"Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like." 1

In the business of marketing services, "Snake Oil" is still quite prevelant. Every business wants to succeed and is looking for ways to grow, improve cash flow, attract new clients, etc. It is far too easy for some slick salesman to come into your business and sell you services (that you don't quite understand because of their technical nature), take your money, and deliver little if anything of value in return.

So, how do you know if someone offering their services to you is legitimate?

That isn't always an easy question to answer. Never make a quick decision about spending your marketing budget. Take some time and do the research on what you are buying and who you are buying from. Here are some specific things to check:

General Tips:
  • Is the company local?
  • Will you be talking directly with the person doing the work?
  • What kind of experience does the person doing the actual work have?
Website Design:
  • Does the company have a website of their own?
  • What does it look like?
  • Would you be happy if the website they create for you is similar to their own?
  • Is the person you are talking with going to design the site or are they a salesman or middleman selling someone else's services?
Social Media Marketing:
  • Will content posted be relevant to your target market?
  • Is there a posting schedule of regular content types?
  • Does the plan include things like "Check ins" and "Share/Like" contests?
  • Will you have the opportunity to preview and approve the content?
Search Engine Optimization:
  • Are there specific items that will be handled for you or is it a nonspecific task?
  • Real SEO can't be done without editing your website. Have they asked for access?
  • Do they guarantee results? Real SEO will help your rankings but no one can guarantee Google placement from SEO.
  • Does the plan include things frowned upon by Google like link exchanges, un-natural link building, keyword stuffing, etc?

By working with local professionals with whome you have a relationship, you can insure that you will be getting your money's worth and not buy "Snake Oil."

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil
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