Opinion

Don’t believe the promises of dodgy digital agencies

'Pay X amount and we promise you’ll rank #1 on Google'. Sound familiar? Haimat's Ben Kassel explains why if a digital agency's promises sound too good to be true, they almost certainly are.

In the digital age, businesses need to adapt their marketing models to, you guessed it, digital platforms.

A strong digital marketing strategy (and platform) is key to business success. It’s how your brand survives and thrives. If you need a case study, just look at last week’s closure of Cosmopolitan Australia.

It’s against this backdrop that businesses big and small are jumping on the digital marketing bandwagon. Everyone’s looking for the right digital agency. The one that will “deliver your brands success”.

However, it’s not just businesses in need of digital marketing agencies. It works both ways.

The digital realm is inundated with digital agencies. Thousands of agencies, from one-(wo)man bands to global giants, are competing for clients.

This issue with supply and demand means plenty of digital marketers are resorting to dirty tactics – over-promising on results, ROI and customer lifetime value – just to win clients.

Move over, Del Boy…

We get daily phone calls from clients that go a little something like:

“This agency contacted us and said…”

“…Pay X amount and we promise you’ll rank #1 on Google”

“…We’ll work for free until you achieve the results you’re after”

“…We guarantee we’ll crush your competition on social media”

”…We will triple your sales” (because tripling tends to be the go-to multiplication…)

It all sounds wonderful right? Here’s a hint: if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

As a discerning customer, you need to remember that digital marketers are, first and foremost, marketers.

When it comes to digital agencies, most of them have great, though typically generic, sales pitches, with little to no real follow through. Smoke and mirrors.

Somehow every single digital agency out there will get you to ‘The Top’. But not every business can be at the top, together. It defies logic. In which case, every digital agency can’t get everyone to the top.

Google has claimed as much on their website “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google”.

If you want to sidestep the marketing hype, just remember this rule of thumb: promises are bullshit. Sorry for the profanity, but sometimes this is how you drive the message home.

Most digital agencies don’t follow the “good for you, good for me” business model. Their governing doctrine follows more along the lines of “sign them onto a binding contract, with illegible terms and conditions, fast”.

Most clients we speak to have this kind of experience after signing off with agencies:

A few months pass… they’re down several thousand dollars, “achieving” below average results, and, most excitingly, are stuck with their (one in a million) agency on a twelve-month contract.

If you give the contract terms and conditions a closer inspection, you’ll find digital agencies will outline that they are not liable for any shortcomings on promised results.

But in the digital age, we’re so used to Ts and Cs popping up that we tend to ignore them and click next. This is where you can get blindsided.

Plus, many digital agencies use third-party platforms to drive results for their clients on online media. So, if you are finding your getting some results, these could just be courtesy of dodgy dealings as opposed to real, authentic followings and engagements.

At the end of the day, no brand can promise results, because digital algorithms are updated constantly.

For instance, just last month, Google moved from desktop index to mobile first indexing. Facebook is limiting the reach of brands in newsfeeds, and Google AdWords has removed right-hand ads.

Digital marketers are reliant on the big tech companies and their algorithms. They determine the medium, the rules of the game.

All we can do is prepare, manage and change our client activities accordingly. So, the most important thing your business can do is look beyond promises and find a digital agency that cuts the bullshit.

Ben Kassel is founder and managing director at Haimat.

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