Posted: 10 Aug 2016 Contributor: Therese Palmere
Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency for Small Businesses
Despite the small business marketing help an outside agency can provide, many businesses instead opt to keep things in-house. Whether by choice or a lack of funding—almost half (47%) of small businesses spend less than $10,000 on digital marketing, indicating small or nonexistent budgets—these businesses are not performing as optimally as they could if they were to conduct a Google search for “marketing agencies near me.”
After all, in-house help is the most common digital marketing resource (80%), but industry leaders say that small businesses trying to handle everything in-house are overextending themselves. So how do you choose a digital marketing agency?
Small business or startup, managing a profitable marketing department is not easy, and decisions on what should be managed in-house versus through small business marketing companies make it that much harder.
That’s why we, at Aumcore, want to make everything easier for you. So whether you manage your marketing solutions for small businesses through a team of in-house experts, or through a local business marketing agency and are thinking of transferring more burdens from your shoulders to theirs, here are some guidelines, tips and marketing strategies for small business that can tip the balance in your favor.
Read More About: What Is a Digital Marketing Agency and What Can It Do?
So whether you manage your marketing through our team of experts, take it in-house or through another agency, here are some guidelines, tips and strategies that can tip the balance in your favor for a successful digital marketing strategy.
Pros and Cons
Digital marketing is a broad category of services used to describe any campaign in a variety of mediums that are published or broadcasted through digital platforms such as the internet, television, social media and more. (Think anything and everything that’s not primarily for printing purposes).
Depending on your business industry and target goals, there are some pros and cons to handling various projects in-house or through an agency.
- Diverse Levels of Experience
- The Direction in Achieving KPIs
- Results-driven Strategy
- Target Demographic Research
- Best Quality Media
- Resources and Connections
- Project Management
- Proven Success Stories
- Informed on Latest Trends
- Greater Initial Investment
- Limited Immediate Turnaround
- Not Stationed On-site
Let’s first talk about the elephant in the room. Yes – hiring a digital marketing agency for small businesses is going to be an expense that requires some consideration. Not all small businesses can afford to take that leap – and others can’t afford not to.
With tight budgets, marketing is often the first department to suffer the loss, and spending the non-existent “extra” cash on marketing is often seen as a con. But consider if that’s the most logical cut. Marketing has a bad rep for not showing direct gain vs. investment, and for that reason managers are often hesitant to make the commitment.
Read More About: How Small Business Can Take Benefits from Digital Marketing Agencies
If that’s sounding familiar to your business, consider more secure investments such as SEO or PPC advertisements, and make your goals clear to your marketing department or agency… as well as to yourself. You may save a dime doing it on your own time, but there are several factors that may be overlooked without consulting a professional.
An experienced digital agency for small and medium companies will be able to not only fulfill your marketing needs – they’ll be able to direct you to the best course of actions according to your budget and specific goals.
Some of the top KPI’s SMBs are currently concerned with include incoming calls, website traffic, search engine ranking, store traffic and enquiries.
One of the certainties when selecting an agency is the advantage of working with distinct professionals in the industry. Sure, you hired the most amazing graphic designer out of college who can also manage social media and some banner ads, but without years of experience under their belts, they’re going to learn some lessons the hard way. The worst part? These lessons are coming right out of your pocket.
Another consideration is turnaround time. While an agency is likely to provide a higher quality product, there is some turnaround time involved in producing media according to best practices. There is a need for planning and strategizing before execution to deliver better results.
Working with a renowned agency, you’ll also have the opportunity to receive projects from several individuals who are skilled specifically in specialized tasks. If you’re working on a campaign that includes multiple channels (social, web, video etc.), working with an agency will actually save you some money by packaging these services and channeling through the people who are best fit to deliver outstanding results.
Digital Marketing Spending by Small Businesses
At the end of the day, your budget will determine what you can and can’t do. So, what are your peers up to when it comes to marketing, and how can you go about making the most of your efforts?
Let's start with the million-dollar question, or in this case, the $400 question… That’s right, the average small business $400 on marketing, with 46% of that going towards digital marketing specifically. Of these, the majority (78%) believed that mobile marketing is incredibly important.
When it comes to what these businesses are spending their budget on:
- 59% have social media as their main focus
- 50% are focusing on mobile marketing
- 42% are focusing their efforts on email marketing
- Only a third of them spend over $10,000 on their marketing efforts annually.
- Between 6.5% and 10% of their total revenue is spent on marketing.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
Now that you understand the pros and cons of hiring small business marketing firms, the next step is to make your selection! There are hundreds of agencies out there that all have their own unique style, voice and marketing perspective. With the overwhelming amount of options, it can seem like a difficult choice to make, but the real challenge is to choose the right small digital agency that will accurately represent your brand.
During the production process, this agency will be working directly with your team, and will essentially be a functioning part of your business. Similar to interviewing a candidate for an internal role, there are some questions you need to ask in order to determine whether or not the agency will be the right fit. Below are the top five small business creative agency questions that we get asked the most:
- Can you show us some small business strategy examples of your best written content? Top digital marketing agencies for small businesses will usually offer copywriting as one of their services to help improve SEO. One way to determine whether or not their written style is for your brand is to ask for a sample of their best posts.
- What information will you need from me? Oftentimes, brands won’t understand what information will be needed, or how they can help their digital marketing campaign. Asking this question helps give both sides a clear understanding of what’s expected.
- How does your team optimize your content for search engines? When asking this question, your goal is to get the small business SEO company to start talking about their process and how their team approaches search engine optimization.
- What metrics does your team track? Even a newer digital marketing agency for startups should be able to explain metrics like bounce rates, CPC, conversions and ROI to its clients. If the agency you’re interviewing doesn’t know how to explain these terms, or if it doesn't provide reports on how your PPC campaigns are doing... that’s a red flag!
- When will I be able to see results? One of the downsides to SEO or PPC for small business is that agencies can’t give you a definitive date on when you will be able to see results. These campaigns take time, but usually you will be able to notice results within 6 - 12 months.
Hopefully, these questions will help you poke and prod a bit further into the inner workings of each prospective agency your team is considering. If you have a question about the agency, their previous works, their collaboration process or anything, ask it!
No question is “stupid,” especially when you’re considering where to spend your marketing budget. Remember that the agency you hire will be an extension of your business, so it’s important to get to know each team as best as you can during the hiring process.
Best Services for Small Businesses
As a small business, your strategies are probably a bit different than that of a Fortune 500 company with decades of experience. For example, while both likely dabble in essentials like social media marketing and paid advertising, the goals with each may be different. That is, you may use your social channels as a way to market your products and funnel users to your site so they can make the purchase, but they may simply use it as a social listening tool to always know what’s going on with their audience.
The point being that, as a small business, the strategies you need apply to you and those in similar situations. In other words, if you want to succeed and beat out your competition, you’re going to need to tailor your strategies so they benefit you, a small business. To this end, taking a look at the most popular marketing services small businesses ask for will be a big help as you build your own strategy. Additionally, you’ll also get an idea of what you can ask for if you do decide to get in touch with a digital agency.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Studies show that between 81% of consumers research a company on the web before making a purchase through them. A big mistake small companies are making is not investing in SEO. Search engine optimization allows new potential consumers discover your small business, and can increase traffic and sales exponentially.
Aumcore offers a unique approach to a holistic lifestyle of #HealthySEO™ that helps businesses achieve sustained 1st page search results through an ongoing strategy built through proven success.
One of the biggest appeals small businesses have is that they’re small! They’re the bakery down the street or the mom and pops shop on the next block. As a small business owner, one of the biggest issues you face is losing your unique sense of self, so you feel inclined to find a marketing agency for startups that will protect and enhance the integrity of your brand.
If you’re not looking to dive in to the big leagues of SEO just yet, you can start off by asking a digital marketing agency to help your business with mobile SEO, which will help optimize your brand to appear more frequently at the local level, on local web searches. This is a great way to get your feet wet without diving right in.
PPC advertising is one of the most in-demand digital marketing services because brands can directly see their ROI. If your brand is struggling with getting customers to your website, and then having those users follow the sales funnel, PPC advertising is one of the best ways to address that issue.
Lots of advertising agencies for small business would recommend this service because it produces the immediate results startups are looking for in the early stages of marketing, and it sets up your brand up for future success with increased brand awareness.
A web page is often the first impression people have of your brand or business. Make sure it’s one that will resonate deeply with them. Many small businesses opt for low-cost template-based platforms, which have the advantages of low-cost and minimal upkeep. However, flexibility is limited so prepare to make compromises with this option.
For a fully customizable website with latest trends and digital advancements, some customization is required – if not built from scratch. If your business provides multiple products or services, requires a personalized interface for the management team or consumer, or just needs the latest personal touch, opt for web development through a digital agency.
If a template-based platform like Shopify or WordPress meets your needs, you may also consider a maintenance program through an agency that can help you with appealing graphics and a user experience that drives sales.
Another huge issue small business owners face is defining their brand to a larger audience. What started out as just a hobby suddenly became a business, and now you have to think about branding. When did your Sunday afternoon cookie baking sessions turn into a full fledged cookie business?
If you’re feeling this kind of pressure, we’re here to let you know that’s okay and you’re not alone! Many small business owners have faced growing pains when it comes to scaling and branding. A digital marketing agency can help you specify and define your niche, audience and create a solid branding plan you can apply to every aspect of your company.
Content Marketing Plan
Content is king for a small businesses because it’s the stuff that will get customers to actively engage with your brand before making a purchase. Plus, content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. If you’re working with a tight budget and need to draw customers in, content marketing is the way to go.
Social Media Advertising
While over 90% of small business use social media, many are not investing beyond in-house upkeep avoiding SMM agency services – which may be a big mistake.
Read More About: Social Media Best Practices for Small and Medium Business
10 years ago, only 7% of the US population used social media. Since then, that number has exploded in 2015 to 65% and continues to rise.
Social media is no longer a quickie add-on. There is a receptive, waiting audience on social media. Leverage their attention by reaching out to them where they’re already at. An agency can help you promote your channels, products and services through targeted ads reaching people who are more likely searching for someone just like you.
AI in Small Business Marketing
As you’ve gathered by now, sustaining and growing a small business isn’t easy. Thankfully, all the strategies and services we just covered will make everything MUCH easier for you in the days to come. Even better is the fact that you’re a small business in 2019. Why? Because you have something else at your disposal that businesses in past years did not: Artificial intelligence (AI).
Even though AI has been a thing for decades now, it’s use in marketing doesn’t extend that far, and its widespread use is even more recent. For instance, did you know you could use AI marketing tools in areas like personalization and content creation? What about customer service—did you know you could use AI to automate that so your users are always covered? Well, it’s true. There are countless AI-based tools you can use as a small business, and making use of them will prove to be a much-needed boon. For example, apart from Google Analytics and similar Google-provided tools that will be your artificial intelligence MVPs, here are some and what they offer:
- BloomReach gives you algorithms and advanced merchandising tools so you can optimize each visitor’s search, browse and landing page experiences.
- Wordsmith is a natural language generation (NLG) platform that uses a template to turn data into insightful narratives.
- Aivo will the backbone of your customer support by giving you a chatbot that helps you respond in real time, and even understands each channel’s rules so it can adapt automatically and respond.
Now that you know what’s out there, feel free to scour the internet until you find a batch of tools that are best for YOU!
And Most Importantly…
If you do choose to manage some or all of your marketing through an agency, choose one who is a proven success in the business to ensure your dollars are well spent and aligned for the highest return.
While we might be a bit partial, Aumcore was just listed as a top Digital Marketing Agency in NY… and proving marketing services for small businesses driven by results is not just our mission, it’s our passion. And we’re proud to continue delivering digital marketing solutions to small, medium and enterprise business in NY and beyond. Be sure to check out our portfolio for some of our favorite success stories.