Do what you do best

19 05 2011

As the Account Director of Formic Media my responsibilities include team management, partnership development, business development/sales, a sprinkle of account work and many other things. Throughout my day I speak with a lot of companies, some interested in our services, others interested in potential partnerships.

I was on the phone with a potential client, discussing their goals/objectives and how Formic might be able to help fill their void. The question came up about creating new, fresh content for the search engines and what our process was. I mentioned to the prospect that we don’t do copywriting in-house, which seemed to surprise them. I went on to explain that we have several partners we turn to for copywriting services, but don’t actually have anyone focusing solely on copywriting. I told them it comes down to our core services. We prefer to do what we’re good at, which is search engine and social media marketing, with a dab of web design/development in there as well. Copywriting is a big piece of SEO, and who knows, maybe someday we’ll bring in a copywriter. For now, however, we’re going to stick to what we’re good at, and leave the “words” to those who know how to write in an effective manner for SEO. Our team is excellent at working with copywriters and helping them write for the web, but none of us would fancy ourselves a copywriter.

I think this is where Formic differs from a lot of other agencies, especially the bigger ones. Many of these big agencies (I won’t name names), most of them more traditional in nature, have seen how effective digital agencies have become, and the need that we’re filling for clients. Clients are asking for services like SEO, PPC and social media marketing, and these bigger agencies, not wanting to lose the work/client, have started to provide these services. I think this is a mistake to a certain extent. I can understand if you plan to hire a search marketing manager/director to build a team, but what I don’t understand is an agency asking their employees to just “jump in because we now offer these services.” With traditional marketing seeing a steep decline, and online/digital marketing going in the opposite direction, some of these agencies think they don’t have a choice, but I think they do. Partnerships.

I know a lot of traditional agencies are already partnering with digital agencies, and that’s great. I’m speaking more to the traditional ad agencies that decide to test their hand at search and social. Everyone thinks they can do social. I mean, how hard is it? You post a few updates on Facebook and tweet to a few key folks and call it good, right? Um, no. I won’t go into it, but there’s so much that goes into a search and/or social campaign; it isn’t something you can pick up overnight and suddenly see great success. These agencies dabbling in search/social need to take a long look at what they’re good at. For example, if you have years of experience getting placements in magazines, stick to that, but be knowledgeable about how to track your efforts online. If anything, this is where the traditional agencies are falling short, they aren’t able to measure how effective their ad buy was by monitoring website visits. Encourage the client to build a landing page for your specific ad buy, create a vanity URL and ensure you can track the performance. This is how traditional agencies should be thinking, not trying to create a whole new side of the business that they have no experience in. There is room for both traditional and digital agencies, especially since we’re able to track nearly everything that happens online. Traditional agencies need to reach out and partner with digital agencies, or they at least need to ensure they are educated on how to track offline campaigns effectively.

The point I’m trying to make is do what you’re good at. Don’t cross over into an area where you aren’t the expert, there are too many things that could go wrong. Take your core services and be the absolute best, that’s how you’ll succeed. If there are other strategies you want to get into, reach out to folks to form partnerships, but don’t rush into something where you could produce more harm than good. I’ll also make the point that this isn’t just for marketing agencies, but for any business/industry. If you’re Nike, you’re great at making sports shoes/apparel, but that doesn’t mean you should start making suits. Sometimes I think companies are trying way too hard to reach too many people, and many times forget what they do best and spread themselves too thin. This hurts the brand more than anything, which would obviously lead to losses in revenue and the decline of the entire company. Be comfortable doing what you do best, and do it.

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