Why you can't completely outsource your digital marketing

OutsourcingIt’s not what you’d expect to hear from someone who runs a B2B digital marketing agency, but the fact is that you cannot completely outsource your digital marketing. Yes, I’d love to live in a world where clients could easily drop their education marketing, b2b pr or video production requirements in our laps, leaving us to get on with the important tasks of generating leads, building thought leaders and all-round wowing their target audiences.

But such a world does not exist, and any CEO who thinks he/she can just hand the whole company’s marketing activity over to an agency is in for a nasty surprise.

I learned this the hard way myself recently, when I was working with an agency that specialises in Google adwords to generate more leads for our newly launched video animation and video production services. While I’m perfectly capable of running my own PPC campaigns, I simply didn’t have the time, and so engaged the services of an expert consultancy to help me.

The consultancy was under strict instructions not to make any changes to our ads and keywords without my written approval. It turned out that this was an unusual request – this particular online marketing consultancy was accustomed to running campaigns with very limited input from its clients, and my strict instructions were immediately overlooked. Most clients would probably welcome this way of working: you tell a digital marketing agency to generate leads, wash your hands of all responsibility, and then sit back and wait for the business to start flowing in.

But, as I soon found out, if your digital public relations and marketing agency isn’t closely aligned with your business goals, then you cannot expect them to deliver results that work towards achieving those goals.

It took a few months for me to realise what was up. I was doing some competitor research and Googled “video production service” when I was surprised to find two ads for my own company that I had never seen before. To my horror I found a grammar error in the copy for the first ad. This might seem minor to most of you, but I tend to be loudly and publicly critical of poor spelling and grammar, so an error in an ad for my own company screams hypocrisy to anyone who cares to listen.

The next ad I saw only made me more frustrated. There was my own company ad inviting searchers to “watch our amazing showreel”. You might think this is a perfectly acceptable call to action. But it’s not. Our video production showreel is excellent. It’s a great example of the types of video animation and video production services we offer and it’s a fantastic summary of the work we’ve delivered for our clients. But it’s not amazing. It doesn’t leave the viewer feeling “startled or astonished” like they’ve just watched, well this. It’s a showreel for goodness sake. You get good ones and bad ones, and I’m delighted that ours falls into the former category but I’ve yet to come across an amazing one.

This might seem neither here nor there to you, and when I raised it with our account manager at our adwords consultancy, his response was “We’ve found if you put words like ‘amazing’ into ads, your click through rate increases.” And therein lies the problems. He was working towards a higher CTR and we were working towards more leads. Our CTR did increase, but this had no bearing on leads generated, as most of the clicks were from people curious to watch the world’s first ever example of an amazing showreel. The result was that we paid for more clicks without generating more business. 

What lessons can managers in other B2B businesses learn from my experience? That you should treat your digital marketing agency like a trusted business partner, rather than like any old supplier! Like any relationship, the more involved you (yes you, the business leader, not a marketing intern or ex-journalist you have hired to manage your email lists) are, the more you’ll get out of it.

Ask me a question about how to work with an integrated marketing agency on Google Plus.

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