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A growing number of small businesses are being let down by digital marketing agencies who just aren’t delivering results.

Here’s why and what businesses should look for.

A new generation of digital marketing agency incompetents.

More and more businesses in the UK are becoming the victims of lazy marketing by less than focused digital marketing agencies. These agencies promise them all the on line marketing `bells and whistles,’ but then ultimately fail to deliver on those promises. The consequences for business owners when they don’t get the results they expected, are often very detrimental.

Many people unversed in the technicalities of digital marketing, still seem to be under the impression that there is some magic technical formula to quick SEO success.

Here’s the problem. A large number of small business owners and managers, understandably, just don’t have the time to keep up to pace with the often confusing and changing trends in digital and social media marketing, and who would blame them?

The digital marketing industry changes at such a pace that even we as marketing professionals find the rate of change often daunting. However, no matter how difficult it is for us to grasp the ever changing digital marketing landscape, it is what we are paid to do. As reputable digital marketing agencies we have a moral and ethical responsibility, to ensure that we keep our clients up to date with the very latest developments in website design and digital marketing trends.

Unfortunately, after speaking to a rather significant number of small business owners, it seems that not all digital marketing companies follow this principle. The problem seems to be that small business owners rely on the fact that their external digital marketing agency or consultancy, has the expertise and experience to adapt the best marketing practises for their business. They don’t know what to ask them or in fact understand what the actual processes are, so they often go in blindly.

This again is understandable, if I send my car for a service, I rely on the garages experience to fix my car, and they know their trade that’s why I pay them, so why should I question them?

The difference is, when my car breaks down I will know about it straight away and I can take it back to the garage. When a business’s digital marketing has been set up incorrectly the realisation isn’t often so immediate or obvious. The fact is poor and lacklustre results can be easier to explain away by an unscrupulous digital marketing agency.

Business owners can realise that their company’s efficiency, productivity and profit would be increased by understanding how to source a good digital marketing agency and, what exactly they need to ask them before taking on their services.

Too many passive business owners.

Before we look at the solutions, let’s get more of an understanding of the problems. The fact is that due to a lack of understanding of the correct digital marketing processes and strategies, a worryingly large number of businesses lose considerable potential exposure and custom.

Now it’s important to stress that a good majority of digital marketing agencies offer a superb level of service to their clients; however, an excellent and reputable agency will charge for their expertise and experience accordingly, and more often than not the rates and prices of such website management companies, are often out of the reach of many small businesses.

The good digital marketing agencies and what they do.

There is a substantial amount of work that goes into actually implementing a high quality and result driven digital marketing strategy that gets paying clients for businesses. Blogging, content, video, targeting, audience outreach, etc. All these elements need to be cohesively and strategically considered, understood, planned and executed, regularly.

This takes time, preparation and investment but above all the digital marketing agency has to understand the complete processes and apply all the elements to your business, and more importantly to the marketing trends and potential audience of your industry.

As I mentioned earlier, many business owners still seem to think that some technical whizz, working behind the scenes, can produce some coding or formula, algebra style, that gets them up the Google or search engine rankings. This to some extent may have been the case in the early days, but not now. Things have evolved massively. SEO and search engine rankings these days need fantastic content, strategic outreach through intelligently targeted keywords and promotions, and an understanding of how to implement social media into this mix.

Educate, assist, help, guide and support, that’s what digital consumers expect and Google knows this. It’s common sense really. Respect the consumer and understand their needs, provide them with the information they want and they will trust you and buy from you, or seek your services. I mention Google here as that’s the search platform most businesses most identify with, however the same principles apply to Bing, yahoo etc.

Good digital marketing and website design agencies are worth their gold so to speak, because they will understand all the above and go out of their way to help their clients to achieve high quality results. This does come at a cost though and as I have said, often it is too much for newer or smaller businesses. For those businesses willing to put in the investment however, investing in a reputable digital marketing agency can be a very worthwhile investment for long term sales and marketing success.

The bad digital marketing agencies and what they don’t do.

Thankfully, and as I have repeatedly said, the majority of PPC, SEO, digital marketing, website management companies and agencies, do a fantastic and often difficult job to help businesses get great results on line and on social media.
However as with almost every industry there are a large minority of bad apples in the digital marketing agency sector.

Unfortunately many of the smaller or newer, less established businesses become the unsuspecting guinea pigs of these incompetent so called ‘digital marketing agencies.

They will devise a well presented and glossy plan based on the minimum that they can do for your business, talk the talk and promise you and your business every marketing solution under the sun, while subtly suggesting that ‘nothing is guaranteed.

Well of course, very few things in life are guaranteed, however as someone new to business, you don’t want to be paying a substantial allocation of your marketing budget to someone who can’t at least guarantee some sort of a return on your marketing investment. At the very least the complete process of all of the elements, need to be explained thoroughly and extensively, then as a small business you can take a calculated decision if the ROI will pay off. I mean if you wanted to take a high risk chance you would save the cost and attempt do your marketing yourself wouldn’t you?

My point is that after speaking to a number of small business owners, a lot of the feedback I got was that the digital marketing agencies they have used, often don’t explain thoroughly what it is they will actually do for them, other than explaining a broad outline of what they ‘hope’ to achieve.

Understanding the processes of how a digital marketing agency should work for your business.

If you are a small business owner, or if you are in the process of setting up your new business, you more than likely will be considering the services of an external digital marketing agency. You therefore need to have a clear understanding of how these agencies work for your business.

The first thing to note is your business’s marketing activities will more than likely, be given only a few allocated hours a week. The more experienced website management companies will no doubt utilise this time effectively and efficiently, however a more inexperienced agency may squander away valuable allocated time with fruitless and outdated tasks.

Not only that, these agencies also have other clients, so more often than not, your businesses marketing activities will not take priority. The truth is that to get a truly worthwhile level of potential business, your digital marketing activities need more than just a few hours a week to get results.

Secondly, as social media is becoming more and more prevalent and important as a way of getting your business seen in the digital marketplace, the complete process of your businesses digital marketing plan has to incorporate paid digital advertising, blogging, video content and the relevant exposure on the social media platforms.

Basically, for effective results and to put your business on the digital stage, your chosen digital marketing agency has to take the time to develop a unique and tailored digital marketing and social media marketing strategy. They have to understand your business, its history, its future, its structure and its industry sector.

They absolutely have to give your business the respect, understanding and commitment, it deserves and nothing less. Do you really think that any agency worth its salt, will offer a service of less than five hundred pounds a month, and tell you that you will be the master of your sector with their digital activities?  It’s nonsense. A lot more time and investment is required, but then the pay off, if the project is undertaken properly is well worth the initial outlay.

Hence I go back to my earlier point. Some of the less competent digital marketing agencies, will base their business model on generating six months’ worth of income from their clients. After six months the client complains and wants to cancel, but guess what? The agency isn’t bothered because other clients have bought into the false line, so for every business that drops off another two join and stay for six months. You see where this is going?

The potential consequences to unsuspecting business owners and managers.

Now again I must stress that the vast majority of digital and social media marketing agencies operate ethically and properly, but the unfortunate fact is that a growing number of marketing incompetents are becoming more prevalent, copying over rated YouTube influencers, learning a fraction of what they need to know then cutting their `milk teeth’ on reputable, honest, decent hard working businesses. And when things go wrong it’s these business owners who lose.

A failed business can lead to a complete loss of morale and ultimately a lack of confidence which may mean that those involved in its set up just give up on their ambitions. Potentially more serious issues such as depression, loss of income and support for the families and owners and managers of the said businesses are also very real potential problems.

Now of course, it’s not only bad marketing that causes the unnecessary demise of a business, there are other contributory factors, such as finance, management, timing etc;, however without a solid, realistic, well planned and timely digital social and general marketing strategy, the risks of a business’s premature demise can be greatly reduced. Make their dreams and ambitions a reality for themselves and their families.

Its makes absolute sense then that they must spend as much time and effort in understanding, evaluating and choosing the right digital marketing agency to undertake their marketing activities. After all a good digital marketing strategy is the lifeblood of any successful business or organisation. Written by Stella Collins, Head of digital strategy at Square base consulting. www.squarebaseconsulting.com email: [email protected]


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