Did you know that most modern marketing theory has its roots in the Industrial Revolution? When laws prohibiting monopolies were passed across the nation, businesses had to begin competing for business -- enter marketing agencies to spread the word. Since their birth, marketing agencies have seen many different avenues for reaching customers. Newspaper ads and radio commercials evolved into television commercials. And eventually advertising found its way to online channels.
Thanks to huge developments like mobile technology, social media and Big Data, marketing is an entirely different environment. It’s almost unrecognizable compared to what it was just a few years ago.
This drastically different marketing landscape has quickly caught up to many marketing agencies that are having a hard time adapting. These new technologies, platforms and omnichannel environments present many fresh challenges that some agencies struggle to overcome.
Aside from these new obstacles, there are many of the same age-old problems that have been plaguing marketers since the beginning. Being able to identify these problems early on and being able to quickly combat them can not only help your marketing agency continue to thrive, but it can also give you an edge over competing firms that are struggling from the same woes.
Here are 6 common problems for marketing agencies and what you can do to attack them head on and come out on top of the competition.
1. Bad targeting
This is one of those age-old, fundamental issues that many marketers wrestle with. When you went into business, you likely had some idea of who your target audience(s) would be. Sometimes that “idea” isn’t actually the best or most valuable audience for your company. Acting on a whim is not sufficient when it comes to targeting -- intelligence is the answer when you are looking for the right market segment.
Successful marketing agencies will attest to the fact finding the right segment can be a challenge. In fact, 72% of marketing agencies admit they do not know what their target is, yet 59% of CFOs claim that business intelligence is their number one priority. That means that the guys at the top are willing to spend the money to learn about what’s important to their buyers. So, as a marketing agency, you also need take advantage of the funds. Invest in Big Data.
Big Data and analytics tools provide great assistance in choosing the right segment. Just remember, Big Data is not just digital information and web behavior. There is value in looking at how you are targeting customers through several different lenses.
- Online searches
- Social buying signals
- Web mining
- Crowd sourcing
- Transactional data
After looking at the data through these lenses, you need to sort it into usable information.
- Fast data: real time behaviors used to see if a purchase is going to occur.
- On board data: data found offline that can be transformed into data to reach prospective clients online.
- Foundational data: data mined from your business that you use to identify your customers.
Studies show that companies that use Big Data to help target the right customers outdo their competitors by 20% in every major metric.
Leveraging your current, past and future data can help you compare your options more closely than traditional market research. With the right data and proper analytics solution, you can catch valuable insight into what target source makes the best sense for your organization and will provide the most long-term growth.
2. Slow adapting to the digital age
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Today’s digital age came upon us like a whirlwind storm. Marketers had little time to learn before the training wheels came off. Before the majority of us became comfortable marketing on social media, we started hearing about Big Data and analytics tools giving birth to previously unseen insights. Yet, many of us barely had time to look before we scrambled to try and accommodate the mobile boom.
Worse yet, all of these technologies and new platforms are as fast-moving as the digital age itself. What was considered “best practice social media marketing” one day can look entirely different the next day.
The 2016 predictions alone call for shifting trends that make it extremely difficult for marketers to adapt -- especially because emerging “trends” are a dime a dozen. Honestly, finding the ones that actually live up to their assumed potential is rare.
Case and point, a lot of marketing agencies moved so fast into social media channels that they didn’t (and most still don’t) know how to measure its ROI. In a 2016, 66% of marketers said measuring social media ROI is a struggle. Only an abysmal 9% of marketers say they can quantify revenue driven by social media. This means that most don’t even know if their social media efforts are truly effective.
The fix to this is largely a question of targeting. Part of the beauty of the digital age is that the lines of communication between brand and consumers are wide open; use this to your advantage. Talk to your customers.
3. Trouble with omni-channel
The digital age has brought a lot of new marketing channels to agencies. Marketing agencies have to determine which channels they need to be present on (or rather, which channels their target audiences are present on), how to uniquely use each channel and how the customer journey can be fluent across these many different channels.
Determining what channels your target consumers are present on is the easiest part. Simple market research or basic analytics will tell you this. You can also just ask your customers. The difficult part is understanding how each channel can be used in a way that utilizes the unique characteristics of that channel. The more marketing channels you are using, the more difficult it becomes to maintain a cohesive brand voice and image. It also makes it harder to create a seamless customer journey across each touchpoint.
Studies show that 87% of customers feel that brands need to put more effort into a seamless customer experience. For example, in terms of marketing materials, a consumer wants a new experience each time he interacts with your brand on social media. Thus, simply reposting content across all channels can have a negative impact.
To rectify this negative experience, narrow your active channels down to the essentials. Figure out where your target consumers are most active and hit those channels hard, while ignoring the rest (as best you can). This will help ensure that all of your efforts are targeted in the areas that will yield the greatest returns. It also helps limit the amount of duplicate copy you post on various channels, which thereby will boost engagement.
4. Neglecting the little stuff
In the digital age, and 1.96 billion people are connected to social media. Nearly 80% of the time spent on social occurs as a result of the constant connectivity of mobile devices. Despite the close-knit nature of our social media circles and constant communication, we can sometimes forget the power of small, simple and personal gestures of goodwill. In marketing, these small gestures can have a profound effect on your ability to close consistently.
These gestures can include anything from a thank you note after a consumer makes a purchase, to a small “We hope you are doing well” letter when a customer is inactive for a period of time or just thanking someone for their time.
Little things can make a big difference. While we may be hyper-connected, social media interactions and even e-mails can be largely cold and impersonal. That little personal thank you or other gesture can make all the difference.
These small tactics can help nurture prospective leads and turn them into high value clients. When you automate the process, it takes little effort and yields huge returns. Agencies have reported returns as high as 450%, when turning to marketing automation for these and other tactics.
The beauty of doing the little stuff is that it requires very little effort. If you aren’t already performing some of these simple, yet important, tasks, then it is easy to set up an automated system to issue thank yous or other small messages. Sometimes these can help play key roles in understanding the consumer’s behavior and where in the marketing funnel they lie.
5. Copying the wrong approach
Because digital marketing is relatively new and still evolving, there is a lot of monkey-see-monkey-do between marketers. By which I mean, if one digital marketer finds success in a certain social media campaign, mobile platform or some other strategy, there are sure to be others who try and replicate similar content and results within their own organization. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. In fact, it is a great method for discovering new and creative content ideas and new ways to use these newer platforms.
That said, it isn’t without it’s risks. A lot of marketers run into problems when they try and mirror what others do, when that other business is unlike their own. A common example of this is when B2B companies try and engage their clients and customers on social media. These companies have a knack for imitating what they see their B2C counterparts doing. But it simply doesn’t work that way.
The “right” strategies often don’t translate from one business type to another. A B2B company has a completely different customer base as a B2C company, so the target audience on social media is rarely the same. B2C companies sell directly to consumers where B2B companies sell to a person who represent a business. Copying the wrong social media marketing approaches are a large reason why B2B companies acquire customers from Facebook lower rate than B2C companies (43% to 77%). B2B businesses see better results when the invest their marketing efforts into more educational based marketing like webinars and blogs. Copying the social media efforts of businesses that sell directly to consumers is not practical.
The same can be true if you adopt a similar approach to a company that is targeting a different audience. Just because a company is your competitor doesn’t mean they are after the same target audience. Their product or service, while similar, may focus on a different demographic. Attempting to mirror their approach could cause you to lose engagement from the consumers you actually want to connect with.
If you are looking for new content ideas or want to adopt a new strategy, look at brands or companies that target the same segment(s) and have the same current marketing objectives as your organization. They may not be your direct competitors, but if you share the same target audience, you can find new ways to attract those consumers.
6. Not highlighting a unique selling point
USP is another fundamental piece of marketing that agencies have (and seemingly always will) struggled with. Arguably, the digital age has made the need for marketers to develop a unique selling point more important than ever because consumers have access to more companies to choose from than ever before (and vice versa). Studies show that the right USP can increase conversion rates by 33.8%.
Your unique selling point doesn’t necessarily have to be something you offer that other competitors don’t. A lot of marketing agencies fail to close efficiently because they assume their business offers the same services as every other agency. While this is likely true, your agency may be more adept at SEO than your competitor. Or, you may have a specific niche you operate in a lot; perhaps you market restaurants and bars very well.
Once you determine your selling point, the majority of your marketing materials should mention or cater to this edge.
When looking for your unique selling point, you want to be strategic. Not only do you want something that your competitors don’t offer or can’t do as well, but you also want it to be something your target audience is looking for, but can’t find from other marketing agencies. Ask yourself the following questions in order to develop a strong USP.
- What are the businesses’ strengths?
- Why do customers do business with us?
- Who is your competition?
- Can I get feedback and modify anything?
- Test two different USPs with Google Adwords to see which one does better.
A lot has changed and a lot will continue to change, with regards to marketing in the 21st century. The digital age has rocked marketing to its core. When it comes to the unique challenges facing marketing agencies today, it is easy to get overwhelmed and hit obstacles trying to adapt to the constantly evolving “best practices.” Digital marketing trends seem to move at light speed, which can sometimes cause marketers to take a passive, wait-and-see approach, but this stagnant behavior can lead to poor performance and growth. Sometimes, you have to take risks and jump on trends that aren’t fully tested and proven.