What Can & Can't a Good Internet Marketing Agency Guarantee?

Louise Armstrong
by Louise Armstrong on June 9, 2014 in Business
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giphyIt’s easy to slap a guarantee on a box. As the character Tommy Boy says, “[A] guarantee is put on a box to make you feel all warm and toasty inside. [But] they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of sh*t. I could do that if it’s what you want.” In other words, marking something guaranteed is easy and is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.

A guarantee is a promise and, as such, should not be undertaken lightly. Guaranteeing results when the outcome cannot be controlled turns into a “pie-crust promise,” easily made and easily broken. The only guarantee here is a waste of time and money. Your time and your money.

This doesn’t mean all guarantees are worthless. It simply means you must consider what is being guaranteed and whether it is reasonable to expect it to be kept.

A Review of Inbound Marketing

Just so we’re all on the same page, here is a quick review of inbound marketing.

You begin by creating enticing, relevant content that is mapped to each stage of the buying cycle. Content is anything that conveys information to the consumer: blog posts, white papers, video, podcasts, infographics and more.

You make sure the content is find-able by optimizing the content with keywords and promoting the content on social media channels. You then attempt to convert any visitors to this content to leads through the use of a landing page and call to action that asks them for information and permission to contact them with lead nurturing emails and other marketing.

To see if it’s working, you analyze metrics to see if you are meeting key performance indicators, adjust the campaign or content and go around again. The entire practice is meant to effectively draw in and nurture leads and efficiently advance them through the funnel to the end of the buying cycle.

Now, how good are those guarantees?

Guaranteed Results – True or False?


Inbound marketing has been shown to be much more successful at generating awareness, leads and revenue than traditional outbound marketing. Overall, an internet marketing company using appropriate inbound marketing strategy and tactics will produce better results.

But no matter how hard you or anyone else tries there is no way to guarantee specific numbers of visitors, leads or customers from any marketing method. There are too many variables to account for and you can’t control them all. Everything from the weather to the time of year to competition impacts those numbers.

So if an internet marketing agency claims to guarantee specific results, run the other way. Or at least point out that you understand that’s impossible and ask them to please review the guarantee policy using a little logic. Even those late night commercials on weight-loss put a disclaimer on results. They know they will court trouble if they guarantee specific loss of poundage.

Guaranteed Deliverables – True or False?


An internet marketing company can, and should, guarantee the deliverables within its control.

Inbound marketing demands content generation, publishing and promotion. This can be guaranteed. A contract can spell out:

  • Number of blog posts published per week
  • Specific social media postings per content piece
  • Number of directory submissions
  • Metrics reports, etc.

Each of these is a verifiable activity. Nothing is said about how many people will read each post, how much social engagement will occur, or how many sales will be made. It is strictly a guarantee of production, publishing and promotional activities that will be completed in support of the inbound marketing strategy.

Guaranteed Honest & Open Communication – True or False?

Absolutely true.

Your internet marketing company can and should guarantee open, honest communication with KPIs and metrics to show success or failure for each action it takes. Without transparency there can be no trust. It’s hard to be successful without trust.

Transparency can come through honest communication. A guarantee can be made that any and all questions will receive a response, no matter what the question is. The clearer the response can be, the more honesty is shown and the more transparent and open the communication is.

Transparency can come through education. Education is a special form of communication providing background, mechanics and theory of how something works. A good inbound marketing company will be able to clearly explain each step it intends to take in marketing your business, why it is being taken, how it will be accomplished and what the expected outcome is.

Finally, transparency produces trust. Over time open communication and educational efforts provide peace of mind because there is no guesswork involved and nothing is hidden. You become a true partner with your marketing company.

You should be able to expect your inbound marketing company to produce proof, in the form of metrics, that it is meeting the appropriate key performance indicators for your marketing strategy.

  • Form conversion rates
  • Organic search KPIs: percentage of leads from organic search, branded keywords, and other search terms as well as the number of customers acquired through organic search
  • Social media reach for each network
  • Metrics for mobile traffic
  • Ratio of site traffic to leads
  • Ratio of marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads
  • Cost per lead acquisition
  • Online marketing ROI using metrics from website activity, social media activity, and more

Metrics verify the activity and success of an inbound agency, which generates more trust.

The Final Word

Anybody can slap a guarantee on a product or service. How trustworthy that guarantee is can be gleaned from what is being guaranteed and how. A trustworthy guarantee provides a promise about activities that can reasonably fall under the control of the guarantor and can be verified with facts.

Otherwise, you only have a guarantee of a box of…well, you know what.


Louise Armstrong

Louise Armstrong

Louise is a Senior Digital Strategist at Bonafide. A pop-culture addict with a passion for all things digital. She's Scottish by birth, but don't ask if she likes haggis...