Problem 3: They do "activity" with no strategy

Why most marketing agencies are con artists - part 3:

This is part 3 of our guide explaining why almost all marketing agencies are con artists.

In the last section we discussed how the business model that marketing agencies follow is broken and failing clients. In this section we look at how and why agencies just do "activity" without any real strategy.

Almost all marketing agencies just do "activity", without any real plan or strategy. This will fail to get results.

The majority of the time when a client signs up for a service with a marketing agency all they get is the activity. By activity we mean the doing of the marketing, for instance; writing social posts, creating emails for email marketing, putting adverts live on Facebook, Google and other places just to name a few.

The issue here is that anyone can do the activity - but a truly successful marketing campaign is defined by its strategy. It is more about what to do, when to do it, who for & what to say. It's not just "talk about what we do to groups of people".

When you work with a marketing agency you are putting your trust in them that they know the best way to achieve your results - that's kind of the point, right? 

What is "marketing activity" - and why it is pointless without a strategy?

"Marketing activity" is the using of a platform. For example, sending an email to your past customers is marketing activity, as is writing posts for social media or putting an advert live on Facebook or Google.

The thing is that none of that matters without an actual plan of how to educate, entertain & capture customers at each stage of their journey. 

This is why there are businesses that don't do a huge amount, but what they do works incredibly well - and why there are businesses that send emails all the time, write social posts several times a day and run lots of adverts, but don't see any real results or make many sales.

Arguably the greatest military mind of all time, Sun Tzu, said over 2,500 years ago; "Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat". 

 "A well-planned strategy of deployment, mapped out to the smallest detail, is as much a guarantor of success as a hastily formed plan is a guarantor of failure. Success is pre-determined even before a battle begins. Every smart military commander knows this. Execution is wonderful, but planning — and the research that precedes planning — is paramount".

Every marketing agency can do the "activity" with varying degrees of success, but there are very few agencies that create an effective and beautiful plan that clearly demonstrates how they will use the activity you are signing up for in order to generate new profitable business. Instead, they are basically saying; "We're experts, pay us & trust us". 

Creating a good strategy is hard - which is why most agencies don't bother.

Creating an effective marketing strategy is really hard, it takes a fair amount of time and requires research, analytical, creative & business skills. The makeup of a strategy has many moving parts and requires a thorough understanding of:

  1. The business/client in question.
  2. The financials for each product/service.
  3. Supply chain, operational capacity & overheads.
  4. The actual business goal/objective.
  5. Timescales & budget.
  6. Actual performance of the product/service (onsite).
  7. Customer questions, problems & requests for and related to the product/service.
  8. Prefered content mediums for information, credibility, demonstrations and proofs.
  9. Performance of any/all previous activity.
  10. And many more moving parts...

Most marketing agencies don't know how/where to get all of this information/data, how to interpret it and how each part directly effects every other part. It's a shame, because the quality of the strategy will directly impact the quality of the activity. No strategy = high probability of failure, wasted budget & wasted time. Amazing strategy based on facts, data & the actual business's performance referenced with external customer data = significantly higher chance of success with less budgetary spend and in a shorter time.

A good strategy should include when customers are looking for different products/services, what questions/problems/requirements they have, the approximate costs of acquiring visitors to the landing page/website, the conversion rate of that page (with a comparable previous source of traffic), the supply chain of the product/service & the gross profit.

With this information you can start to build out a calendar of the different products/services throughout the year to the best people with the most relevant messages. If they're all looking for information about "how to use" something on YouTube then you can create video guides. If all of the customers know they need a product but they're researching the best business to get it from then you can focus on generating reviews, testimonials & customer feedback. It's about doing the right work at the right times to actually make a difference to your sales. It's not just "let's run some adverts because more traffic = more sales"...

They don't research.

Barely any digital marketing agencies research before agreeing a budget & signing a new client - which is just truly insane. They manage to convince a client to commit £2,000+ a month for a minimum of 6 months without any coherent plan of how they will use that budget effectively.

A good analogy for this is a garage. All cars have engines, doors & wheels, but that doesn't mean they all need the same work to fix them. Some might have tiny little problems that are a 20 minute job to fix and others need dozens of parts ordered, hours of labor and expertise to put right. The point is; you don't know until you get a look.

There could be 2 businesses with a very similar product/service, but the gross profit on the products, the availability of supply, the operational capacity of the business, the branding, information on the website, budgets, timescale of the objective and the type of customer & problems of the customer might all be very different. 

It takes looking at your data, website, previous marketing activity, your goal, budget & timescale to work out the best way to get to where you want to be. Some marketing tactics are more expensive and work more immediately whereas some are cheaper, have the potential of a higher return on investment in the long run but don't work for short term campaigns.

The point is this; every marketing agency should take a look under the hood of your business, they should compile external market research to see what's going on with your customers and they should look at your budget, timescale & goal. From here they can work out the best services in the best combination to get you to where you want to be. 

Unfortunately, businesses are usually told; "We've done great work before. You need more traffic to get more sales. We can do that for you". It would be great if it was that easy - but that's why almost all marketing agencies fail to get results for their clients.

We have an industry leading method of discovering exactly what your customers are looking for, what their problems are and what they are looking to buy/find. We can see this information on Google, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, AppStore & Playstore, Wikipedia, Fiver, Amazon and more. By doing this (and comparing it to your Google Analytics/website data), we are able to paint an incredibly clear picture of what your customers want, where they want it, if they need more info, if they are ready to buy, if they are shopping around and what they need to buy from you. This is next level game changing information that gets you results faster and stops wasted budget.

They don't use facts about your business.

Your business has a huge amount of information about what is working and what isn't. This is one of the best starting places to build a great strategy of how to increase your sales and your success - but almost every marketing agency will ignore this completely.

I mean, why would you bother seeing what your business does incredibly well and not so well at before spending £2,000+ a month on Facebook & Google Ads? Just spend it and hope it works, right? It's almost funny.

Before an agency makes a single change on your business they should take a good look at whats going on already. For example; let's say you have 3 products. Product A converts at 4% and the other 2 convert at 1%. They all get the same number of visitors. Why make random assumptions and changes to all 3 products without looking at the differences between the pages? What if Product A has far more reviews? What if it has more or a different style of images? Maybe it has more detailed information.

If product A turns 4x as many visitors into sales than products B & C, then why split the advertising budget equally into all 3? Why spend the same amount of time on SEO for all 3? It's not an effective use of the clients budget, time or trust. It's lazy, sad & pathetic. 

There is no excuse for a professional digital marketing agency not to look through a clients data, performance & other important facts about their business (such as actual financials, supply & ability to scale), before coming up with a plan/strategy - let alone signing the client to a set budget and just getting started with making changes and doing work. It fails so often, and is it a surprise?

They don't use financials or numbers.

Chance or Insight is the only digital marketing agency that I have ever come across that actually predicts & forecasts financial results from marketing activity. It keeps us accountable, gives us a goal to aim for & always keeps your/the clients financial success our ultimate goal.

Every agency should use financials and business sense as their starting point, but nobody does. It's insane.

This is going to be a slightly longer example that shows how we think about financials, data, performance metrics and audience research to come up with a strategy & financial forecasting:

Extremely over-simplified example:

You have a product that retails for £100.

Your gross profit is 40% / £40.

There is a great supply chain and operational scaling is relatively easy. You are not restricted by physical space, warehousing or complicated logistical networks.

There are 1,000 purchase intent searches on Google. Average cost per click: £1.20.

Previous paid advertising converted at 1.4%.

If we get a 10% click through rate, we would get 100 visitors for £120.

100 visitors = 1.4 sales / £57 in sales. Total value= £63 loss.

This would mean we need to work out how to get the cost per click lower and/or the conversion rate up.

Do you have relevant, useful and easy to understand information on the website/landing page? If we tested getting users who are looking for more information, does your website have a journey to take them from research to purchase? What assets do you have to show off your product/service/credibility?

The point:

The vast majority of marketing agencies would have put your adverts live on the relevant keywords and run you a loss because they don't use financials, numbers or facts to work out what the effects of their actions will be before a campaign starts. This is literally wasting your budget, your time & giving you a terrible perception of marketing - when in reality it's just that most marketing agencies don't have a clue what they're doing. They might be able to write nice adverts and get people to your website, but it doesn't matter if the cost is too high, 

This is why research, planning & strategy are so important - and why it's such a shame that most agencies don't put enough effort or time into it.

It's like you're paying for the builders without an architect.

It feels like most businesses are trying to build their dream house but instead of going to an architect and working out how to build the house, they're going straight to the builders. The builders say, "we've built nice houses before and we can do it for you".

The business pays the builders, they show up on site and start working. They put the wrong foundations in for the type of ground, so they need to undo it and start again. They get measurements wrong for the windows, so they need to redo them & order new glass.

This really is what it feels like in the digital marketing industry right now. There are so many businesses that we speak to every single week who have had terrible experiences with cheap agencies who sold them promises and didn't achieve anything. You need an architect to put together an honest plan of how to get to where you want to be - then you need a builder.

Side note: How to create an effective marketing strategy.

Take a look at our strategic services to learn how important an effective strategy is and how we develop marketing strategies that actually work for clients.

If you're interested in making a real difference to your financial success and sales then we highly recommend taking a few minutes to have a read:

In summary:

Hastily spending money and doing random stuff in hope of success does not work. There are thousands of adverts that say "just do this one thing and you can be a millionaire working from home". They're all a lie. Growing and scaling a successful business with multiple products & services is not an easy task. It requires a huge amount of knowledge, experience and someone who can see the big picture.

Unfortunately, most agencies are too eager to take your money and start the services. They want to get started so they can collect your billable hours. They don't know how to gather the right information to make an effective strategy and they don't want to spend the time before signing you up to create you a plan. It's sad.

The next section:

A lack of real world business knowledge.

How we can help:

Discover our strategic services:

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