Digital marketing snakes and ladders

I don’t know if you saw it but there was a great episode of Property Snakes and Ladders on Channel 4 last week, which saw Sarah Beeny working with a couple who seemed determined to ignore all her good advice and do things the hard way.

They made one mistake after another and only at the last minute did they do a U-turn and finally follow Sarah’s advice to turn their property into a number of flats as opposed to the swanky LA pad they had in mind (next to a derelict tube station in a somewhat run down area of Rotherhithe, East London!). Unfortunately this U-turn came far too late in the day and the couple looked set to lose almost half a million pounds on the project. Eeek!!

I guess by now you are wondering where I am going with this. Stick with me because I could see great similarities in the way Sarah Beeny works with her clients and how digital agencies work with theirs. Why did this couple ask for Sarah Beeny’s help and then almost completely ignore it?

If you are an agency, does this sound familiar? And if you are a client have you continuously challenged your agency to the point where nothing actually gets done? The best agencies will provide very detailed, clear advice on the best way to grow your business through the web using techniques such as website optimisation, link building, social media and content. But virtually all consultants and agencies report that in numerous cases their advice is ignored, despite being paid good money for their time.

I am sure that the beautiful Sarah Beeny will agree; the most successful projects she has worked on are those where the client has listened fully to her advice and implemented it. I know this is true for the projects that I have managed.

However, the similarities do not end there. The change of program name from “Property Ladder” to “Property Snakes and Ladders” is indicative of the market that we find ourselves in today. The housing market has crashed and with it the demand for the vast majority of products and services has done likewise. It is therefore more important than ever to ensure you have a strong online presence, that your site is able to convert visitors into enquiries/sales and that you focus on retaining those lovely new customers you acquire. Therefore, if you have employed an agency based on a thorough review and understanding of their approach, requests for case studies, testimonials and references, it is vitally important that you go on to implement the recommendations that they make.

The key thing underpinning this of course is trust. By doing your homework you will find it much easier to let go of what you think you is right and listen to their sound advice.

So how do you get this heightened level of trust? Here are a few more pointers:

  • Firstly check out the agency before you sign up. Ask to speak to their clients and search on the web to check out their reputation. Find out long they have been in business and ask to see evidence of successful campaigns
  • Do some research around the topics of SEO, social media, etc but be willing to learn. Remember not everything you read on the web is true and this is particularly evident when it comes to search marketing where everyone has a different opinion. In the end, an established and successful agency will have the experience to know what is best for your business.
  • Make sure you are aware of what is involved in the project; how much time, cost and work is going to be required and commit the appropriate resource. Don’t let things disappear down the dreaded ‘black hole’.
  • Make sure your agency is open about what they are doing. A good agency will be in contact regularly asking for feedback and discussing creative ideas. Transparency is key; run a mile if there is any suggestion of ‘cloak and dagger’ techniques or especially if the agency askS to have access to your website without telling you what they are going to do.
  • Remember there are no magic formulas to achieving your goals online. If it sounds to be good to be true, it probably is.

In summary, if you have done your homework and employed an expert the worst thing you can do to damage the relationship, and limit the results you are likely to achieve, is to ignore their recommendations. You have employed an agency for their expertise. Make sure you are prepared and willing to listen to their advice. By all means question things; a good agency will want you to learn but your goals will only be met by taking the advice of an expert and running with it.

This all reminds me of one of the first things I read when I joined Leapfrogg all those years ago. It was pinned to the wall just next to Ben and was a quote by much respected search marketer, Jill Whalen of High Rankings.

“ SEO company in the world will be able to help you unless you are ready to forget about what you think you want and learn more about what you really need’.

I could not have put it better myself!

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