Let’s talk realistic expectations for your average Indianapolis marketing firm as it relates to small businesses. One of the most difficult conversations that we have is setting expectations for ROI.  Most quality marketing firms advocate the need to continuously feed your marketing machine and try to help customers understand that there truly is no light switch that can be turned on to instantly drive sales.

Still, we hear the questions all the time: “What will my marketing ROI be?”, “Can I try it for a month and see if it works?”, “I want to invest in something that provides immediate payback, what do you have for that?”.  All valid questions when you are writing a check.  The truthful answer: a good strategic marketing plan doesn’t really work that way.

In a world obsessed with instant gratification, that’s a difficult answer to hear.  Consequently, sometimes the desire to please the potential customer pushes sales reps in advertising and marketing to make promises that are impossible to keep. Those promises  reinforce the belief among small business owners that there are silver-bullet marketing tactics. After all, if you hold 10 meetings with 10 different marketing firms, one will almost certainly take the bait… and your check.

Yes, a small business will begin to see improvements of key metrics pretty quickly with the help of a marketing firm.  Yes, sales will likely increase to a certain point in a reasonable amount of time.  But, if there were a guaranteed fix or guaranteed sales, don’t you think marketing firms would charge more for their services?  If your average price point was $4000 and 5 sales could be guaranteed through a magic switch that was turned on, shouldn’t the service cost $19000?  It should – and you know what?  You’d buy it every day and twice on Sunday.

Marketing is tough.  It can be a grind.  Good marketing will always provide ample ROI.  But, beware of the get rich quick scams.  Too often, the need to impress a client forces a marketing firm to make promises that can’t be kept instead of doing the right thing and setting expectations effectively.

One small account once told us that a marketing firm had promised branding like Coors Light.  They promised to make their tagline as well known locally as Coors Light’s “Silver Bullet” tagline.  This was going to be done for $2000.  Awesome!  I’ll bet Coors wishes they had the estimated $406 million dollars back they spent on advertising alone in 2012.  That said, if you find a marketer that can flip a switch, brand you like Coors, and provide instantaneous returns on investments, please buy the service and then forward their resume to us.

The bottom line: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.