*This article contains real unfortunate events that actually happened.  The names of individuals and companies have been changed in this article to protect the innocent, the not so innocent and the just plain ignorant for not reading their contract.  

Take a look at the statement below – would you agree to these terms?  

XXX Digital shall own and retain all rights to any and all programming source code, software, technology, concepts, ideas, designs and other work, materials and information the creation or development of which predate this Agreement, including all modifications thereto made during the term hereof (the “Pre-existing Material”).  

If your answer is a resounding “no”, “No way”, “Heck no” or “Are you f*cking kidding me?”  Then good for you.  Not only do you possess common sense and a fifth grade reading level but you understand that when you hire someone to do a job for you – you should own the intellectual property that not only they create for you but also what you owned before they were hired.  

The clause above is used by one of the most successful Social Media Marketing firms in the US.  One of the things that the above statement allows them to do is to not only get access to your company’s private data but to sell it to your competitors.  If you think that this may be cause for litigation you would be wrong because the same contract includes an iron clad indemnification agreement.  

I recently took a meeting with President and CEO Richard Profit* – owner of Introspekt VAR Software.  Richard informed me that he had (3) three companies taking care of his digital needs;

  • A Website Design shop – his site was circa 2003
  • A sales closing company
  • A sales lead generation company which operated by using Digital marketing

Richard informed me that he was happy with all but the sales closing company – they just couldn’t get the job done.  Everything was managed by the Social Media marketing firm based in Texas called Sales Machines International (SMI) who had Richard fly out to their studio in Austin to periodically record YouTube videos.  How much more legit can you get?

My team dug into all aspects of his digital presence and found…. Nothing.  In the (4) four years Richard had been with SMI they had managed to do the bare minimum for him.  

  • Twitter followers – only 200 with zero engagements and 1 post per week
  • FaceBook – only 67 likes with 1 post per week, again zero engagements
  • Blog – 1 per month, most under 250 words, so they were never indexed by Google
  • Newsletter – All content was taken from major periodicals, no original content
  • YouTube – all those great videos Richard made – zero views

I then checked out SMI’s page to find more of the same, hardly any social media presence – this would explain why they couldn’t deliver for their clients, clearly they had no time to deliver for themselves.  

My team presented all the facts to Richard in a conference call.  We then walked him through an online presentation proving to him this equation.

More relevant connections + More engagements + Relevant content = more sales

It was at that time that Richard confided in us that he had just signed a two year renewal agreement with SMI and that they held all of his existing collateral (4 years worth) in a database that they controlled, yet he paid for.  They informed him that they would not do a data dump and essential forbid him access to his own intellectual property.  How could this happen you may ask?  Please reference the second paragraph of this post and you will quickly understand that Richard locked himself into an expensive no-win situation.  Richard closed out with me with a call assuring me that he spoke to SMI and that they are going to do more for him.  That call was four months ago – Richard now has:

  • Twitter followers – 201 with zero engagements and 1 post per week
  • FaceBook – 67 likes with 1 post per week, again zero engagements
  • Blog – 1 per month, most under 250 words, so they are never indexed by Google
  • Newsletter – All content was taken from major periodicals, no original content
  • YouTube – zero views

In short – read your contract before signing.  Make sure you don’t give away your own intellectual property and most importantly – partner with a firm that WANTS you to succeed.