"The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones"
Challenged, educated, and refined in the Wasatch Mountain Range. Park City | Utah
1. intelligent content lifecycle
building and strengthening relationships with your customers means having the right answers at the right time. in other words, targeting them with focused and relevant content. intelligent content lifecycle is my unique approach to strategically defining, creatively designing and intelligently deploying your marketing content. this start-to-finish process maximizes efficiency and helps you reach your customers faster, smarter, and at the right time.
creating marketing content that will build meaningful relationships with your customers starts with understanding exactly what they’re thinking and feeling, so you can speak to them in the most relevant way. my brand and content strategy works collaboratively with your vision & image to help define this voice, and then use it to shape the foundation of your online and offline presence.
3. design | visual & technical
by creating personalized brand experiences based on your communications strategy, i work to ensure that every creative deliverable is collectively driving a common business goal. working as creative and development i operate from an integrated workflow that ensures your marketing content is not only beautifully executed, but provides a user experience that accelerates conversion, achieving your business goals.
4. deploy marketing | & automation
even the most evocative creative work will have little impact if it doesn’t reach the right audience at the right time. my expertise with web marketing, user experience, different CMS platforms helps to integrate the latest digital marketing technologies to ensure that your creative content is providing optimized, targeted customer engagements that are easy for you to customize, control, and most importantly measure. you can only improve what you can measure, an absolute cornerstone in all my work.
Considering A Digital Agency?
[How To Separate The Good From The Bad.]
So how do you really know which SEM & SEO agencies are awesome and which ones aren’t? Here are some general guidelines to help you separate the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Good SEM Agencies Sell Their Strengths
[Bad Agencies Point Out Others’ Weaknesses]
If an agency doesn’t start their pitch by telling you why they are great and instead tries to convince you that someone else (usually your existing agency) is bad, don’t walk away from that firm. Run. See above!
Good Agencies Have a Process for SEM Management
[Bad Agencies Vary by Account Manager]
Here’s a simple way to judge two agencies: ask each of them to let you talk to two or more of their account managers (AM) – in rapid succession.
Ask each AM one question: what is your process for executing SEM campaigns? If you hear the same thing from each AM, you’ve found a good agency.
If each one of them has a totally different approach and perspective, the agency is not really an agency at all; it’s just a bunch of people working in the same building on the same payroll system.
In other words, a good agency should operate like a good brand – you choose them because you expect a certain way of doing things that you expect to drive superior results.
Imagine, for example, if every McDonald’s restaurant had their own process and recipe for Big Macs – every time you went into a McDonald’s, your happiness would be at the whim of that shift’s cook!
And yet, many advertisers are OK with hiring an agency that operates in this fashion – hiring lots of smart people but not training these people in a consistent way that drives consistent results.
Good SEM Agencies are Transparent
[Bad Agencies Hide Results]
SEM is all about the numbers. Reputable agencies want their clients to know every relevant metric about their business and results.
This means building processes for client communication (such as using a project management tool like Basecamp), making it clear who in the agency is responsible for the client’s success, and giving full access to AdWords, analytics accounts, and any other reporting data.
Bad agencies do their best to separate clients from their data. One of the biggest warning signs that a potential agency is a bad apple is a request by the agency to ‘run your campaigns in our AdWords account.’
This usually means that a) the agency intends to share as little data as possible with you and b) if you ever want to leave the agency, you’ll have to start an entirely new account and lose all of your account history (which has a negative impact on your Quality Score and also makes it difficult to glean historical learnings).
Note: an agency request to add your account to their My Client Center (MCC) is different from a request to run your campaigns in the agency account. In the first case, the account is always under your control and is just being managed by the agency; in the second, the account is controlled by the agency.
Good SEM Agencies Keep Business Based on Results
[Bad Agencies Keep Business Based on Contracts]
Did I mention that SEM is a numbers game? Good agencies want you to keep using them because they are meeting or exceeding your business metrics.
From a contractual perspective, this means that the agencies are either a) compensated on a performance-based model, earning variable compensation based on the amount of profit they make your business, or b) include a very liberal “termination” or “out clause”in their contracts, enabling you to walk away from the deal if you feel the agency is under-delivering or has over-promised.
Bad agencies, as you might expect, try to force you into very long contracts with little accountability. I heard of one agency that asked clients to sign three-year contracts with no right of termination! That’s a sure sign that the agency’s incentives are not aligned with the clients’ incentives.
Good SEM Agencies Have A Sweet Spot
[Bad Agencies Are All Things to All People]
The adage “A jack of all trades is a master of none” is well-suited to SEM agencies. A good agency differentiates itself in two primary ways: a) by the types of marketing services they offer and b) by the size/type of client they accept.
For example, an agency that just focuses on SEM or just focuses on online direct-response marketing is going to provide you with much better SEM results than an agency that claims they can handle online, out of home, TV, and PR. Think of an agency like a doctor: if you knew you had a heart problem, would you rather see a cardiologist or general practitioner?
Similarly, good agencies focus on a particular type of client, rather than trying to service any client that comes along. For some agencies, this means focusing on a particular vertical; for others, it means focusing on a certain amount of SEM budget.
The budget range of an agency is actually a lot more important than people think and is worth discussing further. Assume you work with a company that spends $50K/month on SEM and you are considering three agencies – one that mainly has clients spending under $500/mo, another that has clients spending between $25K-$100K, and another that mainly deals with clients spending more than $1M/mo.
The $500/mo agency is used to assigning 20 clients to each AM, which means that you are unlikely to get the service your account merits. Similarly, the $1M/mo+ agency regards you as a small fish in a big pond – one that will always play second fiddle to their key accounts.
While this is certainly not the only relevant factor in considering an agency, hopefully you can see why this is a factor that should not be taken lightly!
Good Agencies Make You Feel Like Family
[Bad Agencies Make You Want to Hide Your Daughter]
My last point is basically about trust. A good agency tries to build partnerships with clients and tries to align incentives so that everyone wins or loses together.
An agency should be considered a friend and ally of your company. This should be apparent in the sales pitch, the kick-off and after years of working with the agency. Good agencies are built for long-term relationships instead of short-term profit.
Bad agencies make you feel dirty. They use high-pressure, deceptive sales to get you “in the door,” do their darnedest to hide results, lock you in to unfair contracts, and build adversarial relationships between account managers and marketers.
If the golden rule for life is “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” perhaps the golden rule for agencies should be “would I want to sit next to an agency’s sales rep or AM on a cross-country flight?” If you aren’t genuinely excited about this prospect, you have chosen – or are about to choose – the wrong agency!
Those are just my top tips. There are many other ways to evaluate SEM agencies that make a lot of sense (asking for references, asking to speak to your account manager before signing a contract, looking up their clients’ results in the SERPs), but for the sake of brevity, I won’t detail all of them here.
The truth is that there are a lot of awesome SEM agencies out there, but there are also an increasing number of boiler-room sales shops masquerading as legitimate SEMs that are more than willing to sacrifice your results for their bottom line. I hope this article helps you differentiate between the two!