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The internet is full of information, but only some of it is accurate. The rest range from unsubstantiated opinions masquerading as fact to real “fake news” from scammers claiming to have expert advice with credible data. In some cases, these sources are evident in their lack of credibility, but others are more difficult to identify, thanks to clever websites and visual “deepfake” technology. These are just the issues consumers face when trying to discern what they should and shouldn’t believe.
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When entrepreneurs and business people ask for advice on aspects of their business, such as online marketing, they may not know where to turn. With so many blogs, articles, ebooks, and webinars from those claiming to be the most seasoned digital marketers, how can you distinguish valuable information from worthless advice?
It can be confusing who to listen to and who to ignore. Here are a few ways to know whether or not an online marketing “expert” deserves your attention.
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Quality, not quantity
It’s important to let go of credibility factors like number of years in business and company size that don’t really impart skills. Many agencies have managed to stay in business by selling shoddy marketing services and recycled advice.
You will need to delve deeper into a company’s history to assess online marketing expertise.
Customer reviews, references and testimonials
Don’t just look at their recommendations on LinkedIn. Look for reviews that cover the story of the digital marketing expert. You can also ask for referrals directly and contact companies listed on the marketing company’s website to learn more about their capabilities and results. Checking out these examples of real-world expertise will give a better idea of whether or not the marketing company’s advice has resulted in positive change for its clients.
Try reaching out to a few clients to see a trend in the results, whether it’s content marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, Facebook marketing, or any other strategy. There may be one or two dissatisfied customers who do not exactly reflect the expertise of the online marketing expert. The more companies you can consult, the better you can get a feel for the expertise and credibility of the supplier.
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Thought leadership delivery
If you have the opportunity to see the online marketing expert in attendance at a conference, event, or webinar, take the time to listen to their speech and the content of their message. Note if he has been a keynote speaker, especially at a reputable summit or conference.
Plus, look for their published content online as blog posts, presentations, ebooks, podcasts, or YouTube videos. Once you’ve read or watched this content, rate it with the following questions:
Did you learn something new that you can put into practice? Or does it look recycled?
Was it full of research and data indicating extensive study, or did it just contain unsubstantiated information and generic opinions?
Did the strategist provide concrete examples and case studies or just vague and unproven concepts?
Hearing and reading what the online marketer has to say can help rank their actual level of knowledge and ability.
Prizes and distinctions
Formal recognition of expertise by peers is often a good sign that you will be working with a credible resource. The problem is, so many of today’s awards are competitions with entry fees that are more of a public relations vehicle and an assessment of income growth than a legitimate sign of quality work and expertise. .
Look for recent awards that recognize excellence in marketing work or recent campaigns that have made a difference. Even list articles with best practice digital marketing strategy examples featuring your potential candidate may be better indicators than some “fastest growing” accolades.
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Active professional association
A true expert in online marketing will likely be involved in the advancement of the industry. This may mean that they are members of a local interactive marketing association or a national chapter or that they have become involved in the association’s larger activity.
Look for active membership in the Digital Marketing Association, American Marketing Association, and Search Marketing Association, to name just a few reputable professional groups. You should be able to search for a member or inquire with the association for confirmation of membership.
Many companies positioning themselves as online marketing experts target small business owners who need marketing assistance on a budget. Some of these agencies may offer monthly packages that promise the moon but offer much less.
After interviewing some of these small business owners, I learned that these internet marketing packages are meant to help drive traffic and generate leads. Ultimately, however, these businesses end up with telemarketing calls and spam emails selling them digital marketing services or Google AdWords programs at a discount over qualified leads.
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These bogus digital marketing agencies often create a shoddy website and reuse blog content. They can also resell customer data to third party companies. The work does not show any real knowledge or understanding of your industry, audience, or niche. The results never show up, but the automatic monthly charge always shows up on the small business owner’s credit card bill.
Stay away from marketing influencers who want to sell you a program like this. It’s like snake oil for the modern age. While it is often touted as the perfect fit for everyone, it really is the fit for everyone.
We’ve all heard of “SEO experts”, “thought leaders” or “bestselling authors” who claim to have the perfect strategies to increase your results. You should always do additional research to make sure that you are not working with a scammer. Check information conducted by companies that focus solely on scam detection. These include the Federal Trade Commission, the attorney general’s office for your state and the state in which the marketing company is located, and the Better Business Bureau.
One of the best ways to check a marketer’s credibility is to ask a trusted colleague to recommend them based on their own experiences. A business that wins in online marketing may very well harness the expertise of a top online marketing talent or agency.
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