Three Things Some Marketing Agencies Won’t Tell You

Just about every operator who I come across has had a horror story about working with a marketing agency. This has left them with a bitter taste in their mouth and wary of trusting another to do the job that they want them to do. Now believe me, as an agency owner myself, this makes my job so much harder.

But as an agency owner, a lot of this bad experience comes down to how that agency educates its customers and clearly manages expectations. In some instances, it also comes down to out and out lying on the agency’s part. So many agencies out there will offer guarantees and promises they simply can’t keep because it’s not possible for them to do so.

If agencies could guarantee number one on Google rankings or ten times the increase in bookings, then we would all be doing it. But there are so many nuances. that make these promises impossible. 

Now some of you may be wondering why I am writing this because being the owner of a tourism marketing agency myself, and as someone who has worked in this industry for over 32 years, you may think that this is business suicide. Personally, I think that what I’m about to disclose needs to be said.

There is often very little open discussions about using marketing agencies and many tour operators and suppliers are regularly misled about what they can expect when working with an agency. So with this in mind, I want to cut through the bullshit and offer my own perspective of the situation.

So let’s start with myth one…

Myth 1: Agencies Can Promise ROI Right Off the Bat

So, you’re thinking about hiring an agency and your first question is, “What’s the ROI (Return on Investment) I can expect?” Look, I get it. You want to know if your hard-earned cash is going to be well-spent. But let me break it to you: determining ROI at the proposal stage is impossible. Why? Because we haven’t even scratched the surface of understanding your business, your competition, or even if there’s a market for your experience.

All we can do is give you a ballpark figure based on industry averages or past experiences with similar businesses. But remember, your business is unique, and we need data to provide a more accurate ROI. If an agency is upfront about this, you’re off to a good start.

Myth 2: Immediate Results Are Guaranteed

I’ve seen it happen: around month three or four, operators start getting antsy because they’re not seeing immediate results. I get the anxiety, but let’s be clear—marketing takes time. The first few months are usually spent on research, strategy development, and creating marketing materials.

And don’t forget, there’s a testing phase to see how effective those strategies are. If you’re expecting to be on Google’s first page within a few weeks, chances are the agency is using some sketchy tactics that will hurt you in the long run. So, patience is key. Give the agency the time they need to set you up for long-term success.

Myth 3: Agencies Can Guarantee Bookings

Now, this is the big one. I’ve seen agencies promise 10x returns and even “COVID-proof” marketing. Let’s cut through the BS: these are just sales tactics preying on desperate business owners. The truth is, no agency can guarantee bookings. Why? Because we don’t control your sales team, your booking system, or how well you run your tours.

What we can do is drive qualified traffic and leads to your business. From there, it’s up to your sales process and customer service to close the deal. If you’re struggling with bookings, maybe it’s time to look at your reviews or your website’s user experience. Sometimes the issue isn’t marketing; it’s the business itself.

The Bottom Line

Look, no one’s perfect—not even my agency. Sometimes things go south, and plans don’t work out. But if you’re considering working with a marketing agency, don’t fall for the smoke and mirrors. Make sure they’re transparent about what you can realistically expect. Ask them about their research process and how long it’ll take to launch that first campaign. If they start making promises that sound too good to be true, run the other way.

So there you have it, the unfiltered truth about working with marketing agencies. I hope this clears up some misconceptions and helps you make an informed decision. After all, we’re all in this to succeed, right?

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