Large enterprises with significant marketing budgets can afford to pull together a coherent marketing plan which coordinates branding, promotion, and advertising.. They do so internally or by hiring traditional advertising agencies. However, most small and medium sized entities (SMB) cannot afford a marketing agency. They are left with three significant issues:
Rising Complexity: The sheer choice of available promotion opportunities is mind boggling. These include opportunities ranging from physical marketing materials(business cards, brochures, etc), media(magazine, radio, tv, newspaper, etc), outdoor advertising(billboards, signs, etc), and most recently, the Internet (website, search, social media, etc).
Expertise: In most cases, SMB staff do not have the expertise to pull together a coordinated marketing plan which matches their business needs, and access to mix of resources (analytics, design, creative) needed to execute that plan.
Bandwidth: SMB enterprises are constrained on time/resources. They do not have the time to meet/evaluate the various alternatives much less drive a disciplined execution plan.
Overall, these issues lead to a situation where the person-to-person consultative model is the only one effective in reaching most SMBs. For the providers of the various marketing services, they face the daunting challenge of reaching a large customer base which is uninformed, so timid to invest. Also, since each marketing service typically has its own sales channel, the situation is ripe for selling the customer something which they may not need. The bad experience causes customers to be even more fearful, and makes the job of selling them what they do need even more difficult.
Interestingly, other industries such as insurance and financial services have similar characteristics. These industries have developed a distribution model based on the idea of an advisor as an intermediary. For the customer, the advisor is the main interaction point who understands their needs and connects them with the appropriate services. They add real value with expertise and advice which aligns with the business owners objectives. For the service providers, the advisor serves as a much more efficient distribution channel.
Does the marketing services world need a marketing services agent ? Our sense is that the answer is a resounding YES!
Today, the world of SMB marketing services is a massive market which is incredibly inefficient.
An advisory based distribution channel would add great efficiency for all players. What is required ?
A trusted brand which can reasonably stretch into this space (ex.. staples, office depot, ups store, fedex kinkos, clear channel, The Hartford, etc).
Agreements around distribution and compensation from the service providers. The cost of customer acquisition is so high that most have standard lucrative reseller agreements already.
An Cloud-based internet portal for these services..the itunes for this world (ex Ocoos).
Today, over 50% of SMBs do not even have a website. Ironically, an old fashioned agent might be the best way to get most businesses on the internet !