketing. If you feel something is missing or there are issues with their clients’ websites just ask them. If they are on top of things they should easily be able to explain it to you.
Our clients are the life blood of our business. We proudly show the work we have done throughout our website and put in the extra work to compile case studies with real data and acquire references letters, and video testimonials. We work to show them off in every way possible, after all, growing their business is what we do.
5) Case Studies and Real Data
Marketing is a lot about numbers and tracking data. If a digital marketer has had success with their clients they should have this information easily available and be happy to show it off.
That being said, keep in mind privacy, please. Agencies can’t go around handing out our clients’ strategies to the public however they should be happy to show you some data on campaigns where they have crushed it! If they don’t have anything, that is probably a red flag. You can say with about 98% certainty if they don’t have any data to show you real results, it’s because they haven’t done a good job for anyone before.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t competent but they better be honest with you and understand that the price of a tried and true pro is a lot different than someone trying to “figure it out”. The next point goes hand in hand with this one.
6) Reviews + Letters of Reference
Showing off the data is great but what did the customer think about it? If you are going to hire a digital marketer, much like hiring anyone else, check reviews on Google, the good ones and the bad ones. Ask letters of reference? Do they have any video testimonials?
Chances are, if you are doing your research and about to spend a significant amount of money on marketing, you want to choose someone that you can’t trust. Take the time to do the research and don’t be lazy about it.
Honestly, I would say that over half of our clients come from bad experiences with a previous digital marketer. This can be easily avoided by digging into the business a little deeper and looking at the kind of work that they do. Just like if you are going to hire a contractor, you most likely want to see some photos of their work, Google their business, and see if they have any red flags.
7) Are They Marketing Themselves?
Have you ever seen a “social media management” company that doesn’t even post on their social media? I see it all the time and it’s a huge red flag! If they can’t manage their marketing, how do you think they will manage yours?
Looking to see how well a digital marketing agency operates is pretty basic simply because the majority of digital marketing efforts are public for anyone to see. Some things you can check very quickly are social media posts, social profiles, blog posts, and Google My Business pages.
If they are good at what they do you should easily be able to check their work. If they write content, do they a blog that is updated regularly? If they build websites, do they a portfolio? If they do digital advertising, do they have any case studies? If they offer social media management, how do they manage their social media?
In all fairness to agencies, there is a lot of different ways to market a business and there is never a one size fits all approach. Not every agency is going to do every form of advertising for themselves that they do for their clients at all times.
8) Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a minefield for business owners trying to choose a good digital marketing company. There are so many fakes so I am going to explain a few things that I have been through countless times. Having a website with content and some basic on-page technical SEO probably won’t rank you for the keywords you want to rank for. You know, the keywords that will drive your new business.
There are over 200 ranking factors in the Google algorithm for search engine rankings. If anyone is offering SEO they had better have some case studies to back up their work! They had also better have some real data to be able to project what it will take to actually get results for their clients.
Spending a couple of thousand bucks on SEO in a competitive marketplace most likely isn’t going to magically place you #1 and start racking you in leads like a lot of these bogus marketers promote online.
Proper SEO can be a costly investment and includes not only the basic technical SEO structure of a website but also internal linking, content writing, guest blog posting, social media signals, backlinks, and press releases just to name a few of the dominant ones. All of these search engine optimization tactics require time, money, strategy, experience, and the right tools.
At Get X Media, we have battleground tested hundreds of SEO strategies. This is not “we read some books and know what to do”. This is years of testing and the actual delivery of millions of dollars in revenue for our clients.
The reason that SEO is so sought after is that when you hold top-ranking positions on Google, you end up capturing a huge piece of the market’s search volume which leads to a consistent flow of new customers that can consistently skyrocket revenue.
We have done it first hand. One of our clients started off at 6 leads a month. After a year and getting up to 25 competitive keywords on the front page of Google they now get 100+ leads a month. Even after a 3 month break with zero dollars spent on marketing, these leads continue to come in! This is why it is an extremely valuable investment but a longer term strategy.
Transparency is a magical thing. Do you get to see all your marketing data and the effect that your marketing spend is having? This is an extremely important point and where most digital marketers fall short. It could be because they do not have the experience to be able to show you what is happening, or it may be because the digital marketer hasn’t invested into the proper technology to make tracking and reporting easily available to their customers. To us, this is how you hold us accountable.
As a business, you need to know what is happening with your marketing dollars. You are going to want to know what is working and what isn’t working so that adjustments can be made in order to achieve the results that you are looking for.
Having transparency is critically important in digital marketing because a lot of our efforts including things like search engine optimization are long term strategies that need to be tracked month over month to ensure rankings are gaining traction over time and your website is moving closer to that top spot on Google. Even with short term advertising strategies like Google CPC advertising, it is imperative to see the return on investment coming from this to make sure it’s making you money and not just a bank account sucking vampire.
At Get X Media, this is why we developed our Get X TrackSmart system. Our Track Smart program is a marketers’ dream dashboard that tracks Google rankings, phone calls, emails, website traffic, social media engagement, and many other performance indicators. This gives our clients clarity over their entire digital marketing efforts in one place, updated daily, delivered monthly, and available 24/7 in their pockets. We work off of these same systems so if there is something that happens either good or bad, we both see it and then it opens the door to honest communication to solve problems.
10) Project Management
Smart marketers have systems built that allow them to communicate with clients and deliver services quickly. A big issue we see from many people in the digital marketing customer world is that they never know what work is being done. They sit there completely in the dark and pay a bill every month not knowing what their money is going towards.
Often, when you hire a digital marketing company, you don’t work beside them. This makes it difficult to understand exactly what it is they are doing and when they are doing it. Having clear project management systems in place allows for clear oversight of your entire digital marketing efforts.
This is extremely frustrating for business owners and is why we built our Get X WorkSmart system. It provides instant updates via email and project management software so our customers can see in real-time what tasks are being completed so they know the work is being done. This keeps the communication lines open for both parties and helps to set the stage for better relationships with our clients.
11) Following Up
Ever had a website built for you to never hear from the person again? Or better yet, reach out after months have gone past to find out there is an invoice you need to pay for fees that were not clearly defined in the first place? We have seen it thousands of times.
There are a few points to this that I would like to touch on. If you are looking to have a website built for your business, pay your hosting, and tackle the digital marketing yourself, then, of course, this is an option. However, if you require someone else to take care of the technical aspects of it including hosting and emails to name a few basic things then there is going to some charges associated with this that should be clear in the beginning.
When doing any kind of digital marketing with an agency, there should aways be a follow up system set in place where you can review and chat about how things are working and discuss strategy to constantly be improving. This should be clearly defined at the early stages of working with a digital agency.
12) Digital Marketing Guarantees
This is an interesting one, have you ever seen the classic “We guarantee you the #1 spot on Google!”? This is complete garbage and is so vague that it screams red flag. How long will it take? For what keywords? Is it SEO or paid advertising? How much will it cost? There are too many factors operating in Google’s algorithm that can change at any time to be able to guarantee this type of service.
A good digital marketer will have to analyze your industry and service offerings before making any such claims. If your competitors have a 2 page website, no blog, and 15 backlinks then getting you to the top of google through SEO might be a simple process. However if your top competitors have 500 pages on their website, 1,000 blog posts, and 20,000 backlinks then you had better be ready for a serious investment if you want to outrank them on Google.
An important part of this guarantee in digital marketing is that when you are doing any kind of marketing you deal with fluent behavior and are often working with moving targets. It is never a direct hit or a direct miss but more how effective the execution was on a scale. Like most things in our life, it’s not black and white, it’s a gradient measure of success that can be constantly improved upon.
At Get X, we guarantee results in digital marketing in 90 days or we work for free. Now, this guarantee only comes into place after we have had the time to assess your business. Because of the nature of our strategic marketing systems and a focus across different mediums (SEO, Facebooks Ads, Google Ads, Re-marketing), and because we have crushed this before for our clients, we are confident enough to back it with a guarantee that we will get you real customers and real results.
13) Exit Strategies
This is not a marriage. The whole reason for doing digital marketing is to help the business grow. If the agency cannot provide or make this happen for you, you should not be locked into some long term contract that sucks money out of your bank account like a vacuum on steroids.
More and more people in our industry need to understand to NOT block the exit and this is an important conversation to have with the agency you are looking to work with. We have found some agencies that keep all of your advertising data or charge thousands of dollars if you want to get your hands on it after. Could you image investing 20 thousands dollars into perfecting an advertising strategy and the company tells you that you can’t even look at the data? This happens!
You also want to ask what happens in the case that you decide to leave. Is there a fee charged to move your digital assets of their servers to a new company? Most likely. Are they going to help you through this process or are they going to leave to fend for yourself? If they are a freelancer, what are you going to do if something happens to them? Do you lose everything and have to start from complete scratch? These are important questions to be asked to protect your business.
I hope this information has provided some powerful insight to help you with growing your business. Please share your feedback in working with other digital marketers or highlight some key points you think we may have missed. This is intended in no way to trash talk other marketing professionals. It is intended to help business owners make better choices in hiring professionals and growing their business smarter.