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Is the marketing industry failing small business owners?

The short answer is yes… for the most part. While some SMEs do in fact work with honest marketing providers, the majority of small business owners experience unfair and unethical behaviour from a significant portion of the marketing industry.  I know what you are thinking – this is you trying to push your service – well not really – this is bigger than my ego. After countless meetings with our clients and complete strangers—many of which are established companies who have lost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours with unreliable providers—I started to grasp why many SMEs have no trust in our industry. The financial outlay is a very small part of this issue, they’ve faced unfinished projects, problems with security, IP theft, lack of accountability and so much more. My observation has been that this is across the whole spectrum of marketing—design, social, digital, SEO and all other facets of our industry. This goes beyond problems with the client relationship or growing pains and eventually leads to both a monetary and emotional setback for these SMEs.

In order to further re-confirm our understanding of this issue, my team went to the public and asked small business owners to provide us with experiences they have had with unethical marketing providers. Within 10 minutes, we received dozens of horrific responses, accounting for thousands of dollars. After reading through these stories, we understood that these behaviours could be summarised into a handful of categories. One of which, we refer to as The Scammer. This type of person often fails to deliver and/or began working with you with no desire to deliver. Though The Scammer may seem cunning at first, they are 100% self-serving and will benefit from a client’s’ ignorance. A good way to tell if you are working with a scammer is to compare the fee you are being charged versus that of the market’s price. An accurate way to test this is by collecting 3 or 4 quotes from other providers. If you find that you are being overcharged, with respect to what the market indicates as fair, you are more than likely getting taken for a ride.

One of the stories we received dealt with a member of our industry who was the epitome of The Scammer. In this case, the respondent indicated that her marketing provider had ripped her off one day prior to launch. She explained that “The day before the ads were to go live, they told me they had ‘changed their business model’.” This small business owner had agreed to pay $6,000 upfront with a $1,000 monthly fee. Unfortunately, that deal was only agreed upon via email, so The Scammer allowed her to become as vulnerable as possible before upping the rates.  The respondent shared that, “The monthly fee was now increasing to $5,000 (up from $1,000) and the change was ‘non-negotiable’.” The Scammer went on to tell her that if she did not pay the next month’s fee upfront “they were not going to do another thing.” Obviously, she did not continue to do work with this company due to their unethical behaviour, but this resulted in a loss of $6,000 and countless hours that could have been used elsewhere.

It would be fair to say that a large portion of SMEs struggle to adapt to the fast digital landscape and are being taken for a ride by too many providers. This is not just limited to one-man bands or solo businesses—this is also relevant to medium businesses established many years ago. As marketers, genuine firms have a duty to rise above this by providing reports, having a transparent team and guaranteeing deliverables. By meeting the fair and ethical standards of our clients, we can eliminate the distasteful trend SMEs often experience with the dishonest sector of our industry. I don’t mind losing business to guys who are putting all their sweat in being the good guys – but I do mind seeing an honest SME be taken for a complete ride by a peer.

This whole thing is what gets me out of bed, beyond the creative work and you can read about it here. (link to what gets us out of bed)

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