Why Doing Your Own Digital Marketing is Actually Costing You Money, Not Saving It We all want to get the highest ROI on our marketing efforts. And most of us have considered doing it on our own to save money. But is this short-term solution hurting your business's long-term success?

By Cody Curran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Raise your hand if this is you: You hired not just one, but two, three or even four marketing agencies only to find yourself right back where you started. Every time, you're out of thousands of dollars and building further resentment towards marketing agencies. Well ... you're definitely not alone on this one. As a whole, agencies get a bad rap for over-promising and under-delivering.

Does this thought process sound familiar?

  • Can I learn this on my own and get the same results?

  • Can THIS agency drive the results the last one claimed to be able to deliver?

  • Is this just a bunch of smoke and mirrors?

  • Is this the right time to get an agency, or should I just try to learn how to do enough to get me to where I can hire an agency?

  • Where can I put my dollars to get the greatest ROI?

  • Can this agency get me past my hurdle rate?

Related: Thinking of Taking Your Marketing In-House? Think Again.

Checklist for finding the right agency partner

How can you avoid the principal agency dilemma and find someone that is actually going to deliver results? What we've seen at MavenXmedia is that there is, in fact, a checklist of things you must go through as you search for the right agency partner:

  • Is this the right time for me to use an agency?

    • Agencies are going to need you to commit to a minimum ad spend in order to deliver results for services like paid media. This is not to get you to spend more. It is because to reach a threshold to scale, the algorithm needs a certain amount of data to find the right customers for you.

    • If it's a website or a creative service, you should consider whether, at your current stage, if you would be better off finding a friend with baseline knowledge or possibly even doing it yourself vs. hiring an agency that can take professional photos and videos or build that world-class website.

    • It all comes down to cash allocation in the early stages. Cash is king in digital marketing, despite what you might hear from the gurus. Be conservative, but create certain frameworks like MARR, hurdle rate, risk asymmetry, etc.

  • Can they deliver results for my niche, and do they have testimonials to prove it?

    • Do they have more than five testimonials in your specific industry or a related one?

  • Is the agency willing to let you reach out to past clients, so you can hear what they have to say about them?

    • If they show even a little hesitancy to let you reach out to current or past clients, pass. They should have the confidence that clients they've worked with will speak highly of them.

  • How many employees do they have?

    • This will tell you the depth of resources that they have at their disposal. It's not a leading indicator of quality or results, but if you are an enterprise, you are going to need someone that has nearly unlimited resources for adapting to you.

  • What are the two to three services they specialize in?

    • Every agency under 15-20 people is going to specialize in only two to three services, despite what they might say on their website or sales pitch. They just don't have the man power to deliver over-the-top results for more than that — nor do they have the size to attract top talent to really hammer home those results.

    • If they claim to be masters of five services at that level, dig deeper to find what they actually specialize in.

  • Do I need to hire an agency for just one thing or multiple things?

    • If you're in the early stages, you should look for someone who can deliver 80% of the results that a top-tier agency would deliver. You will save money and the headache of having to listen to the talking heads at multiple agencies. If you're much larger or even enterprise-level, you should consider using multiple agencies that each specialize in different services like Facebook ads, SEO, brand strategy, website development, CRO, etc.

  • Are they going to be malleable to what I think will work, or are they inflexible?

    • A lot of times, the agency is going to have a set of processes that they've seen work best. But if they are unwilling to flex with what intricacies make your business unique and what your customers buy, then it might be wise to go in another direction.

Related: How Your Company Can Use Both Outsourced and In-House Marketing

The most important question of all: What is the highest and best use of my time as an entrepreneur?

Say you need heart surgery. Are you going to be visiting a pediatrician? Or perhaps a general practitioner? Of course not! You're going to be Googling the best heart surgeon you can find. Why? Because they have specialized knowledge in delivery damn-near perfection in what they do.

The same goes for a marketing agency or any other operations role that you can hire out for to free up time so that you can actually work ON growing your business. As a business owner, you start out as a jack of all trades — doing everything from marketing to operations to product management to HR and accounting. As you grow, you hire out for these roles, because there are others who are just plain better at it than you. Yup, believe it or not, you're losing money by not hiring out for these role (opportunity cost of not using your highest value skillset).

What it really comes down to is what stage you are at in your lifecycle, what you can afford and your current skillsets. Figure out these three things, and consider the above questions to pinpoint where you should be leaning towards. This should cut down dramatically on agency turnover and most importantly, precious growth time lost.

Related: Ways to Hire an Effective Marketing Professional for Your Company

Caveat: If you are truly marketing expert with years of experience in a certain area like Facebook ads, Google, SEO, etc., you can wait to hire these out until they start eating away too much of your time from other areas of the company.

Consider these points carefully and conservatively. Here's to your more consistent growth and putting an end to reaching for an aspirin after firing yet another marketing agency. Cheers!

Cody Curran

CEO of MavenXmedia

At MavenXmedia, we help brands create and then implement our proven seven-step scaling framework that will drive consistent growth and help them realize the vision they have for their business and life.

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