The pitch always starts the same way.
“We’ll get you to the top page of Google for real estate!”
“We promise 2,000 new leads in one month!"
“Imagine thousands of new followers on your Instagram account!”
If a marketing agency ever feeds you a line like this - RUN!
I both hate and love when a real estate marketing “agency” makes these outrageous claims. I hate it because it honestly hurts my heart to know great agents are falling prey to their bullshit and pouring hundreds if not thousands of dollars directly into their pockets.
But I also love it because it reminds me every day why we started this business in the first place and damn does it feel good to fight for you guys.
We like to do things a little differently around here. We don’t make promises about the number of leads we’ll bring in at any given moment because it’s damn near impossible to predict. What we DO promise is the ability to build you a cohesive web presence that sustains & feeds your marketing strategy. We promise that the leads we attract are qualified leads you can pursue and convert. We promise that the companies, freelancers and businesses we work with have been tested, tried and found worthy.
For Christina and I, our CEO hero is Yvon Chouinard, founder and leader of Patagonia. A man who built a billion dollar business based on a simple need and fortified his company with strong values, thus proving that ethics not only belong but thrive in the world of business. A man who has never gone public or taken a dollar from investors so that he could always fight for his customers, employees, company values and the global state of business. It’s a new world of conscious capitalism. A world where we as business owners make connections with the right businesses and the right consumers for voluntary exchange.
We believe businesses should exist for reasons beyond just making a profit.
I’ve spent years watching agencies hound me and my real estate clients trying to sell us empty promises. And I will admit even I have been duped a time of two. Rather than let you fall prey any longer to these misleading companies, I’m revealing some of the most telling red flags you need to look out for.
How to Tell if a Marketing Agency is Legitimate
// THEIR NAME + NUMBER CHANGES
Fraudulent companies change their company name and number frequently to avoid being shut down by governing agencies. Or if a company’s information changes they may have been shut down already and had to switch their info under a new company. It’s shocking how quickly someone can form a company and if you see this behavior happening without explanation it’s typically a sign that things are not all simpatico behind the scenes. Another sign to watch out for is high employee turnover. If your dedicated point of contact seems to be someone new every month, then they’re most likely burning and churning through employees.
// THEY ASK FOR MONEY OR SENSITIVE INFORMATION UPFRONT
A quality marketing agency will never ask for payment or sensitive information before first establishing some sort of rapport.
Remember, we’re vetting you as a client just as much as you’re vetting us.
I’ve had clients pay for $300 worth of monthly services without ever speaking to a representative. While this may be normal when purchasing products, it’s a whole other ballpark as far as services are concerned. Think about it. Marketing is never a one size fits all model. So how can a marketer properly market your business if they’ve never even spoken to you first? They can’t. A serious marketing company will dive into details about your desires, needs and business strategy via a questionnaire or strategy call before asking for payment, passwords or a contract signature first.
// A POOR WEB PRESENCE
Always do your due diligence and Google the company to evaluate their web presence. Common clues that a company is possibly a scam include:
A single web result with little to no social media presence
Numerous poor reviews
Frequent misspellings, poor grammar
Page links that lead to spammy sites or 404 pages
// HIGH-PRESSURE SALES TACTICS
Bare with me on this one. Almost every marketing agency out there uses high-pressure sales tactics at some point in their strategy. We all do it to encourage a reluctant customer to continue along the process and make a decision.
But if a marketing agency relies solely on high-pressure sales tactics it could be a red flag.
Proceed with caution on this one.
// LONG-TERM CONTRACTS + A LACK OF FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY
While many marketing agencies may offer an annual contract option, a company who only offers long-term contracts is a sure sign to steer clear.
Scam agencies lock customers into the 6+ month contracts to keep you paying even when you aren’t seeing results.
Legitimate agencies offer trials, monthly payments and money back guarantees. We don’t want to lock ourselves into contracts with clients who aren’t the right fit just as much as you don’t want to partner with agencies who don’t meet your needs.
Monthly agreements allow us both an option to exit if something just isn’t working out.
Another bit to look out for is a lack of financial transparency. This is especially prevalent in pay per click campaigns and search engine marketing scenarios.
As a client, you have the right to know how an agency is using your ad dollars. A normal PCC campaign management fee is 10-20%. So if you’re spending $1000 a month on Facebook ads, $100-200 goes towards the agency’s management fee and the rest is spent directly on ads. Illegitimate companies are known to pocket over 50% on their agency fee leaving you with a much smaller return on investment.
// BUZZWORDS + MARKETING JARGON
Just like real estate, marketing has its own collection of marketing jargon. Like agents, we use it for organization, to refer to different situations and simplify communications.
With that said, if an agency peppers you with marketing jargon without explaining what it means, they could be trying to mislead you.
A marketer should be prepared to thoroughly explain what a term means and how it pertains to your strategy. Scam agencies hire silver tongued sales reps to sell you on unnecessary and duplicate services. For example, I had a client come to me who was currently paying for two packages to the same company: one for SEO (search engine optimization) and one for SEM (search engine marketing). SEM is simply a blanket term for SEO. They are the same thing and my client was essentially paying double for the same service.
// “WE’RE PARTNERS WITH GOOGLE”
Beware anyone who claims to have “partnered with Google.”
You can’t partner with Google, it’s simply not done. Google is one of the most exclusive companies in the world and unless the company is part of Alphabet, Inc., you can bet they haven’t partnered with Google.
Now, there is one point to distinguish here: Google does have a partner program.
Companies that have achieved the title of “Google Partner” have undergone Adwords training and meet a 90-day ad spend of $10,000. It’s not uncommon for a company that’s part of the Google Partner Program to tote themselves as having partnered with Google. In this case they probably have the best intent as a company but their phrasing is a bit misguided. If you come across such a situation, proceed with heightened awareness and ask for their certification.
// PROMISE OF IMMEDIATE RESULTS
Online marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. While quick results and smaller milestones are perfectly attainable, guaranteeing immediate results is a farce.
Getting websites and content to rank requires time, strategy, precision and slowly perfecting variables the that play into online algorithms. Due to the timely nature it takes for the algorithm to even register new content in relation to your current web presence, no agency can guarantee immediate web rankings. If you come across an agency that does, don’t be afraid to ask them how.
Not sure if a marketing agency or service is legitimate or not?
Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org & we’ll look into it for you.
As a rule of thumb, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t buy into anything without first giving it its proper due diligence. If you’re still unsure if a marketing agency or service is legit or not, reach out to us at email@example.com and we’ll look into it for you free of charge.
It’s our mission to hold scam marketing agencies accountable and guide real estate professionals through the Internet minefield.