Most Marketing Agencies Catering to Small Businesses Are Not Worth Hiring
We've said it before and we'll say it again: marketing is an investment, not an expense. But this only holds true if your marketing dollars are being put to good use. The problem: most small businesses are exposed to low effort agencies that follow the same strategies for every client (if they even follow a strategy at all), focus on vanity metrics instead of important metrics that reflect performance and a lot of times don't understand or even know their client's business. The only result they achieve is costing their clients money and maybe adding few new followers to their social media (that may or may not be bots).
There’s a reason these agencies operate in this manner: They cannot turn a profit unless they have 1 employee serving 10-20 accounts because they sell to a market that has a demand for marketing services but usually are not willing (or able) to invest more than a couple hundred dollars every month. So in come the template based agencies promising huge results with very low prices, taking advantage of their clients inexperience. The end results: At best hundreds or thousands of dollars wasted on efforts that did not increase revenue at all; and at its very worst permanent damage to your business (for example some agencies use "blackhat" SEO tactics that can result in your domain being “nuked” to oblivion by Google so no one will ever find you through organic search).
As a small business owner or startup founder you may find yourself looking for help with your marketing but because you have a tight budget you start researching "affordable" or "cheap" marketing agencies. At this point you should stop what you are doing and look for marketing consultants instead. Hiring a marketing consultant before you engage a specific service from an agency will save you from wasting hundreds or thousands with the aforementioned low effort agencies because you'll know what you need done, how it should be done, and how to measure how well it's doing instead of being blinded by vanity metrics.
Often times many small business owners and founders find themselves between a rock and a hard place: they need marketing to grow their business but they need to grow their business in order to afford marketing. When you reach this point, the solution will seem obvious: you learn marketing and do it by yourself. A fantastic course of action that we encourage because the best clients any marketing agency can have are those that know the value of marketing and how it works.
The problem with this approach is that learning the fundamentals of marketing and how to apply them takes months and years to master. If your venture is struggling right now you probably don't have the time to be learning all there is to learn about marketing: you should be focusing on the core aspects of your business. If you find yourself in this situation the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is hiring a marketing consultant.
A Good Small Business Marketing Consultant is a Guide, Counselor and Teacher
A consultant can arm you with the guidance and counseling you need to be able to focus your efforts on the marketing channels and tactics that will most benefit your business with as little waste of time, effort or money as possible. A good consultant will sit down with you to get to know your business, research your environment and top competitors and from that research create a marketing strategy that will guide you to reach your goals. In a way a marketing consultant is both a guide and a cartographer: they draw the map you’ll follow to grow your business, and they’ll help you overcome any obstacles you come across by giving you the tools and knowledge you need.