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As a content marketing agency, we’ve talked to hundreds of companies over the years with greatly varying needs, goals and budgets and across industry verticals. As we get to know them in business development process, we often uncover surprising information about seemingly savvy multi-million-dollar companies. From working with half a dozen other specialized agencies to not having any measurable goals, here are some of the top ways we see companies wasting valuable marketing dollars that could be applied much more effectively.

1. Working with an “SEO Agency”

Lots of companies we talk to are working with or have worked with an “SEO firm.” When probed further, they really can’t say exactly what that company is doing for $2,000/month. They are paying this “SEO expert” a monthly retainer and all they can show for it is an auto-generated report with hundreds of keywords that they don’t know how to interpret. The firm may have done something to get them increased search rankings for a few phrases and boosted their overall site visibility, but there is usually no plan for maintaining those results. The SEO company isn’t developing a strategy or implementing tactics such as creating new content to maintain and increase those rankings, and the client/prospect isn’t really sure what they’re paying for other than telling their boss they have an SEO firm.

2. Sending Paid Ad Visitors to Your Home Page

While Google AdWords tutorials and Facebook blogs make setting up paid ads sound easy enough for anyone, executing a successful PPC or social media ad campaign takes skill and tactical knowledge. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is sending these paid visitors to your home page. Hopefully your paid ad strategy is tied to an actual purpose and goals, with a specific theme. Focusing your ad message on certain keywords or an offer, and then sending those interested people to your website homepage is like googling directions to a pizza parlor and ending up at a Chinese restaurant. You might still find a restaurant in the right town, but not exactly the type you were looking for. So you will leave, in frustration.

3. Having Too Many Specialized Agencies

This is one of the biggest issues we see at SPROUT Content. So many companies are spending big budgets on a slew of specialized agencies like social media, PR, demand generation, content creation, website development and SEO. Many agencies, big and small, can be of of multi-functional use to clients and can deliver more strategic and cohesive results for much less of your budget spend. Working with cross-functional agencies also ensures that the same goals are being focused on, no matter the tactic. Too often we are hired for a specific service, but are stuck waiting for one of the specialized agencies or consultants to deliver an important piece of the strategy, while we focus on another (note: this never works). It’s also surprising how many times we’re hired by a new company, and they share how unhappy they are with one of the specialized agencies — yet continue working with them — even when they can’t prove results. You need to do a serious inventory of the companies you work with and identify where strategies and tactics can be unified and strengthened.

4. Duplicating Efforts

If a company is working with several specialized agencies, there is the potential for crossover in the services provided, and for each of these agencies to be managed in silos (meaning they’re not collaborating with each other and your marketing team is not sharing the strategies and work of the other agencies). It’s important to fully understand the scope of work and capabilities of all of the agencies you work with, and open the lines of communication between them. We always ask to be connected to other agency partners that our clients work with to ensure that we are all working cohesively and not overlapping.

The same is true for your internal teams and agency partners. One quick way to reduce spending is by identifying where efforts and resources are being duplicated internally and externally.

“One quick way to reduce spending is by identifying where efforts and resources are being duplicated internally and externally.”

If you have a talented designer on staff, you don’t need to include that capability in your agency’s scope of work. Likewise, if content development is being skillfully handled by your agency, there is no need to hire an in-house writer.

5. Not Setting, Tracking and Understanding KPIs

A key performance indicator (KPI) is used to evaluate factors that are crucial to your business. Proving results and showing accountability for every marketing initiative (by every team members and agency) is essential. Ensure that goals are SMART:

    • Specific – clearly define what, when, how and why (i.e. Increase website leads, through a clearly defined plan, by 10 percent to meet sales goals of $100K in Q3).
    • Measurable – You must be able to prove this goal has been accomplished with tangible evidence. This means you need to have the right tools and resources in place to track goals.
    • Achievable – It must be realistic to meet the goal within the given timeframe and environment. For example, If you want to generate 150 new MQLs from a campaign Q3 and convert them into customers, but the campaign won’t be launched until the end of August, this is not a likely an achievable goal.
    • Results-focused – Goals need to measure outcomes (a 20-percent increase in website traffic) not activities (creating two blog posts per week).
    • Time-bound – Goals must be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency to completion. Set a date and deadline by which the goal must be achieved.

Remember, if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved.