Ahhh monthly fees.  We have them for many things and if you own a business you may be in a monthly marketing program that comes with fees attached.  Monthly Marketing Programs with FeesBased on the title of this post, you may think I am opposed to monthly marketing programs.  The truth is, I actually offer monthly marketing programs and 90% of my customers are on them!  With that said, I’m not opposed to monthly programs in general, just ones that don’t have both parties best interest in mind.

When it comes to monthly marketing programs many providers put them in place to guarantee your business.  The problem is, the way many of these agreements are structured, you practically have to give away your first born to get out of them and a lot of times they can be costly!  I’ve been running into a lot of marketing companies trying to push harsh monthly fees over the last month, which is what sparked this post.  So with that said, here are 5 things that often come up in monthly marketing programs that you need to be cautious of and why.

5 Things to Be Cautious of When Entering into a Monthly Marketing Program

1.  Agreements you are locked in to for an extended period of time – Like a cell phone contract, many marketers that charge monthly fees will make you commit to working with them for a specific number of months.  In some cases, it is necessary.  For example, take social media.  Many Social Media Managers set a 3 month minimum when starting to work on a new account.  Social media takes time to build up and there is typically a lot of work that goes into launching with a new client.  Setting a 3 month minimum is how many marketers spread out the up front costs over a period of time.

Over and above a 3, maybe 6 month commitment, I start to get nervous.  You never know where your business will be in 9 months.  Hopefully it will be booming, but you never know.  Also, maybe you find that you don’t work well with the provider.  It happens.  Not everyone can be “your people.”  Then what?  You’re locked in to working with someone you don’t like for months?  No thanks!

When you are considering starting a marketing program that comes with a monthly fee, ask up front what needs to be done to terminate the agreement.  Find out what, if any, fees are involved in doing so and how much notice you need to give to break ties.  Ask all of this before signing.

2.  Marketing fees that prevent you from having control of your assets – Yikes!  If you run into a provider that wants to maintain control of your domain name, your website log in information or be the only person that has access to your social media accounts in exchange for them managing everything for a monthly fee….RUN!  Your marketing materials are your assets.  You are investing money to brand your business and to grow your company by using these tools.  When a provider wants to retain control, you are no longer in control of your own property.  You should have full access to all your materials all of the time…period.  No questions asked. Anything else is unacceptable in my opinion.

3.  Monthly plans with big companies – This is sticky.  I don’t want to bash anyone here so I won’t name names but there are a lot of big companies out there that push social media, SEO and digital marketing services.  Don’t get me wrong, some of the bigger companies have their place and may do certain things well, but one thing I can almost guarantee is that you won’t get the personal service you’ll get from a smaller provider.

When you work with a smaller provider, most of the time, you are working with the owner, or someone who has some skin in the game and they want to make sure they know you, your business and what they need to do to help you succeed.  Most larger companies have so many clients they don’t have the time for that level of personal attention and they provide what I call cookie cutter services.  They do for you what they have done for every other client.  Again, in some cases its not a bad thing, but if you are a small business with a limited budget, your dollars would probably be better spent with someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and dive into your business as if they were a part of your team.

4.  Monthly plans that come with a high price tag – Again as I said earlier, you have no idea where your company will be in 9 months to a year.  Of course we hope for it to booming but if you are locked into a monthly marketing program that is costing you a fortune, you may have to pair back in other areas which could ultimately hurt your business.  Unless you can be totally sure that a high monthly fee is necessary, I always suggest you start out small and add more services as you need them.

5.  Monthly marketing plans that start out at an affordable price then go up in cost – This is my personal pet peeve.  It is no fun when you speak with a sales rep and they sell you on all the wonderful things their company can do for you for the “low price of $19.95 a month”  only to find that it will actually be $99 to get everything they showed you.

Beware of set ups like this.  I always find that these are companies that end up costing you more than they are worth.  Whenever I am watching a presentation on a marketing service, I always ask what the price will be to do everything they are talking about, not just the base price (which if often what they lure you in with.)

In closing, I’m not opposed to monthly marketing programs.  In many cases they are necessary and a good use of budget dollars.  This post was more or less my public service announcement for small business owners advising you to be cautious when entering in to any monthly agreement on behalf of your business because not every provider is looking for a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are your thoughts on monthly marketing programs?  Post your comments here or visit me on Facebook to join the conversation.