Red Flags to Be Wary of When Contracting with a Digital Marketing Agency

Red Flags to Be Wary of When Contracting with a Digital Marketing Agency

Red Flags to Be Weary of When Contracting with a Digital Marketing Agency

 

Mike McBride

The Cowbell Agency

Digital marketing has certainly revolutionized the world of advertising. With its powerful targeting and tracking abilities, advertisers enjoy a great deal of control over media costs and caps, messaging, and audience profiling. The ROI is clearly visible using analytical metrics and SEM tools that are growing smarter every day.

What’s not clear is who you can trust to manage these highly technical campaigns that include search, display, remarking, programmatic, contextual, geofencing, video and streaming broadcast. Unfortunately the digital gold rush in advertising has ignited a whole vein of predatory digital marketing agencies who have become much better at selling the promise than delivering it. They serve up digital marketing services as if it were something of a white elephant, something that can be priced to whatever someone is willing to pay.

We see it daily. Companies approach us after being sucked into another digital agency’s sales pitch promising top search page position. It doesn’t take long for them to see the reality doesn’t match the promise. Unfortunately, they’ve already signed their digital life away and there is very little we can do for them until their lengthy contract is up.

So to help others from becoming victims to the digital dark side, we’ve written down a few red flags to look for when you are thinking about contracting with a digital marketing agency:

The agency-client contract requires a lengthy engagement period of two or three years for which you are legally bound to the agency regardless of their marketing performance or business practices. These contracts are ironclad and many clients find them to be unbreakable after spending a lot on legal fees. A legit digital agency won’t need to lock in clients with a long term contract. Some agencies are even happy to work month-to-month and let their performance validate the ongoing engagement.

The media spend is not charged directed to the client. Instead, the agency receives the media bill, marks it up and charges the client however they please…no backup, no original media invoice. Traditional media like print and broadcast have typically afforded agencies a commission on media spends. With digital media like Google Ad, there is none so agencies (respectable ones anyway) have changed their billing models to a fair and equitable fee-based model for digital management and creative services.

There is no valid backup to support digital media charges. This is similar to the red flag above but far more sinister. We have seen cases where digital media that was never purchased was fraudulently charged to the client. It may be hard for most of us to imagine that some one would start up a digital agency to defraud people. But they are out there, they are smart, and they are sociopaths.

The agency requires prepayment each month for digital advertising. Advance payment happens in many fields and industries. There are many legitimate reasons to do this. But for a digital agency to use this practice shows a lack of faith either in the client’s ability to pay or in the agency’s ability to show value for its services and media management. While there is an unfortunately high number of businesses with bad payment histories, companies with good bookkeeping practices have no business prepaying for digital services.

Monthly digital reports are nonsense or nonexistent. Digital campaigns require weekly or even daily optimizations. If an agency is putting in solid work on search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, their efforts can be quantified in a variety of metrics. At the very least, clients should be seeing monthly reports on click-through rates of traffic to the website, cost per click and how it compares to the specific industry, and conversions which are actions on the website that validate the quality of inbound traffic and the desired behavior goals. Sometimes, agencies will provide monthly reports with raw data and no real way for the client to understand or measure performance. Besides the basic KPIs, a useful digital report will also provide keyword performance, trending and trajectories, page ranking averages and more.

The top performing keyword is the company’s name. This trick has been used for many years by digital agencies to inflate campaign performance by targeting searches for the company name. While some argue is is a legitimate tactic, branded keywords are typically applied in search engine optimization or SEO to organically (and without costs) capture online searches for the company. Also, SEO generally works in conjunction with a company’s GoogleMyBusiness page as well. After all, if someone already knows who they are searching for online, we don’t need to waste budget on a paid search ad just to serve up their contact information.

The moral of this fable is don’t sign any digital agency contract before an attorney advises you on it. You just don’t know who you can trust.

Navigating Social Media Blackouts

Navigating Social Media Blackouts

Navigating Social Media Blackouts:

With attacks on Facebook, X, and TikTok, weigh your options.

 

Shelley Gulley

The Cowbell Agency

In the digital age, social media platforms have become indispensable tools for businesses worldwide, serving as key channels for client engagement, marketing, and brand building. However, the recent outage of Meta’s platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, served as a stark reminder of the risks associated with relying solely on these platforms for communication.

On March 5, 2024, thousands of users found themselves unable to access Meta’s platforms. Reports flooded in, indicating issues with logging into Facebook, accessing Instagram, and using Facebook Messenger. 

Downdetector, an outage tracker, recorded around 500,000 reports of Facebook issues and 50,000 Instagram-related outages. Meanwhile, Facebook Messenger also experienced around 10,000 reports of disruptions. Some users were unexpectedly logged out of their Facebook accounts, while others received error messages on Instagram, indicating technical difficulties in loading their feeds.

Threads, Meta’s competitor to Elon Musk’s X platform, wasn’t spared from the outage either. Users were greeted with a message stating, “Something went wrong, please try again later,” instead of their usual feed.

In response to the widespread outage, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone acknowledged the issue, stating, “We’re aware people are having trouble accessing our services. We are working on this now.”

Amidst the chaos of the outage, businesses with diversified communication strategies stood out, leveraging platforms like TikTok, email, and Twitter to maintain their connection with clients.

So, what can we learn from this?

Email: A Reliable Lifeline in a Time of Crisis

In contrast to the fleeting nature of social media posts, email offers a more permanent and direct line of communication with clients…and a great backup! 

Amidst the chaos of the outage, businesses with robust email lists were able to communicate important updates, promotions, and news directly to their subscribers’ inboxes. The outage underscored the importance of building and nurturing an email list as a valuable asset for businesses, providing a reliable channel for communication even when social media platforms falter.

Email remains a cornerstone of digital communication strategies for businesses, offering numerous benefits for engaging with clients effectively such as:

  • Direct and Personalized Communication: Email allows businesses to directly reach clients in their inbox, providing a personalized name, and tailored content based on their preferences and past interactions.
  • Targeted Messaging and Segmentation: Businesses can segment their email lists based on various criteria such as demographics, purchase history, or engagement which enables targeted messaging, ensuring that clients receive content that is relevant and valuable to them, thus increasing engagement.
  • Cost-Effective and High ROI: Compared to print advertising or direct mail, email marketing is incredibly cost-effective. With minimal overhead costs, businesses can reach a large audience at a fraction of the cost, resulting in a high return on investment (ROI) for their marketing efforts. 

TikTok: Bridging the Gap with Creative Content

While Facebook and Instagram were inaccessible, TikTok emerged as a beacon of opportunity for businesses seeking to stay connected with their audience. Known for its short-form video content, TikTok provides a fresh and engaging platform for businesses to showcase their products, share behind-the-scenes glimpses, and connect with customers on a more personal level. By swiftly adapting their content strategies to fit the TikTok format, businesses were able to maintain visibility and engagement despite the social media blackout. 

All this being said, even TikTok’s platform as of March 14, 2024, is now a cause for concern with the announcement of the platform being banned within the US due to cybersecurity concerns. “The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the U.S. assets of the short-video app, or face a nationwide ban. “~ Reuters, March 15, 2024. 

Twitter: Real-Time Updates and Community Engagement

As news of the outage spread, Twitter emerged as a hub of real-time updates and community engagement. Businesses use the platform to reassure customers, address concerns, and stay informed about the latest developments. By actively participating in conversations and monitoring relevant hashtags, businesses were able to maintain their presence and demonstrate their commitment to transparency and customer satisfaction.

LinkedIn: The Professional Lifeline amidst Social Media Blackout

During the blackout, LinkedIn emerged as an invaluable resource for professionals navigating the disruption caused by the unavailability of other social media platforms. 

As Facebook and Instagram faltered, professionals turned to LinkedIn to continue networking, sharing industry insights, and fostering meaningful discussions within their professional communities. In a landscape where digital connectivity is paramount, LinkedIn provided a stable and professional environment for businesses to navigate through the blackout and stay connected with their professional network.

Embracing Diversity in Communication Strategies

The social media outage, as well as the potential platform banning, has served as a wake-up call for businesses, highlighting the inherent risks of relying solely on 1 or 2 social media platforms for communication. While social media platforms play a crucial role in client engagement, relying solely on them leaves businesses vulnerable to disruptions.

Moving forward, diversifying communication strategies like Email Marketing or other multiple social media platforms is essential for mitigating risks and ensuring resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges.  As we move forward, let us remember the valuable lesson learned from this outage:  in diversity lies strength.

Do you have a 5-star online reputation?

Do you have a 5-star online reputation?

Do you have a 5-Star Reputation?

Get the reviews you’ve been missing with our Reputation Boss Platform…like our client did! 

 

Shelley Gulley

The Cowbell Agency

Boost Your Business with 5-Star Google Reviews

In today’s digital age, online reviews wield immense power in shaping consumers’ perceptions and influencing their purchasing decisions. We rely on reviews to guide many of our decisions — movie reviews, job candidate references, music album reviews, product ratings, etc. The list goes on and on. And businesses are no exception. 

Here are some more important stats from our surveys you should know about:

  • 68% of the time, consumers research a local business before making a purchase.
  • 93% of consumers read two or more reviews when researching a company.
  • 54% of customers leave a positive online review after a good experience with a local business.
  • After reading a negative review, 85% of consumers avoid selecting a multi-location business.
  • 38% of customers leave a negative online review after a bad experience.

Positive reviews can serve as powerful endorsements, attracting new customers and bolstering your business’s reputation. That’s where review generation and management come into play. 

Review Generation 

Review generation is the proactive process of soliciting feedback from customers, aiming to accumulate a steady stream of positive reviews for your business on platforms like Google. Historically, since most people have typically written reviews when they have not been satisfied, this system allows for a better balance of review responses by reminding satisfied customers to participate with their feedback as well. Once the system has generated the reviews, then review management strategies are implemented for effectively monitoring, responding to, and promoting reviews to optimize their impact on your business’s success. 

In the example below, we will explore the strategies we used to help generate and manage our client’s 5-star reviews on Google, which helped them leverage and enhance their brand’s online presence, attract more customers, and drive business growth. 

As you can see from the timeline graph below, the volume of their review began increasing in May 2023, as the Reputation Boss Platform was utilized to drive Review Requests, which in turn impacted their ratings.

What was the result?

1500% INCREASE IN REVIEWS !!

Feb 202327 Reviews 4.9 Star Rating

Jan 2024 432 Reviews, 5.0 Star Rating.

4-Steps to Building a Comprehensive Review Management Strategy 

To effectively manage reviews and harness their potential benefits, you need a robust review management strategy.

1. Review Generation: A proactive approach to generating reviews will help increase review frequency. Consider sending your customers a review request via both text and/or email following appointments or any time they make a purchase.  With our Reputation Boss platform, we were able to automate this Review Request process for our client by connecting to their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, with built-in triggers to send reviews to customers as soon as their process was completed.

2. Review Monitoring:  Practicing review monitoring helps you keep track of your reviews, whether they come from your own Google Business Profile or any of the numerous review sites online. Here are just a few benefits our client was able to benefit from.

a) Real-time Feedback: Review monitoring provides businesses with real-time insights into customer opinions and experiences, which they can promptly identify both positive and negative feedback, allowing them to address issues and capitalize on positive feedback promptly.

b) Enhanced Brand Reputation:. By actively engaging with customers, addressing their concerns, and showcasing positive feedback, businesses can enhance their brand reputation and credibility, fostering trust and loyalty among customers.

c) SEO Benefits: Reviews play a crucial role in local search engine optimization (SEO). Positive reviews signal to search engines that a business is reputable and trustworthy, making it more likely to appear prominently in search results for relevant keywords.

3. Automated Review Responses: Automated review responses offer businesses the benefits of timely acknowledgment, consistency, efficiency, and scalability in managing their online reputation. By automating the response process, businesses can ensure that customers receive prompt and standardized acknowledgments of their feedback while maintaining control over brand voice and messaging.

4. Sharing Reviews & Social Proof: Customer reviews help build social proof. They show that real people have purchased your company’s products or services. It instills a sense of trust in your brand, especially when you can automate sharing 5-star reviews on your Social Media Platforms. 

In conclusion, mastering review generation and management is essential for businesses looking to enhance their online reputation and attract more customers. By implementing effective strategies for generating 5-star Google reviews and managing them strategically, you can establish your brand as a trusted industry leader and drive business growth in the digital marketplace. 

Are you ready to grow your online reputation? 

Contact Cowbell Agency today at (321) 259-1795 and ask about our Reputation Boss Platform!

 

Source: https://birdeye.com/blog/review-generation/

 

Preventing and Monitoring Web Form Spam

Preventing and Monitoring Web Form Spam

Preventing and Monitoring Web Form Spam

Owen Yorio

The Cowbell Agency

If you own a website, you should know by now how pervasive web form spam can be. It can start as a nuisance, but can quickly turn into an actual security threat. While the constant unusable “leads” are an issue, a greater threat is someone trying to take over your site. That is why it is important to take some precautionary steps to prevent this invasive spam.

Annoying Spam

These and other AI downsides and challenges need to be considered before allowing yourself to be assimilated. One important consideration with using AI is maintaining your brand voice. It’s important to tailor and customize the AI-generated content for your audience, as it relates to your brand. This way customers still get to experience that personal customized touch, and businesses can still enjoy time-saving content creation. 

Phishing Spam

There are also types of spam that are sent out by a computer system designed to send out phishing submissions to a site. This information could be used to trick site admins or other notification receivers at a company to click on links, or hand out personal information that could be used against them. These types of spam form submissions are easily avoided for people who understand what these look like. It is also important to avoid clicking on any links you may come across in these web form submissions, as they could have malware attached to them, or on the link’s destination.

Malicious Spam

Another type or web form scam can potentially give site control over to a would-be hacker. If your site is not properly maintained and monitored, there could be holes left in its defenses. If there are any of these in our site, a web form could turn into an open doorway for malicious content. It is important to constantly be checking on your site, and monitoring it for any strange changes. Keeping any backend themes and plugins updated is another great way to make sure that doorway stays closed.

Season’s Grazings ~ 12 Days of Merry Marketing Tips

Season’s Grazings ~ 12 Days of Merry Marketing Tips

Season’s Grazings ~ 12 Days of Merry Marketing Tips

Shelley Gulley

The Cowbell Agency

In the spirit of the season, we present to you “The 12 Days of Merry Marketing Tips,” a festive journey through the digital wonderland where creativity and strategy converge to spread holiday cheer. So, buckle up, as we guide you through the realm of digital marketing, bringing joy to your audience and success to your brand.

It’s Udderly Amazing!

Day 1: Sleigh Your Social Media Strategy

Kick off your holiday marketing with a comprehensive social media plan. Schedule festive posts, engage with your audience, and leverage holiday hashtags to increase visibility.

Day 2: Jingle Bells – Optimize Your Website’s Speed

Ensure your website loads quickly to prevent user frustration. A fast website not only improves user experience but also positively impacts search engine rankings.

Day 3: Santa’s List – Email Segmentation

Segment your email list based on customer behavior, preferences, and demographics. This allows you to send targeted and personalized holiday messages, increasing the likelihood of conversions.

Day 4: Rudolph’s Remarketing “Retargeting Magic”

Implement remarketing campaigns to re-engage with users who have previously visited your website. Create customized ads to remind them of holiday deals and offerings through “retargeting”.

Day 5: Sleigh-Ride through Video Marketing 

Leverage the power of video content during the holidays. Create engaging and shareable videos that showcase your products, share holiday stories, or offer exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpses.

Day 6: Snowy SEO Strategies

Optimize your website for holiday-related keywords. Incorporate festive keywords into your content, meta tags, and product descriptions to improve your search engine visibility during the holiday season.

Day 7: Stocking Stuffers – Create Limited-Time Offers

Boost urgency and sales by introducing limited-time offers. Whether it’s a discount, bundle, or exclusive deal, make your audience feel the excitement of grabbing a special holiday deal.

Day 8: Sip on Festive Content Marketing

Craft holiday-themed content that resonates with your audience. Share heartwarming stories, create gift guides, and tailor your content to evoke the holiday spirit, fostering a deeper connection with your brand.

Day 9: Frosty Landing Pages

Optimize your landing pages for holiday campaigns. Ensure they are visually appealing, provide clear information about your promotions, and have compelling calls-to-action to drive conversions.

Day 10: North Star – Influencer Collaborations

Partner with influencers who align with your brand. Their authentic promotion of your holiday offerings can reach a broader audience and build trust with potential customers.

Day 11: Tinsel-Touched Email Subject Lines

Craft attention-grabbing and festive email subject lines. Make your emails stand out in crowded inboxes by incorporating holiday-themed language that entices recipients to open and engage.

Day 12: Sleigh Full of Data – Analytics Review 

After the holiday rush, analyze your campaign performance. Evaluate what worked well and areas for improvement. Use these insights to refine your strategies for the upcoming year.

 

Is Your Healthcare Reputation on the Line?

Is Your Healthcare Reputation on the Line?

Is your Healthcare Reputation on the line?

Shelley Gulley

The Cowbell Agency

In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, maintaining a positive online reputation is not just essential—it’s mission-critical. The digital era has empowered patients to actively engage with healthcare providers, shaping opinions and decisions based on online reviews and experiences.

At The Cowbell Agency, we recognize the critical role reputation plays in the healthcare landscape and offer the industry’s leading reputation management platform. Our commitment extends beyond garnering reviews; we aim to help healthcare providers connect with more patients, drive revenue, and ensure compliance with the stringent standards set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The Cowbell Advantage: Navigating Compliance with Confidence

 

1. Compliant Technology

Our commitment to safeguarding Protected Health Information (PHI) and electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) is unwavering. The Cowbell Agency employs a secure system where all data, including PHI and ePHI, is transferred through direct encrypted CRM integration or dedicated, end-to-end encrypted email channels. This meticulous approach guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of patient information.

2. Internal Processes and Controls

Recognizing the importance of robust internal processes and controls, The Cowbell Agency boasts a dedicated HIPAA Compliance Officer and meticulously documented processes. This ensures that every facet of our operations aligns with healthcare regulations, providing our clients with peace of mind regarding compliance.

3. Trained Certified Staff

Only HIPAA Business Associate Certified professionals at The Cowbell Agency handle PHI, ensuring that our team is well-versed in the intricacies of healthcare data security. This certification minimizes the risk of breaches and legal complications, preserving the reputation and trust of our clients.

4. Direct CRM Integration for HIPAA Safety

Our distinctive advantage lies in the direct integration with most medical CRMs. This not only enhances security and compliance but also streamlines data access and management, contributing to improved efficiency, decision-making, and patient satisfaction.

HIPAA Compliance Review + Soliciting Management System 

Our HIPAA-compliant review and soliciting management system prioritizes the privacy of patient reviews while enabling healthcare providers to gather valuable feedback for improved services and patient experiences. This streamlined process ensures compliance with healthcare privacy regulations, building trust with patients and mitigating the risk of legal issues.

Encrypted Email End-to-End Specifically for Shared ePHI

Our system ensures the utmost privacy and security of sensitive patient data during transmission through end-to-end encrypted emails. This not only maintains HIPAA compliance but also fosters trust among patients and healthcare professionals, contributing to a more secure and reliable healthcare ecosystem.

Encrypted Server for Storing HIPAA PHI

Using an encrypted server for storing HIPAA-protected PHI provides a critical layer of data security. This safeguard ensures that sensitive patient information is protected against unauthorized access and data breaches, maintaining the highest level of compliance with HIPAA regulations. The result is enhanced patient trust, minimized legal risks, and a fortified foundation for safe and confidential healthcare data management.

Choose The Cowbell Agency for a secure, compliant, and effective approach to healthcare reputation management. Our proven record of compliance and dedicated team of HIPAA-certified associates make us your trusted partner in navigating the intricacies of healthcare data security and regulatory adherence.

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