In recent networking events, I’ve encountered some rather aggressive and underhanded marketing strategies. When marketing your brand, many business owners or marketing managers may be desperate to make the deal, to overshadow their competitors and to drive new leads to conversion. Unfortunately, in their attempt for the quick hit, they are forgetting how the long-term results of their business plan will affect their brand.
Here are some recent mistakes I’ve witnessed, how they can harm the companies that use them, and why business owners need to be aware before making the mistake of signing that contract:
I. Using Fear as the Motivator. Fear is a powerful emotion and usually causes instant response, whether that is fight or flight or even purchasing alleged protection. Using fear of the unknown, fear of some presumed risk, or fear of idleness, many marketers instill fear by worst case scenarios, slanted gloomy statistics, or outright threats. While you need to educate your customer on potential risks, avoid forcing their hands or rushing them into a decision so you can make the sale. A well-informed customer whose given the time and space to choose your services based on trust and credibility, rather than fear, is a customer that will be easier to please, easier to work with and more likely to recommend you to others.
In contrast, when explaining any potential risks, don’t neglect to also calmly inform customers of realistic statistics, offer them choices in prevention (even when some of those choices don’t include your product), soothe their fears by sharing the facts and give them time to make an informed decision.
II. Using Knowledge as Power. You may be an expert in your industry, which adds great value to your company, but do you use that knowledge to take advantage of those who don’t understand the process and methods you use to accomplish your services? Over-complicating or mystifying your services may temporarily impress or persuade customers to sign that contract. But soon, in a few weeks or a few months, they will begin to wonder how their dollars spent are benefiting them and begin to ask more questions. If you can’t answer them adequately, their frustration will increase and eventually termination of your contract.
I have had several clients ask me to represent them when meeting with various marketing firms to decipher what they are paying for, get real answers and report it back to them. As I have a greater understanding of this industry and am trusted to honestly and simply explain it, I am more than happy to facilitate the discussion with or without the customer there. In some cases, we find that the sales rep do not have a grasp of the product they’re selling, and when we drilled down to the ‘experts’, we were shocked at the answers.
In contrast, rather than selling, educate your audience. Fully explain what you do, why you do it and how you do it. When customers understand the process, time involved and realistic returns on their investment, they will feel more confident when choosing you.
III. Using customers’ identity as a ransom. Certain marketing firms think it’s a great marketing plan to have full control of a client’s online identity so they can maintain, update and promote their brand as part of their services. While you need administrative privileges to accomplish their online marketing, it would be a better business practice to ensure legal ownership (and shared control) of their website, domain name, social media pages, and online directory listings exclusively to the client. This way the client knows that if the relationship ends, they still have access to their identity and their content, which is the right thing to do. In addition to the domain name, losing access to online listings, website management, and social media can be detrimental to your clients’ businesses.
In contrast, don’t use this control as ransom to keep them as customers but increase trust by not only sharing access with your clients, but showing them how to use these platforms to brand themselves. Showing them the time and effort you invest will increase their appreciation in your knowledge and persistence.
Note to Business Owners: I’ve been warning clients/leads of this tactic since I began my business twenty years ago. So many of my clients have lost their online identity (hosting or domain names) because they did not understand the contracts they signed. If you lose your domain name, it would be as disruptive to your business if you lost your business phone number to your competitor. Here are some of the risks of losing your domain name:
- Users may bookmark that domain, so if lost, they will now be visiting a competitor’s site.
- Your domain name (URL) builds domain authority over time, which adds to one of your SEO ranking factors. That time invested to build that authority will be lost if you have to start over with a new domain name.
- Calculate the costs of reprinting business cards, flyers, uniforms, vehicles, billboards and signs to update the URL.
- Consider the time to update your domain name on your online directory listings, social media platforms, organization membership listings, and your Google My Business listing.
IV. Using long-term contracts to hold clients hostage. I recently met a marketing firm that offered a somewhat reasonable monthly fee of a few hundred dollars to create/manage a website, promote once or twice a week on social media and manage online directory listings for a client. My question was ‘what happens to their website once they stop paying?’ He replied that the site would go down. So potentially you could be paying a minimum of $2400 a year for one, two or more years … yet if you decide to discontinue their contract and go elsewhere, you lose your website and domain name.
To me that doesn’t seem fair. If you paid several thousand dollars or more, than you should own that intellectual property, regardless of what company you use to manage your online marketing or if you choose to do it in-house. Don’t keep clients hostage with unfair monthly fees and unfair contracts. Paying just a few hundred dollars to get started may seem like a great deal, but consider the long-term costs.
In contrast, build trust and credibility in your brand by giving customers a fair release of your services. If your customers pay for a website, domain name, content, graphics, social media pages, then they own that after their payment is made. Holding them hostage will only infuriate them down the road and they will like share their frustration in person and online.
V. Withholding Content Management from Business Owners. At a recent ‘social media and website’ presentation, the speaker said, “Content is not longer that important.” I gasped and it took all my self-control to refrain from interrupting. Content is still King, when it comes to all things Internet Marketing, that has not changed but have become even more true with recent Google algorithms. Here are some statistics that prove that:
- “Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.” – Content Marketing Institute
- “Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%).” – Aberdeen
- “SEO demands content. Content marketing is content. SEO demands keywords. Content marketing means using keywords. SEO demands linkbacks. Content marketing introduces linkbacks.” – Kissmetrics
- “72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic.” – (Ascend2, 2015)
We’ll discuss the value of content in 2018 more in a future blog post, but the point is that Content Marketing is still your best tool in promoting your website on the SERPs, increase traffic and conversion rates. That being said, withholding the key to content of the websites you create or manage is like binding the marketing ‘hands’ of your customers. I recently had a contractor explain that keeping the client reliant on them keeps the work flowing and ensuring profit margins. True, but how does that benefit the customer? If a customer needs a site with dynamic content that needs updating daily, weekly or even hourly, you’re more than likely to disappoint them if they need timely updates.
In contrast, give them the freedom to update and manage their own website content, catalog and blog, and trust me, they will be much happier.
Looking for an internet marketing firm that does NOT follow the crowd, conduct ‘business as usual’ or put profits above people? Give Startup Production a call!