Define: Shit Marketing Expert
/SHit märkədiNG ekˌspərt/
A “shit marketing expert” is defined as a business, agency, marketer, or coach who identifies themselves as an expert in the field of marketing who claim to know marketing, but in reality, they don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing OR worse, they just regurgitate information they’ve heard but never tried themselves. Aaaaand they’re taking clients’ money every single month while knowing this.
The biggest problem in the marketing industry:
Clients rely on marketing agencies to tell them how to market their service or product, but the issue is that many clients do not know the difference between a good marketing expert and a shit marketing “expert”.
With my experience of selling two “good” marketing agencies in the last decade, I am going to spill the secrets and let you know exactly how to know whether you have a “good” one or if you should be running away from your “shit” marketing expert.
Full transparency…I know many agency owners are going to comment, troll, and hate on me for this post, but that’s because they are insecure about their agency…..making them a shit one.
So…here are 17 warning signs.
Warning Sign #1 = Long onboarding “ramp up” period.
I see this all the time. Usually see this with agencies and marketers who provide a done-for-you service. In my opinion, the onboarding process should take 30 days or less. The kick-off call should be less than a week after signing up and the entire onboarding process should be less than 30 days.
Question to Ask: What is the onboarding process and how long does it take? Follow-up question, what if it takes more than 30 days?
Run Away If: They can’t clearly state the onboarding process and if it’s more than 30 days, I would run. In the case it takes more than 30 days (unplanned and to their fault), they should give you a monetary credit in my opinion. If they don’t, I would run.
Warning Sign #2 = They say “It takes time”.
I understand that ROI (return on investment) can take some time depending on the marketing strategy that is being used. I get it.
Here’s my rebuttal to that.
Do a short-term strategy simultaneously. There are some short-term strategies that can bring ROI right away while executing on long-term, more evergreen, strategies.
This is Susan Sehlmeyer-Flint, a DRIP X member. Within the first 30 days, she already got 4 new clients using short-term strategies!
Long-term strategies such as SEO (search engine optimization) and social media can take years. And that’s if they know what they’re doing.
So what are some short term strategies? My favorite is to hit up your current lists…email lists, active client list for upsells and cross-sells, and ex-clients. These people either paid you money at some point or are currently paying. That’s the easiest sale you can make.
Question to Ask: How long does it take on average to see activity?
Run Away If: They say “it depends”. They should be able to answer this question by giving you an average as well as a range. If they give you the most annoying answer in the world “it depends” and that’s it, I would run.
Warning Sign #3 = They own your stuff.
Too many agencies and marketers own their clients’ accounts. I’m talking about domain, ad accounts, analytics accounts, and any other software account you can think of. There is literally zero reason for anyone other than the client to own those accounts.
Even in the case where you want the agency or marketer to set it up on your behalf, they need to set up the accounts in your name, not theirs.
What if you want to quit their service?
You want to have administrative access to everything. If you don’t, one of three things (or all) will happen.
- The marketer might hold it hostage because they’re pissed that you quit on them.
- They might ghost you because they don’t care about you anymore.
- In the case where they are cooperative, it’s just a pain in the ass to get everything transferred in your name.
Just start it off right and own all your stuff at the beginning.
Question to Ask: Are you okay with me owning all my accounts and just providing access to what you need?
Run Away If: If the answer is no, I would run.
Warning Sign #4 = Communication is crap.
There are so many things to unwrap here.
When a client comes to me because they are leaving their old marketing “expert” (coach, agency, marketer), I would say about 70% of the time it’s because the communication was poor. This baffles me because this is by far the easiest thing on this list to prevent in my opinion. Let’s dig deeper on this though, because poor communication can mean a lot of things.
- Responsiveness is poor. This means that it takes forever to respond to your message, phone call, text, etc. In my opinion, there should be a 1-business-day turnaround. I personally had a coach one time that I had texted multiple times with zero responses. Terrible and inexcusable.
- Reporting is poor. There should be some monthly reporting at minimum. And they should NOT be auto-generated by software with zero commentary.
Question to Ask: What are the best ways to communicate with you? What’s your communication response time? Do you provide any reporting and what is the primary metric?
Run Away If: If it’s anything more than a business day, I would run. If they use “impressions” as their primary measurement metric for reporting, I would run.
Warning Sign #5 = The ad spend is not appropriately proportionate to your monthly retainer.
This is one of my faves. If you are working with an advertising agency who is managing your ad campaigns, you need to know some things.
First, you need to know how much of your monthly retainer you pay them is actual ad spend that goes directly to the ad platform (Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc). There are so many agencies that will charge a monthly retainer for a flat amount, say $3,000/mo, and will fail to tell you how much of that is ad spend and how much is their management fee.
Believe it or not, I have seen an agency charge a $5,000 monthly retainer, where $4,500 was their management fee and $500 was the actual ad spend.
What??? That’s fucking crazy.
And the client was wondering why they weren’t getting any results! It’s because only $500 was going to the ad platforms. And what’s crazier is that the $500 was split between Facebook and Google at $250 per platform!
Obviously, the agency didn’t care because they were getting paid their $4,500/month fee.
Question to Ask: How much money goes direct to the ad platforms and what’s your management fee? How is your management fee calculated?
Run Away If: If the management fee is more than 30% of the retainer, I would run. Keep in mind, the marketer or agency may have a minimum, which is okay. For example, their minimum fee might be $1,000/mo but your total budget is only $1,500/mo, leaving $500 for ad spend. In this case, I would not recommend hiring an ad agency. If the agency is okay with this allocation, I would run.
Warning Sign #6 = You pay them for SEO. Period.
Super debatable, but I think paying an SEO company on an ongoing basis is the biggest load of bullshit. Full transparency, yes I used to charge clients monthly for SEO when I owned an agency.
A lot of the SEO is on the front end doing a lot of keyword research and optimizing the core pages of the website (home, about, contact, etc). Once that’s done, there are really only three main ways to increase your rankings substantially.
First, Google reviews and your Google Business Profile. You can do this yourself. Just ask all your clients for reviews and make sure your GBP is 100% complete.
Second, high-quality backlinks. This is when a 3rd party mentions your website on their site and links back to you. i.e. A news site or popular blog features you. In my opinion, this is done mostly organically or through the use of a public relations firm. PR firms are super expensive…at least the legit ones are. SEO agencies are not PR firms and don’t have the connections to get you featured in the media. So I wouldn’t rely on an SEO company for this.
Third, lots of high-quality content. Aka: blogging. The reason you shouldn’t rely on an SEO “expert” for this is because they are doing one of three things to produce content and none of them are good.
- They hired a virtual assistant or using their own staff. VAs and staff members are not experts in your field. So why have them write the articles? Makes no sense. Do you think Mayo Clinic is using people in the Philippines writing articles on medical science? I doubt it.
- They are using artificial intelligence. Many agencies are using ChatGPT or something similar to write the articles. Sure, this is better than nothing, but there better be high volume with this. Minimum daily blogs. But to be quite honest, I have no idea whether ai-written articles are going to be valid in the coming years. I do know that high-quality, original articles are evergreen. So let’s stick to that.
- Not enough volume. Agencies tend to stick to one article per week written for each client. This is way off the mark on volume. I’d say at minimum, there needs to be three articles per week.
Just pay an SEO expert to do the keyword research for you. Then you can write the content from that point.
Question to Ask: What is your SEO strategy?
Run Away If: If they say “backlinks”, ask if they have connections with the media. If they do, ask what media sites. If they don’t, I would run. If they say “blogging” or “content”, ask who writes the content. Doesn’t matter what they say here, I would run. Because the only right answer is you. In which case, what do you need them for? Ya don’t.
Warning Sign #7: They charge to update your directory listings.
One small (and I mean small) part of SEO is making sure your directory listings are updated. We’re talking about your Google Listing, Yellow Pages, Bing Places, etc. This is making sure all these listings are 100% complete and match each other. For some reason, Google loves it when they are all matching and updated.
Agencies will either include this as part of their SEO retainer or will charge you a couple hundred dollars a month for it.
You can do this shit on your own using moz.com (not affiliated). For only $14/month, Moz Local will handle this for you.
Question to Ask: No questions to ask here. Just do this yourself.
Run Away If: They charge for this service.
Warning Sign #8: They charge hourly for website updates.
I started as a freelance web designer in 2015 without any agency experience. I just jumped right in (mostly because no one would hire me).
I had no idea how the industry worked.
I later discovered that most agencies and freelancers charged hourly for ongoing maintenance and service for any updates that needed to be made on a website after it went live.
This made zero sense to me. So I decided to just include unlimited site updates for a flat fee and guaranteed that all updates were complete within one business day.
All my web designer friends told me I was crazy.
Here’s why I thought they were wrong…
Most clients don’t know or even want to update their own website. And most of them have no clue how long something will take to update. This is the main problem with charging hourly for site updates.
The client knows what the hourly rate is but has no idea how long it will take, and therefore, how long they will be charged afterwards.
What ends up happening is that the clients never request an update because of this. Then after a while, they switch to another web agency or professional and complain that their website isn’t updated (although to be fair, it’s not 100% the web professional’s fault).
This is why hourly is just a lose/lose situation.
Question to Ask: How are website updates handled and billed after the site is live?
Run Away If: They charge hourly.
Ummmm. We offer a free website plan. Wanna see? Click here.
Warning Sign #9: They ask YOU how things should be done OR happily do whatever you tell them to do.
I see this more with SEO and web design agencies and freelancers. SEO agencies will ask the client for a list of keywords they want to rank for and web designers will ask the client for examples of what they want the website to look like aesthetically.
These types of “experts” are what I call technicians.
They are not actual experts. They are technical work horses. They are technically capable of doing everything there is to do with SEO or building a website, but they must be told what to do.
They aren’t actual experts in strategy.
Same goes for allowing clients to dictate what they do. If they were actual authority figures in their industry, they actually know what works and what doesn’t. And they know more than the client does.
When a client is dictating the marketer on what to do and the marketer submits to it, they aren’t as confident in their capabilities in my opinion. If they were, they would refuse to do it any other way other than the methods they know are true and tested.
Technicians, on the other hand, will do whatever the client tells them to do.
Question to Ask: Ask them, in a hypothetical situation, if they could execute some ridiculous task you request (obviously, don’t tell them it’s ridiculous). See what they say.
Run Away If: They agree to do “said ridiculous task”.
Warning Sign #10: They’re a “bro” marketer.
“Bro” marketers are the ones that make big claims.
The claims that look soooooooooooo good to a client. Examples…
- “60 new clients in 60 days or you don’t pay”
- “$0.08 leads”
- Posting a photo of their Clickfunnels award like a douchebag (if Stripe gave out awards, I’d have like a dozen of those)
- Constantly DM-ing strangers to get to buy
The biggest problem with “bro” marketers is that they promote a leaky bucket selling system.
A lot of them will ask you to discount your fee by 90% so that it’s super attractive to get a cold audience to sign up. This is wrong for so many reasons. Primarily, they are signing up because of the discount and nothing else. Secondly, no way you’re making a profit this way.
This means that they generate a lot of interest but the clients drop like flies in the next month or two.
Retention is shit.
Client lifetime value is shit.
Refund rate is shit.
Show rate is shit.
Bro marketing is a 2013 strategy that no longer works.
Question to Ask: Everything a bro marketer says to you in a sales meeting is going to sound like the dream. Just giving you a warning. So the question to ask is…what are the show and retention rates?
Actually, ask this question to all marketers, agencies, and freelancers.
Run Away If: They don’t know the show and retention rates or they claim them to be lower than 75%.
Warning Sign #11: They only recommend the solutions they sell.
Commission breath is the worst.
Out of 10 sales calls, there are probably two of them on average where they need a different solution than one that I provide. This is what’s called doing what’s best for the prospect.
Being an “expert” is being well-rounded enough in marketing to know what a business owner needs. It also means staying in their own lane and making a recommendation to one of their peers in their network.
A lot of agencies and marketers will try to sell a prospect on a product or service they provide just because they want to make the sale, even if they know it’s not best for them.
This is not just a shit marketing expert but also a shit salesperson.
Question to Ask: If a marketer recommends a product they offer, ask this question…..what is your recommendation if I decide to NOT go with what you offer?
Run Away If: They tell you there is no other solution. There’s always more than one solution to every problem.
Warning Sign #12: They charge a low fee.
If a marketer, agency, or other marketing expert charges a super low fee, it’s because of one of three reasons:
- They are desperate for new clients because they suck and lose as many clients as they gain. This is not a good reason.
- They are desperate for new clients because they are in a lull. It happens.
- They are new. Nothing wrong with this, but they are likely technicians at this point of their career.
- They depend on volume. I don’t like this because they are likely technicians and they rely on speed vs quality.
Question to Ask: Ask why their fee is so low. It’s going to fall into one of the reasons I mentioned above. Reason #2 is the only acceptable reason in my opinion, but the issue is that most of them won’t admit it.
Run Away If: I would probably just run if their fee is super low. No reason to consider it if you want to hire an actual expert.
Warning Sign #13: They make you use High Level.
I don’t even know where to begin about this software. It’s the “newest” shiny object that everyone is hopping on. So guess what? In August 2023, I decided to jump on the bandwagon.
I spent 75 hours mastering High Level and another 25 hours migrating all of my contacts and re-creating my automation workflows in it.
Yes, I was committed.
I can write another 1,780 words about how much High Level was a nightmare for me, but I’m not going to.
(Oh wait, I actually did! You can read about it here.)
Let me sum it up for you here >> It’s an MLM (multi-level marketing) product that is super buggy, ugly, clunky, and the worst support I’ve ever experienced.
Here’s what you need to know though.
Agencies, marketers, and other experts are requiring their clients to sign up for High Level. There’s nothing wrong with requiring a client to sign up for a certain software but it is when the software is crap and it’s a sub-account under the so-called expert’s own High Level account.
The issue is that if the “expert” decides to delete their High Level account, the client’s account goes away, too (or it must be transferred to another “expert” agency account). It’s not possible for the client to transfer the account to their own account (warning sign #3).
This is different from an affiliate. An affiliate gets a commission if someone signs up under that person’s affiliate link. For example, I’m an affiliate for Keap. If you sign up for Keap and I decide to stop being an affiliate for Keap, you still have your Keap account.
It doesn’t cost the client any more money, but more importantly, the client owns the account. Not the affiliate marketer.
Question to Ask: Is it absolutely required to sign up for High Level? Is there another software that is just as sufficient?
Run Away If: They require you to use High Level. There are other softwares out there that can do the job. Trust me.
Warning Sign #14: They became successful in their industry and now they claim to be expert marketers.
I see this mostly within the coaching industry. You see someone who is successful building a business, and then they become a marketing expert. There’s some holes with this.
There’s not a problem with them becoming a business coach in my opinion for people in their respective industry. i.e. A doctor who has successfully started and grew their medical clinic into multiple locations and now is a business coach for other doctors.
I love this.
The beef I have is when you see that person starting a marketing coaching business or a marketing agency solely for the fact that they marketed their own business.
The issue is that they tend to teach/replicate exactly what worked for their business and try to slap the same strategies onto another business thinking it’s going to work the same way. The fact is that it won’t. Every single business is different with different clientele, location, services or products offered, etc.
What makes a good marketer is the ability to constantly test…..obsessively.
Usually with these types of marketing “experts” is that they are deep in their profession (i.e. medical) on a daily basis and lacking in the area of marketing.
Another questionable thing is that they can’t teach or execute on other marketing strategies outside of what’s worked for them because they just don’t know them. Genuine marketing experts have worked with all kinds of clients and industries and obsessively test new things daily.
Question to Ask: Are you going to execute or coach on marketing strategies that worked for you only or are you going to do different things?
Run Away If: The question is a trick question because both answers are wrong. If they say only the strategies that worked for them, that kinda bottlenecks what you’re going to test. If they say they will try new things, that is unfamiliar territory for them.
So in both cases, I would run away.
Warning Sign #15: They only preach concepts.
This is a common one with business and marketing coaches. It’s similar to the point above in that they tend to stay in their own lane to what was successful for them. However, a lot of coaches will steer away from what worked for them.
This is dangerous territory in my opinion.
They’ve never tried it themselves (or at least successfully). And because of this, it brings me to my second point…
They start preaching concepts.
They may have read about them or heard them from another expert or coach. Then they regurgitate the information to you, the client.
When you regurgitate information, it comes out in just concepts. Nothing tactical. No tutorials. No step-by-step guide. This is frustrating for clients.
Question to Ask: Did you actually do the strategies you coach on successfully? If yes, ask to give specific examples.
Run Away If: They don’t provide examples or they start fumbling their way through giving you examples.
Warning Sign #16: They require long-term financial contracts.
I mentioned earlier in this article that I made some changes in the web design industry back in 2015 that helped scale my agency to 7-figures a year. I made a lot of changes that revolutionized the industry.
One of those changes was that I never required a long-term financial agreement with all my services.
Everyone thought I was nuts.
I didn’t. You know why? I was confident in my ability to provide a good service and keep my clients happy. I was betting on the fact that if I did that, my clients wouldn’t leave me.
And I was correct. I had a 92% retention rate with both my agencies.
I think all marketers should do this. If marketers were confident in their claims, then the clients would never leave them, right? The fact is that marketers, agencies, and coaches are not confident in their abilities. This is why some of them require 6-month or 12-month financial commitments.
That’s my opinion anyway.
Question to Ask: Are you okay with doing a month-to-month agreement?
Run Away If: They’re not okay with it.
Warning Sign #17: No true marketing system in place.
I saved the best for last. Obviously, this is our schtick.
The best analogy I give is that your marketing system is like a car. Most business owners have all the car parts (and they’re all good parts), but they’re strung out all over the garage floor in pieces. Your goal is to drive the car.
Before you can drive the car, you must put the RIGHT PARTS together in the RIGHT ORDER. If you put the wrong parts together, they won’t fit. If you do them in the wrong order, they won’t fit.
The same goes for your marketing system.
The marketing industry is done completely backwards in my opinion.
There are five phases to marketing:
- Phase I: Foundations — This is the essentials such as branding, research, etc.
- Phase II: Sales — This is finding the low-hanging fruit and see the areas easiest to sell to. This is also where you find all the holes in the “leaky bucket” so you can patch them.
- Phase III: Autopilot System — This is the system we’re referring to. More on this in a second.
- Phase IV: Lead Generation — aka….advertising.
- Phase V: Evergreen — social media content and SEO.
Most marketers, agencies, and coaches tell you to focus on the same two phases: Phases IV and V.
They tell you to create more Tik Tok videos or run Facebook ads or try to rank #1 in Google.
These all belong in the last two phases. The reality is that everyone needs to build out entire marketing autopilot system that sells to leads in the background using two things:
- The possibility of a transformation
And it’s automatic.
Then, once it’s built out, that’s when the focus needs to be shifted to phases IV and V to generate as many leads as possible to feed the Autopilot System.
Marketing becomes way more fun this way.
It becomes predictable.
It becomes a simple algebraic equation.
Once you build an Autopilot System and feed it leads for about three months, you’ll know:
- Conversion rate from lead to client
- Average order value of each new client
Then the equation becomes:
Leads (L) = Revenue Goal (R) / Conversion Rate (CR) * Average Order Value (AOV)
Now all you have to do is solve for L and that’s all you have to focus on.
Just leads to feed the system. And let the system sell automatically.
You’ll be able to spend your time on coming up with creating ways to feed the system instead of converting them.
The system will do it for you.
Let’s say you want to make $1,000,000 and you know your conversion rate and average order value……all you need to do is obtain roughly 8 new leads per day.
Here’s the thing.
99.9% of marketing “experts” don’t know how to do this so they focus on phases V and IV. This targets the 3% of people who are ready to buy now. The problem is that they completely ignore the 97% of your audience that are ideal, but they aren’t in a buying mode now.
Everyone is going after the 3%. It’s highly competitive. Sure, I get it. That 3% wants to give money now.
Imagine marketing the 97% in the background though. Your name is constantly in front of them. And imagine that 97% of people will buy within six months to a year. And now imagine you capturing most of them.
This would do wonders to your bottom line on that P&L statement.
Question to Ask: What happens to the leads after they are acquired and they didn’t buy?
Run Away If: They say nothing. Or say “follow up later”. Or “send them your weekly email”.
Okay, we’re over 4,500+ words in and if you’re still with me, kudos to you.
Here’s my short conclusion…and it’s a short one.
I will make a disclaimer that just because a marketing expert, agency, coach, or freelancer has a couple of these warnings, that doesn’t make them a “shit” marketer.
Let me give you my grading scale:
- 3 or less warnings = Not a shit marketer but needs some minor tweaking.
- 4 to 6 warnings = Might be a shit marketer, depending on which warnings they got.
- 7-10 warnings = They shit. Run.
- 10 or more = Holy shit. Run faster.
Okay, we’re at 4,692 words.
Hope this helps you.
Now, opt-in to my stuff here and witness my autopilot system.
(made it past 4,710 words)
If you want to know how to sell your stuff on AUTOPILOT every single day without hiring a shit marketing agency, click the button.