“Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.”
A Digital Sucker Born Every Minute?
You may already know this, but it’s not uncommon for a business to get ripped off by a digital marketing con artist. (Apparently, thieves have to make a living, too!) The con artist is short for “Confidence Artist,” and these cyber crooks are experienced in exactly that: gaining your confidence. And once they have it, you become an easy target to believe anything they’re selling. (Think: Bernie Madoff and the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.)
In the U.S. Military, we are taught to become hard targets as opposed to soft ones. A hard target is aware of his or her surroundings, uses common sense—and if something doesn’t feel right? We have a backup plan. A soft target is distracted, (like walking down the street and using a cell phone), volunteers too much personal information, (like a public social media profile), is gullible, and is overly optimistic. This type of soft prey is a prime target for a sophisticated digital marketing con artist to take the money and run. So, don’t let it be you!
The Psychology of a Digital Marketing Con Artist
According to an article published by HowStuffWorks, the main job of a con artist is to lower your guard through lying, cheating, and fraud. These thieves are trained in the art of deception and know how to become your “friend” quickly. They make you feel good about yourself, and manipulate you into thinking that they know the real you.
Think back to a time when an encounter like this may have occurred in your own life. Were you a victim of social engineering? Did you get taken advantage of in some way? Chances are, yes you did! (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.) So, what can you do to minimize the likelihood of being “taken for a ride”? And, most importantly, how do you spot a digital marketing con artist?
Tips to Keep Your Business and Your Money Safe
Don’t let your mind be hacked; arm yourself and fight back! With a little knowledge and simple practical approaches, we believe you will quickly turn the tables in your favor. Even Granny can use these 3 tips to spot a digital marketing con artist. So, keep reading and learn to protect yourself, your business, and yes, even Grandma.
TIP 1: Start With Small Projects
Before you spend thousands of dollars, start with hundreds first. It’s perfectly okay to have a few test projects completed first by your digital marketing professional. These beginning experiments will give you a good feel for the quality of work and the results you can expect. If these test projects perform well, continue your relationship. But if they make you question the quality of work or what you actually paid for, then there’s a chance you might be dealing with a digital marketing con artist. Fortunately, small projects will ensure that you’ve minimized your financial losses.
TIP 2: Focus on Results
According to Tabitha Naylor, a certified Inbound Marketing Consultant, far too many times a small business owner gets caught up on vanity metrics. Are all those likes, comments, and posts turning into actionable conversions and sales? If the answer is no, who really cares if your social media business page has thousands of followers? If none of those supposed “fans” turned into buyers of your products or services, what’s actually been accomplished?
As the business owner, you have to be clear on what your expectations are, and focus on results. Once clear goals are established, a digital marketing con artist will either fold before starting or move onto easier prey. Either way, you win as a business owner because you just avoided getting ripped off by setting firm expectations of a results-based campaign. Ruan Fourie, a blogger and digital marketer, says: “It never hurts to get a second opinion from someone you know.” This second person you trust can be the lifeline your business needs to help avoid getting scammed.
Remember, it’s within your purview as the business owner, to steer your ship in the right direction. For example, having clear marketing desires of 10,000 emails by a certain date along with a plan of action is a very clear goal. And the responsibility is on your digital marketing expert to help you reach it. A digital marketing con artist will not get you the results you expect.
Further, increasing sales by 25% in 6 months or selling $125,000 worth of inventory are also straightforward goals. Having these clear milestones will send a con running in the opposite direction because he or she won’t know how to meet your needs. (And that’s good because we want to save you embarrassment and money!)
TIP 3: Ask the Right Questions
The next time you find yourself sitting across a prospective hire, ask these eleven questions to help you screen for a digital marketing con artist.
1. What industry related seminars or events have you attended in the last two years?
Logic: Professionals stay on top of their craft. If there is no attendance of any kind of continuing education, this should send you a warning of caution.
2. Do you have any professional certifications?
Logic: In addition to a standard college degree, most professionals have some sort of certification from a reputable vendor. Think Google Academy for Ads Certification, Facebook Blueprint Certification, or the American Marketing Association (AMA) Professional Digital Marketing Certification.
3. What is your business phone number and business address?
Logic: It costs money to start, operate, and maintain a business. A legitimate business phone number should give you added security. If the person only has a cell phone number, (see 4.), proceed with caution. A physical business address will also add some peace of mind, although in today’s digital climate can be overlooked. An online-only business can be legitimate, but it will take more due diligence and digging around to make sure.
Bonus tip: Can the digital marketing expert help your business get listed on “Google My Business?” (Pssst…the answer should be yes!) A digital marketing con artist often won’t know what to do.
4. Is your phone provided by a national reputable major company? (Think T-mobile, AT&T, Sprint, & Verizon)
Logic: Voice Over IP phones such as Google Voice, Magic Jack, and Skype, are convenient, but they can make it easy for con artists to evade tracking.
5. Is your business structured as a Corporation, S Corp, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Doing Business As (DBA) / Fictitious Entity, or other similar common business structure?
Logic: Most professionals want the added benefits of a structured business entity such as a corporation or LLC. If an individual lacks the proof of proper business establishment, chances are there is no way of knowing if he or she is legitimate.
6. How many years have you been in your industry?
Logic: Digital Marketing Professionals should at the very least have anywhere between 4 to 10 years of active industry practicing experience under their belts.
7. How much do you charge for your services?
Logic: Quality digital marketing services are not cheap! According to data from salary.com, an acceptable median to high range fee for hourly work for digital services should be between $47 and $68 an hour. And digital marketers that specialize in Facebook Ads or Google Adwords can command a premium between $150 to $300 per hour or more depending on the background and reputation! A lower amount charged should signal novice or that the individual does not value their time. This can include an assortment of skills such as Ad copy, market research, SEO, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, branding, article writing, web development, video creation, and many other services covered under the digital marketing umbrella.
Bonus research tip: Go and browse your favorite freelancing site such as UpWork or People per hour for example, and see for yourself what they charge in recent real-time gigs. This should give you an idea of the current going market rate for similar jobs you need help with.
8. Do you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?
Logic: Digital marketing con artists like to fly low under the radar, it is doubtful that such a digital marketing con artist will have a change of heart and be in line with the IRS and, gasp…. Pay taxes!
9. Do you have a business checking account and or a business credit card?
Logic: One of the advantages of digital marketing professionals is to have tax write-offs and tax advantages. How this is accomplished is by separating personal from business expenses. A digital marketing con artist will have nothing to do with an established business checking or business credit card.
10. Does their website reflect a tone of professionalism and represent their services well?
Logic: A digital marketing con artist makes promises but doesn’t back up those claims with evidence of work. (Just like an old dog with a loud bark and no bite.) Does their business website give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? If no, insist on examples of past work and speak with the clients for confirmation. A true digital marketing professional is eager to show you quality work examples of past, happy, and satisfied customers.
11. What are 3 names and contact email or phone numbers of satisfied customers you have done work for?
Logic: References can save you headach,es as a small to medium-sized business owner.
Will You Be The Next Digital Marketing Success Story?
So there you have it! Three tips on how to spot a digital marketing con artist that will hopefully save you your hard earned money. Remember that asking good filter questions, starting with small work projects, and focusing on results, should be the core focus of your pursuit for hiring the right digital marketing professional.
Knowing the psychology of a digital marketing con artist and how he or she operates, will also give you the assurance you need as the small business owner to defend your best interests. So, go ahead, hire with certainty when you put these 3 tips into practice. We believe you will be successful and get work done without getting burned!
And remember, listen to the old adage. If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably a scam. Learn to sleep on it, talk it over with friends, don’t rush to make quick decisions, and listen to your own instincts. If the decision to purchase a product or a service does not feel right, do not do it; especially for digital marketing services.
Want more free digital marketing advice? Be sure to check out Digital Marketing Tactics for Small Businesses in 2018.
Meet the Author
Federick Gonzalez is a native of Southern California, growing up in the LA area. He is the oldest of five siblings—one brother and three sisters. Federick’s undergraduate Alma Mater is the University of Maryland, after which he pursued his Masters at the University of Oklahoma. As a military veteran of nearly 15 years, Federick loves and supports the Armed Forces. A proud dad and serial traveler, he has experienced the cultures of 25+ countries and counting. Federick is passionate about all-things digital and spends his free time immersed in trending business topics, volunteer work, spiritual concepts, Spanish culture, and adding value to the lives of those around him. Fun Fact: Federick has attended more than 20 flamenco concerts!