How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist
In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.
Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”
Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.
Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.
There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.
It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.
How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.
This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.
Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.
It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.
- Who influences you professionally?
- Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
- What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
- Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
- How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
- Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
- Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
- May we audit your process before buying your services?
- May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
- Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
- Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
- Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
- How many clients have you had in the past?
- How many clients do you have currently?
- How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
- How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
- How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
- Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
- Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
- Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
- Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
- Can you see a list of their past clients?
- Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
- What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
- Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)
- You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
- You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
- You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
- Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…
Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.
It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.
And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.
You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.
Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.
No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.
How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.
You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.
Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).
Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.
This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.
You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.
They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.
If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.
What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.
“But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”
The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.
The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.
I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.
I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.
Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.