There’s an interesting Ted Talk about 10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation where the number two lesson is, “Don’t pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response, or argument, or pushback, or growth, write a blog.” So, in the spirit of pontificating, I’m going to attempt to answer the question, “What can a marketing agency do for me that I can’t do for myself?”
(Don’t get me wrong, I welcome any and all conversation about online marketing. But give a mook a bullhorn and well, you kinda want to let them run with it.)
Water Cooler Psychology
We get a lot of requests for quotes. Ensuing conversations involve some back-and-forth about needs, goals, and anything under the sun related to promoting a small business. You learn to recognize excuses when the conversation turns from, “How ‘bout them Oilers” to, “I’ll get back to you.”
Was it something we said? Something we didn’t say? Too much hockey talk?
Naw, it was the money.
Other observations we make, center around small business owners whose operating priorities don’t include marketing as an essential business expense. Sure enough though, when you remove money from the equation, those web design and marketing priorities quickly find their way to the front of the queue.
After a few gatherings around the water cooler, we wondered why business owners seem to feel hobbled by the thought of spending money on developing their online presence. After all, how do they expect to attract customers if they don’t promote their business? (This is a hard thing for a digital marketing agency to wrap their head around.)
Water Cooler Hypothesis
Apart from the fact that prospective clients don’t know us on an already personal level, we speculated that there are three reasons why they might be slow to swipe right on us:
1. Lack of trust. Not the I-believe-you-know-what-you’re-doing kind of trust, but rather, trusting us to make their business uniquely special. The kind of “special” that money alone can’t buy.
2. Lack of information. I don’t mean details. I’m talking about options – the kind that help you make educated decisions by forcing you to choose between great and less-great scenarios.
In the digital marketing world, options encourage you to look beyond your present situation, see the bigger picture, and purposely choose something that will attain better-than-current outcomes (kind of like the alternate endings for the movie, Clue, except maybe not like that at all).
3. Lack of vision. On the coattails of making informed choices for better outcomes, psychologist and happiness expert (for real), Dan Gilbert suggests that we make bad decisions because of our inability to look at future events from a farsighted lens.
We actually see this a lot – no matter how much you try to tell a client about trends, outcomes, and hockey sticks (the financial kind), if they can’t imagine it, it won’t make sense to act on that vision. Without the foresight to imagine where you’ll be in 6-12 months, there’s little motivation to move forward.
The Nitty Gritty
Convinced that an act of indecision is nothing personal, we leaned on our innate obsession to analyze the bejeebers out of almost anything and looked at the stats.
Contrary to all semblance of reason, there’s a significant amount of small business owners who intentionally avoid any form of marketing (source: Fundera):
- 1 in 5 small businesses don’t utilize digital (online) marketing
- 1 in 10 small businesses don’t invest in any kind of marketing
Of equal concern is the knowledge that of the small businesses that attempt to market on their own, roughly half are challenged by budget and time constraints (source: Fundera).
- 47% of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own
- Almost half of small businesses spend less than two hours per week on marketing efforts
Because these kinds of stats seem to encourage the DIY-approach to digital marketing, I feel inclined to touch on a couple of small details.
The DIY Mindset
First, digital marketing is the sum of many moving parts. It requires imagination, a modicum of tech savvy, an awareness of what works, what’s trending, and who’s listening. It’s also about simultaneously creating a multitude of variants across multiple channels using multiple resources in the attempt to resonate with specific segments of your market. And they all have to be done in harmony, within a relatively short window of each other.
So unless your superpower is being a full stack marketer or you have a genetic propensity to quickly learn anything (in this case, the must-have tech skills that every digital marketer should know), reaching your client base can be an ongoing source of frustration with little time for the day-to-day of managing your own business.
Second, I concede that nothing is so magical that it can’t be managed by one person. But because of the sheer quantity of things-to-do, these tasks can quickly become overwhelming for one person to master effectively. Very few business owners excel at running their business and successfully marketing it. (We call those people, unicorns.)
For the DIY-minded business owner, time is a killer. In the time it takes to learn necessary marketing skills, prospects will have moved on. And no amount of money saved will replace those lost opportunities.
I’m not saying that it can’t be done. In fact, many an entrepreneur has built a kingdom on a shoestring. But the sacrifices tend to go much deeper than a billfold.
The Agency Model
At Elite Digital Marketing, we strive to present options during those early conversations in the effort to break down these many moving parts.
The thinking is, if we can foster trust, educate our clients, and help them form healthy expectations about reaching their online business goals, they’ll look at the whole digital marketing experience with a fresh set of eyes. And priorities.
That’s not to say that they can’t get there on their own. But a good digital marketing agency can strategically position any small business in the midst of a competitive landscape with much less effort. And help them stay there.
We can say that because it’s what we do on a regular basis. We also have the advantage of utilizing enterprise-level marketing resources that are otherwise cost-prohibitive to smaller businesses. The short list includes:
- Resource licensing (stock images/video, image editors, SaaS’s and APIs)
- SEO tools (website audits, competitive research, niche/keyword discovery)
- Social media promotion tools (influencer discovery/outreach, AI content generators and schedulers)
- Communication tools (autoresponders, funnel marketing)
- Industry-level enterprise subscriptions (datasets and research publications)
This doesn’t include the added luxury of drawing from an experienced pool of multidisciplinary polymaths from every facet of the digital marketing spectrum in order to orchestrates projects on a level that would make Bugs Bunny proud.
Conservatively speaking, that pool of expertise includes anything from branding, website design, SEO, PPC, competitive research, influencer discovery, lead generation, organic traffic strategies, social marketing, graphic design, you get the idea.
There’s also the benefit (to the client) of not dealing with ever-changing technical barriers. And let’s not forget about the intangibles – multiple sets of eyes, collective years of experience, peer-to-peer brainstorming, shared woes and coffee breaks, and the occasional bring-your-dog-to-work day. And all of it for a single outcome. Your outcome.
Working with an agency allows the average bear to play in the same sandbox that the heavyweights do, in return for a proportional per capita stake. Whereas bootstrapped DIY businesses seeking to gain a competitive advantage over their competitor(s) without these out-of-reach resources, face an uphill battle.
We exist to alleviate that struggle.
I realize there are many other factors in play that I didn’t touch on, but I hope there was a smidgeon of value in this exercise, and I invite you to leave your thoughts below.
At the end of the day, try to think of your marketing expense as taking on a business partner – someone who has already invested in the tools (so you don’t have to) to further your business and who measures their success by your success.
Alternatively, if I could leave you with any advice in doing your own online marketing, it would be, “Never buy anything from the guy who starts off with, “psst.” #worstadvice