Does it seem to you that online and inbound marketing is moving rather quickly – like nearly light speed?
Let’s drift back in time in just one area – social media. Remember the “good old days” back in 2009 when, in terms of a mainstream marketer’s focus, only Twitter and Facebook really mattered?
The number of social media channels to at least consider tracking these days has grown to include Google+ and YouTube. Oh, and please include LinkedIn. And add Pinterest to the list.
As you think about sorting out and prioritizing your company’s social media channels alone, you begin to understand why a little advice or external expertise might be helpful.
Cue the digital marketing agency, a rapidly growing phenomenon in the digital marketing ecosystem. If you lift your head from your screen, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.
What follows are five reasons why digital marketing agencies are booming – but this list could easily grow by another 10 or 15 items.
Given the number of different digital channels and tactics emerging, most companies don’t have resources to cover all these programs.
An agency can look at specific objectives and help prioritize which channels to focus on. Since they generally have a methodology for evaluating many different client-types, prioritization of programs is an area where they are supporting more companies every week.
Marketing is becoming like medicine: few generalists, a lot of specialists.
Marketing prior to web 2.0 was (relatively) easy. Programs were a short list including direct mail, events, print ads, and if the budget was present, some “above-the-line” marketing campaigns like radio and television.
Today companies are looking at email, SEO, PPC, SEM, inbound marketing third party content, all social media channels, daily deals, webinars, infographics, slideshare, etc. No one person can be the expert of all those digital marketing channels as the industry becomes more granular and specialist-driven.
In this environment, agencies can provide expertise for specific channels or create a program that is a rifle shot at a target market rather than a spray-and-pray shotgun blast.
Competition today is coming in all shapes, sizes, and locations.
Before the Internet era, competition was often right across the street. Today, competition is no longer restricted to location.
A given company might be fighting a global competitor focusing on localized search in their home metro area or region, or want to get to their competitor’s home turf.
Agencies, because they work with multiple clients, have the ability to keep their knowledge current and competitive tactics razor sharp. These quick-witted skills are increasingly valued, because in today’s industry, a company is either the predator or the prey.
4. Long Tail
The abundance of low cost SaaS solutions and “cheap” infrastructure cost makes the barrier to entry fairly low for small new agencies. That generally means a local agency with a very low cost structure.
As an example, some agencies provide digital marketing managed services to a small chain of nail salons or a towing company. They do so within a cost envelope to compete with replacing yellow pages ads.
The term “digital marketing agency” no longer applies to just the big guys like WPP or Publicis. There are local agencies today which can meet the needs of small businesses within nearly any budget.
With larger marketing spend going to digital every year, more scrutiny from above will inherently come with it.
Agencies traditionally are held more accountable for specific results in comparison to internal marketing departments. As a result, they generally have more consistent metrics and reporting paradigms to measure programs and justify budget commitments. That’s mighty valuable to the VP of Marketing/CMO who wants a partner in those negotiations with the CFO.
4 Reasons You Might Need an Agency
Here are four specific reasons why an agency might be of help to you and your marketing department.
- You’re a marketing athlete – what we call an “I wear a lot of hats” marketer. But you may want to have an agency partner that can put more focus on a specific program or two while you play general contractor. Social media programs and content generation or link building are some areas where an agency can focus while still tying into your overall SEM/SEO strategy.
- Have you ever hired a full-time employee for a specific need and then realized six months later that you really just needed that one project done and now you’re stuck with an underutilized, bored resource? A project like site redesign, SEO revamp, or targeted social media campaign lasting six months or less is a great place to slot in an agency for targeted support that can be wound down when the project is complete.
- These days, you probably hear or read about a program at least a couple of times a month that you would consider testing if the bandwidth and expertise was available. It might be something like tying together an email campaign to a specific soft-ask on a customized landing page, or parallel processing some paid placements with increased activity on a specific social media channel. You should be able to find an agency with the specific expertise you need to run an experiment within a timeline and budget envelope that meets your requirements.
- Often marketers are graded just on a specific result like leads per quarter or traffic numbers. The executive team and CEO may not care how you achieve those results. Depending on your internal staffing, it may be easier to manage to your targeted results but let an agency create a set of interwoven campaigns to achieve your results. In this way, you get the digital marketing agency’s specific expertise tied with the results you need internally while preserving some of your time, since less of your elbow grease is required.
Regardless of whether you decide to work with an agency now or in the future, get used to them. Given the pace of change in online and digital marketing, agencies will only grow in numbers and services they provide to their clients.