What would you do if all your digital lead generation disappeared now?

What if you were locked out of your website, digital advertising accounts, or social media accounts?

What if the phone numbers you use for tracking calls were redirected to your competitors ?

Or maybe the agency you hired is underperforming, but you have no way out of paying them extortionary fees.

These things happen all too often. Yet business owners don’t share this publicly because they’re frustrated, trapped or even ashamed.

You Need a Hostage Prevention Plan

First steps: walk yourself through the following safety checklist. If you don’t know the answer, find out who does.

And make sure you have control of it as the business owner.

  • Who has access to your website (maybe WordPress or other content management system)? Are you an administrator?
  • Who has access to your website’s host (what server is the website sitting on)? Who controls the administration of your business email accounts?
  • Who has access to recent backups? There are backups, right?
  • Who has access to your ads? To Google AdWords? To Social Media ads? To third-party lead generation providers?
  • Who has access to your business analytics and financial data?
  • Who has access to your Google Business Page? Apple Business account?
  • Who has access to your Google Search Console and Bing accounts?
  • Who has access to your Google Analytics accounts?
  • Who has access to all of your domains and their settings?
  • Who has access to the settings for the phone numbers you use for your business?
  • Who has access to your ServiceTitan or other customer and staff records?
  • Who has access, rights and permissions to all your photography, logos, videos, etc.

You might consider a business level password manager such as Dashlane for Business.

You need to create a plan of what happens when someone is no longer working for you. A disgruntled employee, senior executive, outside consultant or agency – all of these are danger points.

What happens if someone tries to remove themselves by locking you out? You want to kick them out before they can lock you out. And if they lock you out, then you need to have the legal documentation for these accounts so that you can get them back.

Audit this regularly. Make sure no one has control but you.

Don’t let these stories happen to you

Wizard of Ads partners work with many home service companies. Consider these three cautionary tales.

Story I – Fraud – 4 months to fix, ~$60K in fees, and unknown lost profits

The business owner initially hired Agency A to build and manage their website. Afterwards, they switched to Agency B. However, Agency B’s work was also poor. Agency B claimed to take over hosting. Frustrated, the owner sought help from a Wizard of Ads partner to regain control of their website and assets. During this process, the website mysteriously went down, and Agency B falsely asserted that they had transferred the website to a new company. After days of downtime, they revealed that Agency A had never handed over hosting to Agency B, despite the owner having paid them. In fact, Agency A had secretly been hosting the website for two years. The Wizard partner intervened, restored the website, and transferred control to the owner. Fortunately, they created a backup beforehand. After fifteen hours of work, the partner successfully fixed the issues, thus averting the need for a new website.

Story II – Hostage taking – 3 months to fix, $220K in fees, and ~$500K in lost profits

Another home service company had a falling out with the marketing agency who had caused a loss of $1.5 million in revenue. The agency then held the company’s accounts hostage, demanding over $100,000 before access would be restored. The home service company paid half that amount to regain control of ~75% of their accounts and had to recreate everything else. The agency then created fake Google My Business accounts, listing themselves as the owner, and used the company’s tracking numbers to forward calls to competitors. Our partner regained control, but it was costly.

Story III – Non-performance – 19 months no results, ~$350K in fees and lost profit unknown

A large home services company hired a digital marketing agency very well known in the industry. They contracted to handle their website, leads, SEO, pay-per-click, and social media advertising based on its reputation. Unfortunately the contract lacked specific details about the services that would be provided, and the mis-matched expectations and the agency’s performance frustrated the owner. A Wizard partner helped the owner compile and catalog a list of accounts, and created backups. Before the owner ended the agency’s services, they removed access to all digital accounts. This ensured that they easily transferred the website, before any incident could occur.

Forewarned is forearmed

We hope you never encounter such situations. Please take the time to gain control over all your accounts, passwords, permissions, and regularly conduct audits. Running a business is hard enough without becoming a digital hostage.

One of our partners, Vi Wickam, has created a valuable resource to help you out: