Roll Up, Roll Up: Why You Must Avoid The Marketing Circus Of Gurus, Magicians And Charlatans

Tom Dempster

Tom Dempster

TL;DR – When an individual/business tries to sell you on their ‘quick marketing trick’ or ‘one simple fix’, it may not actually be as quick or simple as you might hope.

By now, I think we’ve all been on the Internet long enough to recognize a clickbait headline when we see one. 

You know the ones I’m talking about.

  • ‘How To Retire By The Time You’re 22!’

  • ‘This One Amazing Trick Saved Me $46,543 On Groceries Per Year’

  • ‘Miracle Potion Helps You Speak Five Languages Fluently [Including Japanese!]’.

This genre of headlines is so outrageous that many of us have been conditioned to scroll straight past them. 

Yet laughable as clickbait headlines might be, they actually started the slippery slope towards a problem in today’s marketing world. 

As I scroll through my social feeds (Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit – it doesn’t seem to matter which platform these days), or as we speak with clients or prospects about their previous marketing experiences, it seems one common trend is emerging.

It seems almost too good to be true, but there are literally thousands of marketing gurus and magicians who have found ‘this one marketing secret to scale your business to the next level’, or ‘a little known trick to shoot you to the top of Google’, or…well, you get the point.

Just as those outrageous clickbait headlines about retirement, grocery spend and miracle language potions are demonstrably misleading (or outright false), these self-professed marketing ‘experts’ are cut from the same cloth. Their claims are wild, unsubstantiated and designed to make you click on something under false pretenses.

Examples of clickbait marketing phrases

* Where x is anything that would form part of a well-rounded marketing strategy, and y is the core service they are trying to sell you on.

These are, in fact, all things I’ve seen or been told about in the past week. 

Basically, the overall message is that if you – the business owner – don’t implement this one simple marketing trick, then you are leaving money on the table/going to be swallowed up by your competition/risk your business imploding/stupid.

If it sounds too good to be true…

As someone who is completely immersed in the world of marketing, it’s very easy for me to sit here and say, “well, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. 

But honestly, that’s always struck me as a little unfair. If you’re a business owner focused on the day-to-day operations of your business – how can you differentiate between the truth, and things that are actually too good to be the truth? 

With that in mind, I want to outline a few ways you can verify if any marketing claim you see has any merit.

Question the source

As with most things in life and business, doing a little research can help to verify the credibility of the person or organization making the claim.

Who is making this assertion? Do they appear credible? Are they successful at what they do? How do you know them (or, taking a step back, do you know them at all, or did they just appear in your News Feed trying to sell you something)?

Even before signing up for a ‘free’ anything (free trial, free newsletter, free consultation), just take a few minutes to research the source. Look for reviews, testimonials or case studies on their work.

Question the message

As humans, when we are confident in our words, we typically don’t feel the need to embellish them with pressure statements to convince people.

By ‘pressure statements’, I’m talking about language that makes you, the target of the message, appear foolish or naive for being unaware in the first place. In addition, when someone is telling you things like, “even you, with no prior knowledge, can implement this one simple trick to boost your business”, it is both insulting in its tone (“even you!”), and in the fact that if the simple trick actually worked and everybody did it, well, the net benefit would be canceled out for everybody (because it’s just that simple to implement that everyone could do it). 

Any message that is, in effect, insulting your intelligence is a red flag. People shouldn’t need to talk down to you to get their point across.

Question the motive

Appreciating that this is sounding more like a game of Clue with every passing word, you should question why you even saw the claim in the first place. It’s one thing if you’ve been seeking more information about a product or service through your own research; it’s quite another if it has appeared in your News Feed because somebody decided you’d be a good fit for their product or service and wanted to grab your attention.

One other thing to note. It doesn’t matter if it says ‘FREE” in capital letters all over the Ad. There is a cost somewhere, even if it isn’t $$$. Businesses aren’t so altruistic that they’re paying to appear to your feed for nothing in return. Even if you don’t have to cough up actual money, the fact is that you will pay at some point (it may not be financially – you might pay with your time, for example). 

Seek additional opinions

If you’re still unsure, asking an unbiased source about their thoughts on the claim is a great way to fact-check it. ‘Unbiased source’ is a tricky term because we all have our own influences and opinions, but you should try and seek out a trusted friend or family member, who preferably either has marketing experience or experience of running their own business. They may be able to offer you their insight.

In instances where businesses are making these claims to try and sell you on their services, you should see if you can speak to their clients. Reviews, testimonials and case studies are one thing, but direct contact can paint a very different picture. Ask them questions which will help you to understand if their experiences are living up to the claims that have been made.

(Note: I actually recommend that anyone planning to work with a digital marketing agency – even businesses that want to work with us at True Boost Digital – makes an attempt to speak to the agency’s current clients. And if you can, don’t ask the agency who they would like you to speak with. Look at their reviews or testimonials and see if you can get some unbiased feedback via email or phone, hopefully cutting out the agency altogether. I would have no hesitation about anyone contacting our clients for more information on our performance, and neither should other agencies if they are confident in their work.)

A few years ago, I would have recommended asking questions on some of the more useful subreddits – but nowadays, the likelihood is that you’re going to be met with several others who will debunk the claim, and then proceed to bombard you with their own falsehoods.

The final word

As an industry, we have been too polite for too long to people who make wild claims and sell digital marketing ‘services’ without any idea of what they’re actually doing. It poisons the well by eroding confidence and trust in the work of businesses that actually produce and implement comprehensive marketing strategies that deliver growth. 

Naturally, the previous paragraph sounds like sour grapes, but as someone whose primary goal is to deliver sustainable, consistent growth to clients through digital marketing, it’s not really in my interest to give the ‘quick fix mob’ a free pass. Especially when their quick fixes don’t actually work.

Our aim is to continue to help business owners and marketing teams to make informed decisions about how marketing can help their business to grow – not simply by partnering with us, but by helping them to empower them with knowledge – and in articles like this, to understand the traps and pitfalls that are now a sad inevitability of the SEO/digital marketing ecosystem.

If you run your own business, and you’re being inundated with emails and Ads and who knows what else, just take a moment to reflect. Remember to verify the source and verify the message. This isn’t just important to protect your bottom line – although nobody likes wasting money – but whenever you take a wrong turn, you lose valuable time that you have to claw back in the future. Make sure you invest your time, and not just your budget, wisely.

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