3 min read

Is Your Marketing Company Gaslighting You? Navigating the Maze of Digital Marketing Scams

If I had $1 for every marketing spam email I received since I’ve had email, I could afford to lease a better car. I work in the marketing and communications business and every morning when I open my Outlook there are invariably 2 or more emails from “marketing experts” promising to catapult my brand to the top of my industry. While a few of these companies offer valuable services, an alarming number operate on the fringes of ethics, engaging in practices that are more about padding their bottom line than boosting mine. At the heart of this issue is a business model that relies on obfuscation and a one-size-fits-all approach, often leaving clients with little more than a lighter wallet and a heavy dose of frustration. This article will help you to identify potential scams and find a marketing partner that truly has your best interests at heart. 




The Mechanism of Scams 

Imagine signing a retainer agreement with a digital marketing company, seduced by the promise of unparalleled growth and visibility. However, instead of a team of dedicated experts, your project is relegated to an offshore team armed with a playbook of generic, automated strategies. Their model ignores the nuances of your business, competitors, and customers. The result? A cookie-cutter marketing campaign indistinguishable from countless others, and certainly not tailored to your unique needs.


A Cautionary Tale: The Case of the Vanishing Accountability 

Consider the case of a business we know, a mid-sized retailer that partnered with an aggressive marketing firm. After the business owner had spent several thousands of dollars, with mediocre results, he tried to delve into the specifics of their marketing strategy. The marketing account representative was at a loss. Questions about the campaign's direction, targeted analytics, and even basic account details were met with vague responses or promises to get back to them later—a moment that never came. This lack of transparency and accountability is a glaring red flag, signaling a disconnection between the client's needs and the agency's actions. Before you partner with any marketing team, make sure you’ve established your KPIs (key performance indicators). Even better, one of the first questions they should ask is, “how are you measuring your online business success?” 

Standard Key Performance Indicators 



Red Flags: Warning Signs in Your First Month 

Your first month with a new marketing agency can be very telling. Be on the lookout for: 

  • Lack of Personalization: Your business is unique, so your marketing strategy should also be! A generic plan usually indicates either a lack of engagement with your specific needs or a lack of expertise.
  • Poor Communication: If getting a clear, straight answer from your agency feels like pulling teeth, it's time to reconsider your choice. There is vocabulary associated with all specializations, and there are times when industry terms can sound like a foreign language. Good communication from your marketing partner should include clear takeaways like highlights, pain points, and recommended next steps.  
  • No Custom Metrics or Reporting: Without metrics tailored to your goals, you're flying blind. For example, a one sheet bi-weekly or once a month with information on progress should be provided.  
  • Cookie-Cutter Content: Generic content not only fails to engage your specific audience but can also harm your brand's credibility.
  • Fake traffic and Followers: While some marketing strategies can see immediate success, be on the lookout for embellished reporting. For example, your social media account could have increased it’s following by 1,000% in the first month – but if these are bots or paid followers, the engagement and sales opportunity do not exist. They also fail to add any value to your business... It may even work in the opposite direction and takeaway from your credibility. The same goes for website traffic. Where is it coming from? What are they clicking on? How real is their engagement?    


Green Flags: Signs of a Reputable Marketing Company 

Conversely, signs of a reputable marketing company include: 

  • Transparent Communication: Regular updates and easy access to your team signal a healthy partnership.
  • Customized Strategy Development: Evidence of a tailored approach indicates an agency willing to invest the time to understand and meet your needs.
  • Evidence of Success with Similar Businesses: Case studies or testimonials provide insight into an agency's ability to deliver results.
  • Detailed Reporting: Comprehensive, understandable reports show an agency's commitment to tracking and achieving your specific goals. 

Avoiding the Trap 

To steer clear of these digital marketing pitfalls: 

  • Conduct thorough research and due diligence before signing a contract.
  • Ask for referrals and speak directly to current or past clients.
  • Ensure direct communication with the team handling your account, not just a salesperson or intermediary.
  • Consider starting with a trial period or a no-cost assessment of the current state of your marketing, to assess the agency's effectiveness and commitment to your business.
  • Engage with your marketing partner to elevate your vision of success – as experts, they should be able to add value to your business and its growth.   


Finding the right digital marketing partner is crucial to your business's success online. It requires vigilance, due diligence, and a refusal to settle for generic, ineffective strategies. By paying attention to the red and green flags and insisting on a partnership that offers transparency, customization, and accountability, you can avoid the pitfalls of digital marketing scams and build a powerful online presence that truly represents your brand and drives results.  

If you’ve been burned by one of these scams (most business owners have) and if you're on the hunt for a digital marketing agency that genuinely wants to see your business succeed, reach out to Kensium for an honest conversation about your goals and how we can achieve them together. 

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