The Problem with the Digital Marketing Industry (and how to not get duped when hiring)

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

I’ve worked in Marketing, Tech, and Digital since 2013. I’ve seen the transition that traditional media companies have made from selling ad space on billboards, bus benches, and newspapers to selling a commoditized solution at scale — Google & Facebook Ads.

Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed first-hand through our client onboarding and auditing process how these companies get away with reporting on clicks and impressions that aren’t even relevant to the target market, and then spin the results on fancy dashboards as success and growth to the client. At Catch Digital, we prioritize digital marketing efforts based on the impact it makes to your bottom line. Why? It’s the right thing to do.

Before I begin, I want it to be clear that I’m not writing this article to knock these businesses. Some do it right and deliver excellent results for clients, but some do it wrong and lack accountability. I’m simply writing this article to equip you with the tools needed to weed out those companies who do it wrong, so you don’t waste your money or feel jaded towards the entire Digital Marketing industry.

This is how it works:

  1. A digital media company (I don’t want to call it a digital agency) will have a free listing on its website, which boosts your SEO value because it’s an online citation. This free listing will add credibility and back-linking, not to mention another google search result with your name on it.

  2. You toss your small business on that source, which is fantastic! Another place for customers to find you.

  3. That company’s reps reach out to you, saying “Hey, you can be seen on Google even more with this $1000/mo package, plus $X media spend”.

  4. You go for it, because more impressions = more business, right?

Unfortunately that is not usually the case. This kicks off your digital marketing completely upside-down. Many of us are familiar with a digital marketing funnel.

This is a super common image that will come in a “package” or a pitch deck that these companies use to sell.

So, you kickoff your first digital marketing experience with a company that is reporting impressions and clicks to you. You’re excited about the exposure your business is getting, but after a few months, and thousands of dollars later, you realize there isn’t a very strong ROI. You speak to your rep, and they up-sell you on Facebook Ads.

“We need more brand awareness”. The sales rep/strategist on your account says. You agree, the retainer grows, and you pray that’s the difference-maker right there. This strategy may work, but again, usually not.

This cycle repeats itself, adding more landing pages, more ads, more Google spend, more Facebook spend, etc., until you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars without a substantial return on your investment. It’s like throwing money at a wall and seeing what sticks.

There are 2 problems here:

  1. The reporting and accountability. The digital media company you’re working with is focusing on getting you more impressions and clicks because that’s what they’ve trained you to care about.

  2. The setup is backwards. Their business models thrive on increased media spend (on Google and Facebook) because they often take a % off the top. There’s no incentive for them to ensure leads convert on your website. Still, if leads do convert, automations aren’t built to qualify customers further, push them down the funnel, and equip you, the business owner, to turn those leads into paying customers.

After a few months, they’ll show you a fancy dashboard with monthly or quarterly reporting on impressions and clicks over time. Calling 5,000,000 impressions and 2,000 clicks for $18,000 a success — which could be a success, if it resulted in 300 leads and $150k+ in revenue, but that’s not what’s being reported.

Why? For 2 reasons:

  1. The KPIs are top-of-funnel (impressions and clicks). Reporting on these only tells some of the story — where are the clicks coming from? Are they even coming from the geographic region that you serve? What are they doing on your site once they get there?

  2. Digital media companies don’t want to be accountable to revenue figures. It’s also far more work to tie revenue to ads — tracking pixels aren’t perfect, CRM implementation can be a timely and expensive endeavour, and accountability to leads generated can result in some difficult conversations.

When KPIs are related to top-of-funnel activities, agencies report on “growth” by showing an upward trend over time with more impressions and clicks, but you still aren’t getting leads. Why? Getting more clicks is not the solution to more leads and sales.

This, compared to convincing someone to work bottom-up, is far less work and much easier to sell, since it comes at a lower price point. Unfortunately, in Digital Marketing, you get what you pay for.

How not to get duped:

When talking to external agencies or digital media companies:

  1. Have clear KPIs that are tied to activities related to the bottom of the funnel, such as acquisitions (leads), sales, or, even better, ROI.

  2. Ensure the agency/media company you’re working with has a full-funnel auditing process. Not just ads, but also web pages for conversion optimization, CRMs for sales, and tracking.

  3. Set clear expectations, where sales and leads are the primary KPIs. If the company pitching you refuses to report on those metrics, that is a huge red flag.

  4. Ask for some past work and success that they’ve had with previous clients. Look at what figures they report on. Is it ROAS (return on ad spend), leads, CPA (cost per acquisition), or something similar? Great — they focus on the right end of the funnel.

Audit your own business’ processes and digital properties:

  1. Is your internal sales process developed enough to convert leads acquired? Is communication streamlined and efficient?

  2. When lower quality leads inevitably come your way, do you have a standardized process to further qualify them? Do you have a lead scoring system?

  3. Is your website or landing pages designed to qualify and convert customers?

  4. Do you have a proper CRM to handle these contacts at scale?

Here’s what you need to consider — you probably shouldn’t invest in cost-heavy digital campaigns until you can answer “yes” to all of the above. Agencies that assist with the above are the difference between digital media companies and growth agencies.

About Catch Digital:

The marketing industry is mostly garbage: acronyms, unfulfilled promises, surprise bills and insane retainers. At Catch, we’re cutting the BS around the industry and bringing it back to what business owners care about — revenue dollars.

Our approach to digital marketing works bottom-up, which means that we work with you to identify and analyze your sales flow, and then prioritize our work based on what can impact your business the most. This method isn’t always the most exciting, but it’s the one that consistently increases sales and decreases customer acquisition costs.

Catch Digital is a full-service growth agency specializing in ROI-accountable lead capture and nurturing of customers through modern marketing technology implementation. Our approach involves breaking down the client’s customer acquisition journey, sales process, and re-engagement strategies to develop a scalable plan that allows the business to focus on operations.

Catch’s client growth model takes a layered approach, where strategic initiatives are designed to stack on top of each other over time until a full, robust growth marketing system is in place. As initiatives are strategized and executed, others will be optimized, decreasing the cost per customer acquired over time and increasing revenue.

Have a question about anything related to your digital? We offer a free 30-minute consultation followed by a full website and Google Ads assessment. Check us out at

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