The State of Digital Marketing Agencies in the US in 2020
Even before the pandemic wrought havoc to countries and economies across the globe in early 2020, the disruption of the digital marketing agency in the US had already begun.
This disruption comes as no surprise considering the proliferation of social media sites such as Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Tiktok, and LinkedIn that act as the main marketing platforms today (there are over 1.5 billion social media users worldwide and 55% of buyers do product research via social media) and the democratization of high-speed internet in practically every corner of the world (almost 50% of the world’s total population today uses the internet and 78% of that number go online to do product or service research).
It cannot be denied that the face of marketing has changed tremendously. In fact, in the last 2 years alone, there has been an 83% increase in the number of marketers who say that social media sites are “critical” and “important” to their businesses.
While the fundamentals of what makes a great marketing campaign such as creative design, web optimization, data-driven strategies, targeted search advertising, retargeting techniques, email marketing, and applications of state-of-the-art SaaS solutions remain pretty much the same, the ever-widening internet landscape democratizes access to these technologies across the globe.
Right now, a super-targeted social media campaign launched by an A-list agency operating in New York can be seen by an unknown agency from India or the Philippines and thus can be duplicated (and sometimes even surpassed in quality) at a fraction of the cost. This should be enough to make any thinking agency executive sit up in attention.
Accept it or not, the disruption that happened to the manufacturing industry in the US by “made in China” products 30 years ago is now happening to a broader field of industries including modern digital marketing.
Cue Frank Sinatra singing, “And now, the end is near…”
Consider these numbers: in the last 3 years, small and medium-sized businesses in the US have begun to outsource their digital marketing operations to offshore agencies at an increasing rate of 18% annually. In the same period, the number of high-ticket brands outsourcing part of their marketing to offshore agencies is going up at a much slower rate of 7%.
However, with marketing campaigns being launched by agencies located in Southeast Asia, India, and even Eastern Europe gaining a lot of traction and a lot of attention – at times even going head to head with campaigns being launched by elite New York and Los Angeles agencies- and the fact that these agencies practically charge peanuts to launch these campaigns, you can expect this number to go up in no time.
It is predicted that in the next 5 years, between 25% to 30% of all US businesses, regardless of size, will be outsourcing all or part of their marketing to offshore agencies. And it will only increase moving forward.
So here’s the big picture: Digital marketing has gone global, which means that what happens on one side of the world is readily available on the other side. The campaigns being launched by what used to be the industry untouchables can be viewed, reviewed, and dissected by no-name agencies from countries you don’t even know exist.
And guess what, they’ve discovered they can do it, too. Sometimes they can even do it better and for less. Small and medium-sized businesses have started to migrate over to these offshore agencies and it’s only a matter of time before the big brands start joining the exodus.
Not a pretty picture, huh?
So is this the end for the downtown New York agency or the Hollywood Boulevard marketing outfit?
Not at all.
After all, American businesses historically have always dominated the global stage because we thrive in innovation, adaptability, quality execution, and cutting-edge technology.
However, to survive in this new normal, digital marketing agencies need to evolve. And by evolution, this means globally expanding your creative teams. In short, outsourcing.
The Digital Agency Creative Team
What comprises the modern digital agency’s creative team?
This may vary depending on the size of an organization, the concentration and focus of services, or the business of the client. However, if we’re going to put together a versatile creative team, it will most probably include the following:
A Project Manager or Account Manager, who’s in charge of liaising with the client to find out what they need and what they want. This person will also be responsible for explaining what the team is capable of, what is possible, and what works. This is important so that the proper expectations are set.
Next is a Strategist. Once the client and the project manager agree as to what needs to be accomplished, the strategist steps in to conceptualize how the overall goal can be achieved. The strategy may be as straightforward as launching a series of ads to boost the client’s presence. Or it may entail several phases that can include a survey or a poll, development of advertising and other assets based on the survey or poll results, media launch, engagement, sustainability action plans, and others.
The above-mentioned positions comprise the top-level management of a creative team. The brunt of the work, however, is done by the fulfillment team which includes the Copywriter and/or Creative Writer. In some teams, these positions may be held by two people. However, if your team only has room for one, I’d choose a copywriter who can also write articles well. It’s because not all creative writers can sell. But good copywriters can usually write creatively. After all, selling through the written word entails a certain kind of mastery and creativity.
Next is the Graphic Designer. Depending on the marketing strategy, a creative team may need more than one graphic designer. Preferably one who specializes in static images, another who specializes in motion graphics, another who does infographics, and more.
The fulfillment team may also need Web Developers or more specialized Full-Stack Developers. These individuals are in charge of putting up a website or a funnel together and making sure the same works as intended and provide a positive experience for all visitors.
An SEO Specialist and a PPC Specialist are also very important members of full-service creative teams, along with a Social Media Manager. These people make sure all campaigns result in increased traffic and conversions. All good marketing strategies include capable SEO and PPC specialists as well as a reliable social media manager.
Lastly, a versatile creative team may also include an expert Email Marketing Specialist. This is someone who can set up email automation, create templates using email design inspiration, plan drip sequences, and be able to manage the client’s email lists in as much as segmenting, targeting, and retargeting is concerned.
Now, I have a pretty good guess what’s running in your mind right now after reading this…
“Are you friggin’ crazy?! You’re practically asking me to outsource my digital marketing agency! My in-house creative team will have my head on a platter!”
Well, you’re not replacing these people – you’re simply augmenting your agency’s capability. And to do that, you still need your in-house team, albeit, in a more top-tier capacity.
Let me explain.
Globally Distributed Staff: The New Normal
About 20 years ago, outsourcing customer service operations became a major trend for US businesses. It meant replacing entire in-house customer service departments with cheap labor provided by English-speaking people located in third-world countries such as the Philippines.
Over time, these outsourced departments expanded to include inbound and outbound sales departments, technical support staff, and even back-office management. This allowed companies to trim down their overhead expenses by as much as 70%.
However, today’s concept of outsourcing is much more sophisticated than that.
Today, you outsource not just to lower your overhead and payroll expenses but ultimately to increase your company’s capability to offer services and, thus, multiply your topline revenue. This way, even if you end up spending more on overhead and payroll costs, the growth of your gross income will be by a far greater factor.
If an in-house creative department of a white-label digital marketing agency generates a gross income of $100,000 a month and you spend $70,000 of that in overhead expenses and salaries, you’re only making a net income of $30,000.
But if you outsource that department and scale it up so you can generate an income of $1,000,000 and spend 25% ($250,000) in overhead and salary expenses, your overhead and payroll costs may have increased by more than 350% but your profits have grown from $30,000 to $750,000 – that’s a growth of 2,500%!
In this sense, you should be looking at outsourcing as a method of expansion and deeper specialization of your outfit.
“But that still doesn’t answer the question, what do I do with my in-house team!”
It actually does.
When you expand, you’ll need people to oversee your expanded operations.
Therefore, you can use your in-house graphic designers to manage your team of outsourced graphic designers. You appoint your in-house copywriter to lead your globally distributed team of copywriters and creative writers. Do you get the drift?
You use your in-house team – a group of people you personally work with and whom you already trust to lead your outsourced/expanded creative teams. This way, you’ll be able to handle more clients.
And that’s just one of the ways of doing this.
Another way would be keeping your in-house team to take care of high-value clients while using your expanded creative teams to handle your small and medium-sized clients.
Still, another way to do this will be to use your in-house team for more specialized, client-facing tasks, such as client acquisition, project management, or account management while outsourcing your actual “fulfillment team” that includes the writer, the designer, the developer, the marketing specialists, and the rest.
The point here is that you don’t need to get rid of your in-house team and replace them with an outsourced one. Instead, you keep them or even promote them so you can use them as your force-multiplier.
If you’ve reached this far, I can say you’re now seriously considering outsourcing your creative team. You may be starting to think about ways to do this yourself. Well, I’ll do you the favor of doing the thinking for you.
Here are the ways you can do this:
You can build your own globally distributed teams yourself.
To do this, you’ll need services such as Upwork, Monster, People-per-Hour, JobStreet, Totaljobs, ZipRecruiter, Onlinejobs.ph and so much more. These are paid recruitment portals you can use to source out creative professionals. You can use these services for free, but a free account won’t give you access to search filters. That means if you use a free account to locate specific talents in these services, you’d have to go through their entire databases. That’s like looking for a minuscule needle in an immense haystack. Good luck.
So how much does it cost to have access to these search filters? That will depend on the service. Usually, these have tiered accounts wherein the more you pay, the more filters you can use. That can cost you anywhere between $49 to $499.
And it does not end there.
Usually, the databases in these resources are divided by global regions (ie: North America, South America, Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia etc), and you’ll need separate accounts to search separate regions. Your haystack just turned into several barns filled to the brim with hay.
Is that the scent of a leather wallet burning?
Yeah, technology ain’t cheap.
“I know! I’ll just use freelancers instead of building globally distributed teams!”
That makes sense. Hiring freelancers is definitely cheaper than building your own teams. That’s brilliant!
The problem is, you’ll have to use the resources mentioned above to find suitable freelancers. Again, you can use a free account to look for your needle across several barns, or you can spend $2,000 to look for someone offshore whom you can pay $500 just to avoid paying $1,500 to someone located right across the street from you.
Cue Alanis Morissette singing, “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think…
Another problem with using freelancers is consistency. You can get lucky and find a killer freelance copywriter, along with a badass freelance designer for one project, but end up with a mediocre talent for the next one. I don’t think I need to tell you how inconsistent results for your clients will surely develop into consistently NOT getting any client at all.
Not so brilliant after all, huh?
Finally, you can partner with a company that specializes in building outsourced creative teams.
Companies like this have invested in setting up the various background checkpoints necessary in finding the best talent for any creative position in the best global recruitment markets. This means that if you need expert SEO and PPC Specialists, this company knows where to find the best candidates and already have systems in place to find them. The same applies to any creative position you can think of.
The result is a highly-curated global pool of the best possible talent in the world ready to work for you.
And that’s not even the best part!
The best part is, you don’t have to worry about having to pay people from different parts of the world separately and with different currencies. All you need to do is pay this company with whatever currency you are using and they’ll take care of paying their team members.
What about consistency? This company has creative teams with members who have been working with each other for multiple projects already. They already know how to function smoothly like a well-oiled machine.
I know this almost sounds too good to be true, right? Does such a company even exist?
It does. It’s called C9 Staff.
Expand Your Creative Teams With C9 Staff
C9 Staff is a company that specializes in putting together globally-distributed creative teams ready to work “inside your company’s world”. We hire, manage, and pay your staff but they can report directly to you. This represents the next stage in the evolution of outsourcing and creating globally distributed workforces especially for the white label digital marketing agency.
We have all the systems in place to find, screen, recruit, and hire the best talents for any creative position from the world’s top recruitment markets: Central and Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.
We can put a creative team together in any shape or size and for any purpose you can think of.
Do you need a creative team that specializes in content marketing? We can put one together for you.
Do you need a creative team that can focus on SEO, SEM, PPC, and Social Media Marketing? We can assemble one for you.
All our team members are fluent in English and are flexible enough to work in your local time zone.
And the best part is, you can save up to 70% in payroll costs when you partner with us for your outsourcing and expansion needs. In fact, here are some of the global brands we have helped grow exponentially while also drastically cutting their overhead and payroll expenses.
So, are you ready to explore a new world of possibilities for your digital agency? Call us for a free consultation today and let’s find a strategic fit between your company and C9 Staff.
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