Search Engine Optimisation, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Social Media Marketing, the list goes on. Digital marketing is the future for small business in Australia, and is needed to succeed.
According to a 2021 report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), digital advertising spend rose 24.2 per cent in 2020/2021, with the industry reportedly worth $11 billion. Digital marketing is an essential part of running a business, however, it isn't always straight forward or easy to get right.
When a small business owner is approached by an online marketing agency, claiming to be experts in all of the above for a fraction of the cost of a legitimate, established agency, it is understandable why they might feel inclined to sign a contract with the cheaper option.
Jerry Hoekman, a digital marketing specialist from IPS Management Consultant based in Mandurah, says too often he has seen small business owners who have lost their savings to a marketing agency that couldn't deliver the promised results.
"Way too many people from the Mandurah community come to me, it's heartbreaking to see small business owners put time and money into their business only for them fail," Mr Hoekman said.
"I've had small businesses that went to two or three agencies, and none of them ever delivered results. For start-ups with a limited budget, it's critical that they get it right the first time."
Lisa Legena, a spokesperson from the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC), says this theme of start-ups trusting unqualified marketing agencies is not an uncommon story.
"Unfortunately, some small business owners can get caught up in contracts that don't deliver more customers, or worse, fall victim to unscrupulous providers who deliberately mislead them, resulting in high costs for no results."
Often business owners lack knowledge of the issue or what they are trying to achieve with their digital marketing, to communicate this clearly to an agency.
"When you listen to one of these agencies, they'll say things you'd never thought of before and it will sound very promising, but you have no idea if they will attract enough customers. The small business owners don't understand the problem, so don't realise when an agency is over promising," Mr Hoekman said.
"You need to be a professional with a university degree or qualifications. An agency with a team of specialists is a good sign, or go through a one man band that outsources to people who are specialists," Mr Hoekman added.
Ms Legena provided further advice for small business owners on what to look out for when engaging with digital marketing agencies.
"Our advice is to do your research to understand what marketing support you need, don't rush into signing on with an agency that promises unbelievable results, and be extremely cautious about entering long-term agreements or giving away ownership of your social media accounts or website to a third party."
Before engaging with a prospective marketing agency, SBDC says small businesses can set themselves up to get a positive outcome by:
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