The Pros & Cons Of Hiring A Digital Marketing Agency
In this article, I’ll explain the pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing company and more importantly when businesses should NOT engage a marketing company. Most agencies in Australia and New Zealand will happily take your money. After all, it helps them pay their overheads, their wages and coffee expenses 😉 But if we’re focusing on what’s best for you, the client, online marketing efforts aren’t always your best investment. We’ll discuss the benefits of hiring an agency versus a freelancer and nailing your online marketing strategies.
Let’s start with start-up businesses.
Should new businesses hire a digital marketing company?
It’s not wrong to hire a digital agency, and what I’m about to write will be a controversial opinion, but if you’re a brand new business, Thinkroom usually wouldn’t work with you. It’s rare that we’ll work with a start-up company.
We get approached by start-up businesses all the time. The business owner is looking for the magic bullet to get the business off the ground, make sales, and fingers crossed. It’s a happily ever after scenario. But here’s the problem – the business hasn’t proven itself. The products haven’t proven they’re saleable yet and the business owner will have invested tens of thousands into what we’d call a “gamble”.
If you’re a brand new business, you’ll have a disadvantage in the digital marketers‘ world, so why invest $30,000 into a business that’s untested and will take time to gain momentum? Marketers will argue that keyword research tells the story, showing the demand from Google users searching for the products or services you’re selling. And they’re not wrong, but until you have the business established and a history of repeat sales, you don’t 100% know if your business model is sustainable.
In fact, you can do everything right digitally, but your potential customers might not like the products you make. They might not like your service, the way you look, or maybe there’s too much competition in your area.
New entrepreneurs are often throwing their life-savings into their marketing efforts, which can end in heart-ache if things don’t go as planned. They’ll need a website, a local Google listing, they’ll need ads, a little basic SEO and a social media presence to get established at the very least. Now don’t get me wrong, a new business needs these things, and you should absolutely invest in these items, but rather than jumping balls-deep into a contract with a professional marketing firm, it might be more cash-flow friendly to start selling your products in a different way.
How to test a business model
This opinion comes from a place of protecting your bank account. It’s a “crawl before you walk” approach. Experienced business owners might be happy to throw a reasonable budget at their marketing team to speed the process up, but if you’re new to building an empire, here are a few ways to test the market.
Test Offline With A Lower Investment
If you’re selling a product, can you sell it at a market as a test? It seems small-fry, but selling your items at a market will validate their saleability. Do people actually like the items you’re selling? More importantly, do you get repeat customers? If you’re selling organic coffee beans, and people don’t return to buy more, then the flavour isn’t that good. If you had taken the digital approach and hired an agency to manage a UX/UI design of a website, the development, and targeted Google ads, as well as remarketing, then you would be learning the same lesson that people don’t like your products, but you would have spent a significant amount more.
If you’re selling food, and you’re thinking of getting a shop, then make a note of what time of day you make sales. If no-one buys your delicious, but greasy potato twister until 11am, then you have 3 hours of no-sales. And what’s more, you’ll probably discover that potato twisters are a novelty, not a daily purchase from consumers. Your model has flaws and the shop you’re about to sign the lease for is going to hurt your wallet.
Do People Know They Want It?
If you’ve developed a great new fitness product that’s superior and proven to get better results, it doesn’t guarantee people want it. Or what’s more likely is that they don’t know that they want it, which makes your marketing communication a whole lot more complex. If people aren’t aware, and they don’t even know to search for it, then you’ll need to dive into awareness campaigns before your traditional conversion campaigns. Creating awareness isn’t cheap, it’s an investment, and it doesn’t guarantee that consumers will buy.
You can have all the studies in the world to prove the benefits of your product, but if it doesn’t sell offline, then your product isn’t going to perform in an eCommerce environment either. Testing offline also helps you calibrate price-point, measure your most popular version. You’ll get feedback on what can be improved.
This all seems logical, and you may think your product is the latest and greatest, but it’s easy to make these mistakes. Crawling before walking never hurts.
Buying A Business With Domain Authority
If you’re acquiring an existing business with a solid sales history, then you’ve got legacy data that proves there’s a solid market for you to take advantage of. An agency will also have more success with an established business. Why? There’s something called “domain authority” which is a search engine optimisation factor. Domain authority is a trust score. It’s how much Google trusts the authenticity and quality of your domain. A brand new business starts with a DA of 0 out of 100, and it’s a slow grind to get Google to trust you.
Trust is built by having active social media channels, time in the industry, a website that’s built correctly, a website that converts, regular customer reviews, blog articles from industry experts etc. and although you can hire an agency to fast-track these trust signals, time in the industry carries the most weight. Well, at least that’s our observation. Hiring an agency after you have already built momentum will have far more impact. It’s a better bang for your buck.
If you buy a business with a terrible website, but it’s been around for 30 years. There’s a high chance you’ll have a reasonable domain authority. To put it simply, what this means is that the SEO efforts from marketers are going to get faster results.
You can do the same marketing techniques for a business at a different stage of its life, and get vastly different results. Buying a business gives you momentum. Starting a business requires you to create something from nothing.
Choosing The Right Agency At The Right Time
We’ve now determined that a little “time in the game” is your greatest weapon, and although starting a business and building your marketing tools correctly from the get-go is always the best option in theory, it’s not the best option if you have limited funds. Cash can be thought of as the blood of your business and if you run out, well, you die. Marketing in-house while you’re setting the foundations isn’t a bad thing. If you do ask an agency to help, choosing the right agency makes all the difference.
The right agency will;
- Be conscious of your cash flow.
- Will want to row you in stages so your operations can handle the increase in volumes.
- Start by spending several hours with you to develop a detailed, effective digital marketing strategy.
- Not make promises about how many leads you’ll get.
- Not put you in a fixed-term contract.
- Suggest a win/win commission partnership.
- Offer a well-rounded approach for your business and digital PR, rather than just offering Google ads.
- Do the right thing by you, even if it’s saying no to engaging your business as a client.
- Use the right marketing tools, whereas freelancers often don’t spend the money or know about them.
Often Thinkroom will say no to clients because their businesses haven’t matured to a point of validity. Or if a business is failing, and it’s the director’s last hope to get things back on track.
It’s not a “no” indefinitely, it’s a “not at this time”. You can have the right business and the right entrepreneurial ingredients, but the wrong timing. Ethically, it’s not always right to take a client on, so we give them the best advice and direction we can, instead.
Remember, cash is blood. When you’re starting a business, you need to spend your funds wisely. You only get one chance.
Pros Of Hiring A Digital Agency
Working with an agency can undoubtedly put you ahead of the competition. Here’s a quick list of the advantages of hiring a digital marketing team.
- You’ll get all the fundamentals put in place that you need to build an online presence.
- You’ll get a clear strategy with a focus on the big picture business goals.
- You’ll get an accurate marketing budget and timeline, which helps with forecasting.
- Your content marketing will be planned, scheduled, and purposeful.
- Senior industry experience, allowing you to avoid mistakes and leapfrog your competition.
- An agency knows what commonly works, and what doesn’t.
- You’ll build a lead generation model that’s able to increase your flow of leads at any time.
- You’ll be more likely to have success with online advertising campaigns.
- Conversion rates are likely to be higher with detailed analytics reporting.
- You’ll build a better online presence, both for your personal and for the company’s reputation.
- Your business will be more saleable, because it removes you personally from being the main revenue earner.
- It’s cheaper than hiring an in-house team or an internal marketing coordinator.
- It’s a decision you can reverse if you don’t get the results you’re expecting, whereas an employee is harder to exit.
- You may get offered a partnership agreement to scale your business.
- An agency can help you with market research.
- Any marketing campaign will be in-line with your overall strategy.
- Consistent website support.
Cons of hiring a marketing agency
The disadvantages of hiring digital marketing agencies include:
- There’s an investment required before you start making sales.
- No-one has a crystal ball and can predict your success rates.
- The industry is renowned for having smooth-talking cowboys that make empty promises.
- It’s not ideal if you’re under cash flow restraints.
- It’s not right for start-up businesses unless you have sufficient capital and understand the risks.
- It’s not guaranteed to give you fast results.
- Talented freelances cost less, although they don’t have the same skill-sets and expertise.
- Most agencies outsource to freelancers and mark-up the costs significantly, although the brief is often what’s important.
All-in-all, working with a digital advertising company for your marketing activities is going to be beneficial. Timing when you hire them, in relation to cash flow, is the key.
Pros of hiring a freelancer
- Often their rates are cheaper vs an agencies’ cost.
- Freelance digital marketers are often the most talented in their niche.
- You can become their best customer easily.
Cons of hiring a freelancer
- You get a limited skill-set.
- You don’t get consistency across your entire marketing efforts.
- They may not be up to date with the latest technologies and tools, being independent.
- They’re task driven, not strategically driven.
- They have sick days which can bring your momentum to a halt.
- Loss of information if they switch careers.
- Loss of information if they don’t store your digital assets effectively.
- Reliability when they become overloaded in work.
Pros of hiring a marketing team in-house
Using an external agency vs hiring in-house is always a good discussion. The pros of bringing your digital marketing in-house includes;
- You don’t have to wait in line behind a queue of customers to get your tasks completed.
- You can ask them to tackle tasks that aren’t solely marketing related.
- Brand consistency.
- You control their deadlines.
Disadvantages of hiring an in-house marketing team
Potential disadvantages of hiring internal marketing coordinators include;
- The cost of an employee often exceeds the investment into an external agency.
- You won’t get the same depth of experience in an employee that you will form a collective of senior marketers.
- You’ll probably distract them with mundane tasks that they shouldn’t be doing.
- They’re unlikely to keep up-to-date with the latest industry tools and trends.
- Employee complacency.
- You won’t get an advisory board.
All in all, the answer to whether you should engage an online marketing agency depends on the depth of your pockets, your appetite for risk, and if you’re experienced in business. We have success stories with inexperienced business owners in start-up mode, but they’ve had funding to back themselves and the evidence that the market needs their services. So if you’ve got the money, go for it. Hire an agency, it’s the smartest thing to do, providing you see it as an investment for the first 6-12 months.
If you’re measuring an immediate return, your thinking needs to be calibrated to understanding there’s set-up that needs to occur.
If, however, you’re starting a business with limited funds, the best advice we can give you is to keep your job while running the business part-time. Work hard on getting social activity, a website, reviews in place, and wait a year until the business matures and has proved its viability.
Hiring an online marketing team is going to give you the best results, without a doubt, but don’t gamble your life-savings on it. Test, validate, mature, and only then engage.
If you’ve managed to read this to the very end, perhaps I’ve helped you make a better decision and you’ll now spend your marketing dollar more wisely. If that’s the case, and we’ve added value, please take a minute to give us a great review. You can do it here.
Over & Out
Ash Horton – Thinkroom.