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Does Digital Marketing Cost Too Much?

Cost

Did you bid out a website project and go into sticker shock?  Ask for rates for content generation and wonder why you didn’t go to journalism school yourself?

You may be wondering if the expense of digital marketing is worth it.  Will it deliver the results you need?  Provide the ROI desired?

Those are reasonable questions and we hear them all the time.   If you’ve shopped around for digital marketing services, whether a website redesign, SEO or content, you may have been surprised at how inexpensive (usually from offshore contractors i.e. India or Philippines) or expensive (big city USA) your quotes have been.  They are probably all over the place.

To understand why there is such a difference, it is important to understand the skills and experience required to produce results-driven digital marketing:

Web Development and Design Pros – Not Cheap

Let’s face it, everyone including your best friend’s brother’s kid claims to be a web developer.  And there are lots of offshore contractors probably spamming your email box every day.  While those might be good options for some companies or small startups, the disadvantage is that you don’t know what you’re going to get, QA issues are hard to work through, people can disappear from projects literally overnight, and language and time zone barriers can delay projects for weeks or months.

Qualified, experienced U.S.-based web developers and coders are hard to find.  And good ones, those who have been at it for 15+ years, are rare indeed.  They know they’re good and they demand a good salary, benefits and paid time off (like the rest of us).

Web designers (who design the UI/UX and look and feel of the site) are also a rare breed.  A truly talented web designer is a skilled graphic artist, knowledgeable marketer, SEO expert and brand builder.  A web designer must be able to step into the shoes of the site visitor and understand their pain points and information needs while also achieve results for the client (generate sales, downloads, signups).

A good digital marketing agency employs both types of people to produce good websites for clients.

Content Marketing – Where Did All the Journalists Go?

It wasn’t all that many years ago when newspapers were closing everywhere and journalists were lining up at the unemployment office.  Going to college to study Journalism?  You’ve got to be nuts.

Here we are, 15+ years later and where are all those talented writers?  Gone. Gobbled up by the Fortune 500 for internal teams, big ad agencies and Google.  A good writer is harder than hard to find (and that was a badly written sentence to be sure).

Content marketers must be journalists PLUS marketers.  A rare breed who knows how to fact check, research, follow the AP Stylebook, craft the written word, edit, craft some more, develop a script, and weave it all into a product that blends with it a touch of marketing.  Just enough marketing that it grabs the audience, generates a call to action, produces a result.

Not over the top, in your face.  No, no.  We are talking about content that is so well-crafted that it leaves the reader wanting more.  Craving it.  These people are also not cheap.

Why Should You Care About Quality?

Because results are what you want, quality matters.  Because your brand is on the line, quality matters.  Quality matters to search engines.  It matters to your audience, customers, suppliers, distributors, friends and employees.  Take a short cut and people notice.  And if the final product isn’t what you wanted (or thought you were paying for), you have to start over with a new team and a new budget.

If you’re going to redesign your site, sign up for SEO services or launch a digital marketing campaign that includes content (written or video), go big or don’t go at all.  And by big we don’t mean you have to go broke.  Companies with small budgets can still produce big return on investment, if they hire the right team.

Should you consider hiring internally?

Lots of Fortune 500 companies have internal digital marketing teams.  But the salaries and benefits paid to cover these folks typically runs well about $1 million a year.  To create a well-rounded internal marketing team, you need a minimum of:

  • Web developer
  • Computer programmer
  • Web/graphic designer
  • Writer/Content Marketer
  • Videographer
  • SEO Expert
  • PPC Expert
  • Social media coordinator
  • Project manager
  • Marketing strategist
  • Analytics manager

Once you figure salary and benefits, most of these people end up costing a company six figures each.  The average experienced web developer makes above $70,000 a year according to Payscale.com.  Programmers often make over $100K/year.  Multiply that by the number of positions and you see where we are going with this.

Many companies have a single marketing manager or coordinator to work with external agencies.  This works well because it keeps internal overhead to a minimum while allowing for maximum flexibility in choosing, changing and working with external resources and agencies to deliver best-value deliverables.

How to know you found the right team

Big agencies demand big budgets from clients.  They have to “feed the machine” since offices and overhead is high.  For Fortune 500 and companies with very high marketing budgets, a big agency might be the resource of choice.

One-man shops, though they can be low cost, typically don’t have the experience and resources to provide what clients need and deliver the level of quality expected by today’s consumer. However, they can provide what some companies, especially startups on shoestring budgets, need to get off the ground.

Smaller agencies can be a good fit for the majority of companies.  They tend to be nimble, hungry, talented and hyper-focused on quality and customer service.  You can often deal with the owner or CEO.

You can find out if a smaller agency is the right fit starting with a phone call, by talking to the owner and to the person who would be managing your project (if it’s someone else).  You’re often able to speak with the agency’s clients as part of due diligence, because everything operates on a very personable level.  Smaller agencies are better able to adapt to budget ups and downs, as many clients often start with small-scale projects before ramping up to larger campaigns as they see the results that are generated.

Thinking ahead

In deciding the best course of action, consider all your options.

  • Biggest doesn’t always mean best though it usually means big budget.
  • Offshore production can lead to questionable deliverables and delay projects.
  • Talent is hard to find these days.  If you find it somewhere, hold on tight to it.
  • A combination of an in-house marketing coordinator and small, middle-priced external agency can be a good fit for most companies.

Remember, with digital marketing (as with everything) you get what you pay for.