Marketing isn’t like a lot of your other business investments. When you pay for internet, for example, you know exactly what to expect. When you pay for your lease, you know where that money is going toward.
Marketing, however, is a bit more complex. It encompasses a lot of things under one term. Digital marketing, for example, could (and likely should) include such things as SEO, social media, paid search, and content marketing.
But even that isn’t fully representative of marketing.
The dictionary definition of marketing gives us a clearer picture. Marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
That leaves the door wide open to an incredible amount of potential, even if your focus is on digital marketing. There is no shortage of responsibilities your marketing partner could be responsible for.
Expecting marketers with a narrow specialty to be able to handle these responsibilities is a recipe for disaster. Instead, you should look for a marketing agency made up of a team of specialists who work together to help tell your story, broaden your reach, and build your audience.
Cutting through marketing specialties
It seems like virtually every day invites new ideas, technologies, and strategies into the digital marketing world. SEO, for example, has taken on a flurry of iterations since it first began.
Years ago, SEO focused heavily on keyword research, to the point where webmasters would stuff pages with keywords in order to (successfully) rank.
Today, that practice is poison, and the sophistication of search engine algorithms has shifted SEO more toward intent. With that shift comes an entirely new discipline of SEO, one that marketers need to be well versed in if they want to deliver any type of long-lasting results for their clients.
That’s why many firms focus solely on SEO as their offering. To keep up with the constant changes, tools, and strategies can be, well, exhausting. These SEO-focused agencies bank on the fact that no other agency in their marketplace could possibly be better at SEO than they because that’s all they do. They commit their entire resources toward being the leaders in SEO.
Sounds logical. Many marketers and entrepreneurs are rightfully led to believe that the riches are in the niches.
But there’s a flaw in this thinking. The problem goes back, again, to our definition of marketing: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
A marketing agency that focuses solely on SEO (or any discipline, for that matter) is like a football team that focuses only on special teams. Sure, you might get a few punt returns and blocked kicks in a game, but you’ll never outscore your competitors.
Football is about so much more than special teams. Marketing is about so much more than SEO.
And let’s not pick on SEO. Marketing is about so much more than just social media, just PPC, just blogging and just reputation management.
In fact, none of these disciplines belong in a silo of their own creation. A social media strategy that lives on an island of its own does absolutely nothing, for example, to bolster the messaging you’re creating with your email newsletter.
And an SEO strategy that isn’t in line with your content marketing strategy isn’t going to deliver results that actually matter.
That’s because marketing can’t be splintered off into isolated practices and strategies. Yet, that’s exactly what “specialized” firms do when they promise to be your expert in, for example, Social Media.
Take, for example, the screenshot we took of an agency whose name we’re withholding:
Sounds promising: Super charge [sic] your social credibility; fresh content everyday [sic] in Facebook.
The problem is, these promises have nothing to do with your overall marketing strategy and, rather, are designed to hone in on vanity metrics and irrelevant key performance indicators.
What does it matter that you get fresh content to Twitter daily if that approach isn’t pushing forward your campaigns?
What this agency is doing is taking advantage of the lack of familiarity most business owners and CEOs have when it comes to effective social media marketing.
And that’s just plain wrong – and extremely ineffective.
Demonstrating why specialized agencies fall short in delivering results
On the surface level, you can see why there may be some perks to working with marketing specialists.
With the agency above, when it comes to social media, you know who to go to. But again, marketing it’s just about social media, and this is where problems begin to pop up with these so-called specialists.
Here’s an example to demonstrate our case.
Let’s say that you’re the head of a software company whose business intelligence product helps businesses expand their use of QuickBooks to meet their growing needs (rather than have to purchase and adapt to a new software).
You hire the social media agency above to manage your social media. Your reasoning behind it is you want to make sure your Facebook and Twitter accounts remain heavily active, and you just don’t want to have to deal with it yourself.
So you hire this agency, and they start posting content on your profiles, mostly made up of 3rd-party content aimed at demonstrating you as an “influencer” in the field (because, honestly, what company has enough content of its own to post daily?).
This tweet is a perfect example:
The company that tweeted this isn’t ZDNet. Yet they tweeted it anyway in an effort to attract potential customers (hence why they used hashtags like #BusinessIntelligence in their tweet).
But this is a tired old practice that delivers very little results as you can see below:
Do you really think that prospects are going on Twitter using the hashtags #BusinessIntelligence or #CultureofAnalytics to find useful information?
The chances are really slim.
What this practice does do is live up to the promise of posting fresh content daily, but to what end? What’s the point of making all that noise on Twitter if no one’s going to listen?
Here’s how your approach could – and would – change drastically if you partnered with an agency that specializes in marketing as one, unifying discipline (for example, here at Cardinal, we have departments within our agency, each focused on certain specialties, yet we all work together to tackle our clients’ objectives) :
For starters, your marketing agency would work closely with you to develop your long-term and short-term goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are an incredible way not only to pinpoint your needs, but to keep you and your marketing agency focused by attaching your goals to measurable milestones.
You and your agency would then take stock of your current strategies and assets. Because your agency will help manage all things digital, this audit will encompass all of your assets. So, for example, your agency would examine your social platforms, your website, your content strategy, your landing pages, your online reputation and more.
Digging deeper here, what this audit does is tell your agency what work you’ve done before, what kind of experiences you’ve created for audiences across your digital channels, and what type of content they have to work with moving forward.
Then, that agency would develop an action plan that focuses on an end goal (tied back to your S.M.A.R.T. goals), and uses varying digital strategies to help you reach that goal.
So let’s go back to that software company helping clients expand their use of QuickBooks.
By partnering with an agency who specializes in all things digital, that company’s marketing strategy likely would have looked a bit different.
Sure, daily tweets might not happen, but that’s not a bad thing. Time and time again, it’s been proven that in today’s consumer-driven economy, it’s not about talking the most. It’s about having something valuable to say.
And sometimes, that means not saying anything at all.
Rather than tweeting, (or blogging, or posting on Facebook) just for the sake of making content, your digital marketing agency would likely suggest that you develop a campaign around a need that your audiences have.
For example, through market research it might be determined that prospects at the top of the funnel often conduct a lot of online searching around “Outgrowing QuickBooks” or “what to do when you outgrow QuickBooks.”
You see, they don’t know yet about solutions that would allow them to stay with QuickBooks, yet extend its capabilities. They’re already passively looking to invest in a larger solution.
This is extremely valuable information your agency could use to target these prospects. The problem is, if you hire a “social media” agency, or a “blogging” agency, or even just a “paid search” company, they’d likely never have discovered this.
That’s because, technically speaking, this type of research is likely left up to SEOs.
But once that research is gathered and you know you want to target folks who search for terms like “Outgrowing QuickBooks” or “what to do when you outgrow QuickBooks,” what do you do?
In scenario one:
You could hire a social media agency, a content marketing agency, and a PPC agency, and provide them with the research from your SEO team. They, then, would develop campaigns to target this audience segment.
Problem is, the work each agency does won’t gel cohesively with all the other work being done (not to mention what a headache it’d be to manage communications and workflow from multiple agencies).
In scenario two:
You could have one agency that not only conducted the research to uncover this data, but then had the resources to know what to do with that data.
Take, for example, what we’d do here at Cardinal.
- Our SEO team and researchers would have conducted the keyword research to help uncover the search habits of your prospects
- They then would have held a brainstorming session with our other team members across design, content, paid search and social, to develop a unifying strategy to best reach these prospects and convert them into leads and customers
Let’s unpack the second bullet point a bit more:
After getting a better understanding of your audiences (and developing a buyer persona), our marketing strategists determine that a webinar titled What do you do when you outgrow QuickBooks could be an effective way to gather leads at the top of the funnel.
Our content team would get started creating the slides for that webinar, in conjunction with our designers.
Our developers would create a landing page for this webinar campaign, and our marketing strategists would ensure that all key tracking codes and forms are properly installed to ensure the best possible ROI.
Our content team then teases out key points of the webinar and creates a series of blog posts that are published on your site, each with a call-to-action funneling readers to the webinar landing page.
Our social media team then uses organic and paid strategies to promote both the webinar itself, as well as these individual blog pieces.
Because we handle everything in house, we’re able to monitor every data point of this campaign, and make changes as needed on the fly.
For example, we may determine that one Facebook ad is outperforming another. We’d conduct heavy research to determine the why behind this action, so that we can make improvements to your overall campaign.
The work doesn’t stop when the campaign does
Once your webinar is held, and you’ve built your leads of registrants and attendees, what then?
Again, here’s where you benefit from partnering with a marketing agency that literally handles it all for you.
Following the webinar, a full-solution agency like Cardinal would follow up with attendees and registrants through a variety of strategies to help increase conversion.
For example, because we installed tracking codes on the landing page and thank you page for the webinar, we can then launch a remarketing campaign that targets folks who registered for your webinar.
The messaging we’d develop for this remarketing campaign would be designed to remind audiences about your brand, and then provide them with an offer that they’ll find hard to ignore (for example, why not offer a free assessment of their current QuickBooks environment?).
Because our team was a part of this campaign from the start, we know what type of messaging will work with your audiences, and what will fall flat.
One-trick pony marketing agencies can’t offer that type of seamless continuity.
But do you compromise on expertise when you work with a full-service digital marketing agency?
As we mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why companies choose to partner with specialized agencies is because they feel that specialization puts these agencies a cut above the rest.
But that’s not necessarily true.
Here at Cardinal, for example, our agency is comprised of several departments. We have folks who specialize in design, paid search, social media, and SEO. We have project managers, developers, and writers, all on staff, each with their own expertise.
What we don’t have, however, are team members who are isolated in their own offices or bubbles. We’ve worked hard to create an agency environment where everyone works with one another for the same greater purpose: to help our clients expand their business.
We don’t question the benefit of specialization. What we struggle with is the theory that the many factions of marketing (from SEO to Social Media and beyond) can exist on their own.
This isn’t so.
If you want to see an actual return on your marketing investment, you need to partner with an agency that understand how, like a watch, marketing is comprised of many gears and gadgets that work in tandem with one another.
You don’t need a one-trick pony. You need an agency with a team at the ready to tackle everything that falls under the broad term of marketing, including strategies and technologies that have yet to be imagined.
Founder and CEO
Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year (Rising Star), and the 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).