How to thrive as a small Marketing Agency

TLDR — Move marketing dollars away from tech into better marketing campaigns by leveraging technical platforms.

I want to criticize the business model of small to mid sized marketing agencies from a technical and strategic point-of-view. My motivation is simple, my partner works in marketing. I’ve seen my partner go through so much unnecessary pain. The margins of agency life are small and the end product is usually subpar. I’ve seen how money is wasted and mismanaged on these projects. This results in unhappy clients getting subpar branding efforts. Nobody wins.

About me

I think you should know a little about me before we continue. I’ve been a software developer for twenty years. I co-owned a healthcare start-up in the early 2000s. After that, I worked with big names NBA, CNN, PGA, and WebMD among others. I then switched my focus to start-ups and consulting. I started a consultancy which advised businesses on technical projects for years. Currently, I’m building the next big collaboration platform for businesses at a well funded start-up. During this time I specialized on improving engineering practices, mobile and web application architecture, and software at scale. I have a good idea about how the doughnuts are made.

The problem

When you’re paying for SEO experts and developers then that’s money not going to branding, storytelling, creative, unique approaches, and quality content. Agencies wasting time, money, and most importantly the client’s opportunity to inspire.

For years, marketing agencies have been trying to game search engines through trickery. In the early years, it was all about keyword stuffing and that has continued to evolve over the years. In fact, there is a whole list of bad practices peddled by so called SEO “experts”. Simultaneously, developers have been pushing their favorite technical stack. These solutions invariably need to maintenance, costing billable hours. Snake oil friends, it is a load of B.S.

A better business model for marketing agencies

  1. Content is king. The value of a website is in its ability to capture an audience by telling a compelling story that adds real value. We all know about information overload. You are competing with everyone for a person’s attention: local/regional/global ads campaigns, text messages, full inboxes, mobile notifications, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, News, Amazon, etc. Everyone has something to say. What makes your strategy stand out in a world full of noise? Meanwhile, clients know their business but struggle to communicate it in a compelling way. That’s where the real opportunity lives, it’s creative branding.

If you are looking to build a website then I hope this improves your filter for deciding what agencies and people to hire. If you are an agency and this is news to you then it’s time for some big changes. Maybe your agency is stuck in what has worked but I hope this will nudge you in a better direction.

Bottom line: Leverage web platforms so that you can invest in branding not SEO or development.

Part time mad computer scientist, full time lover of the extraordinary.

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