Running your business on your own is a challenge, especially if you understand the importance of 80/20 rule – 80% of all your activity should be marketing and sales. Yet, sometimes this 80% takes so much time you have no time to actually develop your services/offers. Or on the flip side you are selling your products and providing your services, but have no time left for marketing and sales, thus constantly facing ups and downs in your income and struggling to attract a flow of ideal clients.
When this happens you are advised to outsource the stuff you have no time for or the stuff you do not know about to a 3rd party to manage for you. So many digital marketing companies, my own included up until recently, include this message in their pitch. However many digital marketing agencies take over and make completely no difference to your sales, simply because they do not understand your message, your vision or simply they are not in alignment with your vibes.
I was different. No, I am not saying I was reading my client’s minds and making them millions in revenue, completely taking the marketing load off their shoulders. This is not what happened.
I had a small and very manageable number of local clients that I could get to know intimately. Usually, I would integrate into the company, almost like another staff member. Some of my clients gave me 100% control running their operations, everything from web design and Social Media Marketing to customer service and processing orders. I just did not sell over the counter in the shop – everything else was looked after by my agency. And EZ Marketing did not disappoint: Google organic rankings reached the top of page #1, sales grew steadily over the years, return business increased, customers were happy.
But I have also seen business owners being a bit impatient to reach their 5-10 year vision and hiring a “proper” (oh I love when they say that to me) digital marketing company, with a Dublin city centre office and 10-20 [interns] sorry, staff. I saw this agency returning a report completely criticizing everything done to date (by me of course), offering a re-brand, website re-development, new social media strategy, new email campaign strategy, all that and some more. For a nice fat monthly fee, plus Google Adwords budget of a couple of thousand euro per month on top. The business was an e-commerce outlet, quite a niche industry, it had been active for about 6 months, and we were starting to get a steady flow of 1-3 orders per day with a very small Google Adwords campaign behind it.
Honestly, for a brand new online based e-commerce business that doesn’t go full-on advertising on Google and Facebook, this amount of orders after 6 months is very good. This is a scenario where you run the first couple of years at a loss whatever you do, before you create a solid online presence and, more importantly, trust from your customers and word of mouth reputation. You must do your research before starting a business purely relying on an online based store. How much demand is there for this product? How much competition would you have, and what do they offer that you, perhaps, cannot. What will it cost you to pack and ship? After 23% VAT (in Ireland), shipping and packing cost, the cost of purchasing the product from your supplier and advertising spend per item, how much profit can you make, while still offering an attractive price tag? Or should you decide to keep your prices a bit higher, emphasizing your value add-ons? These are the questions you should answer BEFORE buying your stock or building your website.
But back to those sheep… J (if you are as big a fan of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, you know what I mean)
So that digital marketing agency was hired, leaving me to just manage the sales, administration and customer service. They spent the first month re-branding and re-designing the website. They spend the second month testing and whatever else. (So we had literally no sales coming from the site). They launched at the start of the third month and started optimising the website (in fairness, on page content optimisation is a lengthy project, especially with a website of 900+ products and 30+ category pages), but when you know there is a team of copywriters supposedly working on it, it should only take a month or two. The advertising on Google was boosted to two thousand euro per month. We were still only getting 1-3 sales per day from all that activity. Three months later, when the website pages were all clearly optimised, they suggested we should do some link building using a system of PBM blogs (do not get me started on those). After the owner Googles PBM blogs, he agreed to that, what took another 3 months, with just the same amount of sales. In fact the sales started coming in with more interruptions, no steady flow of revenue was being generated, but a steady flow of bills was definitely coming in. So we are now 8 months into the project, no growth in business, huge loss with increased expenses and we are just at the same point as we were at the start.
To me it was clearly a situation where an agency took complete advantage of someone who had money to pay and absolutely no idea what they were doing. A perfect crime! You can basically do (or not do) whatever you want and as long as you show them graphs (copied from Google Analytics dashboard – not a business results tracking software) and use some fancy terminology, you can create an illusion that what you do is of utter importance and without this activity, the business has no hope to ever take off….
This was many, many moons ago. A year after the project commenced, they decided the domain name needed to represent locality and moved the website from .com to .ie domain – this means lots of work redirecting everything (which in fact is a line of code in your htaccess file and a small adjustment in domain forwarding settings). At that stage the owner bled too much money and started bringing more activity back “in house” – in other words getting EZ Marketing to look after Social Media, Blogs, and more interestingly, Google Adwords Campaigns.
Over the next 3 months, we generated revenue numbers from our ads on Google that were equal to or exceeded the BEST month sales of the previous year. Eventually the relationship with the fancy “proper” agency was terminated, but the business lost so much money by then that it was impossible to sustain, even with the increased revenue figures.
Why did I tell you this long and sad story?
Because when you get someone to do something you have no clue about you are opening yourself to potential abuse. The problem is that it gives power to that person’s (or that company’s) services, and leaves you feeling like a hostage. But outsourcing things that are hard or time-consuming for you is vital to give you time to do things you love!
The solution is simple. Everything we ever wanted is usually just a skill we have not learnt yet. So why not learn the skill yourself, so you have a good understanding of the core principles and then delegate it to someone else. Outsourcing something you have no idea about is simply a recipe for failure. Learning the basic skills is not hard, but it equips you with everything you need to manage what they do and the results you expect to be delivered.