Why Just One Digital Marketing Firm May Be Your Biggest Mistake

Sourcing all of your Digital Marketing needs from one firm looks attractive & efficient. But will it get you the optimal results?

A question I find myself answering more often these days is why Web Site Optimizers offers only Conversion Consulting-related services and not Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Site Development, Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign Management, Social Marketing, Content Marketing services, etc.

There are indeed one-stop Digital Marketing firms that offer all of those services and more.  One mistake I feel that many small and medium-sized businesses make these days is hiring one firm to handle all of those needs described above.

Why do I feel this way?

Benefits of One Firm for All Digital Marketing Needs

There are many “digital” marketing needs for a business today, including web site development, SEO, User Experience, online advertising, Landing Page Optimization, Social Marketing, etc.  There are certainly many advantages to hiring one single firm to meet all of those needs.

Especially for smaller businesses, a big advantage is having one single point of contact for all of your website needs.  The feeling is that rather than managing a team of vendors, you the business owner simply need to hire one company who manages their own internal team of contributors of the efforts you require.  This also leads to a single point of responsibility.  If something is wrong, you know who to call to fix it.  They won’t say it’s someone else’s fault.

Also, with one firm, you have a team who is all on the same page when it comes to the strategy, and communication between the different players will be much better.  And where budgets are concerned, the perception often is that one firm doing all the work will be less expensive than two firms sharing the same workload.  This is true sometimes, but not necessarily always.

Why We Don’t Recommend One Firm Handle It All

Despite the perceived advantages of using just one firm for everything, we rarely recommend that approach.  Why?  In our opinion, some of the different functions are done better by separate parties.

A good example is your developer and your conversion optimizer.  We feel a vital piece of the conversion optimization process is Usability Testing.  If the people who designed and developed your website are also the ones providing the Usability Testing, there are a number of potential issues.  One is that there is a potential conflict of interest.  If the firm designed your website, they may be hesitant, consciously or subconsciously, to identify and point out design errors that cause usability issues.

Often a development team is simply too close to see usability issues for what they are.  If the development team is part of the usability team, they often mistake usability issues for “user ignorance” or they feel that results of a usability test simply are not valid.  They understand the website so well and it is so second-nature to them that they truly can’t see things any other way.  I’ve seen it happen many times.

Many times, a firm started out offering just one or two services, but later expanded their offering as the market has grown.  In these cases, the culture of the company is often such that that original service, the one the business has been built on, sets the bulk of the direction.  For example, a firm that started out as an SEO firm and is now offering Conversion Optimization might tend to focus its efforts more on the SEO side at the expense of conversion.  Or a graphics design firm that has added development and SEO might sacrifice SEO to preserve a certain look even if it results in attracting fewer converting visitors.

Having firms on the team that focus on only one or two areas almost always results in more expertise in those areas.  It stands to reason that a firm that does SEO 100% of the time and never does anything else will have more SEO expertise than a firm that handles projects in a number of different areas.

Finally, there is value in having different perspectives at the table.  We said above that having just one firm is good in that everyone is on the same page strategically.  However, what if that is not the right page?  Having one or two more perspectives allows for more creative thought, and a better opportunity to develop the best strategy for improvement.

Keep In Mind

If you do choose to bring more than one vendor to the team, there are some things you should keep in mind to increase your chances of success.  First, communication is key.  If your conversion firm is making changes to your product category page in hopes of increasing sales, but your SEO firm is not aware of it, your inbound traffic could suffer.  Because you have more players on the team, you have to make sure they’re working together, not independently.

And with more players, it becomes more important to make sure that their goals are aligned.  The probability that one or more firms puts their own interests over yours increases.  The goal for all should be to maximize revenue (or donations, or qualified leads, or phone calls, or whatever the chief Key Performance Indicator is for your site).  The SEO people hope to do that by increasing qualified traffic.  The CRO people hope to do that by increasing conversion rate.  The developer might hope to do that by providing an efficient, fast loading site that is always working and easy to use.

But with more players, there becomes a better chance that the SEO folks sacrifice conversion for the sake of being able to show increases in traffic from search engines, or that the conversion people sacrifice total revenue for the sake of an improved overall conversion rate.  So not only do everyone have to be communicating with each other, but you must make sure they are all focusing on your objectives before their own accolades.

So Can Any of These Services Come From the Same Provider?

We think so.  Of course, it depends on your specific needs, and obviously the provider themselves must have the requisite expertise in the areas they will be providing.  But in many cases, we see a web development company that can offer excellent organic SEO services, or an SEO firm that can bring things like A/B testing to the table.  Certainly there are a number of PPC firms that also offer successful Landing Page Optimization services.

Two areas that we feel very strongly that you should not be sourcing from the same provider are web development and conversion consulting.  As we described above, the developers are generally just too close to the site to be able to look at it objectively and recommend any changes beyond very minor differences.

So as you start doing more planning for your site and allocating budget, consider bringing a second or third firm to the team handle just one or two areas of your total digital marketing plan.  You may be quite happy with the results.

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