Despite the somewhat cryptic title, marketing solicitations happen to almost every business owner, on a regular basis. They come in as an email, or sometimes a telephone call. For the well funded, they might even send a cheery salesperson to your door offering promises of increased visibility, lead generation, and online promotion for your website or business. Their sales pitches are refined, their marketing materials glossy, but are their promises too good to be true?
Often times they are, and often times their promise of increased business, where the only task for you is to “write a check” is at best, exaggerated. Here are some tips to spot these business models, which will give you a good filter for dealing with many types of solicitation.
- The National Brand – Oftentimes, existing national providers will attempt to sell you business services outside the scope of their core services (warning!). These services usually include some sort of “online yellow page” listing and are typically bundled with expensive “cost per click” marketing campaigns. They will promise top search engine placement and as much traffic as you can pay for (they won’t elaborate on that last point).
- The Industry Expert – This type of solicitor will often specialize in your business or market. They will have an impressive portfolio, and might even have examples of other local businesses as clients. They often sell “website in a can” products, where the only involvement you may have is reviewing the final product (a template), and then writing a check.
- The Unknown but Impressive Tech/Marketing Company – There is never a lack of new, marketing and business service focused startups with venture capital to burn. Their websites will be slick, and they will usually offer a suite of tools that will promise to “take the work” out of marketing. They’ll connect your Facebook page with your Twitter account with your inbound marketing and, after you write them that check, they’ll turn it all on and you can sit back and watch the business flow in.
Each of the 3 approaches has obvious drawbacks in common.
- They lack personal attention. All 3 examples above represent scalable business models, that rely on high customer volume. You might have a rep who pays attention to you during the sales process, but that attention will drop off once you’ve become a paying customer- because support is hard and expensive.
- Solutions aren’t custom. While the solutions will have options, they won’t be customizable to your particular business or market. Often times sold in packages, they usually work on the basis of complete buy-in.
- They can get expensive. Marketing campaigns usually don’t include just an upfront or one-time payment. Monthly fees or cost-per-click (CPC) fees are often bundled into the agreement, to keep the traffic coming and the costs mounting.
- Too good to be true. This one seems obvious, but “too good to be true” often eludes even the savviest of consumers. We’re not claiming that all offers are 100% snake oil, but if you’re not personally involved with your marketing than your chances of success are dramatically lower.
Our best advice is not to avoid the phone, and trash all those email solicitations but rather ask good questions and hold these providers to what they promise.
Questions like: What other local clients do you work for? How much is the monthly, or annual fee? What happens if I cancel or stop payment? Is there a contract? How exactly do you boost my website ranking? Do I get a refund if I’m not happy with the service?
The more questions you ask, the more informed you’ll be, and the smaller chance you’ll have of being won over and duped by a slick sales pitch and promises of riches.