This article was written by Mike Goulet and Tyler Orfao

This blog post provides a glimpse into the biggest challenges facing the marketing services industry today. It also serves to launch an initiative to gain greater insight into the marketing services industry through a survey and industry report that will help marketing agencies with their own challenges .

Based on preliminary data HubSpot has been collecting from marketing agencies, some common trends have emerged that we feel are worth sharing.  The most pressing and valuable trend to address is what agencies say is their biggest challenge.  Two thirds of the marketing agencies polled listed the following 3 issues as their biggest marketing challenge:  

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1. Not Generating Enough Leads

Ironically, the challenge marketing agencies struggle with the most is marketing for themselves. This is understandable, however, since there are so many factors that go into generating leads. A lot of this could be contributed to choosing marketing channels that are interruptive and non-permission based in nature. Potential customers are increasingly less tolerant of outbound marketing practices and search for the products and services they seek to buy. Another contributing factor could be that these marketing agencies often prioritize working with their current clients over lead generation activities.

What Agencies Can Do : Marketing agencies with this problem should reconsider which marketing channels they use to reach their prospects, and use more inbound marketing techniques like blogging, SEO and social media to generate traffic. In order to turn traffic into leads, agencies should also start using some “top of the funnel” lead generation offers because potential leads are more inclined to download marketing material if it provides helpful advice. Agencies must also streamline client delivery processes in order to free resources that can then be spent on business development and lead generation activities.  In turn, this will lower the reliance on referrals and repeat business, which is often hard to predict and grow.

2. Cash Flow is Too Variable

Marketing agencies who considered this to be their biggest challenge are typically too tactical and tend to specialize in only a few services for their clients. By only performing niche services like website design or social media marketing, these agencies mostly acquire projects rather than retainers, leaving clients to rely on them for only a brief time. Left with only project work, cash flow becomes unpredictable and often leads to financial challenges.

What Agencies Can Do : Agencies should develop a process that encourages continuous, high-level collaboration with clients across a variety of specific online marketing activities.  These activities and services should also enable the monitoring of a lead from its earliest conversion to the final sale.  In doing so, agencies can determine how to repeat the marketing activities that produce sales and increase clients’ ROI.  This complete marketing strategy also ensures that agencies become a critical component of a client’s success, which results in more retainer opportunities and more dependable cash flow.

3. Difficulty Signing Up New Clients

This problem is often the result of poor sales practices. Many marketing agencies rely on their portfolios, hoping that their past work will impress their prospect enough to sell them. A lack-luster sales process ignores specific client needs and fails to probe deeper into a client’s overall goals. Potential clients will leave the sales pitch disinterested and frustrated from hearing only about the agency’s capabilities.  Similar to the previous challenge, these marketing agencies could be unable to close a deal due to the lack of adequate services required to accomplish the prospect’s marketing goals.

What agencies can do : Agencies need to develop a stronger sales process to determine their prospect’s goals and challenges, as well as devise plans together. Truly robust sales processes focus on client pain points and goal-oriented solutions. Agencies should also consider using a customer relationship management (CRM) system that tracks lead intelligence and activity. Finally, like the previous challenge, these agencies should also reconsider their service offerings, and keep in mind customers may want complete and integrated marketing solutions.

Interested in learning more about how to conquer these challenges? Well, we are too, and could use your help! We are conducting a survey for marketing agencies that will identify what makes a strong marketing agency impervious to these weaknesses. After collecting the surveys we will create a “ State of the Marketing Services Industry Report ” that:

  • Identifies industry best practices.
  • Determines what makes a successful marketing services package.
  • Delves deeper into lead generation, retainers, and other components of the marketing services sales process.
 Survey Image Credit: Patrick M. Len via Flicker

Originally published Jul 21, 2011 6:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2016


Agency Marketing