Know digital marketing warning signs


There are lots of amazing professionals who work on website design, social media marketing and search engine optimization. On the other side though, are the outliers of my industry who often require cleaning up after. This column is to warn you about those companies. So here are the big five warning signs one should heed when talking to any potential marketing professional:

1. They are a one-man-marketing-machine — or they pretend.

Over the years, as EasySocial has grown, we have gone from a one-man operation to a full team. When I started, it was just me working with clients to develop a social media strategy, then just me executing that strategy for them once we had it designed. I very quickly began to realize how the “one-man-show” system had many faults. Not least among them: One person can’t fill every role. Most successful business owners could quickly point to the many team members in their organization who are better than they are at one thing or another. Marketing is no different. Regardless of how talented and hardworking a person may be, they cannot be truly great at the 15 or 30 things involved in creating and executing a successful business marketing strategy. Unfortunately, I have learned that this is a realization that very few individual marketers come to. Many continue to believe they can and should do everything. This leads to backlogs of work and incorrect information or incorrect spelling making it into print or ads because they don’t have team members to check content before it’s published. Therefore, if someone is selling themselves as an individual capable of fixing all your marketing problems, they are probably overpromising. Everyone has a skill set and no one’s skill set includes everything.

2. They promise they can “make your business go viral.”

Any expert in social media knows that the term “viral” is overused and often used incorrectly. You can’t guarantee “going viral,” so what you really want is someone who can show you a reliable track record of past clients for whom they’ve been able to gain significant and regular growth.

3. They can’t show you results but want you to keep paying anyway.

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Not every campaign or strategy works for every client. We have had a few campaigns on social, SEO and digital advertising that have not generated real revenue for our clients and, when that happens, we tell them that it isn’t working and offer other strategies. There is nothing inherently wrong with a campaign not delivering or taking longer than expected to perform. There is everything wrong with professionals who want you to keep paying after it is clearly demonstrated to not work or who refuse to show you trackable key performance indicators.

4. They require annual contracts.

Again, there is nothing wrong with some campaigns or processes that take time to show results — and some campaigns do, necessarily, take that long. In general, though, if they cannot offer you at least a month or two to test the service/product before you have to agree to an annual plan, you should be cautious. Maybe look for providers who can operate on a month-to-month plan for at least the first quarter since strategies sometimes need to change after a few months of testing (reference warning sign 3).

5. They don’t have any local presence.

While there are SEO professionals outside southern Colorado you can trust, it is always better to work with someone you can actually sit down with and who has a trustworthy local reputation. Obviously, there is not a local solution to every problem, but whenever there is, I would definitely suggest working with local talent before going with a national brand.

There are, of course, exceptions to every warning sign outlined above, so at the end of the day, consider asking someone who is in the digital marketing world their opinion on a potential vendor/service provider before you sign a big contract. It could end up saving you a headache — and a lot of money.

Timothy A. Zercher is the president and CEO of Pueblo-based EasySocial. Zercher can be reached at