Agencies need to offer what brands want

By Matt Goulart

There are several questions brands continually ask us at Ignite Digital and I am sure other agencies hear also. What is the benefit of search engine optimization? How many articles would you publish a week? What is the impact digital marketing has on my overall business strategy?

It’s understandable to receive these questions. It’s part of the sales process of educating your prospect [brands] and most importantly making sure that the brand actually needs your services.

Traditional agencies are becoming more hungry for new business, opportunities are becoming fewer and far between.  When a prospect brings up additional solutions like SEO or social media, traditional agencies typically jump on the interest and try to sell it. Which brings me to what I regularly hear from traditional agencies: How do we execute the service and how do we know what to charge?

The fear of losing business or a potential upsell drives agencies to sell more then what they are capable of doing effectively. This is important; if you’re unable to properly execute a digital strategy but you’re able to properly execute a traditional marketing campaign – your overall performance will be mediocre. This is due to the agencies’ inability to fully execute on digital.  Who wants to go back to a mediocre agency?

Agencies need to specialize and focus on their strengths. Build relationships with other agencies. When a print or other marketing solution comes across our desk here at Ignite Digital that we are not experts in, we refer it to an agency that can effectively deliver the solution. Making the brand happy is the most important factor. The brand will remember what you did and how you assisted in helping them achieve their business goals.

Don’t be scared of losing the business; be happy that your recommendation did what your prospect/client wanted. This creates trust and most importantly a solid foundation to build a relationship with them.

Hypothetically let’s say the brand did leave, that just tells you as an agency you didn’t fulfill your obligations in over-delivering on your promise, that you didn’t provide a memorable and effective solution. You should lose the brand at that point and re-evaluate your client service efforts, to come back and be better than your competition.

Agencies that specialize in a particular solution are on the ground each day staying current. They know what the best practices are like the back of their hand. They actively stay up-to-date in the ever changing world they are specializing in. As an example, search engine optimization is constantly changing thanks to Google updating their algorithm all the time.

There are plenty of brands that have noticed they should have their marketing solutions with agencies that specialize in a particular marketing vertical. These brands are what I would call the leaders in the group. These leaders understand that marketing has become a multiplatform discipline and that their brand needs to have several special tools at their disposal. You wouldn’t use a hammer on a screw would you?

These brands are the pioneers and when they are looking for a specialized agency they look for the following:

Talent – Does the agency have proven experience? Not within your industry but in the vertical you are interested in?

Tip #1: Don’t get trapped in the fluff of case studies, while important use it as another metric to help your decision making process. Ask the agency for a live example of their work.

Tip #2: Don’t be blinded by an agency’s trophies.

Relationship – Agencies and brands need to work together. It’s hard to find ‘the one’ after a few conversations but follow your gut. Does the agency feel right, does the person you are communicating with at the agency know what they are talking about? This relationship will be the foundation to your marketing efforts. Make sure to build it on solid footing.

Location is Useless – Some brands like to communicate and have several meetings. I can understand and appreciate that. Brands who pick local agencies feel more comfortable that they can walk into the operation and see what is going on. An agency could be steps from your door and have an outstanding office but that overhead is going to need to be covered – usually with your billable.

Pricing – Basing your decision on price alone shouldn’t be the driving force. Times are tough and budgeting is on the minds of many marketers, pinching an agency’s bottom-line might make the CFO happy but could have adverse effects on your marketing performance.

Are they challenging you? – What is the point in hiring an agency if they are just telling you want you want to hear? An agency should be providing you with recommendations and insight, even if it’s against what you believe. Just make sure they support their recommendations with facts!

Canadian brands in 2014 will be focusing more efforts in digital marketing compared to 2013. With the ever changing landscape of digital marketing and other marketing verticals, it becomes important for brands to engage with experts.


Matt Goulart is the founder of Ignite Digital, a Canadian Digital Marketing Agency. He has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Washington Times and several other publications. Through Ignite Digital, Matt works with Fortune 500 companies, advertising agencies from around the world and has helped in launching digital marketing initiatives for his clients.

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