There’s never been a better time to be an agency. After a rocky 18 months, 80% of small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) say they’ve recovered from the impacts of COVID-19 – and nearly half (43%) say they plan to invest more money into developing marketing strategies over the next year.
But that’s not all. A full 94% want to hire external agencies to help improve their marketing efforts as pandemic restrictions get lifted, and 96% of those businesses said they are open to paying their agencies more. Yes, you heard that right – they’re even willing to pay more for certain services.
How do we know?
We recently surveyed 600 U.S.-based business owners (companies employing up to 200 people) across various industries – financial services, home services, healthcare, real estate, legal services, automotive, and advertising agencies.
We learned exactly where businesses are looking for agencies to step up to the plate and help. We also discovered that there’s a goldmine of opportunity for agencies who can position themselves as strategic partners and make businesses’ lives easier.
SMBs are big believers in the value of a marketing strategy. In fact, 81% say that a marketing strategy was critical to the success of their business during COVID-19, and 71% say they wouldn’t have survived the last 18 months without a marketing strategy.
Still, many businesses scaled down their marketing efforts to survive the widespread economic uncertainty. However, nearly half (43%) say they plan to invest more money into developing marketing strategies over the next year. Yet only 16% of surveyed businesses have a long-term strategy that covers the next year or more. The majority, 81% of companies, only have short-term, three-to-six-month marketing strategies in place.
Tip: There’s an excellent opportunity for your agency to be a strategic partner by helping clients take a multi-year view and build out long-term strategies that will create growth and deliver a strong return on investment (ROI) for years to come.
We heard loud and clear in our survey that businesses want agencies to do more to help them, especially when it comes to expanding their digital reach. From a tactical perspective, improving or building a website, improving lead generation and expanding outreach were at the top of the list.
Websites are one of the most important ways SMBs can sell their brands and communicate with customers. And since the beginning of COVID-19, the need for every business to have a website has only increased.
However, 51% of businesses are still without a website (we know…that stat blew us away, too!). The good news is that 40% of those businesses are ready to do something about it. If you add in the 60% of companies that want to improve their current website, there is a treasure trove of opportunities for agencies to help.
Tip: Many business owners may not have invested in a website because they question its value or aren’t sure where to start with such a complex and daunting project. To get them on board, make sure your clients understand how important it is to establish a digital presence and how a website can significantly increase visibility and contribute to lead generation.
In addition, give your clients a road map for how you will approach the project together – including milestones for key dates like web copy delivery, wireframe delivery, launch date, and more. This will help them feel more comfortable starting a new web project.
When we asked businesses why they love their agencies, the top response was the agency helped them improve their customer service. In fact, 96% of businesses said they’d be willing to pay their agency more for customer service training.
If customer service isn’t one of your core offerings, don’t panic. You don’t need to be a customer service guru; you just need to give your clients the right tools to improve the customer experience.
By using business communications software with integrated analytics, including the ability to analyze call recording transcripts, you can quickly surface customer insights at every stage of the customer journey. You can then take action on those insights to improve your customer service and the overall customer experience.
Tip: Customer service is table stakes for every business in today’s review-centric consumer environment. When you turn customer service into a genuine value driver for your clients, you’ll not only help your clients win their customers’ trust, but you’ll build their trust in you — a win-win.
One way to help clients improve their customer service is by using a tool like CallRail’s Lead Center. It allows your customers to capture the entire customer experience timeline – from the initial phone call to purchase and all contact points in between. Together with your client, this enables you to identify potential lapses in their customer service and highlight individual team members in need of additional training to improve the customer experience.
Despite a willingness for businesses to pay more for certain services, their budgets are tight. Over half (57%) of businesses said they stopped working with an agency because of budgetary strain due to COVID-19. Another 34% said budgetary pressure unrelated to COVID-19 caused them to halt working with an agency. In fact, budget constraints were by far the most common reason businesses dropped their agencies.
The key to overcoming the budget hurdle is to prove ROI – and quickly. But to do this, you need to have the right data to connect the dots between your efforts and ROI. Partnering with innovative tech providers can help. For instance, by using business communications software, which collects detailed analytics like cost per lead reporting that includes calls and form submissions, you can show your clients how your marketing campaigns positively impact the bottom line.
Tip: To prove ROI quickly, use data to show clients how you will be allocating their budget so they get the most bang for their buck. Then, review the data monthly or quarterly with clients to ensure that their budget continues to be allocated to those activities that deliver the greatest ROI.
Tactical help, like lead generation, is often why businesses reach out to agencies in the first place. But if you stay at the tactical level and don’t become a strategic business partner, you’re missing a big opportunity.
We heard from 48% of SMBs that they don’t like working with external agencies that don’t provide assistance beyond lead generation. Another 46% said they dislike when agencies turn out not to be a strategic business partner.
On the flip side, we heard that businesses really love when agencies step into a strategic partnership role and help them with things like improving customer service (55%), vetting and recommending new technology to help grow the business (51%), and improving workflows between marketing and sales teams (43%).
As an agency, don’t just work within the limitations of your client’s existing tech stack. Instead, work with them to improve their stack on an ongoing basis. This will ensure they have technology that provides transparency and visibility, which is key to your clients’ seeing the true ROI from all your efforts. What’s more, you can use this technology to help your clients achieve other goals – like better customer service and improved workflows.
Tip: Invest in technology that helps your clients organize lead information, delegate and manage sales tasks, track prospects at various stages in the sales pipeline, and coordinate engagement to close more deals all in one place. Having these tools allows clients to streamline their customer service and improve their sales workflows. This way, they can create a seamless, memorable customer experience for leads and customers alike.
You may also want to look for tech partners that offer revenue sharing, like CallRail’s Agency Partner Program. By creating these types of partnerships, you’ll be able to enhance your service offerings to your clients while also earning additional revenue for every client you bring on.
Business owners are looking for consultative partners who truly understand their businesses and make data-driven recommendations to improve their operations. They’re also desperate to get more tasks off their plates so that they can focus on their businesses. Three-fourths of business owners told us they’d rather spend time on their business than on marketing, and 59% said they don’t have enough time in the day to complete all their job responsibilities.
The best way to help your clients achieve these goals is by implementing a comprehensive business communications and analytics platform that provides clients with a single place to store and manage all their customer communications.
Want more insights into what SMBs want from digital marketing agencies? Read the full study, Clients tell all: What small businesses need from marketing agencies today.