From emails that purport to be from Nigerian princes wanting help moving their vast fortunes offshore to suddenly winning a fortune courtesy of a Euromillions lottery you don’t ever remember entering, online scams are as wide and varied as the internet itself.
It is however less amusing as an anecdote when you engage an online marketing company and end up feeling that you might as well have handed your banking details to that dubious Nigerian prince. The dynamic and rapidly developing genre of online marketing has seemingly for many emerged almost overnight and with it an explosion of new companies to service a growing market.
Too many stories are circulating in our local market of advertisers putting blind faith in “expert” online marketing practitioners who not only fail to deliver on quality and value but in some instances actually damage their clients’ brands. Ill equipped to identify the difference between a good or bad online marketing plan and all the jargon that goes along with it, many advertisers are adopting the “agency knows best “ attitude and while a good agency does, how do you ensure yours does; and benchmark the service they are offering?
In the relatively misunderstood world of online marketing it’s relatively easy for unscrupulous online marketing practitioners to pull the wool over a marketer or advertiser’s eyes. The “there’s a sucker born every minute” attitude of some online practitioners may allow them to line their pockets with unearned income for awhile, but in the long run it puts everyone at risk, and undermines the entire industry.
To ensure you’re getting what you have paid for from your online marketing agency, ask the following questions:
Are they an independent agency, or part of a sales house? Understand that if you’re briefing a sales house, the media plan will obviously only include environments from which the sales house is paid a sales commission and/or are contracted to through other forms of remuneration. Whilst the environments may be relatively suitable, you may be missing out on other more targeted opportunities that do not form part of the sales house’s network.
- As with a sales house, if you’re briefing a publisher directly, bear in mind that you may be missing out on other suitable environments that fall outside of their own network.
- Distinguishing between a suitable vs unsuitable environment requires that the agency supply you with, at a minimum, the demographic profile of the audience of the proposed enviromment/s to enable you to ensure that your ad will be reaching the right target market. Content within the proposed environment should also be suitable, and reputable.
- Just how hard does your online advertising partner work to really understand your business challenges and objectives; or how to integrate your online marketing efforts with your other marketing initiatives?
- Do they supply an overall strategy, or simply a media schedule with little to back up their recommendations?
- Does the independent media agency disclose who they are buying the media space from? Being transparent about the sales house or publisher will allow you to confirm the media rates quoted if desired – which you have every right to do. It’s YOUR budget.
- Do they disclose (and pass on) the negotiated media discounts to you? Question exactly how much the discount is, and where it’s going. Bulk discounts or target based commissions negotiated between publishers and agencies could lead to biased placement recommendations.
- What tracking and reporting will be provided, and is reputable tracking software utilised? At a minimum, you should be supplied with impressions delivered and clicks achieved, per environment booked – and ideally, at regular intervals (and not just on campaign completion). Obtain a login directly into the tracking software if possible, so that you can validate the information supplied to you. Ideally, being able to track right through to the campaign confirmation page (eg a lead generation page on your site if the objective is to obtain leads) is first prize, as click-through rates do not determine the success or failure of an online campaign – CPA (cost per action/acquisition) and striving to get this as low as possible, is best use of online marketing.
- Do they monitor the campaign continually and optimise it regularly to ensure the best possible results are being achieved? Your campaigns should be closely monitored on a regular basis, and feedback on which creative execution (if more than once is being used) and/or media environment is performing below average should be regularly supplied, along with recommendations on how this can be improved upon.
- Ensure you know exactly what you’re paying for, and what services can be expected beyond just the media buy.
Shiny and new in marketing or advertising must be subject to the same rigours of benchmarking and return on investment as you place on every other area and employee in your business. It isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do. An ethical, capable and robust online marketing organisation recognises that they have an obligation to themselves to protect the industry from negative influences but more so to safeguard the trust placed in them by clients.