deceptive marketing

Selling to a skeptical buyer is hard.  Selling to a skeptical buyer that has been burned by deceptive marketing and PR companies is harder.  And now the internet has made it easier and faster to deceive buyers about expected results from marketing and PR campaigns. 

No matter what a salesperson tells you there is no guarantee of overnight success. Effective marketing and PR is merely a tool to help you achieve your business and sales goals. Credible marketing and PR pros will set the right client expectations from the get go and will follow through with hard work and a clear strategy over a considerable period of time.

Here the 11 biggest lies and half-truths you need to know in order to overcome marketing and PR dishonesty.

  1. We’ll Guarantee to Get You on the First Page of Google

This is a ridiculous claim we hear from marketers, and yet companies continue to make it almost routinely.  Nobody can guarantee #1 placement on Google because that placement is in the hands of the biggest search engine itself. Google itself has dealt with this claim in no uncertain terms. “Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. “There are no priority submits for Google,” it states.

  1. We Will Only Send You High-Quality Leads

Marketers often make this claim. Like getting you on the first page of Google, it’s almost impossible to quantify. There is no independent definition of what constitutes a high-quality lead unless the client outlines those parameters. Unsurprisingly, after they do, most marketing companies will  likely back down a bit on the promises. A good rule of thumb is when they tell you to describe the quality of lead you want, ask some good questions, and then point to examples of past clients and the method so everyone’s on the same page.

  1. We Will Offer You a Free Trial of Our SEO or PR Services

There’s no such thing as a free lunch and the same applies for a free trial. SEO and PR are both very involved processes that can require long hours of work. Very few companies will be serious about offering you this at no cost. Typically, they will want your website’s username and password to do any work and ask for access to your hosting account. If you decide not to go with their services your retreat will very quickly end up looking like Custer’s Last Stand and, chances are, some pushy sales tactics will mean you end up paying for their services.

  1. You Don’t Have to Do Anything. We’ll Do It All

This sort of promise is meant to appeal to busy small business owners in traditional settings who may not care to know too much about what they are doing online. It’s always a mistake to cede control of your business entirely to someone else. You may lose track of what you’re being charged for and you may also lose direction over your web presence. Your online presence is the equivalent of your shop window a decade ago. You need to retain control and not let a marketing company or PR company completely hijack your operation.

  1. You Will Be Privy to Secret and Undisclosed Strategies

Internet marketers sometimes like to mystically mention the secret sauce. They have a hidden ingredient or proprietary tool, but they can’t tell you what it is. They have a team of SEO whizz kids at a virtual Hogwarts just over the mountain. Or so they claim. The stark reality is more likely that they probably have a high school dropout who is leafing through the Idiot’s Guide to SEO in his mother’s basement. Any legitimate SEO company should be able to explain exactly what they will do to your site, as well as detail their link building strategy. A firm that mentions secrets may be planning to use black hat SEO techniques that will impact your site’s performance at some time in the future.

  1. This is an Amazing Deal for You and I Don’t Mind that it Puts Me in a Tough Place

The martyr strategy is a tried and tested means to an end. This is such a great deal that the marketers won’t be able to feed their kids for a couple of weeks but it’s worth it for your overall gain? Ask yourself why any marketer would place themselves in a tough place for you and you will have to conclude there’s no rational reason. It’s not as if you are family. Clearly, it’s just another ploy to make you think they are bending over backwards. You really need a solution that’s a win-win for everyone so you don’t become the despised client.

  1. This is a Limited Time Offer. You Need to Act Now

The limited time offer strategy is intended to put pressure on you to make a quick decision before you are able to give it much thought. If you gave it more thought, it might occur to you that limited time offers make little sense. Marketing deals aren’t like the last bottles of water before a hurricane. If you approached the same firm at a later date, a “deal” would likely still be available.

  1. We Work with Someone at Google, We Partner with Google

With Google accounting for about 68 percent of search engine market share, it’s easy to see why marketers would want to claim affiliation. However, this is a plain untruth. Google has no partnerships in the SEO world and no Google employee would jeopardize their jobs by illegally associating with any such firms. If a firm tells you they are partnered with Google, what else are they going to embellish on? Drop them.

  1. We have a Successful Track Record

Many marketing companies make this claim but what does it mean? Ask for the names of businesses which the marketer has helped and then contact those businesses yourself to get their feedback on the marketer. The word ‘successful’ means different things for different business owners. Your job is to find out what that will mean for you.

  1. We’ll Get You Off the Ground with Minimal Investment

Beware of companies that offer freebies up front but take your credit card details. Always. Read. The. Fine. Print. Chances are there’s a catch further down the line.

  1. You Don’t Have to Worry – We’ll Take Ownership of Your Content

If you think this kind of arrangement is positive because it will take a burden off you, think again. Any agreement you sign should not give ownership to the SEO agency you work with. If things go badly the company can hold you hostage or the content could even be sold to a competitor. Make sure to read over your contract before you sign anything, to ensure you’ll own all content created by your marketing company.

Related: Do I Really Need to a Hire a PR Agency?

The secret to success without hard work is still a secret.  Marketing and PR is hard work and takes time to be effective.  

Don’t fall for any of the eleven lies and half-truths that unscrupulous marketers and PR companies use to bait you into a contract.  Taking the easy way out  is not an effective marketing strategy.

Byline: Thanks to Victor Clarke of Clarke Inc for his expertise on this guest post submission! Clarke, Inc. offers real business solutions and practical common sense.  If you want the marketing pretty boys with man buns, fashion glasses, white belts and skinny jeans we’re not for you.