How To Evaluate The Authenticity Of Marketing Services

No matter how good you are at marketing, you can’t do everything yourself. Marketing is a mindset, not a department. To make it work, you’ve got to integrate your marketing efforts with everything your business is doing. Marketing is more than a set of tasks to perform on a schedule and requires thorough knowledge of your business. That’s why it’s so difficult to outsource marketing. Nobody knows your business better than you.

Integrating marketing services.

At some point, however, you will need to hire other people to perform some of your marketing tasks for you. This requires trusting that you’re getting what you pay for and being able to communicate what your business is about and what your goals are.

There are companies you can hire to do some of the grunt work for you, but how do you know if they’re legitimate?

There are several ways you can determine the authenticity of a marketing company, and the best place to start is on their website. If you end up signing up for their services, you can investigate even more.

When hiring a company to help with marketing, here are 4 things to investigate that you can’t take for granted:

1. Investigate testimonials: go as close to the source as possible.

Every marketing agency on the planet has testimonials: “So-n-so marketing company increased my ROI by 15 percent in just six months!” “I’d be lost without company XYZ. They helped me reach more of my contacts through email marketing, and my sales have been steadily increasing ever since.”


Testimonials are powerful. They’re real stories told by real people; they contribute to increasing a customer’s confidence in their purchase. The only downside is sometimes testimonials are questionable, and you need to decide if they’re real.

When you’re investigating the authenticity of testimonials, answering the following questions will help immensely:

  • What is the relationship between the business and the people providing the testimonials?

This question might be difficult to answer without effort, but it’s worth researching in-depth through Google as well as social media.

Do they have a business partnership? Did they both write testimonials for each other? Are they friends on Facebook? Are they family members?

It’s no secret that business owners ask their friends to provide testimonials for them, and while their friends may have legitimately experienced their services, their testimonial won’t be entirely objective.

Testimonials from friends aren’t necessarily false, but they will carry a degree of bias.

  • Do all of the testimonials appear to be written by different people?

Marketers know that testimonials are marketing assets and some types of testimonials work better than others to close a sale. For example, a testimonial that says, “Your product is great, thanks a bunch!” is useless to a business. However, a testimonial that says, “You got us the qualified leads we’d been looking for since we launched and taught us how to keep it going!” is as valuable as gold.

Clients don’t usually write testimonials with marketing in mind. Many businesses ask their clients if they can write a testimonial on their behalf and have them sign off to approve.

As long as the testimonial captures the customer’s authentic experience, there’s nothing wrong with writing it for them. However, some business owners fabricate entire testimonials. This is fairly easy to spot if you analyze the writing style, paying close attention to the frequent use of specific adjectives to describe the experience.

If a majority of testimonials repeatedly refer to the business as its acronym, or use specific language that the average customer wouldn’t use, consider it suspect. That doesn’t mean their services aren’t legitimate, but it does raise some red flags.

  • Are the success stories believable? Is there context?

A success story is a testimonial written by the business to highlight the potential success for new clients. What makes a success story believable will depend on the product or service, although the number one factor to look for is credibility.
The most credible success stories are high profile clients, and the most believable stories are simple. For instance, Facebook marketing company Boosterberg chose to highlight a Mitsubishi distributor as one of their success stories. Not only does the success story feature a well-known automobile brand – Mitsubishi – but the content of the success story is equally impressive. Not because it’s complex with astronomical numbers, but because it’s simple and believable.

Stories should be structured with context.

Boosterberg, mentioned above, is one of few marketing companies to structure a success story in a way that provides context for the visitor. For example, most marketing company success stories focus on numbers only: a 40 percent increase in revenue; a 10 percent increase in conversions; a 5 percent decrease in bounce rate, etc.

Numbers are impressive, but they’re almost always presented alone and out of context. The context that’s usually missing is what the client’s goal was, and what the marketing company actually did to get results.

Context is important to present because it appeals to potential customers with similar goals.

When a website claims “we helped Client XYZ achieve a 40 percent increase in conversions” the context is missing. The specificity of what those conversions were absolutely matters. Leaving it unstated can be misleading to a client whose goal is to increase conversions in the form of sales. That same marketing company might be great at increasing leads, but not sales.

Boosterberg covers that and more, describing the client’s goal to “reinforce the brand Mitsubishi to potential customers and to increase awareness and favorability of the car brand in Slovakia. The company specifically wanted to efficiently reach more potential and relevant customers with their Facebook posts.”
If a marketing company only presents numbers without context, unless they’re well known, you should maintain a healthy stance of skepticism until you do more research.

  • Are the claims specific? This one’s a little tough. Specific testimonials can be a sign of a fantastic product, but if the same specifics are repeated throughout a majority of testimonials, it could be a sign of fabrication.
    Consumers often write testimonials that are general, and they’re not always willing (or available) to elaborate. Some marketers won’t publish general testimonials because they aren’t powerful. The key is to identify when specificity is authentic, and when it’s not. Authentic specificity will usually vary between testimonials. What one person gets out of the service will be notably different than what others get.

2. Always verify how data is obtained and presented.

Know that both the source and method of calculating data is imperative to assessing the authenticity of a marketing company. No two data sources will produce the same numbers. One data source can be used to convince you to buy marketing services. Another data source can be used to show favorable (and often dramatic) results.

Around 2013, when automated Facebook posts were getting popular, one of the earliest programs had flaws in the way data was calculated. For example, posts that were never published and remained in the outbox were regularly factored into reports whose data was supposed to show engagement. The calculations were based on scheduled posts rather than published posts. Oops.

On the other hand, the program also reported activity on those same posts that verifiably never published. Whether it was a bug in the system or intentionally designed, it produced flawed data undiscovered for years.

Flawed data generation isn’t the only problem. Data can be easily manipulated, especially with visual charts and graphs.

Manipulated data isn’t just frustrating, it can cost you money. If you’re looking at visuals, for example, the way the data is presented can influence your advertising budget allocation, revenue projections, and profit margin analysis.

According to WebMechanix, the implications of analyzing misrepresented data and statistics can be mitigated by asking the following questions:

  • How is the graph scaled?
  • Am I looking at the data correctly?
  • If I had to create the chart, is this how I would display the data?
  • What is the source of the raw data?

Although programs are designed to do the calculations for you, it’s wise to devise a manual test to see if the raw data matches what the computer program calculates.

3. Ask for references.

It’s not unheard of for new clients to ask a business for references. If you’re serious about spending money with them, it shouldn’t be a problem. Ask to connect with a business similar to yours so you can get a good idea of what the company can do for you specifically.

When asking for references, be sure to ask for business references rather than personal. Make sure the phone number you get can be verified through a legitimate online business listing like Google My Business or Yelp.

4. Check online reviews and search for negative reviews.

Negative reviews will tell you a lot about the company you’re researching. You’re not necessarily looking for flaws in the way they do business, though.

Often, negative reviews tell you when a company has integrity. For instance, some businesses do everything by the book because they’re bound by state and Federal laws. These types of businesses often receive harsh, negative reviews from people who don’t like (or understand) the laws they’re bound by.

When you’ve done your research and you sign up for marketing services, your job isn’t done. Always remain active in your marketing campaign, even when you have other people doing the grunt work for you. Be inquisitive, and always request the raw data so you can run your own charts and graphs.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind


Jeremy Webb

Chief & Adventurer

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