Warning Signs: Are You Paying Your Marketing Agency Too Much?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

As a small business owner, you don't have money and time to waste. Here are the signs you're paying your marketing agency too much.

Chances are that the marketing or advertising agency you’ve chosen to help you with your business is charging you anywhere from $50-$200 per hour. Hourly rates like these are pretty standard and usually based on reputation and experience. That’s not what we’re here to debunk today. We’re here to talk about what you’re signing up for and whether that’s money you should be spending in the first place.

It’s fairly commonplace for me to hear stories from clients of how they’ve spent their marketing money in the past, and how they have “no idea” what the agency was doing for them. Here are a few things you should be weary of:

Black Hat SEO

Desperate business owners often find themselves selling their souls to shady SEO (Search Engine Optimization) agencies concerned more with sales goals than client goals. These clients definitely fall into the I-had-no-idea-what-they-were-doing category. The monthly spend is anywhere from $200-$1000 per month, and the results are fleeting.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Tell If Your SEO Agency Is Ripping You Off

The shady companies I’m referring to practice black hat SEO tactics which refers to methods that optimize a website to rank better on search engines like Google by unethical means. It’s hard not to fall for a black hat agencies pitch which is usually something along the lines of, “I can get your website to rank on the top of Google in the next six weeks.” Who doesn’t want that?

Why You’re Spending Too Much

Your website and your business’ overall online presence is a long-term investment. Great search rankings don’t happen overnight but over time as your company’s reputation grows. Black hat agencies do everything they can to trick the system into getting your site to rank better, but the results aren’t sustainable without that agency’s help.

Strong online strategy is a mix of good initial set-up for your website, great content that’s updated frequently, reputable backlinks to your site that make your business look legit and an engaged online audience via social media and frequent web traffic. When you tackle SEO strategy the right way, your organic search results will be worth the time you spent, and are easier to maintain over the long term without the high monthly bill.

Warning Sign: If the SEO expert you’re speaking with doesn’t want to disclose what tactics they’re going to use, back away slowly.

Related Article: Don't Believe Everything You've Been Told About Marketing

Mass Marketing with No Strategy

Small business owners fall victim to this most often in their first year. If they’re not working with a reputable marketing consultant, they often rely on their consumer knowledge of advertising routes available in their community. They may seek out an advertising agency to help them buy, design and place ads for them.

Why You’re Spending Too Much

Small businesses in particular do not have the budget to effectively mass market their businesses. When I speak of mass marketing, I mean advertising through different media channels like television, radio and print. Mass marketing requires a long-term commitment and a lot of repetition. This adds up to big bucks that businesses, especially in their first year, cannot afford.

It’s much more effective, in terms of return-on-investment, to target market by segments. Take that large market you’re trying to appeal to and break it down into manageable pieces either by lifestyle, geographical area or niche groups. Then come up with a complete marketing strategy to appeal to that segment.

Warning Sign: If the advertising agency you’re working with doesn’t ask about your marketing strategy or long-term goals, it’s time to find a better consultant.

Working with Industry-Specific Agencies

I’m not going to dog these agencies; I just want to remind business owners to shop locally for services as well as consider industry-specific agencies. What do I mean by industry-specific agencies? There are marketing agencies that only serve attorneys, companies that only build websites for medical practices, branding agencies that only work with real estate professionals, so on and so forth. There are plenty of advantages to hiring an agency like this – most paramount is the amount of experience they have in your industry.

Why You’re Spending Too Much

If you’ve found an expert working within an agency like this that has created genuine value for you, then you’re not spending too much. Unfortunately, this is normally not the case. Some of these large companies that specialize in an industry have come up with a one-size-fits-all approach that they sell at an inflated rate to their clients. The branding and strategy is a template, and the websites they create aren’t unique. Not only do you end up spending more, you’re not getting something created to meet your business’s unique goals.

Compare the pricing of these national companies with some local options. More often than not, your local agency or consultant has a better grasp on your market. You’ll end up spending less and working with a consultant you can cultivate a valuable professional relationship with.

Warning Sign: The agency you hire has you fill out a detailed questionnaire, but you never sit down or conference with a knowledgeable consultant about your business.

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