Opinion

Five reasons to sound off at your search agency

An alarming number of Australian brands can't see the value in digital marketing and online advertising. Tug Agency Australia's Shane Lennon argues it might be time to check whether agencies are doing their job properly.

Managed in the right way, search marketing is the kind of tool that can put smaller brands on a par with the biggest, most well-funded brands. It feeds off qualities all the best small companies tend to have in abundance: enthusiasm, passion, imagination, expertise, agility. It doesn’t require the kind of vast corporate budget you’d need to make an impact above the line. And the money you do spend ought to more than come back in results.

Almost 25% of Australian SMEs believe they don't see any return on investment for their digital marketing.

Almost 25% of Australian SMEs believe they don’t see any return on investment for their digital marketing.

But still, more than a quarter (27.8%) of Australian SMEs believe digital marketing and online advertising are among the most inefficient areas of their business [source: OKI Australia SME Business Efficiency Survey, Oct 2016]. Nearly as many (24.1%) have difficulty identifying any return on their digital marketing investment at all.

Search underpins every other bit of digital activity, so if, as an SME, your search isn’t positioning you in the heart of the action, your business is in peril. It is your search agency’s job to get you there. Here are the telling signs they’re not doing their job:

1. They’re not giving you enough of their time

Effective search requires constant vigilance. The margin for error is ever reducing, the level of accountability constantly increasing. So if your agency doesn’t constantly have one eye on your account and the forces at play in your market, valuable opportunities to drive your business are being squandered – and in search that usually means they’re going to your competitors. Occasional optimisations aren’t enough to make search work. Insist that your agency gives you daily time and attention.

2. They’re not watching your rivals

Search is a competitive beast, and many of the smartest search gains are based on cunning and guile directed against one’s competitors. Maybe your rival has suddenly launched a multimillion-dollar above-the-line campaign. Your agency should spot that for you immediately, in case you need to up your bids to take advantage of increased interest in your market.

But perhaps your rival is driving all those consumers to search for a term it hasn’t trademarked. If your agency is paying attention, they’ll spot that fact, bid on that term and catch the benefit of your competitor’s advertising spend. If they’re looking the other way, they won’t.

3. They don’t know your business

Accept no off-the-peg solutions – to pilot your search strategy meaningfully, your agency needs to know your vertical, your category, your business, your specific challenges better than you do.

All good agencies, for instance, know they need to constantly test, review and refine their clients’ campaigns. The agency who knows a client’s business and market inside and out will run the most acute, enlightened tests right off the bat, sharpening the approach efficiently and at speed while the skilled generalist is still feeling his way in.

4. They sell search as if it’s a volume game

Many SMEs are beguiled by global network agencies. But search, unlike most above-the-line media, doesn’t play to network strengths, where massive accumulated buying power gets clients a better deal on their ad spend. SEO and PPC need clear focus, patient nurturing and attention to detail – diligence and care, not heavyweight scale.

5. You find yourself feeling small

One SME I know eventually took on in-house staff to do the analytics their prestigious agency didn’t have time to do for them. Needless to say, that’s not right. Many others, glad to be on a big roster full of successful blue-chip clients, become accustomed to low status, accepting that large accounts get prioritised over the small and the medium. Search doesn’t work that way. If you’re not a priority, you need to go elsewhere.

  • Shane Lennon is the MD of Tug Agency Australia
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