For years my advice to marketing service providers has been “Learn one thing and get known by doing it best”.
I still believe a narrow specialization is the best way to get noticed in a very crowded marketing space.
Yet, being known for doing one thing right is one thing, but providing one single service is quickly becoming impossible.
Digital marketing in general and SEO in particular is very integrated: There are a lot of parts of the process that rely on one another. For example, it is hard to imagine a link building campaign without linkable content creation or a social media editorial calendar without well-designed visual or video graphics.
Naturally, you’ll come up against the idea to expand your marketing services.
Usually these gaps are handled by outsourcing parts of the process to third-party agencies or freelancers.
Yet, while I understand that something almost always has to be outsourced, there are a few problems with this approach:
- It takes time to find reliable freelancers and even those often slow the process down
- Relying too much on freelancers you limit your agency and prevent any internal talent growth
- In many cases, outsourcing means lower quality or inconsistency of voice or style.
My rule of thumb has always been “Keep as much as you can in-house” or at least get your team educated in what freelancers are doing to gradually move those responsibilities in-house.
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Streamline internal data and idea sharing
Over the years, I have found that one of the biggest driving forces of expansion and innovation is cross-company idea sharing.
Every single employee or team member is your biggest asset, with unique experience and talents, and listening to what they think is as important as knowing whether they complete tasks on time.
Don’t rush into finding external talent to expand your marketing services to something you don’t have experience in. You are very likely to have eager employees already who either have or can quickly master the required skills.
But to know if they do, you need to hear what they have to say, (even if they are very shy).
To that end, I have found these three tasks extremely important and fundamental to a company’s internal growth:
- Make sure your employees are aware of a bigger picture (your company’s success, failures, struggles, and goals as well as how they are contributing (or can contribute) to that picture.
- Give your employees access to internal data (your traffic and lead sources, income, losses, KPIs, and key metrics, etc.).
- Finally, foster the culture of free idea sharing where every employee feels part of important decision making and problem-solving.
It may take a while for any company to complete all the three tasks and frankly, this job is never completely done. Organizations are dynamic. It’s impossible to create internal structures or culture which always remains the same. Yet, it is important to constantly strive to build a better organization and remove silos.
Here are a few ideas that have turned very helpful for us:
- We keep an internal blog where we share our company’s news and updates. A private blog is easy to set up using WordPress.
- We set aside time for all-company meetups. Right now they are virtual due to COVID (during the global lockdown, like many agencies, we choose to work from home for the time being), but we still meet on Uberconference. Things like “Morning coffee get-togethers” help get the cross-team dialog going.
- We use instant messages for quick problem-solving.
For company reports, try using Finteza that offers easy-to-understand reports and has powerful eCommerce elements that are helpful in translating clicks (or leads) into monetary gains and help every team understand how their particular task helps the company thrive:
The AuthorityLabs Rank Tracker is another tool to keep your team updated on your agency’s and your clients’ progress. It is a ranking-monitoring solution that includes an ability to monitor both the global and local organic search visibility of your website:
It is also important to keep all of your data together. You may find Cyfe very useful for that with their all in one business dashboards.
You can create a Cyfe dashboard which would consolidate different sources of data (Finteza, manually added notes, calendars, etc.) as well as provide quick access to additional resources and assets, like spreadsheets where everyone takes notes of future plans or ideas, your internal blog, your calendar with upcoming projects and tasks, etc.
Expand your marketing services with content creation tools that foster independent work
Here’s one main reason why I love tools (actually I became known in the SEO industry as a passionate tool reviewer): Tools foster creativity and independent working.
There’s something very empowering in the ability to actually build something with your own hands.
For example, I can never come up with a new logo concept until I start building one myself. I do have very limited graphic design abilities, so I will never create a final asset but working on one will help you formulate what exactly I want to see.
And this goes for anything, be it creating an email outreach strategy or creating a video series.
It is always helpful to start working on creating the draft before delegating it further to a professional who can polish it. This also bridges a gap between departments, helping graphic design people better understand an SEO person, for example.
The ability to make something will also help your employees to discover what else they may be good at and which services your agency ultimately expand to.
Renderforest is one such tool that can be a joy to play with, and it can actually help your team keep services like video creation and even graphic design in-house. Renderforest provides online tools for putting together professional animations, explainer videos, whiteboard videos, etc.
Thanks to some of those, my team was able to create some really awesome infographics to expand our link building services to infographic-driven link acquisition, while keeping most of the process in-house.
Let your team discover more tools to create things. Having this freedom of being able to play with tools will motivate and inspire them and this is the best thing to happen to any marketing team.
Foster cross-team collaboration & reward self-education
This goes back to creating the culture of cross-team idea-sharing. By letting your team members brainstorm together and by fostering self-education, you will find many of your employees willing to help your agency innovate.
I don’t really believe in formal SEO education or even the necessity of official certification. I am self-taught and I’ve seen enough of formally educated marketers to know that formal education is not a reliable indicator of good marketing ability.
I do believe in motivated employees who strive to always self-improve and grow. Sadly, there are not many marketing courses that provide actionable roadmaps of what needs to be done.
Brian Dean is a nice exception – we took it with our team, step by step. There’s a nice little action item for each video which we used as homework. Overall, it is not too in-depth but very actionable. Brian has also created a great lesson on how to sell yourself well!
Moz also offers a variety of marketing courses that are not as actionable, yet provide lots of new ideas of how digital marketing works and how to take your marketing services to the next level. The nice thing is it is free.
Encouraging self-education is important but so does putting things into practice. At IMN we try to maintain our own websites to allow team members to have some assets to apply their newly acquired knowledge to.
It is also a good way to foster collaboration by letting the whole team work on common properties together. It is also a good idea to give your team access to collaborative tools for them to research and lately track the progress.
Text Optimizer is one such tool that keeps the content quality high by forcing writers to achieve a minimum score. The score is calculated based on how many related concepts and angles you managed to cover in your content. The tool keeps track of all the scores, so your team can watch one another’s progress.
Clearscope is another tool that your team may enjoy using. Tools like this motivate your team to research topics more and work harder.
Innovation never happens in a day. But the moment you realize your own employees are able to drive that innovation may be the turning point in your agency’s performance.
Let your team be your most valuable asset, expand your marketing services with in-house talent, and you will see your company grow. Good luck!