Why Digital Marketing Agencies Fail At Selling Their Services


Aaron Agius is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of the award-winning global marketing agency Louder.Online.

Stressed Caucasian businesswoman using cell phone

Statista estimated in 2017 that there were 13,740 advertising agencies in the U.S. IBIS World put the number at 78,883 in 2020.

While different definitions of what, exactly, constitutes a marketing and advertising agency contribute to the discrepancy between these and other estimates, one thing is clear: There are a huge number of businesses offering promotional services these days.

While these huge numbers wouldn’t be possible if there wasn’t a demand to support them, it’s also true that higher competition makes it more difficult to stand out. Yet, in the face of these challenging market conditions, I still see agency owners shoot themselves in the feet, over and over again.

Based on my over 14 years as the owner of a global marketing agency, here are five things I see most digital marketing agencies get wrong when selling their services.

They Sell Features, Not Benefits

This is a “sales 101” type of mistake, but it’s one I regularly see agencies making. In my experience, part of what makes marketers — digital marketers, especially — so prone to selling on features is the dynamic impact of new technology on our work.

Managing to keep up with all of Google’s changes is notable. Figuring out advanced PPC campaign strategies is remarkable, given the complexity of Google Ads and other platforms. But expertise on these different channels is still a feature — it’s not a benefit.

Your customers need you to be up-to-date on these strategies and changes, but they don’t need to know the nitty-gritty technical details. They need to hear what your expertise means to them.

So although they need you to be up-to-date on the latest algorithm changes, what they really need to know is that your agency can help them recover lost traffic or beat out a competitor who’s constantly outranking them. They don’t always need to know how you structure your PPC campaigns, as long as you’re able to show consistently positive ROI for any traffic or leads generated.

Show your clients how your features will benefit them. Otherwise, you’re always going to be a step behind agencies that can make the connection.

They Don’t Sell Their USP

As marketers, we love to preach to our clients about the importance of defining a unique service proposition (USP), but we don’t always hit the mark when it comes to selling our agencies in the same way.

I could do a Google search for “Dallas SEO agency” right now, and I’d probably come up with dozens of different websites — all describing what they do in likely the same language. Even if they manage to sell on benefits instead of features, some agencies don’t always take the next, necessary step of explaining how and why they’re different from others.

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