All too often, we have clients who come into our office with stories of woe and loss at the hands of someone claiming to be a "digital marketing expert". Unfortunately, these tales are all too common these days, and it is easy to pull the wool over someone's eyes, especially when the technology itself can be complex and hard to define. It is easy to trust someone implicitly, believing that they know what they are talking about simply because they use the right lingo and promise you the moon and the stars. After hearing this time after time, we decided to put together the handy list of things to watch out for before you begin working with a digital marketing partner.
1. Be wary of any unsolicited email telling you they were "looking at your website."
This is usually the first sign of trouble, and a clear signal that you are being spammed. It's an easy one to fall for because of the language that they can use that gives the impression that they are actually critiquing your site, such as "the design is good overall, but I did not detect much in regards to search engine optimization." Sure they didn't—because they never even looked. Some of them are even getting more sophisticated to the point where they can scrape tiny bits of information from your site using a script and include those in the introduction.
There are even ones that will include a report showing you that they scanned your site. While some of the scanning tools are helpful in gaining insight into the basic foundation of search engine optimization on your site, none of them are actually useful in implementing an effective long-term plan to build credibility in the eyes of search engines. There is no magic automated script that can process your website and recommend an effective digital marketing strategy that is unique to your business and goals, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You'll end up with a canned, pre-packaged, "one-size-fits-all" solution that is based on luck, not sound strategy backed up with measurable goals.
2. Avoid any upsell plan offered to you through a large directory listing.
Just about every client I know has been propositioned for a digital marketing plan from large directory services like Yelp, SuperPages, or the like. While there are very specific cases where these plans may make sense as a supplement to a larger marketing strategy, it is rare. They will tout their pageviews and demographics, but in the end they are interested in keeping visitors on their website—not yours. With the pressure for them to provide additional revenue streams, it only makes sense for them to upsell these plans to customers who don't fully understand what it is they are getting.
What usually happens with these plans is that you will be assigned a "rep" who will likely be rotated out every few months or so, and you'll receive some very pretty reports each month with little to no explanation of what they actually mean or follow-up recommendations on how they are maintaining your account or working to optimize your strategy.
3. Don't be fooled by "magic bullet campaigns".
Digital marketing is one of those things that can't exist as a singularity. You can't expect a single solution to produce results, like JUST doing email marketing or ONLY choosing display advertising. What happens when someone clicks on your email or ad? The visitor should be taken to a landing page, which needs to also be optimized to provide accurate tracking data and analytics that can inform whether the campaign is working, and you likely want the visitor to take some type of action, like filling out a form for more information or taking advantage of an offer, and that needs to be coded properly to work. Then you also need to be testing assumptions and experimenting with different strategies to continually optimize the campaign over time.
If you are being sold a single solution as the "magic bullet" that will deliver results, it's a clear red flag that you're not dealing with someone who understands all the different connections that make up a successful digital marketing campaign—or any campaign for that matter. Great marketing involves coordinating all of your efforts and measuring results in order to get the biggest return on your investment. If someone claiming to be a digital marketing expert is pitching you a single tool, they are not pitching a successful strategy.
4. You receive reports that are generic and not focused on your goals.
We've seen a lot of generic reports that focus on nothing but things like clicks and impressions. That may be great if all you care about is general traffic to your site, but chances are you are looking for actual actionable metrics like conversions and ROI. Like we mention above, you need to make sure that your campaign is set up to provide the right feedback in order to make it successful, which means diving into your site and setting up analytics tracking that is personalized for your business/organization. Otherwise, you're not really measuring anything!
A good digital marketing specialist will ask to get their hands dirty on your site or in a service like Google Tag Manager in order to properly set up tracking of Goals, Events, and Conversions—the things that really matter and that can provide serious feedback to your overall campaign!
5. Your reports are filled with data without any real recommendations about how to use it.
Every report-out should be an opportunity for you to get in-depth with your digital marketing specialist about what happened with your campaign over the last 30 days, and to strategize about the best prescriptions for any problems. Based on the data, you should be able to make some predictive analysis about things like "if we makes changes to X, we will expect Y to happen." Simply looking at raw data doesn't really tell you much about how your campaign is doing, and you need someone who is going to help break it down for you. This means looking at both the good data AND the bad—and not being afraid to try new things and experiment in order to optimize for success.