The Perennial Puzzle: Why Marketing Agencies Struggle with Their Own Marketing

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In the curious case of the cobbler's children who have no shoes, marketing agencies often fall into a similar paradox. They excel at advising clients, crafting successful campaigns, and driving others' brand growth, yet when it comes to their own marketing efforts, they falter. Why is it that these purveyors of promotional prowess fail to apply their expertise to their own business? Today, we unravel this puzzle and offer insights into how agencies can break the cycle of inconsistency and embrace the power of effective self-marketing.

Identifying the Challenges

The Hamster Wheel of Client Service

For many in the industry, the day-to-day grind of maintaining client relationships and pushing out campaign after campaign leaves little to no room for internal marketing initiatives. Agencies range in size and structure, but the constant is often the relentless pace that precludes strategic inward focus.

The Reliance on Referrals and Word-of-Mouth

Some agencies lean heavily on word-of-mouth and referrals, perceiving these as sufficient business development strategies. However, this approach is far from strategic—it's opportunistic at best, relegating marketing to a "nice-to-have" rather than a necessity.

Short-Term Thinking and the Allure of Instant Results

We live in an era that craves immediate gratification, leading many to disregard marketing strategies that pay off in the medium to long term. The commitment to consistent, protracted efforts is daunting, leading to premature abandonment or avoidance.

Aversion to the Hard Yards

Let's not skirt around the truth—substantial marketing efforts require substantial work. The realisation of this can deter even the most ambitious agencies from embarking on their marketing journey.

The Benevolent Benefits of Internal Marketing

Validation of Advice

When agencies practise what they preach, they validate their methods and strategies through their own success, bolstering confidence in recommending these practices to clients.

Refinement of Services

Continual application of marketing strategies fosters iterative improvement, enabling agencies to fine-tune their offerings based on firsthand results.

Confidence in Consultation

Knowing that the advice given to clients has been battle-tested in their own pursuits allows for confident consultation, enhancing credibility and authority.

Achievement of Tangible Results

Ultimately, the proof is in the prosperity. Agencies that consistently market themselves reap the fruits of their labour, escaping the feast-or-famine cycle and fortifying their business.

Strategies for Successful Agency Marketing

Crafting a Systematic Approach

Agencies must craft and adhere to a system, focusing on effective strategies, scheduling dedicated time for marketing efforts, and not expecting overnight results.

Combatting the Seduction of Shiny New Objects

There’s a need to resist the enticement of every new marketing fad. Instead, doubling down on tried-and-true methods can lead to sustained success.

Delegation and Outsourcing

Outsourcing aspects of marketing and leveraging virtual assistance can free up time for strategic thought and personal investment in business development.

Turning Insight into Action

The first step is to take a moment to make a plan. Engage in marketing practices that align with your skills, preferences, and where your audience is most responsive. Remember, deploying just a few strategies excellently can be more effective than executing many poorly.

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The discussion boils down to one imperative: marketing agencies must embrace consistent and strategic internal marketing to establish a robust and sustainable business model. By stepping outside the day-to-day demands and prioritising their own marketing as they do for their clients, agencies can stabilise their future and model the success they seek to create for others.

Questions and Answers

Q: Why do marketing agencies often struggle with their own marketing?
A: Marketing agencies tend to struggle with self-marketing due to being caught up in client work, relying excessively on referrals and word-of-mouth, seeking quick results, and naivety towards the effort required.

Q: What is a significant reason many agencies do not prioritise their marketing?
A: A heavy reliance on referrals and word-of-mouth leads to complacency, resulting in marketing being seen as a "luxury" rather than a fundamental necessity.

Q: Why is it crucial for marketing agencies to practise their prescribed strategies?
A: By applying their strategies, agencies demonstrate their effectiveness, gain confidence in their advice, continually refine their service offerings, and attain first-hand results that validate their consultancy.

Q: What is a common pitfall that marketing agencies should avoid?
A: Agencies must avoid the distraction of new, unproven marketing trends—shiny new objects—that promise shortcuts to success but often lead to wasted resources and attention.

Q: How can marketing agencies effectively manage their time to accommodate marketing?
A: Agencies can implement systems, schedule regular marketing activities, delegate tasks, and utilise virtual assistants to ensure consistent marketing efforts are maintained alongside client work.

If you want to listen to this episode as a podcast, click below:

Links to the tools I mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa:

Today, we're jumping all the way back to the beginning of 2022. And I wanted to revisit an episode which asked the question, why are marketing agencies so bad at their own marketing? And in this episode, we dig into the causes of why that happens. After all, it's the bit of the cobbler's shoes. And we dig a bit deeper to see why it happens and what you can do to change it and why it's so important that you are really consistent with your marketing so you avoid the dreaded feast or famine cycle that so many agencies find themselves in. So another super practical episode, one worth listening to again. So let's rewind back to the beginning of 2022 and jump into the episode. I'm Rob Costa, and this is the Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown, and sold my own agency, I just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life.

Rob Da Costa:

So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests' experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable business. I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions because we set these really lofty goals for ourselves that, quite frankly, by February are broken. And that's because these big lofty goals have no detail and no strategy behind them. So we've got no way of actually achieving them. Now this episode isn't about New Year's resolutions. However, if I was going to set a New Year's resolution for myself, it would be that I want to apply everything that I teach my clients to my own business. So I thought I would record a podcast episode on why are marketing agencies so bad at applying the advice that they give to their clients, which is really smart, to their own businesses. So that's what we're gonna talk about today.

Rob Da Costa:

So let's get on with the show. So as I said in the introduction, today's podcast is just digging into some of the reasons why marketing agencies are not very good at doing their own marketing, Why they can't apply what they teach their clients, which is usually really sound advice to their own business. Now I know this is true because I hear my clients saying this time and time again. When I give them advice, they say, Rob, I know exactly what you're saying. I know I should be doing this. This is exactly what I tell my clients, but I'm not doing it for myself, which is crazy. So let's just dig into find out what on earth is going on. So first of all, I think it's really hard on your own to remove yourself from the business and stand in the client's shoes and be your best client.

Rob Da Costa:

I think many agencies, whether you are a big agency, whether you are the owner of a really small agency or a person business or a freelancer, they're constantly stuck on the client service hamster wheel of doom. So they've got no time to think about anything, let alone marketing business development for their agency. And I think too many agencies rely on word-of-mouth and referrals. Therefore, they feel like doing any marketing would be a nice, luxurious thing. They don't really need to do at the moment because they've got these referrals and word-of-mouth coming in. Now if you know if you listen to me, you'll know that relying on referrals and word-of-mouth isn't a strategy. It's just kind of hope and good luck. I think a lot of agency owners know they should be doing their marketing and their biz dev, and they're gonna plan to do it, but they never actually get around to doing it themselves.

Rob Da Costa:

And I think the other thing is that most business development marketing strategies are really robust and work, work in the medium to long term. And we live in a bit of an instant gratification world. So because we don't get results immediately, we give up or people never get started in the 1st place because they know it's gonna take 3 months, or 6 months to get any results. I think also, quite honestly, they've realised that a lot of this is hard work, and therefore, they don't Da it. And like I said, they can't remove themselves from their day-to-day stuff to actually see the wood for the trees. And what happens with all of that is that we lurch from feast to famine. Because when projects come to an end and we don't have new people waiting in the wings to join us, we then go into a place of famine, which is a place of panic where we make really poor decisions. So I'm sure you can relate to some or all of those reasons why I think agency owners are not very good at doing their own marketing.

Rob Da Costa:

I'm sure I've missed a few out. I'd love to hear from you if you can think of other ones, but I think those are the ones that I see reoccurring time and time again with my clients and with the agencies that I interact with. So now let's spend a few moments just digging into the benefits of the advice that we give our clients. So I think, first of all, if you do the marketing yourself in your own agency that you're telling your clients to do, then we actually demonstrate to ourselves and our clients that the advice actually works. And that gives us lots of confidence to keep doing it. If we practice what we tell our clients, and therefore, we can keep refining it, we can find better ways of doing things. We can find better processes based on genuinely our own experience and the results that we're getting that help us provide a better service for our clients. So that's the second kind of key benefit of doing your own marketing.

Rob Da Costa:

The third is that we ensure we are sharing best practice current advice with our clients, and We can do it in a very confident way because we know it works. And that's the 4th point, really, that we feel confident that the advice we're giving genuinely works because it's working for ourselves. And, of course, if we practice this, then we get results, and the results help improve and grow our business. So those are the 5 pretty compelling reasons why you should be making time to do your marketing and use it to help you serve your clients even better. So that's all very well. And you might be sitting there listening to this saying, yep, Rob. I completely agree with you, but I am as you identified at the beginning, I'm really busy. I'm stuck on the service hamster wheel of doom.

Rob Da Costa:

I've got no time to think. I'm already working long hours, and I know I should be doing this stuff, but I haven't got time. So what do you suggest? So here's a few thoughts on that. First of all, I think you need to put a system in place and focus on a few things that you know work really well for you and do them consistently. And as I said, most robust business development and marketing strategies will deliver in the medium to long term. And that means you need to start today to start getting the results in 3 months or 6 months. And that leads me to another point, which is don't expect results immediately, but be really consistent. If you put a system in place, then you can allocate the time in your diary on a recurring basis.

Rob Da Costa:

You can work out how to automate as much of it, delegate as much as you possibly can, and then you will start getting results. I think the next thing as well is you need to make sure you don't get seduced by shiny new objects because there are so many distractions fighting for our attention. There are so many people promising the new promised land or the latest marketing trend. And you know what? They don't really work. They come and go like so many things. Whereas the old traditional marketing strategies really, really work, like building your email list and networking and showing up on LinkedIn consistently and adding value to your audience and all of those great things running workshops and so on, Those things work and the new promised land just usually isn't the new promised land, and it becomes a huge distraction for us. So make sure that you remove those shiny new objects. Then I think you want to outsource as much as you possibly can And at the very least, get a VA who can run some of the mechanics for you and make sure that you are getting things done.

Rob Da Costa:

That's exactly what I do. I have a VA team that enables me to get stuff done because they say, hey, Rob. We need this from you by this date. And if they weren't there kind of prompting me and, you know, uploading these podcasts and editing these podcasts and uploading the videos and editing the videos and putting content on my blog and so on, then it just wouldn't happen. A lot of times people say, Rob, how do you get so much stuff done in terms of my marketing? And the truth is it's because I've got a really good VA team. And you don't have to spend a lot of money on this. Just need to be smart, and you need to work out what you can outsource and what you can delegate to other people. So kind of to tie this back to the beginning, that's what I'm doing this year.

Rob Da Costa:

My kind of New Year's resolution that isn't a New Year's resolution is to put into place all the things that I teach my clients and try to be my best Costa, not only for my marketing, but for all aspects of running my business, such as having a really clear vision for the year and breaking that down into quarterly strategies and monthly plans, and then delegating as much as I possibly can, and then using, you know, software tools to help automate some of that. So I hope this really short episode gives you a bit of food for thought. And maybe the thing that you need to do as soon as you stop listening to this podcast is grab a pen and paper and start making a plan. And remember, do the things that you enjoy doing, that you're confident that you can keep doing. Don't set yourself a task of doing something you know nothing about. So don't think, oh, I know. I need to start shooting videos for a YouTube channel if you've never shot a video before, if you don't know how to edit and if you don't have a YouTube channel. Do the things that work.

Rob Da Costa:

And the most important thing, of course, is you need to hang out where your audience hangs out. So know the things that they are most receptive to doing, and then you need to start doing them and do a few and do them well. And don't expect results until the medium to long term. Now as ever, if you've enjoyed this episode, please do make sure you've hit the subscribe button so you're alerted every Thursday when a new episode comes out. And, also, if you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review since that helps the algorithm show my podcast to more people just like you or my YouTube channel to more people just like you, which means I can help more people. So short episode on why you need to start making sure you're doing the marketing for your agency or your team is doing the marketing and the business development for your agency, and you're not relying on word-of-mouth and referrals. I hope you found that useful. Have a great rest of the week, and I will see you next week on the next episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast.

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