“Performance guaranteed!”…and other lies you’ve been told

Robin Emiliani  /  Oct 29, 2019

Be leery of “performance guaranteed.”

Is it just me, or are there a lot of liars out there lately?

Facebook’s lying about its video performance. Influencers are buying followers. Instagrammers are taking fake photos. And agencies are making promises they know they can’t keep.

The last one particularly gets me. Because your agency should always have your back. And instead, I keep watching from afar as they oil up their best sleazy-car-salesman approach and make guarantees that they can’t back up.

Buy our SEO strategy and we guarantee #1 placement in Google!

Launch a new website and we guarantee 50% uptick in ROI!

Sign a long-term, no-exit-allowed contract for this shiny new MarTech tool and customer acquisition will double!

But, Robin, I hear you saying, an SEO strategy does improve rankings. A new website does help with ROI. MarTech tools often do help marketers reach their goals.

And you’re right. They do.

It’s the part where the results are guaranteed that’s a problem.

It’s the con as old as time. Guaranteed returns! The territory of Bernie Madoff and pyramid schemes. It sounds like a dream. Which is what makes it so dangerous.

Because just like Ponzi schemers can’t control markets and MLM can’t force the entire world population to join the pyramid under you, marketers can’t guarantee outcomes.

They don’t have control over Google’s algorithm. (Even brands with solid domain authority and teams of experienced SEO writers write plenty of content that doesn’t rank #1 for their desired keywords.)

Same thing with websites. Will a website refresh probably help your business goals? Yes. Have similar websites we’ve done in the past generated big wins? Yes. Can any agency guarantee a specific ROI figure? Nope.

How do we know? First, we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’ve done projects for a lot of different clients in a lot of different industries. We follow the same best practices. We know our stuff. And still the results vary from client to client.

(This is part of the reason that it’s a bad idea to put all your marketing eggs in one basket. Diversification means that even if one generally tried-and-true marketing tactic doesn’t knock your goals out of the park, another might.)

Second, it’s simple logic. Like so many things, marketing involves a lot of variables. And your agency can’t control them all.

If you haven’t done your market research, your agency can’t control the fact that people might simply not want what you’re selling—no matter how good your website is.

They can’t control internal politics. Or budget cuts. Or that one decisionmaker’s insistence that you make the logo bigger.

They can’t control Google’s constant algorithm tweaks. Or Facebook’s. Or YouTube’s.

They can’t control whether an editor makes changes to the thought leadership article the agency helped you place in an industry publication.

Not to mention that even the best marketers in the world make mistakes.

So if you hear the word “guarantee” come out of your salesperson’s mouth? Run for the hills.

Look instead for agencies willing to give it to you straight. Ask about proven track records, average outcomes, backup plans, client satisfaction, and long-term results. Look for an agency dedicated to making you look damn good.

And speaking of agencies that give it to you straight…we’ve got a great track record of results and a no-bullshit approach. So if you’re looking for an agency partner, let’s talk.


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