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CTO at Triare
We at TRIARE are aware of the two biggest obstacles that hold startups back from success. These are either insufficient marketing or poor development execution. Since we focus on the latter, it is our honor to cooperate with prominent and creative marketing agencies.
In this article, we will review specifically digital marketing agencies (DMAs) to articulate their most pressing issues and offer expert advice to elevate your business. The article is broken into problem blocks with one or two solutions. We have identified 10 key pains for a DMA and mentioned which ones TRIARE can help you address (TR):
The days of easy growth are dwindling as agencies stumble upon new challenges such as enterprise entrants, in-housing, and a shift in payment patterns. Recognizing a fierce competition is the first step towards solving a problem. While there are millions of websites fighting for a piece of the audience pie, DMAs should be ready to face it.
According to the Promethean Research, agencies grew an average of 15% in 2018, and this trend of digital spending will continue to grow through 2021. Notably, video prevails as the fastest growing medium while agencies are experiencing various market shifts. Most DMAs generate 18% net margins but still rely on referral-based lead generation. The market itself is highly fragmented due to low entry barriers.
Ironically, tools and strategies that ought to help agencies in the previous years are working against them as more businesses start utilizing those. Authors of the report argue that catering campaigns for the internet and smartphones have been a new frontier and allowed businesses to differentiate their clients’ brands in a unique way. Those who leveraged inbound marketing spotted “a magical flow of seeming endless leads” for clients. Today, responsive design, targeted ads, and reliable inbound strategies simply represent the costs of playing the game.
Solution: deliver true value, play long, and seek other solutions outlined below.
Unfortunately, this problem significantly holds back the DMA owners. On one hand, the marketers are perceived as trendsetters or, at least, trend identifiers. On the other hand, stats offered by DemandLab in 2018 demonstrate that marketing agencies are rather risk-averse and only somewhat integrate their data.
The following numbers represent a ratio of all the managers, VPs, and Directors surveyed:
This is despite the fact that there are over 40 emerging digital marketing trends. Apparently, two pains emerge when organization hiccups on executing technology well. Firstly, without proper customer data integration, there cannot be a fully customer-centric approach. Secondly, unprocessed and disorganized pools of data might immobilize the business and lose the potential to extract profit.
Solution: invest in strategy and tech architecture, it always pays off; re-examine the value of external data — it’s your digital gold.
One can’t achieve a successful business without having the right people. However, trying to recruit the brightest minds in the industry is arduous. Indeed, HubSpot reports that 28% of agencies mention this problem placing it the third biggest challenge for DMAs. We agree.
“The best talent is already working for other companies, and to convince them to jump ship is no easy task,” argues Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore.”
Tom Buckland, Marketing Ops at Choose Wisely, is convinced the toughest problem is either acquiring senior talent locally or convincing top specialists to commute or relocate to the area. In fact, before even considering such a possibility there has to be a pool of candidates to choose from. Laura Burnett, a Business Development Manager at MHE Services Ltd, laments that finding people with the necessary knowledge is tremendously hard:
“You’re competing against bigger companies for a presence online who have professionals doing it for them. However, for a small business like me, we are doing this on our own, learning as we go.”
Solution: go for remote workers or grow an in-house team.
Executives of marketing agencies confirm that the overall morale of the remote staff is higher. Some of the reasons are the following:
Tom Willis says his agency Slickplan made a deliberate decision to hire freelancers and remote workers, although it was difficult at first. As a manager, you might feel somewhat disconnected from your team. But after building trust and clear communication routine, a huge difference can be seen.
Senior marketing manager Pratik Renuse speculates that SMBs often lack tech developers which poses a serious threat to the business. He argues that for digital marketing, a business needs to have a shop online but this requires reliable tech knowledge to set up and maintain the service.
We’ll add that the tech is being constantly updated. From the latest UX tendencies to responsive design and efficient CMS platforms. If one deludes himself that building everything solo is cost-effective, we have unpleasant news: it’s inevitably more burdensome to try joggling business development, marketing, and website development.
Solution: start and maintain long-term relations with a select tech team.
It’s wise to remember that successful people work with their brains but not for a fixed number of hours. If you delegate a hard task to industry experts, this investment will quickly make a nice ROI. Moreover, this cooperation might enable you to leverage additional networks and clients.
Yet, there is a challenge related directly to clients of DMA. Earlier we mentioned that digital marketing is on the rise. But if a client becomes a competitor itself? For instance, a company that once was looking for your services has grown and made a strategic move to open its own marketing department. What shall a DMA director do?
Solution: turn a problem into opportunity; sell your “competitor” more specialized services than they can do. The truth is, even with a separate division a non-specialized company cannot achieve the necessary results. Thus, if you communicate this message to them properly, they will unlikely trade off the potential profits and larger customer base just to ward off contractors.
It is tempting to go global and conquer “all of the market.” That said, there is money just around the corner while the big players have already saturated the international market. There might be an IT company waiting for your service to help them expand their operations or a regional brand with an ambition to enter a foreign market.
There is no good or bad regarding choosing your focus. In fact, some marketing strategists suggest leveraging a “glocal” approach: having a global mission but tailoring services to local needs. On the other hand, if there is an easier option, better choose it.
Knowing the local culture and language allows teams to understand client demands better. Besides, your agency may be the only relevant service for the client in the area.
How to win the loyalty of local customers:
As a digital marketing agency, what’s so special about you? Why should a client potentially choose your services over those of national competitors? After all, what is so unique in your proposition when compared even to local agencies?
“Writing about how good your goods and services are simply isn’t enough to engage people.” — Steve James, Freelance Marketing Consultant, smallbizbigbiz”
Ryan Born, a CEO at Cloud Campaign, says that there are still obstacles to digital marketing which are “producing quality content and staying consistent.” Ryan insists that both require a lot of time but businesses often don’t have a dedicated team member to take care of these responsibilities.
Solution: talk to customers and identify one single pain that you can resolve by leveraging your knowledge, experience and connections. Then cut all the rest of the offers and focus exclusively on that pain point. In the end, create a marketing plan to periodically inform the target audience about this value proposition.
The problem of poor web-design is clear and self-evident so we won’t focus on it so much. Needless to say, potential clients often perceive sloppy websites as scammy or not worth contacting or even exploring in the first place. Another issue is trivial content.
“Not being known in the marketplace is a huge hurdle.” — Jim Clouse, Owner, ClikitySplit
Alright, you found your exclusive advantage or market segment. Have you considered the downsides? What is the self-promotion strategy? Since each niche has its unique challenges, marketing a business should be focused on building trust while avoiding spam, exaggerated results, and cheap hype.
The solution is surprisingly simple: stay honest, transparent, and emphasize the data-backed approach.
Finding the proper message is imperative. Furthermore, it has to be clear and consistent along all marketing channels to stay effective. However, DMAs shouldn’t perceive social media the El Dorado of brand awareness. Neither there is a need to be everywhere. Pick one or two platforms, polish each post and avoid bullshit.
Be sure to watch out for:
Sometimes it is the money matter. DMA clients may understand well the importance of accurate and consistent digital marketing but have a tight budget or operational gaps. There are cases when a customer is hesitant to commit a lump sum of money for a year contract, although he is convinced in a lasting strategy. Besides, a shift in payment patterns caused by SaaS products has only stirred the matters.
Solution: be flexible; offer project-based or hourly rate depending on various firm sizes. Provide an option for partial payments and explain the logic behind each bill. Here are 5+ options for you to explore.
Finally, there is one consistent but the least talked challenge in digital marketing that various managers and owners have complained about: it is dealing with expectations.
“Many small business owners expect quick results from SEO (which is a long-term strategy) and get disappointed when they see no results within a week or so.” — Alwi Suleiman, Head of Content, Content Market King
From SEO to content strategy to lead generation, DMAs find a hard time convincing their clients that those have to think long-term and remain patient. There is no guarantee that a specific campaign will work. Nor it is possible to measure the ROI of any campaign accurately. Sometimes a return on investment might require more than a Google Analytics report, Facebook insight, or website traffic report.
Vicky Llerena, CEO of Social Vibes Media, argues that analytics may not reveal how a specific campaign has impacted a particular end buyer, although it helps a DMA to reveal data-driven information for more strategic marketing decisions.
“I would say the main obstacle is properly tracking everything. Almost every company we work with answers “We don’t know” when we ask what they are currently getting for their efforts.” — Zack Bowlby, CEO, ROI Amplified
That said, the competition for keywords is fierce which undermines the efforts for visibility.
Solution: make dedicated teams to offer a unique value proposition or suggest a different business model. Choose a niche that others haven’t thought about or are afraid of mastering. Also, complete the ISO9001 certification to meet the demands of enterprise clients.
However, this will also require a thorough website to highlight your expertise and long-term cooperation with tech teams.
If to sum up all these pain points, a great part crosses the path with proper tech development. When done right from the very start, your business raises chances for success dramatically. Whether you are a solopreneur or growing a medium enterprise with stable recurring revenues, paying attention to consistent marketing and excellent development execution is a key. We can help you with the latter.