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Why All Marketers Are Liars (And How You Can Protect Yourself)

Why Business Owners Don’t Trust Marketers

 

Ask any business owner (or maybe you are one yourself), what they think of marketing and specifically marketers, and you’ll probably be met with a grimace and a look of apprehensive fear. It’s no secret, business owners do not trust (or even like) marketers. Why is that? 

 

First, a disclosure: I am a digital marketer. Which means I understand if you don’t trust me, but I’d like to share some industry insider secrets to help you as the business owner succeed. See one thing that makes me different from most marketers, is I don’t have a marketing or a communications degree, I have an engineering degree. I’m a professional engineer by trained and (for better or worse), that means I feel I have a duty to ethics, law and maintaining public safety. 

 

Why All Marketers Feel Like Liars

 

I’ll make this real simple: if your yearly budget for marketing is $20k per year, you would expect to earn at minimum $20k revenue, and depending on your margins, ideally closer to $25k or $30k revenue to cover your overheads and end up with a profit. We invest money in marketing to earn more money down the road. So far so good? 

 

So what happens to the business owner who invests $20k, was promised the world by the marketer, and by year end is lucky if he made $10k in revenue? Not only did he not break even, but actually lost money. The marketing firm happily pocketed their commission, but you’re left scratching your head saying “but I invested all this money, why am I behind?!”. To add insult to injury, the ‘expert’ marketing firm you hired profited quite nicely, while you’re flailing in the mud. 

 

Suddenly, rage takes over. You feel like you’ve been lied to. This marketing firm promised all sorts of traffic and e-commerce sales, and YouTube subscribers, and bigger emails lists, and impressions, and reach and all those ‘marketing buzzwords’, and most importantly promised you revenue and profit, yet….you’re left wondering “where is it??”. 

 

Why Many Marketing Firms Fail To Deliver

 

I’m not naming any names here, these are just some of my observations from the last few years of being in the business. And here’s the easiest way I can explain it: marketing is complicated. 

 

Probably not the reassuring answer you expected to hear from a professional, but let me explain further, because I believe it will help you to understand the bigger picture. Most business owners (and many marketers to be honest), get lost in the hype of ‘easy’ and ‘quick’. “We want easy solutions!”, “we want quick wins!”, “marketing is so easy, even my 78 year grandma can do this!”, “if you’re not making millions of dollars of passive income online, you must be some kind of idiot!”. We get lost in the hype, it blurs our visions, and we can’t see the forest for the trees. 

 

In essence, most business owners believe that marketing is a simple 2 step process: 1) run an ad, 2) people get so hyped about your business they’re ready to kill their first born to go buy it RIGHT NOW.

 

And sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t work that way. Nobody cares about your ad, nobody cares about your product, nobody cares about your business, and certainly nobody cares about you. Sucks right? But that is why markeitng is complicated, because the process of turning strangers into loyal, bloodthirsty fans, is not an easy process, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen because you showed them one ad (and thank god for that – can you imagine if you became an irrational bloodthirsty consumer every time you saw an ad??). 

 

Marketing As An Ecosystem

 

I want to share a personal story to help drive this point home even further. One of my first clients hired me to manage their Google Ad campaign. Effectively it was my job to run ads to send people to their website so they could generate new leads and business. 

 

I was pumped. This was one of my first ‘real’ clients, that actually paid me some pretty serious money. I was excited to deliver the best f*cking campaign I could. I spent an entire weekend building out this campaign, researching keywords, developing the strategy, writing ad copy, strategically picking the right demographics, ages, incomes, locations – and most importantly – learning from their historic campaigns to understand what worked and what didn’t. By monday morning I was ready, I’d built this ‘super’ campaign and we were ready to launch. As I was sipping my morning coffee, we launched the campaign annnnnnd….crickets. 

 

We got large numbers of users to the site, but nobody was converting, nobody was signing up. The client was slightly unnerved, but was okay giving it a week or two to give it time to let it run. A few weeks went by and a small trickle of leads came in, but nothing impressive. The client was getting anxious, and I was starting to sweat. 

 

I contacted some friends in the digital marketing space, and they unanimously agreed that the website sucked (ironic as the client was a website developer). But the truth was the landing page was terrible – it loaded slowly, wasn’t good on mobile, didn’t have clear messaging, or clear call to action, and to be honest, if I was a stranger landing on the site for the first time, I wouldn’t feel inspired to sign up with them either. 

 

Diagnosis: the clients website sucked. Or to use industry terminology: the website was not properly optimized for conversions. 

 

But here was the problem: I was hired only to run their Google Ad campaign. I had no control over the website. I had no power to make updates or make changes. I enlisted my friends who were more specialized in landing pages, and we put together a proposal for the client on what it would cost to optimize the landing page. 

 

We showed examples and case studies of beautiful landing pages and told the client in no uncertain terms “it doesn’t matter how good the Google Ad campaign is, if the landing page doesn’t work, all the money is being wasted”. We pleaded to let us update the landing page, but the client was steadfast, and said no. And guess what? The campaign flopped. 

 

Now before you think “oh great story Arthur, you’ve told us how you suck at marketing, well done”, I hope the story made this point clear: marketing is a complicated ecosystem with many moving parts, that all must work together in concert for a campaign to become successful. If even one part of the marketing engine is bad or broken, the whole thing can break. 

 

Marketing Is An Ecosystem

 

In proper marketing campaign, there is an entire ecosystem at play. Here is a small (non-exhaustive) list in no particular order of what’s at play:

  • Ad campaign strategy
  • Targeting
  • demographics/audience/geography
  • Interests
  • Ad copy (the words, headlines)
  • Ad creative (the photos, videos)
  • The ad itself
  • The platforms
  • The landing page
  • Page load speed
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • UI / UX (user interface / user experience – is it good and easy and clear to use?)
  • The CTA (call to action)
  • The form or “contact us” button
  • The compelling offer (why should someone contact you anyway?)
  • Heat mapping
  • Analytics
  • Remarketing
  • Newsletter / customer list building
  • Buying paid traffic
  • SEO organic traffic
  • Social media traffic
  • The E-commerce story
  • Ability to handle payments
  • Email follow up after payment

 

And on and on and on and on….

 

A true marketing campaign must have all of these pieces of the ecosystem working together in harmony for it to be a success. 

 

So Why Do Most Marketing Campaigns Fail? Are Marketers All Liars?

 

So here’s the real question most business owners want to know then, is “why do most marketing campaigns fail??”. And I hope it’s starting to become clear now, that most marketing campaigns fail, because the marketer, or marketing agency, has failed to (or is unable to due to the nature of their contract with the client, as my story highlights above), get all of these pieces working together. 

 

Many ‘marketers’ will take a course on Facebook Ads – and they’ll get really good at Facebook Ads – but they know nothing about landing pages, they know nothing about optimizing page speed, they know nothing about e-commerce transations – they’re just reall good at Facebook Ads.

 

And therein lies the problem: most marketers operate in a silo. They understand their piece of the puzzle, but they don’t see the big picture. My belief, is that marketers are not liars. Most of the marketers I’ve met, have been hard working people who have genuinely wanted the best for the client – afterall, a successful client comes back to hire you again, it’s in your absolute best interest to make clients successful to develop long term repeat business. 

 

No, not all marketers are liars, everyone just severely underestimates how complicated successful marketing is. Once you see and appreciate the full ecosystem, you can start to see how all the moving parts fit together, and a successful marketer is more like an orchestra conductor than a ‘Facebook Ninja’. 

 

My advice? Learn marketing and do it yourself. No one will have the same dedication, or be willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears that you will. 

 

Why Have Marketers Developed Such A Bad Reputation?

 

It’s true, marketers have developed a terrible reputation. It’s just ever so slightly better than lawyers, but not by much, and that’s not reeling saying much. Why is that – are marketers all liars? 

 

Professions develop bad reputations when the value to the client isn’t clear. Let me say that in an easier to digest something: when you buy something, and you feel like you got great value, you are happy, and that profession in your eyes has risen up in terms of their credibility. 

 

If on the other hand you buy something, you spend a lot of money, people say all these ‘hypey’ and ‘feel goodey’ things, but at the end of the day the results don’t materialise (ie: revenue & profit), then you’re left with a bitter and sour taste in your mouth.

 

Did you get scammed? Did you get lied to? Did they really know what they were doing? Were they blowing smoke up my a**? So many questions that start flying through your head when you’re not happy with the results. 

 

Where Did This Bad Reputation For Marketers Come From?

 

So where did this bad reputation for marketers actually come from? I mean, I’m sure they’re all decent people, afterall right? The problem is that marketers live in a highly dynamic and variable environment. New platforms and trends are emerging all the time. Every time you blink there’s a new Facebook, a new Instagram, a new TikTok. The platforms proliferate like rabbits. 

 

On top of that, there is a constantly changing political and policy landscape: GDPR, updated terms of service, privacy concerns. And there’s always something new. There’s always someone shouting from the rooftops about the new latest thing they discovered. 

 

So marketers get caught up in this whirlwind of always trying to stay current and modern and do the new things, while balancing that against client expectations and budget. But here’s the thing about doing new things that people (clients) conveniently seem to forget: whenever you try something new, there is the inherent possibility of failure. 

 

The options breakdown like this: you can either do the ‘tried and true’ methods of marketing which will deliver predictably mediocre results (everyone is doing them remember), or you can opt to try the new fancy thing which could deliver unexpectedly amazing results (or could tank). These are the risks we need to consider and weigh up. 

 

How Marketers Can Stay On Top Of Trends

 

There’s a term in the industry called OPM (other people’s money) – where the goal is to use other people’s money (ie: clients) to test new experiments. The theory is sound – get the client to assume all the risk, but there’s a problem: client’s aren’t interested in assuming all the risk. Whoops. 

 

So what should a professional marketer be doing to stay on top of the latest trends? Invest their own money. I’m not sure why this concept has so many marketers terrified – maybe it’s because secretly they know they’ll end up losing money….yikes that’s a worrying sign. 

 

Here’s the score: as a marketer, everytime you hear of (or think of) invest some of your own money in testing it out. Let me say it again: INVEST YOUR OWN MONEY TO TEST NEW IDEAS. That way you won’t piss off any clients (those relationships are valuable), and you can come to the table with solid experience and evidence to document that what you’re saying actually works. 

 

When you have hard evidence of success, you’re no longer blowing smoke up anyones a**. Take responsibility for yourself and your business, be a professional please. Side note: this is why I stopped serving clients and started working almost exclusively on my own marketing projects. If what I say is truth, I will reap the benefits. If what I say is lies, then my conscious can rest easy knowing that I haven’t wasted someone else’s money. 

 

Are All Marketers Liars?

 

No, not all marketers are liars. Yes, there are some bad apples out there (as there are in any profession). Some marketers may intentionally be deceptive, but most bad marketers are just inexperienced. There is no malice or bad intention. 

 

Now if you’re a client and you’re paying big money, obviously inexperience is not a valid defense. If someone does not have the required experience, they should either be working for free until they can prove they have the skills, or to be doing an apprenticeship underneath a more senior marketer. 

 

When I was getting my start in marketing I happily worked for free (and for the record, I had an engineering degree in my back pocket and had been accustomed to earning more than $50k per year, so working for free required a considerably amount of…humility). But, my priority was to get experience and prove I knew what I was doing, and if that took working for free while I gained experience, I jumped on any opportunity that cam my way.

 

Side note: for any aspiring marketer who’s trying to get their first clients, but doesn’t have the experience yet to earn those accolades, post on Facebook (or other) that you’ve got some skills and are looking for clients to work on a free basis while you get your chops up. You’d be surprised on how many people take you up on that. Marketing is one of those things that most people hate doing, so when someone starts offering for free, many people jump on it!

 

Back to the original question – no, not all marketers are liars, most are good people working hard to deliver the best results they can for their client, but many are unable to see the forest for the trees, and struggle to see the bigger picture in terms of how what the client is asking for fits into a bigger overarching strategic narrative. Even if you’re a ‘ninja’ at Facebook ads, your marketing campaign will crash and burn if you don’t understand how to make a landing page convert, or why your offer of 5% off isn’t exactly turning heads.

How To Spot A Marketer Who Is Lying To You

 

So here’s the question all business owners want to know – how do you spot a marketer who is lying to you – and while I can’t equip you with a foolproof lie detector, I can give you a few thoughts to pay attention to:

 

  1. They use a lot of vague language
    1. This is a big one to watch for. A marketer who doesn’t really know what they’re doing will use a lot of vague language in the hopes they can pull the wool over your eyes. Saying things like “we’ll help you achieve better results”, “we’ll help grow your brand”, or “we’ll help you build better brand recognition” – I mean, what do those all mean anyway? What ‘results’? What do you mean by ‘grow’? What ‘brand recognition’? All of these things sound good, but what do they mean? Grow by much? How long will it take? How much will it cost? How much will it cost relative to the revenue you’ll help me generate? Now to be fair for a second, no one is a psychic, and no one can definitively see the future, however having some strong case studies of work you’ve done in the past and how you help previous clients will take you far. 
  2. They use a lot of ‘buzzwords’
    1. Similar to the above, if they use words like ‘get in a alignment’, or ‘brand strategy’, or ‘brand impressions’, or ‘generating awareness’, or ‘consumer top of mind’, or ‘customer loyalty’, or ‘skyrocket your results’ with that little rocket emoji (side note: any professional marketer who actually knows what they’re doing will never use a rocket emoji – it’s a dead giveaway of the amateur who has never ‘skyrocketed’ results before). Be aware of any marketer who uses overly complicated, flowery or buzzwordy language – look for marketers who can explain their plan in clear, easy to understand language, because as Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
  3. They don’t focus on your revenue and profit as a main priority
    1. Now this one is a bit tricky because it requires context. Let’s face it, in the beginning of a brand new marketing campaign, if nobody knows your business or your product, it will take some time for people to build enough trust with you to buy, and so to accept and be okay that in the beginning your marketing campaign may lose money. And that is fine in the short term, however it is not fine in the long term – any marketer who doesn’t make your revenue a clear KPI they measure and report on, you should be aware of. If a marketer gives you a report and revenue is buried somewhere deep, that is hard to find and doesn’t stand out – run. This marketer is afraid they can’t deliver you results, and try to hide it. 
  4. They describe themselves as a Facebook ‘Ninja’
    1. This one is pretty self-explanatory – just run. 
  5. They’re unable to articulate the entire marketing ecosystem and how it relates to your project
    1. And here’s the main point – a professional and successful marketer will understand the entire marketing ecoscystem, and will see how each piece fits together. The professional marketer is the orchestra conductor, who directs each piece and brings them all together in a unified whole. If your marketer talks about Facebook ads, but doesn’t say anything about your landing page – run. If your marketer talks about your landing page, but doesn’t say anything about the mobile experience or page speed – run. If your marketer sends alot of traffic to your site, but doesn’t talk about building remarketing audiences or generating a customer list that you own – run. Marketing is complicated at the best of times, you need a pro who understands the whol thing. 

 

How To Protect Your Business From Bad Marketing

 

You’re probably not going to like my answer, but here it is: do it yourself. Now I get it, we’re all busy people, and who has time to learn a whole new skill right? I mean, that’s why we hire professional lawyers and accountants and doctors right? Because there’s no point in learning it ourselves when we can hire a professional, right? 

 

And I agree – hiring professionals is a good thing. There are so many things that we can never learn in life, so we hire professionals to do it for us. But when it comes to marketing, nobody knows your business, your product, your service, your mentality, better than you do. It’s your business and your baby. 

 

If you just blindly hire a marketing firm to ‘do social media’, sure, they’ll do social media, but it will probably feel very expensive, and the results may be lackluster. But if you learn social media, you can put your blood, sweat and tears into you, and do it properly, because at the end of the day you take full ownership for your business. 

 

Now, my last thought – if you genuinely feel that you still want to hire out your marketiner – then here’s my last recommendation: at least learn the basics. Take a couple courses online (Udemy is filled with inexpensive courses on marketing, including SEO, Social Media, Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Landing Page Optimization). Educate yourself so you can come to the table knowledgeable, and to be clear on what exactly you’re actually asking your marketing ‘pro’ to do for you. Good luck!

 

Seth Godin Videos To Watch On Marketing 

 

Lastly, here’s a couple videos to watch on marketing from one of my all-time favourites: Seth Godin. Seth Godin is one of those guys who flipped marketing around from being this sleazy, manipulative thing, into something that is actually designed to be helpful to the client. By exposing some of the industry’s deepest darkest secrets, he’s able to open up the dialogue for building better marketing. 

 

At the end of the day, marketing is not a bad thing. Helping business owners to build their business and help sell their products, is not a bad thing. It’s is only when it is done haphazardly, or promises are made that can never be delivered on, that people lose trust in the industry.

 

Seth Godin on Markeitng & Storytelling:

 

 

All Marketers Are Liars – Book Review:

 

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