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Should you hire an in-house team or a digital marketing agency?

OK.I might be a little biased here 🙂 as I am running a small digital marketing agency in Dubai but still I hope to bring a fresh perspective on the topic. Let’s start reading then.

No doubt, having an in-house digital marketing team has a lot of advantages for a small business. For example, you are fully in control of the digital marketing process that can ensure the quality of work.

However, keeping an in-house team works best for a large organization that can afford to pay the salaries. Unfortunately, it is really difficult for small businesses to hire a team of digital marketing specialists.

 A big company can hire, for example, an SEO Specialist, Content Specialist, PPC/Google Ads Specialist, Social Media/Community Manager, Videographer and Graphic Designer. The entire team is led by a digital marketing manager or director.

In contrast, most small businesses neither has the money nor the willpower to commit to having a full-fledged digital marketing team. Therefore, it is better for a small business to hire an agency to take care of the digital marketing process. This way small businesses can get all the specialized services of digital marketing at a much lower cost while freeing itself to focus on the core process of their business.

Today, both the client (a small business) and the agency have to work very closely to succeed. The agency’s team has to get really involved in the clients operations. They have to develop a winning relationship that should ideally result in growth for the business as well as the agency. It would not happen overnight.

Most small business do not appreciate the challenges/cost involved in digital marketing. They think everything is supposed to be cheap. They want the best services but don’t want to give the agency the right budget. In other words, they try to outsmart the agency to get the best deal at the expense of the agency’s interest.

 On the other hand, every business has a different set of challenges that ,sometimes, a digital marketing agency fails to appreciate. The team can get over-confident about their digital marketing skills/experience but the reality of Dubai market is that most agencies are not specialized. Often, there is very little assessment of the client business.The business development team can also add to the problem if they over-commit or over-promise services that often haunts the team later.

Therefore, to avoid unnecessary complications & issues, both business and the agency can start with an open mind and accept that both have limitations when starting a new business relationship. Both partners need  to run the digital marketing process together for at least 2-4 weeks sharing knowledge, communicating their perspective, and clarifying expectations. In fact, they can write a formal contract only after the trial or test period.

The problem often arises when a small business develops unrealistic expectations and the agency fails to address the issue at the start of the project. The owner of the business can be a complete nuisance to deal with. As per my experience in Dubai, small businesses mostly fail to appreciate the importance of digital marketing. When they do give you a call, they have a huge list of services but are not willing to provide the appropriate budget. In response, some agencies take over the project because they need the work, but then they start cutting corners almost everywhere, resulting in a bad experience for both.

Besides, a lot of businesses hire one person who might be just a skilled graphic designer or SEO expert but they expect the employee to do everything such as online advertising, manage the website, social media and content writing. Often, the pay is less than $1900. In the end, the results are not good. Thus, making the owner sometimes even skeptical of the whole digital marketing. Of course, the owner often would not see anything wrong with their approach or mindset here even if they are practically planning to fail here.

In conclusion, hiring a digital marketing agency’s service is a good option for a small business provided that both the agency and the business are willing to develop a mutually beneficially partnership through sharing profit, knowledge and expertise. One can hope that an agency would lead the process at the initial stage of a project, and the client would honestly participate in the process. It is no use to start mind games to outsmart each other, it is simply an unhealthy business practice.

The case for Digital Marketing during the Covid 19 pandemic

Digital Marketing can help reduce the cost of brand promotion/marketing. As people have to observe social distancing or prefer staying at home, therefore, many people prefer to do shopping online. Digital marketing can help communicate a brand message and connect with the target customers/audience online via social media or app promotion.

One can go selective with digital marketing as every business might not need full service. I reckon most small business can benefit from content marketing as it costs way less as compared to direct advertising but produces great results. In fact, through content marketing a small business can put itself in the league of big businesses in terms of getting the desired eyeballs.

However, if you can afford online advertising along with content marketing, then it has an added advantage and can get you quick results. Perhaps the best approach is to do 360 degree activation of your brand if you can afford it. Otherwise, it’s better to select the best suitable element for marketing mix as per your need. For example, you can just choose to advertise on Youtube or Instagram.

Every industry has its own set of challenges and limitations and accordingly can choose the best marketing element or tool of digital marketing. For example, a corporate law firm or business consultancy can run both PPC/Google Ads and do content marketing (including SEO). Similarly, an electronics wholesaler/distributor can use YouTube/Social Media such TikTok/FB to reach potential retailers in Dubai, African and the central Asia. They can also run Google/FB ads in the target country to produce quick results while doing SEO in the long-run.

In Dubai,some eCommerce sites in the garments category reach small design boutiques through Instagram to increase their subscription. Some start-ups have employed personal selling to get boutiques sign up in the first phase of growth.

In short under the current circumstances, deciding the best digital marketing channel for both B2B & B2C business depends on the nature of its industry and where the target customers can be found.

Note. the article will be edited and refined, it’s based on a conversation I had with someone last week.