dont use this marketing company

“Don’t Use This Marketing Company!”

dont use this marketing company

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How many times have you seen a post spring up on social media warning MSPs about a marketing company that should be avoided at all costs?

We see them all the time. (No, not about us.)

“Waste of money!” is usually the rallying cry around these posts, and most of them garner more than a handful of confirmations from other MSPs who’ve had the same experience.

What we rarely see after such a post is anyone discussing how you avoid other bad marketing solutions in the future. What kind of decision-making process will keep you from finding out the hard way? What red flags can an MSP scan for and easily identify?

I’m going to humbly give you some advice on that — and my suggestions are entirely based on logic, so I will explain them thoroughly to help eliminate any accusations of bias. 

Here’s the quick preamble to set the stage. I’ve been a marketing professional for nearly 20 years. As such, I’ve encountered more tools, solutions, hacks, tricks, magic formulas, and gimmicks than any human being should ever have to. Yeah, I’m talking about it like it’s a frustrating nightmare because in many ways, sorting through all of the junk out there is a frustrating nightmare.

Fortunately, I have enough experience in the field that I can evaluate all of the options and eliminate 90% of them before I even need to see a demo. Then, when we get on a demo, we eliminate 90% of those options as well. I’m not proud of it, but I nearly brought the CEO of a “cutting-edge” marketing agency to tears on a call because he couldn’t answer simple questions about the “system” they were trying to sell for $20,000 a month.
As someone said in a recent Facebook thread, MSPs are preyed upon because they don’t know that much about marketing. This is true, and the marketing industry knows it. The guy who teared up when I called BS on his sales pitch even said, “I don’t know why you’re not seeing the value here. CEOs jump all over this opportunity.”
To which I replied, “Because CEOs don’t know about marketing. They just believe the false promises you’re making and don’t know how to qualify your system.”
That’s how it works. He wasn’t losing his composure because he wasn’t going to make a sale. He lost his composure because someone called him out on his BS.
Caveat emptor, because marketing is a business, and it’s ruthless right now because every idiot with a “system” sees it as a way to make a quick buck. I write and speak so often on the declining state of the marketing industry for good reason; because it is in decline. Not in demand — that’s skyrocketing — but in ethics and efficacy.
So let’s work on fixing that, starting right now.
Eliminating the junk and money-wasters early on is actually fairly simple. I use a straightforward battery of evaluations which the vast majority of marketing agencies, gurus, and tools cannot pass.
First, I look at the agency’s website and/or whatever email they sent me. The only question on my mind at that point is “Has this company or consultant used this opportunity to demonstrate some unique value?”
In other words, are they showing me that they do something differently? Do they have a truly unique process? Do they have some new technology?
Anyone can make promises to get your attention. There’s literally nothing stopping me right now from telling you that I can get you 100 qualified leads by tomorrow morning. Nothing.
For that reason, you must never stop at the promise. Even if the numbers look exciting, the next thing you need to look for is how they plan on hitting that goal. And the reason you’re looking for something uniquely valuable is that no common system is going to get you uncommon results.
For example, if some agency says they use LinkedIn to get you 20 leads a month, they absolutely must tell you how they’re generating more leads than thousands of other agencies who are doing the exact same thing. And if they’re actually good at marketing (we’ll get to that in a minute) that information should be front and center.
If they have a differentiator that is truly valuable to their prospects, you shouldn’t have to ask to see what it is. If they’re hiding it, they suck at marketing and you shouldn’t hire them regardless.
Which leads to my second evaluation. I check their website to see if they actually look competent as marketers. Do they clearly identify some reason why I should choose them over other options, or do they lean entirely on that whole “we’ll deliver X leads a month” thing? Again, promises are meaningless unless they can show you some means by which they are able to generate those leads differently than the ten thousand other agencies who are making the same claim.
One thing I look for is some explanation of their process or system — because we all tend to have them. If that process reads out something like this…
  1. Step One: We consult with you to find out your ideal audience.
  2. Step Two: We create creative content for your LinkedIn campaign.
  3. Step Three: We set up targeted campaigns.
  4. Step Four: We launch, and you get tons of new business.

 … then I walk away. Or run, if I’m wearing appropriate shoes.

Why is that so bad? Because if you read a few dozen of those digital marketing agency “processes”, you’ll see they all pretty much say the same thing. And they’re not describing some proprietary, strategically-superior methodology — they’re just describing what every single person does when they try to generate leads on LinkedIn.

In other words, if that “system” could get someone 20 leads a month, everyone would be swimming in so much business that marketing agencies would cease to exist.

It’s just like we teach MSPs. It’s what we do for our clients. Unique value is the key to standing out in your market. If a marketing agency can’t even make themselves look uniquely valuable, there is no chance they’re going to do it for you. The lame, copy-paste, ineffectual marketing agency will only succeed at making an MSP look lame, copy-paste, and ineffectual because that’s the proven limit of their capabilities.

Now, part of the problem here is that MSPs — indeed all business owners and entrepreneurs — want to believe that the common processes will work. Confirmation bias sets in, especially when they’re being promised big numbers and a huge ROI. But the reality is far more complex than that.

You might hear that LinkedIn marketing is great. Maybe someone told you that they generated a ton of leads from LinkedIn, so they can vouch for its efficacy. Then someone comes along at just the right moment and says, “We do LinkedIn marketing,” and your expectations have already been set — these guys are going to get me tons of new business.

But effective marketing is not an A+B=$ formula. There is no checklist of common tasks that, once completed, results in growth. Again, if that were true, marketing agencies wouldn’t exist and every MSP would be a billionaire. There is an X factor to effective marketing — several, really — that needs to be part of the equation before your investment pays off.

Detailing all of those X factors is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll summarize quickly. (You can read or listen to my other articles, or read my book REMIX Marketing, if you want to explore them fully.) 

  • Effective marketing takes a unique approach, either through channels, delivery, process, positioning, or a mixture thereof. There are diminishing returns on all “systems”, and the more often a marketing method is used, the less effective it will be (for a while). For example, LinkedIn marketing was the holy grail for all of about eight months — now it’s already falling apart because it became the “everybody should do it” marketing approach and consumers really dislike having ten thousand companies run the same lame playbook on them every day. 
  • Effective marketing must be creative. One reason why some people succeed with a method and others fail is the quality of their messaging or delivery. Digital marketing agencies are notorious for skimping on this part — and their results tend to show it. 
  • Effective marketing must be researched and strategized. There’s a very good reason why we spend a minimum of four weeks strategizing with a new client before we start their marketing campaigns. Because good marketing demands it. Sorry to say this, but if you expect out-of-this-world results after a one-hour “strategy call”, you’re not taking the depth and importance of marketing seriously enough. That’s just how the game works. 
  • Effective marketing must be tested and refined constantly. Our agency has an always-be-testing culture. Not because we love statistics, but because testing has and always will be a critical part of marketing. If an agency doesn’t test and test and test some more, they’re not doing it right. 

I’ll be the first to tell you that the marketing industry has become exploitative and unethical. You can avoid the many pitfalls by being diligent in your search for solutions and applying some simple logic — like the examples above — to your vetting process. 

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