I’m going to come right out and say it.
Not all digital marketing agencies are created equal.
We see plenty of new agencies popping up all over the country with regularity. Most have sharp looking websites. Some have impressive branding. Many have friendly faces smiling back at you. But how many really have what it takes to deliver you the results you need? And how can you sort the bankable businesses you can truly partner with versus the pretenders?
The Types of Digital Marketing Agencies we see in Australia
The One Man Band
We all know of someone who needed a website and decided to use their friend’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s mate who could do a great site for $499.
Well it seems as basic digital marketing touches more and more people, we are moving the same way for digital marketing agencies.
I may be a little unfair, in that description as not all one man bands are typical “backyard operations”. But therein lies the problem with a one man band, how can you tell the difference between someone who actually knows SEO or Adwords and has real life business experience in it, and someone who has watched a couple of YouTube clips and is now the new Rand Fishkin? Unfortunately, you really can’t.
One man operations are becoming increasingly popular, but they come with a number of inherent risks for the business’s who use them. I should know, because I used to be one!
1. Fulfilment vs. Selling
The reality for businesses like these is that you need to keep finding new clients to keep the dollars coming in.
There is a natural attrition in any business, and that is exacerbated when the resources to maintain relationships and fulfil the work promised is simply not there.
So we find the one man band, who usually just wants to work on his client’s sites, is forced to spend a large chunk of their time prospecting & pitching to win new clients. The result is the work for his / her existing clients suffers.
2. All your eggs in one basket
A one man band can offer a nice, close working relationship. You know who you are dealing with. You put your trust in them.
Which is great, but what happens if the relationship goes south or, heaven forbid, something happens to them and can no longer work.
Don’t roll your eyes, I know of this happening where the person concerned received a medical diagnoses that gave him months to live. Terrible for him personally, but it was also nightmare for the businesses who used him. The work stopped. Login details & accounts were lost. An entire work history effectively disappeared. Is it worth the risk for your business?
3. Skill and Knowledge Gaps
No one person is an expert across endless fields. Yet one of the common mistakes I see one man operations make is to say “yes” to everything the client asks for. I understand the need for the dollars, but every person has limits to their effectiveness.
What is your one man agency really skilled at? What are their true strengths? Where can they truly add value? They may say yes to other services but without the expertise in these areas what sort of results are you really going to be getting?
The Local Front, Off-Shore the Work Agency
As I said upfront, not all digital marketing / SEO agencies are created equal.
One of the biggest differentiators is in where the work is completed. In Australia, it’s my experience that most agencies have a local front end of sales, accounts and management staff, and an off-shore backend of technicians.
There are obvious financial benefits to the agency as the cost of employing an SEO expert or an Adwords technician in the Philippines, India or South Africa is considerably less than employing a local person. The real question is how does it really benefit you, the client? I don’t know that it does.
It’s not that there aren’t outstanding digital marketing professionals in places outside of Australia. A quick search online can confirm there are. The problem for clients of agencies that rely on offshoring is that the work is rarely completed by these individuals, but by teams.
The real issues come to bear with some of the many subtle differences between here and there. Local digital marketers understand local things, such as local suburbs, local products and brands, local markets and industries, even local vernacular. With consumers increasingly on the look out for anything that could be considered fake, there is a real risk that the disconnect between offshore and local can upset the quality of your digital marketing.
But probably of greatest concern for clients with offshore teams is the control over quality. I worked for a business that offshored many functions of our services and whilst the guys we worked with in India were great guys, I am not going to lie to you and tell you it was easy. It wasn’t. In fact, there are very real logistical issues in trying to control the quality of work across different time zones, oceans and cultures; and ultimately it ends up being the client who pays for this.
The Price Competitor
In every market there is the player who is proudly holds their position in the market based on price. “Someone has to be cheapest, so why not us!”, they say.
Sure, you can be cheapest, but you won’t be the best.
Digital marketing is labour intensive. It requires the skills and experience of digital marketing specialists to plan and execute strategies that on the surface seem straight forward, but in order to get top performing results, rarely are. You don’t get this sort of performance by paying as little as you can.
If fact, if you are shopping based on price, you need to consider what am I choosing to neglect (even risk) in order to get this price?
As I have said, not all SEO or Adwords are the same. In fact, you get what you pay for.
“So what?“, you say, “I’d rather use that money elsewhere“.
That’s your call but you need to be aware of potential downsides of such an approach.
Low quality Adwords management can destroy your quality score and have you paying increasingly more (above and beyond natural increases in cost per clicks) just to maintain your level of traffic. Low quality SEO work can jeopardise your entire online presence as a penalty from Google can effectively remove you from the search engine results over night. It’s a false economy.
Choose a digital marketing agency based on your business needs. Doing so will help you grow your business and get a healthy return on your investment. Just trying to reduce the size of your investment can just put your business at risk of greater costs down the track.
The In-House Option
When faced with the costs of employing a competent and skilled agency, some businesses do the sums and conclude it may be better to employ an in-house resource.
“We can also get them to do events / admin / IT / wash dishes / milk the cows etc.”
Sounds like a fool proof plan!
Of course I am being facetious, because in some cases businesses do go down this path. But does it make good business sense?
When you compare the skills, experience and insights a fully qualified person can bring (let a lone an averagely qualified person) versus the skills, experience and insights of a team of specialist experts it is not really a fair comparison!
The intricacies of digital marketing, the constant change, the need to evolve and adapt, plus develop and test new approaches require more than one brain. A collective approach to this will get results that a single resource simply can’t.
Attributes of a Winning Digital Agency
So what does a digital agency that gets results look like? More importantly, what should you be looking for?
I can’t stress how important experience is. Invariably digital marketing is about problem solving and overcoming plateaus in your results.
You need an experienced digital marketing team that has seen your issues before and knows exactly how to overcome them. Your business is too important for it to be used as a place for others to practice.
As the saying goes, “Don’t tell me you’re funny, tell me a joke“.
So too in digital marketing, don’t tell me how good you are, show me some of your results.
Before engaging any agency, you should be confident they have a strong track record of delivering results in an industry or environment similar to yours. If they don’t, what makes you think they are worth the risk?
Local and Available
Successful digital marketing is a partnership between you and your agency. Logistically, you need to consider how this is going to work for you. Whilst they don’t need to be in the same city as you, they certainly need to understand the market you operate in and they definitely need to be accessible to you, for communication and making sure your business goals and their activities are aligned.
Speciality / Focus
Talking of alignment, do the strengths of your agency fit the needs of your digital marketing? In a world where everyone is a digital marketing expert, ask your agency what their primary focus is.
Unfortunately, SEO or Adwords as an add-on service has contributed to many a disappointed client. Why? Because the level of skill and focus is simply not there. Choose an agency that focuses and specialises in the services you need, not in the ones you don’t.
Size is as much about risk mitigation as it is about diversity of expertise. Both matter and so you need to consider the size and financial viability of your agency. Biggest is not necessarily best, but if one person were suddenly to fall over, how would it affect your business? It’s a very real question you should consider.
Are you looking for a Premium Digital Agency in Australia?
I have a very clear recommendation of who you need to speak to.
(It’s at this point I should put up my disclaimer, as I am about to recommend my employer – but hopefully by now you can see I have good reason to!)
If you are after a premium service, with an unsurpassed track record in the industry over the past 20 years, at the very least you need to look at Bonfire.
If you are not serious about growing your business or if you do not have a proven business then Bonfire is probably not the agency for you. But if you are, then I would love to speak to you about how we can help you achieve your business goals through your digital channels.
Please leave me your details below and I will gladly be in touch to discuss what we can achieve for you.