Marketing is hard, but businesses that want to grow know they need to do it. They realize things could and should be better — a lot better — and know that they can’t conceive of and execute an extraordinary marketing strategy on their own, so they hire professionals to get the job done the right way the first time.
The best among you (and by best I mean the ones who do the best work which commands the highest levels of control and profit) are extreme specialists who understand your client’s marketplace and the normally invisible patterns in that marketplace which will dictate whether the client’s strategy will succeed or not.
But what about you? Who do you turn to when you need to market?
You’re the experts, aren’t you? What kind of a slouch agency isn’t competent enough to market themselves?
As it turns out, just about all of them. But it’s not because you’re a slouch. It’s because you’re no different than any business.
The truth is, it is difficult if not impossible for an agency to effectively ideate, staff, and fully execute a marketing plan for themselves that works, and continues to work.
This isn’t because you aren’t extraordinary marketers. It’s because you’re not extraordinary at marketing agencies. You know how your agency works, and how the other agencies you and your peers have worked for have worked. That sample pool isn’t nearly big enough to do the pattern matching that is required to understand what will determine if your marketing will be successful or not. The marketing strategies you are brilliant at employing on your client’s behalf won’t work for you. Their businesses are radically different than yours.
Because of this fact of agency life, we thought it would be helpful to outline the top 4 reasons agency marketing programs typically fail. I hope that this list helps you avoid the many years and dollars that many other agencies have unfortunately wasted on marketing attempts that ended up fizzling out.
1. Success begets…failure.
There’s nothing like landing a great account to make you feel like you’ll never see a concerning cash flow report ever again.
Agencies tend to live in the moment. This can be fun, but not much good comes of it professionally. When things are great, they’ll always be great. When they’re scary, we worry that the good times are gone for good.
Very few firms ride a wave forever, and marketing is your tool to perpetually raise the overall water level so that you don’t need or even particularly want waves.
Don’t let today’s success create a false sense of security, and make a point of always being as good to your own firm as you are to a valued client. This one rule could permanently change your future, provided you’re doing the right things.
2. They’ve got no long term plan.
Perhaps the hardest and most intimidating reason you’ve struggled to effectively market your firm is that you haven’t been sure what to do exactly. What works? How long should it take to work? How much should you spend on a monthly or annual basis? Can’t you just outsource this?
When you have this many questions, it’s hard to be confident on where to start, and where that direction will really lead. When you’re experiencing this level of confusion, it’s hard to make the tough decision to commit energy, hours, and dollars to something that isn’t all that fun to begin with (sure, you love marketing, but marketing your firm is about the last thing you really feel like doing right now).
The combination of this confusion and the point of being too busy to worry about it anyway is enough to make most agencies put off their marketing for another 6-12 months.
The truth is, most agencies don’t address their marketing at all until they’ve got a sales emergency on their hands — they’re feeling the burn of a dried-up pipeline. The problem is, marketing doesn’t solve today’s sales emergency. It does, however, prevent tomorrow’s sales emergencies. Agencies that play the long game understand this dynamic and steadily market, through good times and bad.
3. They’re looking for a silver bullet.
The digital marketing industry is well aware of your struggles with marketing, and they know you’d love an easy way out. Marketing automation and CRM firms have been particularly adept at creating products that are alluring enough to convince agencies that their solution is a quick, affordable, easy way for the agency to check off the marketing box.
These silver bullet promises sour more agencies (and agency employees) on the idea of marketing the firm more than any other factor. Most agencies we speak with have tried a CRM, but it was too clunky and complicated, and no one wanted to use it. Most agencies have been sold an automation platform that everyone inside the agency got excited about. Some of those people spent a lot of time learning it because they believed in the promises of their leadership and the automation salesperson. But, after a while, the automation platform (or CRM, blog, social strategy, adword spend, new site, outbound sales service) somehow lost its luster.
The silver bullet didn’t work, not really because the agency failed, but because the silver bullet was never going to work in the first place. Marketing is hard. It’s complicated. It takes time, money, energy, and focus — all for a prolonged period of time. Forever, specifically.
4. They’re victims of “The Gap.”
This concept of time brings us to the invisible killer inside of your marketing strategy: The gap. The gap is the time between your decision to market and the time it starts working. Almost all agency marketing initiatives die in this space. Committing to marketing is tough, for all of the reasons mentioned above and more. Sticking with it is just as tough. There’s the pressure for the marketing to perform. Billable work is competing for your time. The initial lack of confidence in the plan has everyone questioning whether or not all of this is really worth it. The questioning increases a little bit, every day.
If the plan was the right one and you can stay disciplined and stick with it, it will work. Agencies who employ the right combination of positioning, content & contact strategy, the right website, CRM, and automation see real results in the first 9 – 15 months.
The moment you start to see your marketing work (and by work we mean the right kinds of people start proactively getting in touch with you) is a cultural sea change in your firm. At that moment, your decision is validated. As is all the time your staff spent on implementing the system, and writing content. Everyone feels good, everyone looks smart, and the people involved in your internal marketing are now viewed as the lucky insiders instead of the suckers.
You Can Do This
Reading a list of reasons you and your peers have historically struggled with marketing can be a bit deflating, right? Well, the good news is that, like any industry, there are patterns that will determine whether or not your marketing will work. There are lots of ways to fail, but there are just as many to win. We’ve seen dozens of agencies transform from bashful, confused marketers to confident, successful firms with visible marketing swagger. You can do this.
Want to learn more about what we can do for your marketing? Get in touch!