Medicine bottles

It’s astonishing to me how many snake oil salesmen there are in the digital marketing world. In just the past week, I’ve heard about:

  • An SEO firm that has spent all of its client’s budget on outdated search advice
  • A marketing firm spending all of its client’s budget on the one local search network that won’t help it
  • A PR firm principal (not Todd Defren) continuing to advocate for PR tactics that will harm its clients’ SEO on a prominent industry website

It’s no wonder that marketers, PR professionals, advertisers, and the like are so deeply distrusted when there are people blatantly taking advantage of their clients and abusing their trust and lack of knowledge.

How do you avoid getting taken for a very expensive ride? Here are a few suggestions.

First, the power of Google. When someone whips out a fancy sales brochure, Google the heck out of their specialties to see if what they’re selling is worth buying. In the case of the SEO firm above, one quick search about their supposed specialty would have revealed that it’s useless. (bonus: if they flat out refuse to tell you anything about how they’re going to work their magic, run away)

Second, the power of your social network. When a vendor is spending your money, ask them how and then ask your professional network of friends if any of them have any expertise in that area and whether the advice you’re being given is sound. In the second example above, a whole bunch of small businesses would advocate against that particular local search network.

Third and finally, the power of morning reading. One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep up on what’s happening is to keep reading. Subscribe to the blogs that are going to impact your marketing strategies. If you’re struggling with marketing, go subscribe to a bunch of marketing blogs. If you’re struggling with PR, go subscribe to some PR blogs. If you’re struggling with advertising, go subscribe to some advertising blogs. Then invest – and it is an investment in yourself and your business – as much time as you can practically afford to read every day.

Any time you’re considering making a significant investment, use these three capabilities to help guide your decision and ascertain whether the vendor that’s pitching you is the real deal or just another snake oil salesman.


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