By Phil Laboon, a serial entrepreneur and currently the CEO and co-founder of the fast-growing performance marketing company Growth Stackers.
I opened my first digital marketing company in 2001, and it was one of the first of its kind. We didn’t offer web development, graphic design or even hosting — we just did digital marketing, and we did it well. As word got out, we quickly started growing with agencies all over the state and had them calling to white label our services to their clients. At the time, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to generate new weekly clients without any real effort. Some of the larger traditional marketing agencies were giving more than I could handle, and we had to upgrade offices three times in two years.
Everything was great until a larger client asked me to jump on a call and help him with an unhappy client who was threatening to quit. I didn’t want to upset the reseller, so I spent an hour preparing all the research and data to show them how we helped increase search engine rankings, conversions and almost every other measurable metric. I presented everything to the client and thought, “There is no way they can complain about the results.” And then the client said something I’ll never forget: “I’m sorry, but this isn’t worth the $30,000 I spent in the last three months.” You see, we were only charging the agency $1,000 a month, and unbeknownst to us, the agency was charging a 1,000% premium to the client.
That day I sat with my employees and told them we were no longer going to white label but were focusing on owning the entire relationship. We tripled our prices, ramped up sales materials and never looked back. From my years of owning a white-label digital marketing company, here are the top ways I learned a small to medium-sized business can reduce their marketing costs while actually increasing performance.
1. Go Straight To The Source
Every agency I have ever worked with has outsourced much of the heavy lifting, whether it disclosed it or not. While its team may have organized or handled the high-level items, the majority of work was done via freelancers or outsourced overseas. If you bring in your own specialists, you can avoid paying $150 to $200 an hour for the same work you can get for $15 to $20.
2. Set Up Tangible Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Most digital marketing companies will tell you it takes time to generate sales on a new campaign, which is 100% true — but what they leave out is that there are many other metrics you should be watching to make sure the campaign is scaling. Here are some of the things you want to monitor every week:
• Search engine optimization (SEO): Organic rankings, page views, bounce rate.
• Pay-per-click (PPC)/search engine marketing (SEM): Engagement, cost per lead, cost per click, quality score.
• Content marketing: Social shares, time on page, off-page clicks.
3. Use Independent Reporting
Most digital marketing agencies cherry-pick the metrics and data so there is always something positive to show the client. I highly recommend everyone install their own independent reporting so they can see what is really happening on the account. Even if you just use free options like Google Analytics, you will have a much better understanding of the effectiveness of the campaign.
At the end of the day, digital marketing is not an exact science, and there are many variables as to why some campaigns succeed and some fall flat on their face. However, if you are willing to follow the simple suggestions above, you should have a much higher chance of success on your next campaign.