A common question asked by business owners who are considering hiring a marketing agency is "why shouldn't I just do this myself?"
It's an interesting question: after all, we’re inundated with marketing on a non-stop basis, so we all think we know what “good” marketing should look like. In addition, common marketing tactics – including social media – are a part of most of our personal lives, resulting in a certain level of proficiency on major marketing channels. We couldn’t blame anyone for thinking that they could figure out how to market their business on their own.
While social posts, email blasts and blog updates may seem like territory that is manageable without outside help, I'd like to discuss the aspects of marketing that are often forgotten or unknown to those who are not responsible for marketing on a day-in, day-out basis, to help you better decide if you should hire a marketing agency.
What Agencies Have That Your Internal Marketing Doesn’t: Experience and Resources
Hiring a marketing agency is a strategic decision. It’s like having a fully-staffed marketing department for your company at a fraction of the cost. When you hire an agency, you suddenly have a team of strategists, designers, writers and more at your disposal, all of whom are experienced and immersed in the world of marketing.
With a team like that, you'll be able to draw on the experience each member brings. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a group of individuals with a variety of marketing experience on your side. More experience means a greater of variety of campaigns worked on, a greater understanding of what "works" and what doesn't and a greater ability to think strategically about ways to communicate your message and solve those difficult, pesky marketing issues that aren't always so straightforward.
Agencies typically also have more resources at their disposal than a small business has in-house. For example, at Simple Machines, we have access to powerful marketing automation tools like HubSpot, the Adobe Creative Cloud design software suite, and tracking tools such as Clicky and Hosted Numbers. When you rely on a marketing agency instead of purchasing and using these tools in-house, you get to enjoy their output at a reduced cost, while also eliminating the time needed to learn how to actually use them.
Agencies also provide resources that go beyond tools. These resources can take the form of connections to vendors and partners that can be relied on for various projects. An agency will know just the person to contact to get your brochures printed, your video filmed, or even provide you with a bit of sales coaching. If you’ve ever tried to pick a vendor for just about anything, you know how much time would be saved by having a reliable, recommended vendor at your disposal.
Agencies Know the Details that Can Otherwise Be Forgotten
Even seemingly simple marketing tasks require more attention than you might assume. Marketers at an agency know what additional steps and details need to be considered for every channel to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is best equipped to meet its goal.
Some examples of these details that are crucial to campaign success that may not be obvious to non-marketers include:
- Conducting keyword research to determine the content topics that will reach the most people in your target market
- Including meta data for each piece of content to help increase its chances of being found in search
- Setting up tracking and analytics to measure the results of your campaigns using tools like custom campaign parameters for URLs, unique tracking phone numbers and unique landing pages
- Ensuring proper image usage for different channels (including high resolution images for print or making sure images render properly on each digital channel)
- Testing to make sure that a marketing email will load properly across all device types, not just the device the email was created on
Some of these tasks are time consuming and often require an intimate familiarity with a variety of tools that non-marketers may not know about. They may also seem superfluous, but rest assured that skipping the small details can be problematic for your marketing: you could end up wasting time (by creating content no one reads because the topic doesn’t interest them), unable to track the success of your campaign (so who knows if the money and time spent was even worth it), or even damaging your brand (by sending out an email blast that doesn’t load properly in a popular email client, making you look sloppy and not credible).
Agencies Avoid Bias or Incorrect Assumptions in Your Marketing
One of the most valuable things an outside marketing agency should bring to the table is the ability to keep internal bias from impacting your company.
You know your business better than anyone else. It’s your baby. You've likely had many long days and sleepless nights working to see the company flourish.
However, this closeness inherently results in a certain amount of bias. In my experience, this bias most often shows itself as incorrect assumptions about what a target market actually wants.
For example: let's say you own a company that sells wide-width shoes for women. You’re confident that your customers care more about fit than fashion. After all, your feet have to fit into your shoes, right?
In reality, your target demographic cares a lot of about fashion. So much so that they are choosing to wear uncomfortable shoes that don’t fit because they would rather deal with mild amounts of foot pain than wear "comfort" shoes designed for women 50 years their senior (and those older women may also be making the same, pain-inducing choice!).
(This is a completely fictitious example, but if you are a women's wide-width shoe manufacturer, please hear my cry - the situation is getting desperate over here!)
The point (one which I can’t repeat enough) is what you want your customers to want might not be what they actually want. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but doing so will allow you to better speak to your target audience and generate more sales.
So how does a marketing agency help remove this bias? The crucial first step an agency should take is to learn the ins and outs of your business and industry. At Simple Machines, we start by hosting a kick off meeting where we ask business owners and key players in their organization tons of questions about their business and industry. We take what we learn and do more research to build on this knowledge, gather industry trends, and (most importantly) compare what the client believes to be true to what facts prove to be true.
This last step can be incredibly enlightening for our clients; it's not uncommon that what we were told about a target audience, a trend in the industry or popularity of a competitor turns out to be untrue. It's not that we are lied to, but that a bias is so strong that it can be hard for the business owner to escape it.
A marketing agency will identify these biases and create a marketing strategy that side steps them to focus on the reality of the market. Sometimes, it will require that they tell you “no” when you want to use a specific message or tactic that the agency knows to be a poor fit for your audience. It’s never fun to have your idea contested, but an agency will do so in order to keep you on brand and on track to meet your goals.
While it may be tempting to try to DIY your marketing or have an internal employee be responsible for it, hiring a marketing agency will allow your money and time to be spent more effectively. You'll be able to rely on experience and resources of a team of dedicated marketers, you won't have to worry about the tiny details that can have big impacts, and you won't go down the wrong path by marketing with bias instead of facts.