With more budgets shifting from traditional to digital marketing, there’s a lot of opportunity out there at the moment for digital marketers, but there are a lot of challenges too. Despite becoming a central focus of the strategy in so many organisations, agencies continue to face a number of significant pain points.
Here’s a rundown of some of those obstacles, along with some of the best ways of solving them.
1. Winning new business - do what you do best
Ironically, despite all the money being pumped into digital campaigns, more than half of all digital agencies say their biggest challenge is winning over new clients. One of the reasons for this is competition. Today, everybody wants to be a digital marketer and with more firms looking to international markets for growth opportunities, digital agencies must be able to stand out to make an impact with potential clients.
As with any business sector, convincing new clients to come on board takes patience, focus and planning. So you need to look at every stage of how you do that - and be highly objective about it. Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and go through your pitch and sales process from start to finish. If you’re truly objective, you’ll quickly pinpoint anything that’s generic, clichéd or simply unappealing for prospects.
You should also see what you’re doing right. Build on the positives and eliminate or improve the rest. What doesn’t feel comfortable for you probably isn’t working for clients. Here, a second opinion from an industry peer could be insightful.
In a competitive marketplace, the key is not to do what everyone else is doing, but to focus on your own niche strengths. Showcase what you can do that others can’t.
59% of CFOs say that business intelligence should be a priority. Invest in data and analytics to identify your target market and carry out in-depth research into potential customers. Find out what they want and build the answers to their problems into your pitch. It’s only when you understand their pain points that you can create the solutions they’ll want to buy. Differentiate yourself based on your strengths and their pain points.
Visibility is important too, but with so many competitors using the same digital marketing keywords, that can be a challenge. Again, focus on your niche - on what makes you different. Your market strategy should be all about how you define your offering. Use content to demonstrate you are the expert in your specialism and get your message out to the wider community on professional platforms such as LinkedIn.
If a client thanks you for the completion of a successful project, don’t wait for a referral, ask for it. While you’re at it, get a testimonial for your website, or if it showcases a particular expertise or service, make it into a case study. By doing so, you’ll proactively build your reputation and get more business coming your way.
2. Clients - can’t live with them, can’t live without them
Clients can be a constant source of stress for agencies for a host of reasons, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to understand all the moving parts of a digital campaign when they’re focussed on their own businesses.
Three of the most common issues experienced by marketers are:
Unresponsiveness - As many as 55% of agencies cite unresponsiveness as a pain point . There is a good reason for this. While that client might be a large part of your overall efforts, and take up as much as 50% of your agency’s time, it’s a much smaller part of the overall picture when it comes to their own operations, taking up much less of their time.
Set clear expectations from the outset. Let them know that without timely follow-ups, deadlines will be impacted. Never end a meeting without scheduling a follow-up and put a contingency plan in place if clients still fail to respond. It can help to get acquainted with your clients’ schedules too. Like you, they’ll be busier at certain times throughout the month.
Scope creep - Around 40% of agencies go over budget due to scope creep. And if this isn’t addressed early on, it can lead an agency down the slippery slope to unprofitability. To avoid it, make it clear in the initial contract what’s included and what isn’t before you start work.
Dissatisfaction - Much of the time, this is down to a client’s lack of know-how in the digital arena. But client dissatisfaction can be difficult to navigate, and can lead to deteriorating client relations - even if you’ve been delivering solid work and results. But there are very simple things you can do to show clients that you committed to helping them succeed.
Losing the wrong client can be the single most costly thing for an agency to experience. If the future of the business hinges on one big spending client, then that client needs to be prioritised. There’s no point giving all your clients the same level of support if one is delivering more profit to the business than the rest put together. So make sure big-spending clients are prioritised with a dedicated account manager to provide extra support when they need it. Some clients may have multiple touchpoints throughout the agency, so there needs to be a single point of contact that makes it easy for the client to get the solution they need straightaway.
Arrange regular catch-ups. A senior member of the management team should get on a call at least once a month to make sure clients’ needs are being met - and to find out what else the agency can be doing to improve value further.
Some clients may need to be “gently” educated, especially as many businesses are now running their own basic campaigns in-house, using the likes of Google Ads and Facebook. Let them know what you’re doing is more complex and the results will be equally far-reaching. Make sure they understand that when it comes to digital marketing, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. It takes time to deliver results in an increasingly competitive market. Invest in a good reporting platform that clearly demonstrates the difference your efforts are making. Focus on demonstrating the value of what you do. At the same time, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice versa.
3. Be a trendsetter
When you’re busy running a digital marketing agency, it can be difficult to find the time to stay on top of trends and new innovations. Digital marketing is constantly evolving and it’s absolutely vital you keep up to remain relevant. As the expert in your niche, it’s your role to identify trends before they happen, so you can offer new winning strategies to clients first. In doing so, you’ll grow your business and your reputation, while outpacing the competition.
Newer technologies can even help you find solutions to your own pain points. Today, digital agencies need to be more data-driven than ever and technologies such as AI can help drive return on investment (ROI) and return on ad spend (ROAS). A good example is the rise of programmatic advertising. This is changing the way agencies handle digital marketing budgets. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies can help marketers work with predictive segments, tracking customer behaviour in real time and create highly personalised messages to target customers through the likes of Facebook, Google Adwords, and other formats. That’s something you can even use to target new customers for your own business.
It’s not easy keeping up to date with everything, so don’t try to do it all (especially if you’re a smaller agency). Focus on what you specialise in, but be the absolute expert in that. Don’t be content to keep pace with trends: predict them and aim to set new ones others will follow.
4. The skills gap - create your own talent pool
As you’d expect in such a rapidly evolving sector, there’s a big skills gap in digital marketing. Most agencies are struggling when it comes to finding staff with the most up to date skills. If you can’t source or afford the best staff out there, hire those with the most potential and create an in-house program to develop the right talent for your needs.
According to Gallup, only 34% of employees are still engaged in their jobs . That’s not good for business. Engaged employees will add more value, proactively creating solutions to business challenges and helping the business become more profitable. The best way to keep staff fresh, inspired and enthusiastic about the business is to make sure they have the development opportunities to keep growing their skills and contribute even more for the firm down the line. Feedback mechanisms can help too. Find out what your employees want and act on that to improve engagement, retention and productivity.
Remote working can increase your talent pool and help you find what you need. One survey by HiveHub found that 20% of agencies had already gone 100% virtual before the pandemic, with this number likely to grow when restrictions end. As an added bonus, committing to “working from home” can cut costs too.
5. Get to grips with due diligence
The rules regarding data and privacy seem to be constantly changing especially if you’re operating across several different jurisdictions. It’s a headache for many digital agencies but something you have to stay on top of to avoid falling foul of regulations or being hit with financial penalties.
That’s where due diligence comes in: the establishment of rules and processes help your agency remain compliant with the ultimate goal of safeguarding business interests. It might sound unprofitable (and more than a little boring) in terms of time, effort and resources, but it’s about avoiding serious losses that could occur as the result of minor errors in operational procedure.
Due diligence isn’t just something you look at during start-up, a restructure or expansion into new markets. It’s something that needs to be part of everyday business practices. Fortunately, there are tools out there that can help. Most agencies are now opting for due diligence with secure cloud-based digital archives to store and track important business documents. This can help your team have the right documents and files at their fingertips, so decision-making is faster and your business can become more agile as a result.
Once you’ve developed the corporate governance practices you need, it’s simply a matter of making sure your employees and partners apply them and are kept fully up to date when changes happen. After that, due diligence should merge seamlessly into your day-to-day work processes.
Transform challenges into opportunities
As with so many things in business, pain points can become opportunities. By recognising, analysing and understanding the challenges your digital marketing company faces, you begin the groundwork that not only resolves those issues, but creates new avenues for growth.
For instance, if you’re working with clients in overseas markets, that often means dealing with multiple currencies, conversions and money transfer issues like international banking fees. That might sound like a big headache for some agencies, but with a platform such as CurrencyFair, with local bank accounts across the globe, your international payments are treated as domestic transfers, saving you time and money.
With a CurrencyFair business account you can access bank-beating FX rates, low-cost international transfers in over 20 currencies to over 150 countries, and first-class customer support. That’s one problem solved while unlocking considerable business advantages.
Put the right mechanisms in place to solve your pain points and you begin to create new ideas that can help you find your own niche and attract new business, taking your digital marketing agency to the next stage of its growth.