Phillip Stutts

Since my book “Fire Them Now — The 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell…” was released, I’ve had quite of few email subscribers ask that I update each “Lie” in a series of posts. It’s a great idea — so over the next few months, I’m going to break down each of these lies from my book and how I see them today.

Let’s start at the beginning with Lie #1. If you are a business owner, following the principles in this first “lie” is the foundation for working with an honest marketing firm that puts your interests first — over their interest, which is to make money on you.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the critical first lie you must avoid in order to work with a marketing agency…


Traditional and digital marketing agencies often require unbreakable long-term contracts. It has always been set up this way so the agency wins, even if their client doesn’t grow their bottom line.

In the pitch to get your business, they’ll brag about their successes, but you’ll never know about their failures. Due to the contract THEY structure, they are simply never forced to be accountable or innovate.

Here is a little secret…

99% of marketing firms aren’t outcome-driven, they’re contract-driven. If the marketing campaign they execute doesn’t achieve the desired result for the client, they simply move on to the next (guessed) idea, while the business owner is left in the lurch. There’s no need for a scorecard because they’ve locked you into a long-term contract.

The simple fact is your marketing agency should prove themselves every single day — if they’re not on track for your growth, they should be on the chopping block.

Why structure your contract this way? It forces the marketing firm to put your needs first and constantly innovate so you grow your bottom line.

How did I realize this first lie was so critical? Well, in 23+ years of political and corporate marketing contracts, every contract I’ve ever signed is month-to-month. My team’s future with that client is always on the line to produce.

Every. Single. Day.

And when I interviewed over 100 CEOs for my book, I realized that the month-to-month contract was an anomaly — a complete outlier in the marketing agency world. The most frustrating thing for these CEOs was being contractually obligated to a marketing agency that was failing them.

This is an insane concept!!!

What can the month-to-month contract can do for innovation? Let’s take a step back into my political marketing experience — where again, every contract I’ve ever signed is month-to-month.

A political campaign is like the ultimate startup company … on steroids. With any political campaign, there’s no thought of a future investment beyond Election Day. We raise money and spend it all to win. Every dollar counts. Election Day is our inescapable scorecard for success or failure.

We typically start with a small budget and a demand from our candidates to produce fast results. And, because we don’t have long-term contracts, our ass is on the line every day to produce results.

Due to all of these circumstances, political marketers innovate and subsequently become masters of the concept of low-dollar message testing
of ads.

The testing that goes on inside a political campaign is intricate and epic. Every concept has to be tested to figure out what will move the most voters, the most effectively, with a minimal amount of funds.

Here’s a real-life example. In the 2004 George W. Bush presidential reelection campaign, we introduced analytics and consumer data into our decision-making via micro-targeting. The idea was modeled on the book “Moneyball”, by Michael Lewis.

Micro-targeting allowed us to connect to voters on an individual basis about the issues they cared about most. Through data and research, we found that certain low-propensity voters, who we called “soft voters,” only turned out to vote when an issue they cared about deeply hung in the balance. Otherwise, they stayed home. Those soft voters could be the difference between carrying us to victory … or not.

How did we speak directly to these voters and ignite their motivation to get out and vote for President George W. Bush?

Well, if we combined the voter research we already had with available consumer data, we could create profiles of voters and target them on the issues they cared about most. We could market to them directly about the issues that affected them most.

Until 2004, this “targeting” innovation had never occurred on any political campaign — ever.

We innovated because we had to. It was innovate or be fired. President Bush won.

Corporate marketing operates entirely differently. When a business signs with a marketing firm, they typically sign a contract of six months to a year. For the business owner, the money they’re spending on their marketing firm is a total crapshoot.

The strategy the marketing firm comes up with might work … it might not. But they’ll get paid out on their contract either way. There’s no motivation to win. There’s no motivation to be innovative for you … which ultimately means the odds are stacked against your business growing.

In politics, we innovate because we don’t have a choice. Election Day and month-to-month contracts dictate those terms.

Ask yourself this question: Are you locked into a long-term contract with a marketing agency? If so, Fire Them Now, take back control, and change the game so you grow your bottom line before the marketing agency grows theirs.

In the coming months I’ll discuss LIE #2 in more detail: “You have to spend big on your marketing to discover what works.”


P.S. — @TheDovBaron is a legend, a top-ranked podcaster (#1 show for Fortune 500 leaders according to iTunes) and best-selling author who helps business owners go to unbelievable heights. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of business strategists. When Dov talks, the top CEOs in the world listen. We shared a truly authentic conversation about life and leadership; give it a listen here.

P.P.S. —  If you know of a friend or a colleague that would enjoy my bi-weekly updates about incredibly cool, funny and idiotic marketing ideas, please have them email me ( or sign up below:

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