I once read a remark by Lee Iacocca that has stuck with me through the years. He said, and I paraphrase, “I have great respect for the small business owners who have to make difficult business decisions every day. In contrast, it’s much easier for me to run a large business because seldom, if ever, am I faced with a decision that could literally ruin the company. For instance, when I want to try a new marketing strategy, I meet with the board, sell my idea, ask for funding and a timeframe and we move forward. My marketing trial budget will never come close to sinking the company. But when a small business owner makes the same decision, they usually don’t have a board to bounce the idea off of, nor are they granted a non-consequential budget. Rather, they make their own budget and many times, a bad decision could indeed have severe consequences on the company’s future. That adds a lot of stress to the owners’ daily decision making!”

At Be Awesome Digital, we work closely with a lot of SMB’s, more S’s than M’s to be honest. So, the scenario that Iacocca described fits our clients to a tee. We take our role very seriously as we help our clients make decisions that truly impact their future. We wanted to share some experiences we’ve seen our clients have to deal with after hiring a digital marketing campaign that was offered by one of the large, national advertising firms.

Without naming any names, here are five pitfalls we’ve seen:

The national provider owns the assets.

By assets we mean the owner ship of URLs/domains (which are directly connected to the website and email), online directory profiles, search engine accounts and social media accounts. We’ve met business owners who didn’t even own their login information or their account might be riding on the national provider’s account. And then there is analytic ownership – meaning – the business owner cannot log into their account to review results and is only privy to what’s sent to them by the national provider.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to own your assets. So often we see small business owners that want to make a change to their online marketing strategy only to find that they have no control over their online assets.

They find that they are stopped before they can get started due to a large national provider “working on their behalf” by registering and controlling the business’s domain, their website, their email, even their Google, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. And the worse crime of all? They create and own a phone number that they say is for tracking calls – only to keep it for themselves or even re-sell it, should the business owner decide they want to part ways.

Be Awesome Digital also helps business owners with URLs, social media profiles, even call tracking numbers. The difference is that we do it on behalf of the client – with them owning the assets should the day come when we part ways.

If your national provider won’t build the accounts on your domain ID, giving you total control and ownership, don’t waste your money. Look for another provider immediately.

The national provider has too many representatives.

When a national providers staff up, they hire hundreds of reps across the country. Every time we work with a business owner who has previously worked with a national provider, we hear about the several reps they’ve had to reacquaint with their business. They complain that not only does the new rep not know their business, but they also lose any rapport they had with the previous rep. This is another negative about working with a huge company. It’s impossible for them to build the personal relationship that is so important to a good marketing strategy.

At Be Awesome Digital, it’s very likely that you will work with the same reps for the life of your campaign. And if your rep does move on, your account will be handled by someone fully trained and brought up to speed on the intricacies of your business.

National providers aren’t nimble in an ever-changing environment.

Many national providers are quick to adopt techniques that deliver fast results. Unfortunately, they react slower to changes that are made by search engines and sometimes get caught up using practices that get classified as SPAM or “black hat tactics”. Understanding the damage that can be done to your reputation and especially to your traffic and rankings is important.

Small business owners are wise to check out the larger firm’s reviews. Read what past customers have posted and find out if they have had bad experiences with the same kinds of strategies they’re being pitched.

If there is a major consequence for using SPAM or black hat tactics, who deals with it? National providers are careful not to make promises. Read the fine print, however long it is. Maybe, consider a multi-page fine print document as a warning. A document like that makes sure the National Firm’s interests are first!

Be Awesome Digital takes ownership in your success and refuses to use a trendy tactic that might have short-term value but long-term consequences. We treat every business like family and we don’t take unnecessary risks.

The national provider will agree to reach goals that aren’t truly good for business.

Every small business should have clear for their marketing – goals for results, and goals for ROI. Often, national providers will use these goals as sales tools. For instance, a small business owner may call in with a goal of increasing “Likes” on Facebook. The national provider, seeing this as a buying signal will agree to get them the Likes for an inexpensive fee.

What they fail to tell the business owner is that the Likes don’t come from prospects within the geography of the business, or from people who have a genuine interest in the business’s products and services. They fail to explain to the business owner that an increase in Likes doesn’t contribute to the ultimate goal of more sales and a positive return on investment.

Be Awesome Digital will “push back” when a business owner asks for something they believe to be “a digital goal” if we know it isn’t going to result in sales. We’re all about educating and guiding our clients, even if it ends up being harder than something like “getting more likes.”

They want a long-term agreement

Most national providers price by the month according to a 12-month term, sometimes longer. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • To get the “discounted monthly rate” you must pay up front. i.e. To get $42/mo, you need to pay $42 x 12 = $504 up front. Otherwise it’s $49.99/mo which costs you about $95 more for the year. Also, if you want the national provider to stop working on your account, there is no refund for any unused months.
  • If you do opt to pay the higher price to spread the payments out over the year, most of the time there will not be an exit baked in unless you ask up front. This means that if you are unhappy after 2 or 3 months, you’ll be expected to buy out your term before the National Provider stops running your campaign.
  • It’s just not working but there’s a long-term contract. We’re not sure why a digital campaign gets treated like an annual yellow pages contract, but many national providers are still forcing clients to stay with them for a specific term, even when they want out.

At Be Awesome Digital, we too ask for some terms. We ask that you give us a minimum of ninety days with any strategy. This gives us an opportunity to build, optimize, look at data and results and improve truly get the most out of your campaign. But at the end of the day, you are never stuck in a long-term contract and are free to end your campaign with thirty days notice.

These are common experiences we see small business owners deal with quite often. We hope that this article can help you avoid these common pitfalls and avoid potentially costly and frustrating experiences.

Just like Iacocca said, paraphrasing again, “Small business owners are faced with decisions that could potentially bankrupt them at least every week.” Where marketing is concerned, it’s important for them to get their direction from a marketing provider they can get to know and learn to trust.

Rob Scutti, Local SEO