Over the past couple of years, a stigma has slowly become associated with the word “marketer”. As soon as you identify yourself as a marketer, there is often an underlying connotation and comparison to a snake oil salesman or used car salesman.
Let me explain what I mean:
Today, it seems like everyone and their mother has a marketing agency of some sort; whether it’s for personal branding, Facebook Ads, or organic social content, there has been an insane increase in the amount of people that have stepped into the agency space. Hell, even I created JPORT Media just two years ago, within the same period in which it was becoming popular.
While growth in any industry can be a good thing (it increases competition, which forces businesses to compete and create better services), things have been growing at a rate that I actually see as temporarily destructive to this side of the marketing world. Effectively there are tons of people treating this like a gold rush and sprinting to create their new agencies because they have a broken view of what it’s actually like to be in the client-services field.
To put this into perspective, I was at a conference a few months ago where someone stepped on stage and said, “here’s a business idea for all of you to try, start a social media agency.” While this may seem like a harmless act, it’s actually a negative one. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people sharing business ideas with each other in the hopes of making the other person successful – I think that’s great! What I don’t think is great however is going in front of a large audience and delivering a message that essentially says “You know how to use Instagram? Great! Go pitch clients with a monthly 5-figures service fee and frame it as “social media marketing”.
I know that it may seem like I’m taking things to extremes, which I am, but the point is that creating an agency and going into “social media marketing” has become the “cool” thing to do; people think that it doesn’t matter what your expertise is, they often think that you can just start an agency, get a few clients, and be good to go.
Now, you’d think that people that do this would have no chance at signing a client if they don’t fully understand what it is that they’re selling not have any experience, right? Wrong.
Here’s the problem:
When you step into the agency space, it’s easy to throw around a handful of buzzwords when pitching a client, which surprisingly enough, even if the person pitching the client doesn’t really understand any of the intricacies of what it is that they’re talking about, it can work. When a potential client hears things like “growth hack”, “retargeting campaign”, or “content strategy”, they can pretty quickly get overwhelmed and just assume that the person pitching them knows what they’re talking about, when they don’t.
Being said, many of these new agency founders and “marketers” sign their first one, two, or three clients by overpromising and then they proceed to completely drop the ball (or post in private online groups things like “just signed a $10k client, now what?”… yes, that’s not made up and I see it often). As a result, those clients get completely burned and then leave that agency with a very sour taste in their mouth. Subsequently, they’ll be much more hesitant to work with another “marketer” or agency moving forward, and rightfully so!
As I’m sure that many of you can imagine, selfishly, this is painful for me to see happen; I run a digital marketing agency, and I can confidently say that I try my best to do right by all of my clients and to reach the goals that we set together. However, the harsh reality is that if you’re looking to hire an agency to help you with your content, help you run ads, or help optimize the SEO of your website, finding a good agency can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Obviously, I’d love to sit here and talk about how I think JPORT Media does an incredible job, how I spent my own money learning and testing before I ever took a cent from a client, and then finish with a giant call to action, but that’s not my intention. The primary goal of writing this is to help clear the air; I genuinely don’t want to see anyone else get merely scammed just because being a marketer or starting an agency is the “cool thing” to do…
To avoid getting burned by a bad agency, try doing the following:
1. Question everything: if something doesn’t make sense or is too complicated, ask them about it. As Einstein said, “the definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” If the agency you’re talking to can’t do this, maybe they’re not as genius as they’re making themselves out to be.
2. Start slow: when signing with a new agency, start with a 3 month contract instead of a 6 – 12 month contract. This is a good way to hedge your bets and make sure that you play things reasonably safe.
3. Use common sense: if you’re talking to someone that is promising (or heavily implying) that you will get 5x – 10x returns, call them out on it or get it in writing! Getting a 10x return in any environment is incredibly difficult, so why would it be easy now?
Lastly, as my only real call-to-action, it would mean the world to me if you would share this article with someone that could use it. I really want to help make a difference in re-establishing a good name for marketers and agencies, and while this may be a baby step towards getting there, I am fully committed to going down this rabbit hole until it’s done.