I recently returned from my first-ever trip to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. I was there speaking at the Counselor’s Academy PRSA annual conference. (Counselor’s Academy is the section of PRSA for owner’s of small and medium independent agencies).
One of the highlights of my trip was conducting a breakout session with my good friend and client Indra Gardiner (from Bailey Gardiner in San Diego), called “Digital & Dollars: Successfully Adding Social Media & Online Marketing to Your Agency Services Mix”
This session included much of what Indra and her partner Jon Bailey have been able to accomplish in the last two years, moving from a primarily traditional agency to a new media powerhouse. It’s a journey that’s similar to my own when I merged my digital agency (Mighty Interactive) to Off Madison Ave in 2005.
Here are the highlights:
A Colossal Opportunity
According to Forrester research, from 2009 – 2014, the average annual growth rate in digital marketing expenditures in the U.S. will range from 11% (the relatively mature email marketing), to 34% (social media). What other aspects of the marketing services business are likely to grow like that? Billboard? Direct mail? TV? Uhhh, no.
The Digital Ecosystem
There are four key planks to successfully offering online marketing services within your existing agency:
- Search Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Analytics and Reporting
Agencies can deliver real value to clients in each of these areas, and developing competencies is viable and achievable.
Note that I didn’t include Web design. While having some measure of Web design and programming capabilities is almost a requirement, being in the business of constructing Web sites and applications per se, is typically a losing proposition for most agencies that are not involved in that business at scale. The revenue stream is too intermittent, the employees too expensive, and the points of failure too numerous for most small agencies to successfully offer full-blown Web design services.
5 Key Success Factors
There are 5 critical components for agencies to successfully develop and sell online marketing capabilities:
- Broaden Your Horizons. Fundamentally, you need to think bigger about what it means to be an “agency”
- Sell Ingredients, Not Entrees. Digital marketing is not about being “agency of record” and doing everything for a particular client. It’s about building focused competencies that solve common client problems, and offering that specific service to a multitude of clients.
- Get Your Foot in the Door Selling One Service. This focus on specificity rather than generality applies to business development, too. Don’t show up saying “we want to be your agency.” Show up saying “we want to triple the profits you generate from your email program, and track every click and every dime to prove it.”
- Embrace Math. Online marketing success is more about science than art, and whomever keeps score eventually controls the budget. When I ran an agency, I put just as much stock in prospective employees’ Excel abilities as I did in their Word, Powerpoint, or Photoshop skills.
- Adjust Staffing and Timelines. Digital marketing isn’t about campaigns, it’s about waterfalls. You’re ALWAYS marketing. Every search. Every click. Every Tweet. They are all an opportunity to win or lose at the micro-transaction level. That requires a consistency of attention that differs from most traditional agency staffing patterns.
17 Services. Which Are You Providing
I see 17 online marketing services that small and medium agencies (especially PR-focused firms) could credibly offer clients, if they made the effort to build competency:
- Search Taxonomy Analysis
- Search Opportunity Audits
- Search Engine Optimization (not super duper hard core SEO, but intermediate level)
- Blogger Outreach
- Influencer Identification
- Word of Mouth Campaigns
- Online, Socially-Driven Campaigns & Contests
- Mobile Apps & Campaigns (may require a technology partner)
- Content Optimization & Strategy
- Video Content Creation
- Web Analytics & Testing
- Email Effectiveness Audits
- Social Anthropology (using things like Flowtown)
- Email Results Optimization
- Community Management
- Social CRM Plans
- Social Media Crisis Plans