Key West with a glimpse of Sunset Key
Photo Credit: Valerie Jennings – Ancona 2018
Often decision-makers at companies think it’s best to maintain all of their marketing in-house, but there are a lot of benefits to outsourcing to a boutique-style agency. From publicly traded to startup companies, brands large and small can reap the rewards of working with the right agency. The costs alone of outsourcing versus hiring internally are immense, not to mention the fact that you can forgo health insurance and all of the other financial obligations that come with full-time hires.
Additionally, working with an agency allows you to diversify your opportunities instead of investing in one or two people. For example, an agency may have many experts on staff. At our agency, JSMM+VBM, we have content marketers, videographers/photographers, copy editors, SEO specialists, creative experts, paid media/advertising strategists, email marketers, web developers and more. It’s next to impossible to find all of these attributes in one or two people.
When Should You Retain An Agency?
An agency should be retained when the costs of doing social media, content marketing, email marketing, advertising, web development, SEO, etc. in-house are causing either operational or financial strain on your business. For example, if the senior leadership team is doing any of these things and/or they are not an expert in it or their time would be better served doing something else, this should be outsourced. Additionally, if these tasks have been delegated to an admin person or an intern, you should definitely consult with an agency.
The agency should set creative, strategic, lead generation and other digital standards for your organization. The value their team brings is the knowledge of how to grow your business and the technological ideas that come with their expertise. When you delegate complex tasks like how to set up infrastructure, CRM systems, sales processes, consulting and other tactical resources to an entry-level person, you fast-track your brand to fail. Digital marketing is not something you check off your list but is instead a long-term investment to grow your brand, sales, leads and SEO footprint.
How Should You Hold An Agency Accountable?
A full-service digital marketing agency should be able to provide reports demonstrating opportunities for your business. Typically, our agency schedules an initial kickoff meeting with the senior leadership team to understand the challenges and opportunities for the client. Sometimes companies have a damaged brand through negative reviews or are lacking a sales process. These big hurdles have to be addressed before you can start driving leads. B2B versus B2C brands have different challenges and financial goals to evaluate. B2B companies need SEO, email marketing support, content and a strong business development system. B2C brands can generate sales via digital ads but also need to make sure their brand is established and need budgets for influencer marketing programs. There is no magic recipe for any one brand, so any agency selling templated processes or content to you is not going to solve your big problems. The best agencies pivot, bring good ideas to the table, test campaigns, cultivate leads and help you customize your programs.
How To Work With An Agency
It’s important that clients be equal participants at the table and have reasonable expectations for the agencies they retain. For example, if your business has minimal web traffic and you tell the agency you want leads, then you need to start at the very beginning to solve the first problem. Some questions to evaluate: Why doesn’t your website have traffic? What’s going on with your brand? Have you listened to the recommendations of the agency to fix some of your branding issues upfront and/or are you cutting corners?
If you have never generated a lead through your website and your business development person is underqualified or a friend of yours, then you cannot shift blame to the agency to solve your backend problems. Furthermore, try to educate yourself about digital marketing so you can ask the right questions and have an idea of what brands, brand voice, styling and messaging you like. However, if you are a novice in the digital space, then your lack of knowledge could actually harm your digital marketing efforts if you are unwilling to take constructive feedback from the agency.
For example, there are best practices established in the industry. Email marketing, landing pages for ads campaigns, social media, content development, etc. have been around long enough that there is data and research to support doing things a specific and right way. In these particular cases, clients should defer to the agency they have retained to help them make critical decisions. Ultimately, if you have hired an expert or agency that has demonstrated thought leadership in a particular domain, their recommendations should help you save time and money by utilizing best practices.
The Digital Divide – A Learning Curve
The digital divide is immense between some clients and agencies thanks to the third wave of marketing technology (MarTech). Yes, the agency should help the client understand these emerging technologies and make recommendations, but the client needs to be receptive to listening and learning. Even if you do not feel you can afford or are ready for it, always be open to hearing new ideas to continue to encourage your agency to present new ways for you to grow your business. It should be a standard practice to have an information exchange. If clients are not open to learning or say they only want to hear certain things, they will pigeonhole their agency from helping the business evolve. In other words, be careful what you wish for, or you could stand in the way of your own success.
Get Started With A Digital Audit
Last but not least, if you represent or own a large or small brand, start with a digital marketing audit to help you understand your brand’s footprint, competitor landscape, keywords and best opportunities to market your brand and generate sales. Our agency provides these audits for a reasonable cost, and it helps to clarify the strategy, expectations and goals. This is also a low-cost investment to see how the agency is going to perform and present ideas to you. We try to encourage clients to do periodic audits at our agency to make sure things have not changed too much over time, especially for our clients who have been with us for seven-plus years.
Reach out to me with any questions regarding what to look for in your next agency!