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Is an all-in-one marketing platform right for your agency?

Here are two paradoxical truths:

1. Agencies are mostly comprised of brilliant people who love marketing.
2. Even though few will admit it, agencies abhor marketing themselves.

Weird, right? Well, it’s as true as it is weird.

There are lots of problematic things that stem from this, but a primary one is the way the marketplace takes advantage of it. The marketplace knows agencies would pretty much rather do anything than market themselves; it knows that they’re looking for a quick solution that will fix everything. But here are two more truths:

1. There are no quick, simple solutions to complex, difficult problems.
2. Agencies don’t care; they’ll buy the quick solution anyway.

One of these quick solutions is all-in-one marketing software. There are lots of tools in the marketplace now that offer agencies a simple, all-in-one, turnkey solution. They give you your website, marketing automation, and CRM all in one nice, simple, shiny package. This is appealing to agencies because it looks like an easy and simple fix to their marketing woes.

For some agencies, this promise might be true, but for many, it’s not. Here are three reasons why.

  1. The digital marketing landscape is too complex for any one company to master all aspects of it.
  2. Agencies need to use what their clients are using.
  3. Try, just try, to leave your all-in-one solution after a few years of using it.

1. The digital marketing landscape is too complex for one company to master all aspects of it

Digital marketing is a broad discipline. For the purposes of this article, let’s stick to the 3 elements that serve as the foundation for most agencies’ digital marketing platforms: A website powered by a CMS, a marketing automation tool, and a CRM. These three technologies have each had their own economies built around them. They are each incredibly complex tools that are in an incredibly competitive space. The idea that a single company could create top-tier options for all three and permanently keep their offerings for each of them neck in neck with the current best of breed in each category is impractical, to say the least. But many agencies say “we don’t need or want all that complexity, we want things to be simple.” Maybe you do today, but if you’re just getting into some of these things, it’s probably closer to the truth to say that you don’t really know what you need.

Even if it is the perfect fit for you today, it’s still a bad idea, for reasons 2 and 3 below.

2. Agencies need to use what their clients are using

An agency’s marketing program serves two purposes. The first, of course, is to promote the agency. The second is to, in the process of marketing the agency, learn as much as possible about how these same disciplines and technologies can be applied to the work you sell to and do for your clients. A tidy, shiny, and easy all-in-one system might look just right for you, but would that same system work well for your client?

Is your client going to use a small, specialized CRM or are they going to go with a best of breed option like or Microsoft Dynamics?

Would your client ever dream of using a simple website builder tool for their enterprise domain?

Will your clients ever need or want to send to a purchased list? Will you?

For these reasons and many more, it’s highly unlikely that the all-in-one tool that you think will work for you is going to be the right long term tool for your client. It’s your professional responsibility to council your clients on digital marketing tools that they can grow and scale with.

Your own marketing is a critical part of your own education. You need to use the tools your clients are likely, or at least are able, to use.

Perhaps the most interesting point to note is that individual, best of breed tools that work perfectly and are nearly infinitely scalable for both you and your client are oftentimes much less expensive — as much as 50% less expensive — than the all-in-one options.

The ultimate issue at play, though, is freedom. Which brings me to reason #3.

3. Try, just try to leave your all-in-one solution after a few years of using it

OK, so let’s say you’ve opted for an all-in-one system and for a few years it works well for you. But then you decide, as so many agencies have, that purchasing a targeted list is a fantastic option for you, or maybe you decide you want to integrate your timekeeping system, or project management tool, or accounting system, into your CRM to increase your internal measurement, accountability, and profitability. Or, maybe you want to add a feature set that doesn’t exist in the website extensions available in your all-in-one. Maybe it’s some combination of all of those things or other things entirely.

What do you do when you have a need that your all-in-one doesn’t serve?

If you choose to build your marketing platform on individual, best of breed tools, you have the freedom to swap any one of them out on an individual basis if needed. Transitions of this sort are never easy, but having individual controls over individual but seamlessly integrated systems will always give you more options. If that all-in-one suite that was such a perfect fit a few years ago starts to burst at the seams due to your needs changing in unexpected ways, you’ll be faced with the reality of migrating away from it. All that blog content. All that sales data in the CRM: call logs, leads, contacts, opportunities, reports, dashboards. All those drip nurturing campaigns, tracking histories, site analytics, and lead scoring profiles.

How are you going to export that? CAN you even export that? Before committing to your all-in-one option, I strongly suggest that you request a sample data export for each of the three critical components: site content, CRM data, and automation data. Spend a few hundred dollars to have someone who knows their way around a data export to analyze it, and ask them to tell you exactly how easy it would be to take that data set and migrate them into individual best of breed systems like WordPress, Drupal,, Dynamics, and a different automation tool. It’ll be some of the safest money you’ve ever spent.

For now, let me save you a few hundred dollars. We’ve helped lots of agencies out of the all-in-one situation and we’ve seen these “exports” firsthand. What you’re going to find is that leaving is incredibly difficult.

The Self-Serving Summary

Of course, it could easily come off as self-serving that I’m making an argument in this article for what Newfangled does. To be clear, we work closely with agencies on an individual basis to determine what mix of organic digital marketing tools and techniques are most effective for them to generate their ideal opportunities, and then we continue to work closely with them to ensure the long-term success and growth of those programs.

The reason I’m not concerned about the danger of this coming off as self-serving is simple: we had the same choice you did. We too could easily subscribe to an all-in-one and resell that to our clients. There were a number of times we considered this idea very carefully. This article, though, is a succinct outline of the top three reasons we chose to not go that route.

We believe in adopting individual, best of breed solutions for each of the three primary pillars of the agency marketing platform: CMS, CRM, and marketing automation. But, we understand that this approach will only work if there is a carefully crafted and customized integration between the three pillars so that at any point any one of them knows how prospects are engaging with or showing up in the other two.

The glue that ties this all together isn’t a beautifully designed interface, it’s a relationship. Your agency is unique. Your expertise, the makeup of your ideal prospect, the way you build trust with them, the content types you’re meant to create based on your agency’s unique internal skills, the tone of your content, the frequency of your communications, the way you escort prospects from the marketing stage to the sales stage, the level and depth of adoption of content strategy, contact strategy, CRM, and automation…all of these things are unique to you, and you know what? It’s complicated. If you’re like 99% of your peers, you’re not able to figure this out on your own. You need people–actual human beings–to help you on this long journey of marketing.

Nobody said this was easy…oh wait, sorry, someone probably has told you this would be easy–but I bet you’ve figured out the truth by now. While marketing your agency is definitely not easy, creating an effective, scalable marketing platform for your firm while simultaneously building a highly marketable skill set inside of your firm is entirely possible.

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