Buyers Beware: Don’t Get Burned By an Unethical Digital Marketing Service

April 2nd, 2021

It’s an unfortunate truth: not all businesses work under the same set of ethics. While there are plenty of legitimate service providers who go above and beyond to meet their clients’ needs, there are other digital marketing agencies who may do the very least they possibly can for your money. In some instances, they may simply take your money and run.

As a business owner, you know how hard you have to work to earn every single dollar that comes in, and the importance of wisely investing those dollars cannot be overstated. When you pay for quality services, you deserve quality services.

At Cobalt Digital Marketing, we know exactly how difficult it can be to trust your digital marketing service provider. That’s why we want to offer you a few insights now so that you can spot all of the red flags that come with questionable digital marketing agencies before you make your investment.

Detecting Dirty Digital Marketers

While you can easily see and understand when a poor job is done by a hairdresser, restaurant server, or mechanic, understanding the value–or lack of–an unethical digital marketing agency can be complicated.

When it comes to pinpointing those digital marketers who are only out for their own pocket, however, there’s several tell-tale signs that give them away. If you notice any of the following in your initial talks with a digital marketing service provider, you’ll want to be VERY WARY of moving forward with them:

  1. Cookie-CuttersWho has the agency worked with? Do they experience working with businesses from different industries? Have they discussed what kind of specific services or digital marketing methods they could potentially use for you?
    Unfortunately, there are plenty of cookie-cutter digital marketing agencies out there who are way too committed to their “tried-and-true” methods, meaning they won’t be able to adapt when major changes (like COVID-19) completely revamp the world of business.
    In marketing, especially digital marketing, what works for one company doesn’t work for all, so be very cautious of those marketing agencies who can’t roll with the punches or spout how their one way of marketing has provided “excellent” results for all their clients.
  2. No TransparencyThe digital marketing agency you choose to work with should function as a partner; your success is directly tied to theirs. If the potential marketing agency of your choosing can’t provide exact correlations between their marketing campaigns and your sales, then move forward with caution.
    A lack of transparency, from data to results and especially reporting, can mean they are hiding weaknesses they don’t want you to know about. Everything a marketing agency claims to have accomplished should be backed-up with real world data, campaign examples, case studies, and a clarity that shows they really know how to get things done.
  3. Talk the Talk (But Don’t Show Results)SEO. Cost-per-click. Click-through-rate. Key performance indicators. Analytics. Algorithms…the list goes on.
    There are plenty of digital marketing buzzwords and jargon that get thrown around that can confuse non-experts about the benefits of digital marketing. If you notice that your potential agency partner has a habit of beating-around-the-bush by using these hot terms without actually answering your questions or providing examples, then they may just be trying to confuse you into trusting their expertise.
    A dependable digital marketing agency should be able to walk you through the services they provide in a clear and effective manner. While there are definitely instances where terminology may be used or needed, it should make sense in context to the entire topic.
  4. Sounds Too Good to Be True“We guarantee we’ll get you on the first page of Google and get you a 150% return-on-investment in just one month.”
    Doesn’t that sound awesome? Of course it does, but it isn’t realistic. Digital marketing is like baking bread. You want the dough to have enough time to rise, else it–and your finished product–falls flat.
    Yes, success can be had very early on in the digital marketing process, but the greatest wins take time. If your potential partner agency is promising you the world in just a few weeks, then it’s too good to be true.
  5. Pushing for a “Gentlemen’s Agreement”There’s no way around it; businesses are in their line of work to make a fair profit, and the same goes for digital marketing agencies. But if an agency is unclear about their billing practices, you may be overpaying for underwhelming services.
    If the marketing agency you’re interested in working with is not clear about the cost for the work, aren’t eager to sign any sort of agreement, or tries to rush through “money” conversations without being specific, then don’t be surprised if you get charged an arm and a leg for subpar work.
    Trustworthy digital marketing agencies will want to have a clear and honest discussion about costs so that you both know what is expected from the other. Being upfront–even in difficult conversations–can make a real difference down the line.

Doing Your Part to Avoid the Wrong Digital Marketing Agency

Even if the digital marketing agency your planning to work with isn’t outwardly trying to sell you services you don’t need, there’s plenty you can do on your own to sabotage the process. Knowing what mistakes to avoid and how to think critically when choosing the right agency can help you make the best decision for your business possible:

  1. Falling for the Shiny ObjectA great sales presentation can make you believe (and buy) things that you don’t necessarily need. Perhaps the agency can truly do everything they mentioned in their beautiful presentation, but the question is, do you really need it all?
    Are you a startup simply looking to get your social media marketing going? Then know your needs and stick to your guns. Many agencies will want to sell you their entire suite of services, from webpage to digital ads, email campaigns, landing pages, social media services, and more, but if you need only a specific set of services, don’t fall for the shiny object you don’t actually need.
  2. Going CheapHaving a set budget and sticking to it is commendable. Sure, you didn’t fall for the shiny object and overspend, but did you go cheap because it was cheap?
    Just like most other services and products, in digital marketing, you are getting what you pay for. Cheap agencies may balance out their resources by using black-hat techniques that can ultimately hurt your online presence and business’ reputation.
    While you don’t always have to go big with digital marketing, you don’t want to go cheap and end up wasting time, money, and effort on an agency that isn’t going to help your business get anywhere.
  3. Choosing Local Because…They’re LocalSupporting local businesses is great, but that doesn’t mean you have to do just that with your digital marketing partner. Quality agencies can meet your needs no matter where you or their HQ is located.
    And while it’s true that face-to-face interactions can prove meaningful, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly shown business owners that a lot (if not most) can be done virtually. Experienced digital marketing agencies can help you dominate your local market from anywhere in the world–McAllen to Manhattan and beyond.
  4. Not Doing Your HomeworkPicking the first digital marketing agency you find online is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Before making your final decision, make sure to do plenty of research that should include:
    • Reading through the company’s case studies
    • Talking with their current clients
    • Reading through reviews
    • Reviewing their blogs
    • Reviewing their current work

    A major part of the research and evaluation process is asking the right questions…

The Quintessential Questions You Should Ask Your Digital Marketing Agency

  1. What’s your process like?Oftentimes, the digital marketing process is just as important as the results, especially because it’s the process that gets the results.
    A qualified agency will walk through their strategies, delving into the details to explain how they’ll take you from point A to B. Because their are different components that make up an effective digital marketing strategy, you’ll want to know how the various pieces (e.g. SEO, web design, social, digital ads, etc.) come together in the process to deliver the final marketing campaign product.
  2. What’s your experience like for businesses like mine?Most agencies think they can provide the same strategies for all businesses, but that’s a quick path to failure. You’ll want to move forward with an organization that has some experience (or related experience) to your specific industry or niche.
    Not only does this mean that the agency will have a solid grasp on your audience and targets, but it will also highlight the fact that they know how to use the full spectrum of their services to meet your goals and expectations.
    Industry-specific experience can help lead to quicker results as the agency will already understand what needs to be done.
  3. Who will be working with my team, and how will they interact with them?Building rapport between your business’ team and the agency’s team is essential. In all likelihood, you’ll be dealing with project managers, social media managers, content managers, and various personnel from the agency’s side, so you’ll want to ensure that they can work well with your own team members.
    In order to build that quality relationship, communication is key. The agency’s personnel will need to be able to be clear and reasonably available when working with the subject matter experts on your team, so make sure the question is answered effectively.
  4. How do you measure success?A digital marketing agency worth its salt will let you know that they measure results based precisely off benchmarks, metrics, and analytics–as well as your goals. They should let you know which data points they most frequently measure, as well as how often they plan on sharing results with you.
    Another component to consider is how they plan on making changes if a campaign isn’t working. Ask how they make adjustments, and see if they can provide you a recent example of when they had to do so.
  5. When should I see some results?As previously mentioned, digital marketing agencies that promise results within weeks or just a few months either aren’t being honest or aren’t being upfront about their tactics.
    If you’re a business owner new to digital marketing, it can take time to yield positive results, but once the ball starts rolling, you should see meaningful benefits. It’s important to consider digital marketing as a long-term investment versus a strategy to make a quick buck.
    Generally speaking, you should begin seeing positive movements within half a year to a year. Major changes in website traffic and leads should become noticeable within a year to two years.

Cobalt Digital Marketing: A Digital Marketing Agency You Can Trust

Getting the run-around on services you’ve paid a pretty penny for can be absolutely frustrating. That’s why you deserve a dependable, experienced, and qualified team that knows how to get the job done right.

At Cobalt Digital Marketing, our team members are Google Certified experts who can get you the results your business deserves. Our leadership team has decades of experience in marketing and are always ahead of the curve when it comes to the world of digital marketing.

Trust your future to the South Texas digital marketing experts of Cobalt Digital.

Maximize your digital opportunities, build your brand, enhance your online reputation, and get found online for the ultimate results – increased sales!

Contact Cobalt for a FREE Quote/Consultation Today