An idea is all you need for a business, right? Or so I thought. My journey as a business owner has taught me that an idea is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to making a business a real success. Even with all the research and graphs I could muster, the key to growing a business was never going to begin and end with me. It was about gaining access to expert professionals that would help create and formulate a digital marketing plan that converts.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I actually had no idea what real marketing was, although of course, I was familiar with the term. But from idea conception to trying to actually get this business off the ground, I knew I’d need some form marketing, I just didn’t really understand what that meant.
“An idea is not enough. You need a strategy.”
In the 21st century, digital marketing is paramount to a business plan. There’s hardly a business out there that isn’t taking advantage of what the technological revolution has to offer, and if they aren’t — they’re probably not in great shape.
What is Digital Marketing Today?
Digital marketing means using digital channels to leverage your business. Digital channels meaning email, search engines, social media and websites. It’s no longer enough to promote your business with flyers, or posters stuck on sad trees — believe me I’ve tried! The internet opens you up to an incredible number of potential customers, and it’s not just about selling, it’s about being seen as a brand and accessing your audience through the power of digital marketing. There are an overwhelming number of tools to market your business online, but the difficulty is knowing how to make the right marketing decisions for your unique business.
Small businesses and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB’s)
It’s all fine and dandy for big brands to utilize digital marketing. They have all the know-how, the expert marketers and most importantly, they've got the big bucks. They can access all the data they need and they’re in the best position to stay on top of the game. Brands like Airbnb, the Dollar Shave Club and JetBlue are killing it when it comes to their digital marketing campaigns. But is that any surprise when they have huge agencies and in-house marketing executives on the job?
What about the small guys?
When it comes to small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) we’re stuck. One of the biggest obstacles I faced as a small business was not understanding how to access the right marketing professional experts that could help my business grow. Even if I chose the right freelancer expert, how would I know if they were delivering results?
How to (not) choose a service provider
Picking the right service provider can be a full-time job! It takes up your very precious time and money. So how do you go about picking the right service provider? These were the options presented to me.
1. Search engines
Don’t try this at home folks —This is what I did when trying to find a freelancer. I typed ‘digital marketing agency’ in Google and picked the first hit—a local agency. A rookie mistake I’ll admit, but I’m not afraid to say I began this journey as a digital marketing ignoramus. Long story short — I was assigned to a so-called expert who spent a long (and expensive) first stint on a shiny marketing presentation for my business. When he sent it to me, it was honestly like reading Chinese — I had no real idea of what he was suggesting. After some wasted money and time, it turned out this ‘expert’ had no real expertise in my field (health services) and I also felt like as a client, I wasn’t his first and foremost priority. I assume he had bigger and more lucrative contracts with other clients and I constantly felt ignored.
2. Accepting recommendations
Asking around for recommendations is perhaps a step up from trying every hit a search engine will pump out—but it’s definitely not foolproof and comes with its own set of challenges. Picture the scene, you’re sitting with a friend for coffee and mention your new business idea. He quickly gets excited because his wife's cousin has recently set up a new digital marketing agency and insists he put you in touch. You agree because your friend is more clued in about digital marketing —however you’re really not sure what sort of services his wife’s cousin can provide. Long story short —you’re forced into working with this agency through mere obligation, but they are a new agency and have zero experience working in your niche. After a few fruitless months, you have to part ways and you’ve got some awkward silences the next time you meet up with your friend and his wife. Moral of the story? Don’t mix business and pleasure.
3. Pick the agency with the lowest price
Don’t judge new business owners. Budgeting is rough and you can make some pretty rash choices when the money pool is running dangerously low. This is another common mistake amongst newbie businesses when looking to hire some digital marketing. Unfortunately shopping around for the right digital marketing agency isn’t like shopping for groceries where the same product might be sold in one store for $2 less. Even if you’ve worked on your business budget and have left very little for digital marketing, don’t just pick the cheapest quote. As so often the case in life —you really do get what you pay for.
4. Pick the agency with the highest price
I can tell I’m confusing you here. So you shouldn’t pick the agency with the lowest price, but you also shouldn’t pick the agency with the highest? Exactly. From my own experience, the large agencies will promise you the world but will likely not deliver. Why? Most digital agencies work with multiple customers and if you’re not their most valuable client, the chances are, your business won’t get the attention it deserves. It is difficult to know where you stand in their priority list and even though they might promise that every client is treated with equal attention— it’s a big ole’ fat lie.
5. Pick the agency with the shiniest presentation
What did your mama always tell you—don’t judge a book by its cover? It’s so easy to get caught up in a marketers enthusiasm for fancy charts and graphs. As less experienced business owners, it’s hard to know whether these agencies are putting on an elaborate show just to get your business. Most of the time, if it seems too good to be true— it usually is. Another issue which so often arises in these cases is lack of communication. You want to be properly updated—it’s what you pay them money for. Sadly this rarely happens.
6. Find freelancers via social media channels
Social media is a great resource for business owners and joining certain groups will allow you to network and learn from other business owners. It’s also an unregulated forum where marketers might offer their services and promise you the world. They might be really excellent at presenting themselves as professional freelancers, but in reality, they aren’t and you won’t get what you paid for.
A new way to manage digital marketing
What if you could put all your trust into one company to find the perfect marketing professional for you? But when I say trust, I really mean trust. A company that knows who you are as a business, and embraces those needs. A company that has sourced a whole host of highly trained, data-proven marketing professionals. Meet Mayple.
After more failed attempts than I’d like to remember, I came across a new way to manage my digital marketing. Mayple doesn’t just pick any old marketer for your business. It first analyzes your business needs and has a vetting process for marketers. The company looks into the individual performance of each marketer accounts for the last 12 months. They work with customers' success specialists and verify their recommendations by talking with past clients and employers.
Mayple has a unique algorithm that matched my business needs and characteristics to a marketer offering me a data-proven experience. They even offered my business a free audit to look over my accounts and customized a service that met my own marketing gaps. But they didn’t just match me up and then leave me. They constantly updated me, measuring my businesses campaign performance. More than that, they worked hard to explain to me what the hell a campaign performance meant (I really had no idea). Using their knowledge center and on-call experts, I felt comfortable to ask the most basic of questions and could always find out how my business was doing- marketing wise.
My business went from strength to strength because I wasn’t alone. My matched marketer worked hard to slowly (but surely!) boost my digital presence, and by then, I really understood what that meant. Not because I was presented with fancy graphs and charts, but because I was given the time and investment to understand what my business needed, and more than that, there was a company that was looking over the entire time, ensuring I achieved the results.