Every day, our team at Social Me Multimedia (and our sister agency Purge Marketing, LLC) encounter business owners and entrepreneurs who have a horror story to tell, about a remote agency or marketing team they worked with.
Few business owners have an in-depth understanding of digital marketing best-practice and the development and content strategies that work. You, as a business owner, are an expert at running a profitable business. The reason you want to outsource, is to hire that expert marketing talent and experience.
Unfortunately, in our industry there are as many dishonest and irreputable service providers, as there are integral marketing teams and agencies. We would like to share some insight into the different types of marketing service providers, and what you should be looking for when retaining a marketing team to help you grow your business.
The Three Types of Digital Marketing Providers
At Social Me Multimedia, we’ve been freelance marketing professionals since 2009. And in that time, we’ve worked with many amazing agencies around the world (white label SP), brands and businesses.
Here is our personal breakdown of the three types of digital marketing providers that business owners encounter, when they are looking for help with web development, content marketing and more:
1. The Mega Agency
These are the big guys that we’ve seen on popular television shows. They own a building or rent a facility that is large enough to house the megalithic team that they employ. And if you are imagining an office with bright colors, a killer espresso machine and possibly a slide down the stairway for staff, you probably aren’t far off.
The Mega Agency has departments that handle different requests for clients. There are public relations experts (at least one) in the event of a PR crisis. There are web developers who design everything from landing pages for sales funnels to beautiful and functional websites.
Then there are the content creators or producers. This team of professional graphic designers and content writers are the creative engine in any marketing agency. Account managers work closely to articulate the needs of the client to the content team, who makes that vision a creative reality.
Social media managers or community managers are also on the content team, providing real time response and support to customers on behalf of clients. They also work to forward leads that are generated or inquiries through social, to the client’s sales team.
Mega Marketing agencies are rock star level teams, that provide superior results at a premium price. It costs a lot to keep all those professional creative staff members paid well and working hard. Not to mention sourcing Fair Trade espresso and vegan donuts.
Here are some of the average hourly costs for marketing professionals:
- Account managers who are assigned and individually dedicated to corporate marketing teams earn between $75,000 to over $150,000 per year (with bonuses if they also recruit new business for the agency).
- Social Media Managers earn about $45,000 to $53,0000 per year.
- Senior content writers earn from $55,000 to over $75,000 per year.
- Web developers and code writers average $150 per hour.
You can see why they’re expensive, right?
When enterprise businesses contact us, we get a review of their service contract history with mega marketing agencies. Some businesses we have worked with in the past two years, were paying $5,000 to over $15,000 per month for agency assistance. And while a monthly retainer budget like that IS more affordable for corporations than hiring full-time in-house, that is a large spend that most businesses do not want to allocate. And affordability is key when developing and executing an effective content marketing strategy; it takes time to build momentum, and it doesn’t happen over night.
One of the other ‘complaints’ that Cory, Lauren and I often hear from businesses, is that they never get to speak to someone in a timely manner. Or they feel like the mega marketing agency is so busy, that they have to wait days for someone to address their need or concern. In peak demand seasons, that can become a week or longer before you access some one-on-one time with your Account Manager and agency content team.
2. The Connector
This is the most important type of digital marketing provider to familiarize yourself with, because he or she is the most apt to cost you a lot of money and provide very little value for their services. The Connector is a smooth-talking person who is very adept at sales; these are the ‘bad guys’ in our industry who we spend a great deal of time apologizing for. And rebuilding trust with businesses who have been burned by them.
The Connector is usually someone who is self-taught (which we think is awesome). They may have a college degree in something like IT. They make you feel that they have been established as a marketing service provider for a long time. They are experts at selling businesses a small service provision for a big monthly fee, and to be honest, they count on entrepreneurs who are too busy to manage their own marketing OR survey other marketing providers for a more competitive rate.
The really bad thing about the Connector is that he or she outsources everything. You’ve probably heard of websites like Upwork or Freelancer, where you can source virtually any business service from talented (and sometimes not so talented) freelance providers around the world.
Need your website redone? The Connector will say that he or she is designing it. They will outsource it to an overseas provider. Which is why you never get to talk to the person who is actually building your website. The Connector doesn’t want you to know that he or she outsources EVERYTHING.
But aren’t we suggesting you outsource your marketing? Is outsourcing web development and content a bad thing? It can be if the Connector doesn’t have a dedicated team. They often burn through service providers in India or China and are constantly working with new people to deliver the services promised to their clients. There is no consistency. It’s not a team, it’s more like a marketing drive-thru, with ‘junk food’ quality results.
3. Corporate Experts to Freelance Providers (That’s Us!)
The CEFPs have extensive corporate and marketing management experience. These are the type of people who have a long history of legitimate marketing experience at the corporate level. In fact, they were so good at what they did for their employers that after a few decades, they made the leap to self-employment.
People who do not have the essential skills to build a successful micro-agency don’t survive in the increasingly competitive marketplace. And that’s a good thing for our industry; only the teams prepared to work hard, keep costs affordable for their clients and demonstrate quality service should stay in business. Because those are the core fundamentals of professional marketing.
A CEFP micro agency does not outsource. They have a closely-knit team of remote professionals that work together. In our case, we’re practically family and have collaborated on countless client projects and long-term marketing accounts for over nine years. That is how we create consistency in the services and quality of work that we provide.
At Social Me Multimedia, we are not just colleagues that share the same industry, we’re also very close friends, which means a lot when you are working hard on large projects and need to share a giphy (or two) in SLACK to keep the creative ideas flowing. Marketing is hard work, but it is also supposed to be creative and fun. And we like to keep it that way to produce our best work for clients.
Checklist for Vetting a Digital Marketing Provider
Before you sign a contract, consider these four signs of a marketing provider that may not be the best choice for your business.
a) Check the Traffic Rank of the Service Providers Website
If a marketing provider is supposed to be helping you build more traffic to your business website, it’s reasonable to assume they would have mastered that deliverable on their own? From website designers to SEO professionals, Google Ad and content marketing providers, if they have a bad website ranking, this should be a red flag.
Go to Alexa.com and download the free website Alexa Traffic Rank plug-in for Chrome so that you can see both Global website ranking and domestic for any website you are curious about.
b) Pressure to Sign Annual Contract
So, let’s get this straight. You are about to hire a stranger to help you manage your digital marketing needs. But you don’t know if you are going to like working with them. You also don’t know if you are going to like the quality of work they deliver. But… you are supposed to commit to an annual contract?
Annual contracts make sense for things like managed hosting services. They don’t make sense for most small and medium sized businesses. That’s why we provide a monthly renewable contract that only requires 30-days notice to terminate services. Our average client stays with our team for 2-3 years or longer, and two of our clients just celebrated a 10-year service anniversary with us.
c) No Experience Marketing
Checking someone’s LinkedIn profile is an important part of choosing the right digital marketing team to outsource with. It seems laughable, but truthfully… you would be surprised to see how many “Marketing Experts” or “CEOs” of their own marketing agencies have ZERO corporate experience relative to the services they are providing.
Sure, they may have had great jobs in the past, but did that work experience hone their marketing skills? Ask some questions if you see that the agency has been open for less than two years, and if the principal provider has scant corporate experience. It’s another big red flag (trust us).
d) Social Media Manager Not Active on Social? (Hmmmm…)
You’re probably going to hear something like “I am so busy managing my clients work that I don’t have time to market myself”. Okay, that might be a good excuse but walk the talk! How are you supposed to trust someone to do your social, if they can’t be bothered to do their own?
If the marketing provider is a digital professional, he or she will know how important content marketing is to their own business too. Any agency worth considering for content marketing, will have great content. Note to Lori: blog more for this site!
We hope we’ve provided some valuable perspectives to consider, when you are evaluating your need to outsource digital marketing services. We invite you to explore some of our sample flat-fee service bundles designed, like the bronze bundle for SMBs and executive professionals who want to build their personal branding.
Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss what we do best, and how we can help your business grow with comprehensive content marketing, website design, dev ops and sales funnels.