Once a month or so I freshen up my digital skills with a training course or two. Even if you think you know everything on this ever-changing subject it’s always nice to get a new perspective. Invariably the audience is full of fresh-faced young marketeers trying to discover the silver bullet, a number of confused business owners and a few old wrinklies like myself. These events, normally about half a day's worth, generally start with a show of hands in response to a question – presumably to provide the speaker with a little audience context. Does everyone know what a ‘no follow’ link is? How many data miners have we got here today? What’s a body part that you wouldn’t mind losing? I always put my hand up to show inclusiveness but you need to listen to the questions carefully otherwise you can quite easily get saddled with the vegetarian option for lunch.
Anyway back to digital marketing and specifically digital agencies. After another day spent listening and absorbing "how to" messages I was, at least, very impressed with the course leader who actually could listen to and answer questions in simple English. He was clearly a bright and articulate individual and was very interested to know how he could communicate better with his prospective customers. So I told him - just keep the messages, pitch and deliverables in the same format – simple, understandable features and benefits.
My problem with digital marketing agencies is that many seem to be caught up in conversing in marketing speak to the utter confusion of the most important person in the room – the customer. Now, having been on the wrong end of a few rogue agencies myself – “just pay me a large retainer and I will tell you the time at regular intervals”- it is very clear to me that less is often more. So please don’t come to me with a bewildering array of digital-eeze. Just tell me how I can get more web traffic to my site (s), how you are going to deliver it and how much it costs. Even a Luddite like me knows that more traffic = more conversions = more revenue. So if you just boil it down to “Kipling’s 6 Wisemen” – gentlemen, we have a winner.
The main question to which I am always keen to know the answer is "do I need a digital agency or can I do it ‘in-house’?". The answer is, sadly, never clear-cut as anyone seriously looking to scale their business will probably need both. Any marketing director worth his/her salt will know that they cannot do it all themselves and will need the help of an agency. Proper marketing, even on a small scale, is expensive and to do everything in-house will cost you a fortune – even before you get that first extra click. The licensing fees alone that some of these agencies invest in for software are astronomical and their range of skills and expertise is something that is very hard for SMEs to replicate. Like everything in business it is about getting the right team in place – and that goes doubly for hiring a marketing agency.
Before engaging with a agency just ensure that you have an outline plan of what you want to achieve – which should include goals, objectives, timescales and of course expected results. Your chosen agency should be able to tell you – in English – how they are going give the results that you need. If they can’t and all you get back is lots of prevarication and bluster – you have obviously got the wrong one. Have a budget in mind - you can share it if you like – but ultimately be clear about the results you want. Payment by results is even better.
Finally – and very dear to my heart here – is how do I avoid making a cock-up? I believe this all goes back to your needs and requirements list – you are the customer and therefore always right. Be clear, concise and set out what you want in no uncertain terms. There are plenty of fish in sea so if you don’t get the answers you need first time just keep casting your line.