There seems little doubt that by generalising your service offering, marketing agencies and consultants leave the door open for a more diverse range of potential customers. This is likely to result in more new business enquiries.
The challenge with this approach lies in the delivery of those services, which in turn impacts on customer satisfaction and customer retention. Since it is near impossible for a small agency or lone consultant to be knowledgeable in all areas of digital marketing, spreading yourself too thinly can lead to a lower quality of service or even the loss of a client.
In a recent webinar discussion, Constant Contact’s own Tamsin Fox-Davies explained how she suspects the offer of fees is probably tempting many agencies to agree to provide services they are not experts in. She feels the answer is outsourcing and partnering up with agencies that specialise in different services to you:
“If somebody wants a service you don’t specialise in and dangles a cheque in front of you, then you need to get stricter with yourself. When I was consulting I should have got smarter at outsourcing; in other words, managing centrally and letting someone else do specific things.”
Often though, finding compatible partners and experts to outsource to can be challenging. As Luke Brynley-Jones of Our Social Times suggested:
“The difficulty for us has been in selecting partners and especially ones where we know they’re as good as we are in what they do, in their specialism, so we won’t be dragging each other down.”
According to a recent survey by The Wow Company, which quizzed UK marketing agencies about their services, partnerships, clients and finances, 47% of agencies said they were planning on forming a strategic alliance with other agencies. While a report by Smart Insights found that it is normally the more technical services which are outsourced, such as paid search, display advertising and SEO – suggesting that quality can, perhaps, be maintained through outsourcing.
Is there a baseline of services that you have to offer?
Over the past 10 years, most small digital marketing agencies have tended to focus on a core set of services, such as web design, SEO, email marketing and digital advertising. In recent years, social media and content marketing have joined this ‘baseline’ of activities.
Which of these you consider core will depend on your perspective, but the UK Marketing Consultants Survey 2015 found that – when promoting themselves – UK marketing consultants focus on content marketing, social media, email marketing and SEO. The report highlighted that these activities require very little budget, suggesting that savvy digital marketers are now focusing on delivering results without spending very much at all.
For Lilach Bullock at Comms Axis, social media marketing is at the very core of their brand identity, so they see it as a baseline service, but she is also aware that it has its drawbacks:
“Social media marketing is something that we always offer because that’s at the heart of what we do. But if we’re going to be really honest and transparent, it is our lowest profit margin in terms of services.And it’s the most work, and it’s getting to be the hardest and most challenging to get results in without ads”
Luke Brynley-Jones agrees with her that social media marketing is evolving and, in turn, developing into new service offerings. He’s experienced similar issues at Our Social Times:
“Social media is what we do, but content now also plays a huge part in it. Advertising is unavoidable too, so we have to include that. And of course, social media monitoring and measurement goes hand in hand with that as well.”
Of course, for many independent consultants, what services you offer may depend not just on what you are good at, what is most profitable or what your customers want, but on what you enjoy doing the most.
Vee Smith of My Super VA said she takes this approach:
“I lead with website and email marketing, because they’re my favourites and what I prefer to do, and that usually leads on to other projects”.
Whatever you consider to be your core services, it’s likely that your core services will change. The Wow Company survey cited that: 49% of UK marketing agencies plan to launch a new product or service this year and 73% of agencies are planning on increasing their content marketing budgets.