Should I Hire A Marketing Agency Vs An In-House Marketing Team?

agency and in house marketing

The question will always arise at some point. Whether you are just starting out with your small business, or you own a well-established company one question remains the same: “How should I manage my digital marketing strategy?”

Digital marketing is just a simple Facebook post twice a week right?

Social media management is just one aspect of a much larger, cohesive marketing plan in action. As your business grows, you will find a greater need for a streamlined strategy.

You need online reputation management, paid ads, an email campaign, credible backlinks, social media calendars with engaging content, a functioning website with direct workflows, consistent – keyword rich content, and so much more in order to keep up to date and visible for your target audience.

You need a marketing team. But should that team be a part of your company, or should you look for a marketing agency? The following content compares both options, so you can make a more informed decision.

Consider Your Digital Marketing Needs

As a business, you have marketing requirements that are just as unique as you are. Your choice of marketing strategy will depend on your exact needs. In general, an in-house marketing employee has a very specialized set of skills.

They may be a social media specialist, copywriter, analytics professional or focused on paid search and ad words. In contrast, when you hire an agency, you are hiring a team with a variety of diverse talents.

1. Skillset: Specialized Vs Diverse

In-House Marketing

Those working in-house are keenly aware of your brand. They intimately know your goals and desired image because they eat, sleep and breathe your business. They are generally extremely specialized in the one area of marketing that you need.

It is rare to find an in-house marketing employee, well practiced in all aspects of digital marketing. Generally, there are various specializations that need to be combined for a cohesive and successful marketing strategy to take place.

Agency

Marketing agencies work with a variety of clients. All aspects of your marketing needs are met due to the sheer number of individuals working throughout the agency. When you hire an agency, there is no need to outsource work that your in-house workers can’t complete. Agencies possess a much more diverse skill set. You have separate individuals assigned to every different aspect of your marketing strategy.

The answer here comes down to asking yourself, can I afford to hire multiple people with different skillsets for my in-house marketing team? Or should I simply contact an agency where there is a talented team already assembled?

It depends entirely on your company needs. If you only need one aspect of your marketing campaign managed, you may want to hire a single in-house employee. If you are looking for a full-service marketing strategy to manage all aspects of your online presence, then it makes more sense to choose an agency.

2. Ease Of Communication

Communication is important in any business. In order for work to run smoothly, communication is key. Types of communication vary dramatically between an in-house marketing team and an agency. Both are effective and depend on your preferences as a business.

In-House Marketing

When you have an in-house marketing team, communication is relatively easy. You can get content and projects approved the same day they are created, there is very little wait time on assignments.

Agency

Due to the number of clients and client needs, it can take slightly longer for communication between clients and digital marketing agencies to occur. Generally, your agency will update you weekly or monthly, with what they are working on and what has been done. If they are waiting on your approval or want to discuss anything with you, it is done via an arranged meeting, email or quick phone call.

Both agency and in-house communications are effective, they are simply different. An in-house employee is right in the office with you, so it is easier to discuss ideas quickly. An organized marketing agency, however, will stay up to date with all communications needed in order to keep you informed.

3. Variety

Marketing is a naturally creative career. It attracts minds that are constantly thinking, busy and interested in what’s new. Marketing teams need to effectively make a brand seem interesting, and unless you’re selling fidget spinners, it’s easy for creative minds to get bored.

In-House Marketing

An in-house marketing team is solely devoted to you, your company and your brand. They are always thinking about ways to promote your image and products online.

As beneficial as this may be ( they intimately know your brand) it can also lead to a plateau in creativity and new ideas. Your in-house team can lack variety or get stuck in a rut. This can lead to a lower rate of employee stability. You may see your in-house employees jump between jobs due to sheer boredom.

Agency

Your agency has several other unique client accounts that they work with daily. Their minds are fresh as they navigate new topics at all times. It leaves very little room for boredom. It is also possible that they have similar clients to your company, depending on how specialized the agency is.

They may focus on one sector of business (such as marketing just for dentists or real estate) Agencies are working with several different clients related to your account, which makes it much easier for them to keep on top of industry news and trends. They are always motivated and rarely bored by what they do due to the variety of topics they get to work with each day.

Factor In The Costs

Cost is the final factor that should be considered when making any decision surrounding your business. Is it cheaper to choose an in-house employee or an agency? Again, the cost will depend entirely on your needs. But here is a general overview.

In-House Marketing

Initially, it may seem less expensive to hire a single employee for your marketing strategy. However it is a long hiring process, you need to ensure that this person fits in well with the rest of your company.

There are unforeseen costs that can arise after hiring, for example, you could hire a social media manager but then realize that you also need a paid search specialist to complement the social campaigns.

When you hire in-house you also need to consider the costs of adding a new team member to your office. Aside from salary, you need to budget for an office space, computers and programs that they may need. You may even find you need to pay for extra training if your in-house employee has a specialized skill set and needs to branch out.

Agency

When you hire an agency there is a pre-set price in place. There is an entire team of talented professionals that combine their skills to cater to all aspects of your marketing campaign. An agency pays for its own software, tools, and tech. They manage their own training and ensure their employees are up to date with education on any new programs and software.

Determine the annual investment you want to make in digital marketing and meet with agencies and in-house candidates alike.

Choose What Works Best For You

In the end, the choice is yours. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each option. It is a good idea to meet with marketing agencies and potential in-house employees as well. Some businesses even settle on a mixture of both. Whatever the need may be, it is essential to have a prominent online marketing strategy for your business in the digital era.

In order to gain visibility, leads, and sales, you need to consider your businesses personal goals and how they can best be achieved. At ElementIQ, we offer a full-service digital marketing strategy, covering everything from paid search to content creation and promotion. Let us know if you want to learn more about working with a marketing agency!

Have you worked with a marketing agency before? Do you have an in-house marketing team? Share your thoughts and insight in the comments below!

5 Tips For Choosing The Right Internet Marketing Agency

So you’re ready to invest in your business’ online presence but you’ve got at least one of two problems:

  • No time to do Internet Marketing yourself
  • Not sure how Internet Marketing really works (and works effectively)

That means you’ll need some professionals to manage this for you – an Internet Marketing agency. You’ll need the best agency to run your business’ digital marketing. I’d suggest a real thorough search of agencies because the last thing you want is to bounce around from agency to agency because of poor results and poor service.

Here are some tips to avoid that mess so you can pick the right Internet Marketing agency for your business:

1. See Who Ranks For ‘Internet Marketing’ In Your Area

While this shouldn’t be THE determinant for picking the right Internet Marketing agency to handle your business’ digital marketing, it’s a great demonstration of an agency’s abilities. Of course, the thinking behind agencies who don’t rank for ‘Internet Marketing’ in your area is that they’re too busy focusing on their clients to do their agency’s SEO. In my view, that’s bogus.

A great agency focuses on BOTH client work (that’s what we do!) AND attracting new business. Otherwise, how can any agency grow? They need to do work on the agency side.

So ranking for industry-related keywords is important improving your brand’s online presence no matter what your industry is. For Internet Marketing agencies, this is important. It’s a demonstration of an agency’s commitment to industry self-improvement.

2. Shop Around For The Best Bang For Your Marketing Buck – But Be Careful

It’s only normal for you, the business owner or manager to shop around for the best deal – on anything. The same goes for Internet Marketing.

However – A BIG disclaimer to this is that there are plenty of SEO companies that offer their services for very cheap. You can go out of province or even overseas for your Internet Marketing services. They might give you the lowest price you can find – but is it the best value for your business? You also have to examine the quality of their services. Many overseas SEO companies that claim to get your business to the first page of Google for cheap use what we call “black hat” tactics. These are tactics disapproved by Google that SEO’s use to try and get to the first page of Google. Google will recognize these tactics if they are implemented and penalize your website. The term for SEO’s using reputable tactics that Google encourages is “white hat SEO”.

So here are the underlying take-home ideas:

  • Do NOT hire companies that promise to get you to the first page of Google
  • Do NOT hire companies that promise their services for cheap

While it’s important for your business to minimize costs and get a return on whatever you’re investing in, make sure you ask the necessary questions so that your business doesn’t get the short end of the stick.

3. Look For Smaller, More Focused Agencies

While you should be careful about which Internet Marketing agency you choose, one common misconception is that a bigger agency is better. The thinking behind this is that a bigger agency is a bit more reputable and the reason they are as big as they are is because they have succeeded in what they do. While this may be partly true, I’ll challenge this notion that a bigger Internet Marketing agency is better.

While bigger agencies may come with higher sales figures, they might not allocate prime resources to manage your digital marketing. If you’re a smaller business than what the agency is used to dealing with, they’ll let some of their more inexperienced account managers and perhaps a few interns to manage your online presence. Is that what you want? Let’s not go there, for the sake of your business.

Smaller agencies will allocate larger teams, maybe even the entire team to manage accounts regardless of the size. They’ll also charge less than the big agencies. Big agencies have a high overhead and therefore, you’ll be paying for the big marketing ‘fat cats’ to sit in their high chairs. With smaller agencies, you’ll get a better return on your investment – and believe me, we’ve seen clients delighted with the cost-per-lead numbers they see!

4. Do A Background Check

Finding more about an agency that could be part of your team is a no-brainer. Just like any other product or service you buy on the Internet, you can use the same tactics. Type them into a search engine and see what people are saying about them. Look around their entire website. Check out their bios and social media profiles. See if they’re keeping up-to-date on the latest trends. Read their blogs and look into what they’re saying about Internet Marketing. Do they pass your own credibility test? Do you feel you can trust them? It’s usually good to like who you do business with. Find out as much as you can about your prospective Internet Marketing agency before deciding on one.

5. Search For Case Studies And Recommendations

I’m a firm believer that the greatest sales presentation that anyone can give is that of a customer testimonial. It’s just that human touch that takes your prospect from knowing what you do to trusting what you do. It’s one thing to hear a sales pitch from a salesperson but it’s another thing to hear that pitch from an unbiased, third-party viewpoint. That’s why it’s critical for any Internet Marketing agency search to include an in-depth look at what they have done for other clients. You deserve to see their results. It’ll help you see what they could possibly be doing for you.

Furthermore, if an agency is proud of what they’ve done for clients, they’d show it off, right? If their clients approved of using their name for their agency’s case studies, then clearly the client feels good approving of the job the agency did, right?

Finally…

All of these tips are just some of the things you can do and look out for in your search for an agency. Remember, whoever you choose will be an extension of your marketing team and an extension of your business. You’ll get everything you need – Paid Search Managers, Search Engine Optimizers, Social Media Managers, Writers, Designers, and more – all for the price of retaining ONE of these professionals.

The agency you work with ought to reflect your values and principles and vice-versa. Follow these 5 steps and you will be on your way to picking that perfect match.

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3 Things Other Internet Marketing Agencies In Vancouver Won’t Tell You

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a business owner or manager considering your Internet marketing agency options. There are plenty of Internet marketing agencies in Vancouver and all have their own ways of setting up and pricing the packages they sell.

We’ve heard from a number of business owners – some already frustrated, and some who were unaware of the untruthful actions taken by their Internet marketing agency. This blog post will show you what’s happening to other businesses all over the Lower Mainland and how you can avoid getting burned the same way.

 

Vancouver Internet Marketing Agencies

Vancouver’s Internet Marketing Agency Problem #1: Inflated Click Prices

ReachLocal

A growing epidemic in our industry is the issue with inflated click prices in Paid Search Advertising. I’ve heard from a number of business owners here in the Vancouver area about the services and suspect pricing policies of ReachLocal, a large Internet marketing agency. Let’s just say a lot of business owners aren’t overly happy. Some people have published their frustrations. Our own Sam Araki did his own review of ReachLocal over a month ago. Some business owners are shocked when they hear about this growing problem with ReachLocal. We literally see their jaws drop.

And the fact remains that these inflated click prices are a problem. ReachLocal is a renowned culprit for this. Here’s what inflated click prices mean for businesses: You don’t get what you pay for – you get LESS. How do they do this? ReachLocal always spends your ad budget. Always. And what they do is take a chunk – around 50-60% of it as their cut. Let me be clear: I’m not demonizing them for taking a cut of your ad spend. They’re a business and they operate to make a profit. However, 50-60% is extremely high. Something more normal would be around 10-20%.

In summary:

  • If you’re a business using ReachLocal’s services, this isn’t a call to stop everything you do with them. Just stay informed on the structure of your ad spend. You deserve to know. Transparency is important.
  • If you’re not a ReachLocal client, be clear with whoever your Internet marketing agency is on pricing and ad spend. If you have no agency, consider one but be aware of what agencies offer.

 

Vancouver’s Internet Marketing Agency Problem #2: Ridiculous Admin Costs

To build on the theme of transparency, businesses are always concerned with where else their marketing spend is going. Again, let me harp on the fact that every business is in business to make a profit. There’s no questioning that. However, to allow just a small portion of total spend to go to pay-per-click with the rest going to “administration costs” is absolutely asinine.

Such is the case with Yellow Pages’ 360 Solution. This is Yellow Pages’ digital marketing solution for businesses that want to be found in search results. We’ve heard from a few business owners on the Yellow Pages 360 Solution and decided to create a case study (click here to get it for free). In the case study, we found out that an inordinate amount of budget was going to Yellow Pages “administration costs”. I’ll let you check out the case study to find out the exact number and how our team dissected the numbers. Again, it’s fine for an Internet Marketing agency to eat cake but let the client have theirs too! In this case, the business, not the agency, should be doing the bulk of the eating. This is just another example of something that the average Internet Marketing agency won’t tell you.

Vancouver’s Internet Marketing Agency Problem #3: The “In-House” Fallacy

There’s this desire for agencies to refer to themselves as “In-House”. In case you’re unsure what the term actually means, it simply refers to a business that conducts all of its operations in its home facility. We see countless Internet Marketing agencies here in Vancouver call themselves “In-House agencies” and the reality is that this is simply not true.

Our agency conducts all operations – every channel within Inbound Marketing – in-house. So that begs the question…

If Not An “In-House” Internet Marketing Agency, Then What?

Most of the Internet Marketing agencies in Vancouver that call themselves “In-House” typically contract certain operations out. Here are the common ones:

  • Paid Search. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising requires a lot of time dedicated to managing each account because of all the intricacies therein – managing ads, ad groups, keywords and so on.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While a lot of on-page SEO can be done in-house, Internet Marketing agencies prefer to outsource off-page SEO. Why? Link building takes a lot of time and effort. Outsourcing your off-page SEO to the wrong company (this happens A LOT!) can have disastrous results. We know first-hand: upon taking over a client’s account, we encountered an ugly SEO mess that had been perpetrated by an overseas provider (which the client was sadly unaware of)..

You’re asking yourself “Why should I care?” Well on a given phone call or in your correspondence with your agency, you want to be able to cover all bases of your Internet Marketing strategy. You’ve likely been sold on the premise that everything is done in one house. And if you have, you may have been lied to. Do yourself and your business a favour and get all the information you deserve.

There’s no incentive for them to tell you about click prices, true costs and the structure of their agency. They can go about their business and you’ll never know. But transparency is important. It builds trust and strengthens the client-agency relationship. That’s what we all want and what’s the end result? Better results and happier days – and in rainy Vancouver, we can always use those.

ReachLocal Exposed: This Is What They Don’t Want You To Know

I’m usually not bothered by too much. Over the past few months, though, I’ve had encounters with several clients of ReachLocal. For those of you who aren’t familiar with ReachLocal, it’s a paid search company that provides its customers with a slick interface and nicely named service components for online marketing their business.

What bothers me is that ReachLocal has misrepresented itself on two major levels to the aforementioned folks.

1) ReachLocal Comissions

ReachLocal is a Google SMB partner and so salespeople have said that it provides ReachLocal with special benefits, such as commissions from Google on Adwords spend. To be clear:

a) No one in North America receives a commission from Google

b) What does being a Google SMB Partner mean to you as a client? How does it give ReachLocal an advantage over any Google Adwords Certified Agency, as far as the results it can get clients? There is NO advantage. An SMB partner just means that it does a certain level of overall business with Google. Outside of that, Google SMBs receive no preferential treatment that will rank their ads higher over ads a search marketing agency or anyone else for that matter, creates. And there is no pricing difference either.

2) AdWords Spend

ReachLocal spends to budget every month. If you pay them $1000/month, like clockwork, the monthly budget will run down in systemic increments down to the last dollar.

a) I asked one ReachLocal client how ReachLocal makes money if it spends the entire client budget every month. I was told – through Adwords commissions. I asked another client, and I got the same answer. The fact is, ReachLocal does not provide transparency to its click prices. It inflates click prices, and that’s what they don’t tell you. How much does ReachLocal inflate prices by? Read on.

Clearly Unclear (Unethical?) ReachLocal Pricing

ReachLocal’s actual overhead is nicely displayed through the following. It seems as though a maximum of 50% of what you spend will actually go to clicks. Although a true number probably resides somewhere between ReachLocal retaining 50-60% of what you’re paying. No one begrudges them making money. But it does seem to be a high percentage.

 

Since ReachLocal is a publicly traded company in the United States, you can take a look at the most recent data yourself.

Other ReachLocal Struggles

+ Proxy site

ReachLocal duplicates your site (such as http://example.rtrk.com) which gives them full ability to track everything a website visitor does. That’s the pro, which is followed by a long list of cons, which include the fact that all the paid search traffic RL generates is not going to YOUR website, but it going to the proxy website they’ve created for you which has negative SEO consequences, any changes that are made to your own site aren’t necessarily reflected automatically on the RL proxy site, and at the end of the day RL owns everything that you’re paying them to do.

As a note, anyone who uses ReachLocal needs to do the following before campaign rollout: a) implement Rel Canonical tags on pages, b) no-index the mirrored copy (proxy) of the website – which would lessen the negatives.

+ Poor Conversion Approach

As an example, I just conducted a simple search for Langley Energy Efficient Window Installation. There is a company in Langley, BC, called Centra Windows that is a currentReachLocal client (as of Oct. 21, 2013) and they have a 5th position Google Adwords ad.  Although the headline doesn’t include the words energy efficient, the body of the ad, does.

Click on the ad, though, and ReachLocal dumps you on the homepage of their Proxy site for Centra Windows. Proxy site aside. The potential customer of Centra Windows has stated through search that they are looking for “energy efficient window installation” and now they’re being directed to a page where they have to “Where’s Waldo” what they’re looking for. As you can see, it’s a pretty busy homepage to begin with.

This is a poor conversion approach. The ad should direct to a landing page specific to energy efficient window installation. In fact for any service/product that any company is relevant for, there should be specific landing pages set up for each.

+ Data Ownership

ReachLocal runs your campaign for you, but also owns the data that it generates – in terms of what the campaign results are. This is extremely valuable information that is YOURS. How it should be, is for you to have your own Google Analytics account which is tied in with your own Google Adwords account. That way, if you ever decide to cut ties with a particular provider, you can take all the data with you to another provider – or keep it for yourself if you want.

+ Unique Phone Number

ReachLocal provides a local “tracking” phone number that is put on the proxy site. The thing is, this is just another area where RL takes control of what you’re paying them to do, out of YOUR hands. For pure LOCAL internet marketing you should always have your businesses own phone number posted. Google is often confused with multiple numbers that get floated out and so oftentimes there is incorrect information that is indexed within the search engines.

Other Interesting ReachLocal Points

Google Third-Party Adwords Policy

(1) Third parties should at minimum provide advertisers with monthly data on AdWords costs, clicks, and impressions at the account level.*

** As a note, Google uses “should” instead of “must,” which means this is the loophole that allows companies like ReachLocal to keep accurate and transparent data to themselves, and not have to share accurate statistics with its clients.

RealChatLive

Any reputable agency can do better in all the ReachLocal service areas, but if you’re an agency is converting a former ReachLocal client and they love the RealChatLive function, just head on over to Apex Chat – which is the provider for live chat to ReachLocal – and so you’ll be able to have the same functionality – at a great price.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

If ReachLocal really cared about conversions – specific landing pages would be built for specific ads. If there is an ad running for hardwood floor restoration – for example – how will the conversion be if you were directed to the homepage of a general flooring company, as opposed to a hardwood floor restoration page. And IF that page doesn’t currently exist on the website, the one running the campaign has to ensure it gets created.

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