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HOT TOPIC Digital Marketing Agency, the new Podcasting?

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MJ DeMarco

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I run a digital marketing agency.

Seems like everyone is doing it now...

Two, three years ago everyone was talking about starting a podcast.

Now it seems the rage is "digital marketing agencies".

Is this what happens any time a guru promotes these businesses as a great business to start?

Suddenly they're on every street corner?

IMO, If some top-tier guru/influencer is selling you a course on "how to start a [blank] business" it's probably not a business you want to start.
 

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Isaac Oh

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Hey MJ, I've actually been learning and have been creating the foundations for my own. Do you think that it's not viable? Or just indicators from gurus that what they're teaching might not be it?
 

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It's a timely thread, as a few of my recent jobs (even one I'm even working on now) involves providing copywriting and helping to build these digital marketing agencies' websites. Typically cookie cutter brands, has that "agency" feel, and more. Like hey, if you can't do this stuff yourself how are you going to provide it for others, especially with the guarantees on ROI you're claiming?

That's alright with me though, I'll keep selling them the shovels.
 

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I run a digital marketing agency.

Seems like everyone is doing it now...

Two, three years ago everyone was talking about starting a podcast.

Now it seems the rage is "digital marketing agencies".

Is this what happens any time a guru promotes these businesses as a great business to start?

Suddenly they're on every street corner?

IMO, If some top-tier guru/influencer is selling you a course on "how to start a [blank] business" it's probably not a business you want to start.
It's because it's an entry-level business; no money-down, no risk and maximum upside. No qualifications needed, no track-record, no certifications etc. Just a simple site, 5k Twitter followers from spewing hollow platitudes and you're good to go.

The model has been around for a while (it used to be SEO). The most recent iteration revolves around FB ads and "copywriting". I don't understand the demand for copy, but whatever - people are getting paid to do it. FB ads will be a dead horse in 2 years; either it'll be too expensive or the market will be saturated.

I don't know who's promoted the model but I do know several of the runaway "dropshipping" success stories I follow on Twitter are transitioning into FB ad management, so this is probably the reason why. Either way, it's a total waste of time for most people.

And yes, if an influencer is selling you a course - it may have worked for them, but likely won't for you. Some may call it cynical but it's true.

Hey MJ, I've actually been learning and have been creating the foundations for my own. Do you think that it's not viable? Or just indicators from gurus that what they're teaching might not be it?
The best way to gauge its viability is to treat it like a hobby. If you weren't getting paid to do it, would you? If not, it's probably not a good business to get into because you're dependent on the money.
 

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Could be. But a bit hard to compare.

Podcasts was like blogs back in the days (maybe still).

HEY EVERYONE, I MADE THIS PODCAST FOR NO REASON BUT SOMEONE SAID I COULD MAKE BANK, LISTEN NOWWWW!!!

And because the "why" behind the podcast or the interest in hard persistent work wasn't strong enough, it died within the first few episodes.

I don't know about the digital marketing agency owners, but I hope they have a bit stronger why/interest behind the beginning of an agency. And my guess would be that the average digital marketing agency owner is making a bit more cash than the average podcast owner.
 

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Dark Water

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Hey MJ, I've actually been learning and have been creating the foundations for my own. Do you think that it's not viable? Or just indicators from gurus that what they're teaching might not be it?
Not MJ but when I think of a successful digital marketing agency, I think of a team of 3-5 people or more all who have specializations in their respective fields - SEO, copywriting, graphic design, some type of ad network mastery, and website design. They can offer the comprehensive "real deal" to businesses and importantly, show measurable success and ROI that makes them worth it.

The way I look at it is with nearly infinite work available for any of the above (copywriting, Google/FB ads, website design, etc.), is there a reason to start a digital marketing agency when you can specialize in one?
 

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Not MJ but when I think of a successful digital marketing agency, I think of a team of 3-5 people or more all who have specializations in their respective fields - SEO, copywriting, graphic design, some type of ad network mastery, and website design. They can offer the comprehensive "real deal" to businesses and importantly, show measurable success and ROI that makes them worth it.

The way I look at it is with nearly infinite work available for any of the above (copywriting, Google/FB ads, website design, etc.), is there a reason to start a digital marketing agency when you can specialize in one?
I was thinking that providing holistic digital marketing would be more appealing than going to multiple agencies that specialize in each, although that would probably be more effective. I'm looking to sell ease and simplicity by doing everything in one house.

Also, I think most people starting digital marketing are doing it because it's possible to know nothing and outsource everything with large margins. But I feel like doing this may return miserably for the client
 

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It's just an easy business to get started (and by get started I mean only mean get started, not be successful at). The more people who start them, the more comfortable newbies feel about taking the leap with this as their first business model. Eventually the market will be so saturated if not already it will no longer be viable and another new and shiny business model will pop up, a lot of people will likely jump ship.
 

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Not only digital marketing, but I see courses about running a digital marketing agency popping up everywhere.

Last week, I searched for a company that does FB ads. All I could find were courses on how to do FB ads. Same story for SEO, SEA, social media management, etc.
 

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It's still a viable business path. I think you need to define what "Digital Marketing Agency" means (not you specifically MJ but anyone who attempts to start one).

- What is your digital marketing focus?

Copywriting, web design, SEO, Paid Ads...they're all part of digital marketing. But I can't really take a company seriously when they offer all of that stuff and claim to be experts in it.

I'm sure some companies are experts in all of the areas. Most of those popping up by solopreneurs aren't. They don't specialize and its hard to get work. They'd probably be better off freelancing solo in a specific area.
 

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Isaac Oh

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It's still a viable business path. I think you need to define what "Digital Marketing Agency" means (not you specifically MJ but anyone who attempts to start one).

- What is your digital marketing focus?

Copywriting, web design, SEO, Paid Ads...they're all part of digital marketing. But I can't really take a company seriously when they offer all of that stuff and claim to be experts in it.

I'm sure some companies are experts in all of the areas. Most of those popping up by solopreneurs aren't. They don't specialize and its hard to get work. They'd probably be better off freelancing solo in a specific area.
Thanks for the nuanced insight Lex!
 

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I don't understand the demand for copy, but whatever
The demand is veiled. Clients think they want/need copy. What they actually want and need is clean writing by someone who doesn't suck. In some spaces they care about direct response. Most of the time clients don't even know wtf copywriting is. If you can write a sentence with proper capitals and punctuation they'll pay you and call you an awesome copywriter!
 

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I run a digital marketing agency.

Seems like everyone is doing it now...

Two, three years ago everyone was talking about starting a podcast.

Now it seems the rage is "digital marketing agencies".

Is this what happens any time a guru promotes these businesses as a great business to start?

Suddenly they're on every street corner?

IMO, If some top-tier guru/influencer is selling you a course on "how to start a [blank] business" it's probably not a business you want to start.
What constitutes a digital marketing agency?

I’m going to both agree and disagree.

I’ve been following Shama Hyder of Zen Marketing for a long time and have learned a lot from her. She’s been written up in numerous publications such as Inc, Entrepreneur, and other sites.

When I look at someone like her, my first thought is there is a market for this type of service. How can I use what she is doing and sell it to my own market.

Obviously, she isn’t doing all the work herself. She hires - as does anyone else. Point is, if you can execute better than these people, you’ve built a solid team that knows there sh!t, and you’re selling the service to a specific market, why not?

The thing that bothers me is entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs, people that are motivated to take the steps forward to becoming business people aren’t following the right people. They are being played rather than learning SKILLS and selling them, they are learning nothing and paying for it.
 

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MJ DeMarco

MJ DeMarco

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What constitutes a digital marketing agency?
I'm just reflecting on what I keep hearing here and around the web. I run a digital marketing agency doesn't come from my mouth, it comes from theirs.

EDIT: Running into some riff-raff from this post: MARKETPLACE - Digital / Social Media Marketing For Hire ?
Not sure your point, I don't deny there's a solid demand for it. My question is more on the lines of "is it the new next hot thing?"

History repeats.

When Dumas and Flynn started selling their podcasting courses, that's when you knew it was only a matter of time before saturation and that there was a shark ready to be jumped. Is this the same?

Not looking to be right or wrong, just curious to other people's thoughts.
 

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Not sure your point, I don't deny there's a solid demand for it. My question is more on the lines of "is it the new next hot thing?"
Figured you were getting a bunch of offers from "agencies" with zero credibility or prior client success.
 
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MJ DeMarco

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Figured you were getting a bunch of offers from "agencies" with zero credibility or prior client success.
Ah, OK. Actually I didn't receive that many and the ones that I did get where pretty good.

My query was more of what see around the web and here.
 

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I run a digital marketing agency.

Seems like everyone is doing it now...

Two, three years ago everyone was talking about starting a podcast.

Now it seems the rage is "digital marketing agencies".

Is this what happens any time a guru promotes these businesses as a great business to start?

Suddenly they're on every street corner?

IMO, If some top-tier guru/influencer is selling you a course on "how to start a [blank] business" it's probably not a business you want to start.
I actually disagree here. I think the real issue is that many of these digital marketers are more in the space between having a job and being an entrepreneur. They are sort of like independent contractors and there can be MANY of them with different specialties.

This is because more and more businesses need some sort of online presence/traffic to generate income and many couldn't be bothered to learn all of the skills necessary to get these clients.

Doctors, lawyers, real estate agents - whatever - they need clients and many of them would just like to focus on being the best at what they do.. not marketing.

Additionally, these marketers are actually providing a lot of value because they don't need to be "in house." They gain skill within the niche by practicing and experimenting on bringing customers into similar businesses in different locations etc.

Risk with marketing dollars is spread out, processes are replicated and become more efficient... the issue is obviously the amount of control that these businesses could be giving up in the longer term.

There is a lot of room in this area because they don't necessarily have to be big businesses to be sustainable.

Also, looking back I think that a lot of my reply was unnecessary because I projected and thought MJ was kind of calling it BS. In terms of it being the next big thing... yes I think it will be for the next few years. It will probably get oversaturated too - but I think it's a great place for someone to start making income to quit their slowlane jobs and transition into another fastlane business (or even scale their agency into something fastlane).

Edit: Someone please correct me if I am mixing up terminology. When I think of a digital marketing agency, I think of someone who is generating leads/clients with paid advertising.
 
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Andy Black

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I totally agree. There’s a LOT of people selling shovels to folks on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s lots of annoying ads on Facebook about running Facebook agencies, and ads on Instagram about running Instagram Agencies.

It’s kinda clever though. It’s not too hard to persuade people who live on those platforms that they know more about that platform than the average local business owner.

Sounds a bit like “follow your passion” again.

There’s a genuine need by many businesses to nail “traffic generation”. I can’t see it getting saturated. Not if you’re good.

I already see businesses getting fed up with the spam or who’ve been burnt. I love talking to those guys and bringing them a breath of fresh air.

I don’t think you have to spend thousands on courses to figure this stuff out. You just follow Mother Theresa’s advice in my signature and then you’re off and running.


Once people are freelancing, then their next challenge is to build a business. Most will fall over at that hurdle.

It’s like @Fox and the web design stuff. It’s not about web design, it about sales, adding value, getting paid, building a team, generating MRR, etc.


Will add more thoughts later.
 

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I agree with Andy. Running an agency is more about sales than anything else. Even if you do shitty work it's fine if you're taking on 6 clients while losing 3. It is just how this industry works, I used to work for one of these agencies.

We were stretched so thin and couldn't produce any actual results. For every digital marketer there were 3 sales guys lol.

I've recently started my own SEO agency and I realize the SEO market is very saturated because the start-up costs can be as low as $150 (did this myself lol). While it does make it harder to find and land clients, I look like the best SEO to ever do it once they deal with these shitty india out-sourcing agencies lol.
 

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I followed that thread and am building my own "agency". In regards to the market being saturated, I would agree that there are a lot of people jumping into the space. I also think that it may feel a bit more saturated to us entrepreneurs because
  1. We are immersed in the internet & social media every day
  2. Marketers are loud

But... As with anything, execution is key. In order to replace my income with this small business, I only need to secure 10 clients. In my talks with people, I have zero reasons to believe that the market is so saturated that I can't be successful in achieving that. Selling is still going to separate winners from losers.

I view it as a land grab. It is a growing field and I would rather compete in a growing field than one that has been established for decades.
 

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The model has been around for a while (it used to be SEO).
*raise hand*

That's how I got started. And it worked well too! If it wasn't for those meddling engineers and their algorithms!

Fire up a couple of softwares...

Code:
anyone remember xrum3r... and scrap3b0x? (i dont want to tag these keywords)
and collect checks.

Of course, once the penguin update came around, it crashed everything.

Great lesson in not taking shortcuts and being sketchy.

But it's a great starting point. If you have any sense, you can learn from the businesses you help and start your own thing.

It may be tainted by gurus, but for some, it's the only taste of entrepreneurship they can start with.
 

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Btw... the second podcast in the OP here might interest those growing a digital marketing agency. (Actually, I found both podcasts valuable.)

To answer MJ. Yes, “I run a digital marketing agency” is one of those gold rushes. It’s one of the main “digital nomad” laptop-and-hammock lifestyle business vehicles.

I’m a copywriter.

I’m a web designer.

I’m building an app.

I’m building a digital marketing agency.

...



I think it’s fundamentally legit though... aka isn’t going away overnight.

Businesses need more enquiries and sales. If you can do that for them then your good to go.

If you can even just add a part of what they believe they want, you’re still good to go. You don’t have to sell them on getting ROI. Enough businesses already want a website, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, email sequences, etc.



I think providing a service is the quickest way to work for yourself. I also think it’s a great way to actually find out what the market really wants as you have to engage with it in hand-to-hand combat.

Proving a service to businesses is just a great way to learn business. You have to sell to business owners. You have to deal with business owners. You rub shoulders day in day out with good and bad business owners. Talk about mentoring without paying for it!

As a digital marketer you get paid to manage other businesses ad spend. This accelerates your learning compared to just managing your own spend.

You can then move away from providing a service or building an agency if you want, or go all in like @Tom.V is doing.

And then some will teach it, legitimately like @Fox, or badly like many “gurus” popping up in my Facebook feed.

Me, I’m going MJ’s route a la limos dot com. With maybe a bit of Unbounce thrown in for good measure.

And that’s why I like it. Get some clients and revenue quick, and then follow/blaze your own path.
 

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I followed that thread and am building my own "agency". In regards to the market being saturated, I would agree that there are a lot of people jumping into the space.

But... As with anything, execution is key. In order to replace my income with this small business, I only need to secure 10 clients. In my talks with people, I have zero reasons to believe that the market is so saturated that I can't be successful in achieving that. Selling is still going to separate winners from losers.

I view it as a land grab. It is a growing field and I would rather compete in a growing field than one that has been established for decades.
I have that thread on my bookmarks bar in a folder, that's how I knew it was around here somewhere.

You're right, selling is the biggest factor along with specializing. Specialization both in the offer and/or who you're offering it to.

May be longer to find clients in 1 industry nationwide than referrals in multiple industries in one location, but at least then you can show you're #1 at XX ads in XX industry. Pros and cons to both.
 

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Tricky to say.

There are for sure a lot of people moving in on this type of stuff.
But then I think so many are doing it all wrong that there is still tons of room for people with a better approach.

First I think the reason for the increase in popularity is a few things:

- The tech is getting super easy to use on a coding level. People can literally make a basic website within a few hours of picking up a coding course. So for anyone who wants to qualify as a self-proclaimed "agency" they are only one Udemy course away from that.

- On top of that social media + software has made it a lot easier to seem like you are selling. Few want to do the real work so Jimmy-Newbie sends out 1,000 spam emails using Mega-mail and calls it a day.

- Also other hot topics like Amazon and Bitcoin have cooled down and some of the marketing bro's have moved over. These were never web design folk - they just can't peddle their old courses, already have a laptop, thumbnail BMW, and a webcam so they switched niches.

- On top of that the industry itself seems to love giving annoying/geeky sounding titles to stuff. "Digital agency owner" is a pretty annoying term imo. I wouldn't like to go see a doctor and they call themselves a "Health Professional Clinic Owner". I need help, not a massive self-created title on your desk.

"Agency" is a word that is way overplayed and sounds super pretentious.

---

Here is my theory on where things are going...

The top folk are getting really good at crossover skills and creating systems with several parts. For them it isn't just a website - it's a powerful tool that gets big results for businesses. They are picking up a bunch of skills and using them wisely. Business owners get tons of value and everyone wins.

Then you have others who are getting to that stage and are motivated but not quite there yet. They lack the experience or are still perfecting the different areas they need.

But then... you got folk who just don't care. They expect that since they blasted off 1,000 emails or rang everyone starting with "C" in the phone book that they are entitled to work. "I have been prospecting all week - what is it with these clients?". They come in with a "scorched earth" approach and don't care the ruckus they create for everyone else who is legit.

This last group is the nosiest, most visible, and most aggressive. It is also the percentage I see growing the fastest as more and more move in.

For those with the right approach though it is a totally different game. So many industries and businesses are dying for real expert input on the online side of their business. Better systems to generate sales, manage clients, market, help current clients, deal with daily tasks, schedule client meetings, customer support etc.

So its 50/50.

One half is for sure going to have a bubble, but others are doing great high-value work there is no shortage for. It is hard to know how it will end up but I don't think there is much concern for those who have the right mentaility/approach.
 
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Who knows how long it will take before it's oversaturated - but I think it's a great place for someone to start making income to quit their slowlane jobs and transition into another fastlane business (or even scale their agency into something fastlane).
I agree, starting on ANYTHING is a great place, trend or not. I'm sure if I was 20 with no money it would be something I'd look into. Gotta get the feet wet.
 

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I run a digital marketing agency.

Seems like everyone is doing it now...

Two, three years ago everyone was talking about starting a podcast.

Now it seems the rage is "digital marketing agencies".

Is this what happens any time a guru promotes these businesses as a great business to start?

Suddenly they're on every street corner?

IMO, If some top-tier guru/influencer is selling you a course on "how to start a [blank] business" it's probably not a business you want to start.
I totally agree. I've been in this arena since 2012 and have seen dozens of "agencies" come and go. But through it all, the people who have remained are not the agency owners, but the gurus and others who have sold courses, tech and other services to them.

It's been the same story since the merchants got rich selling picks and shovels to the gold prospectors. Just as the shoeshine boy of old giving stock tips was the signal to get out of the market, when Joe Blow begins talking about his agency, it's time to get out.

It's not dead yet, though. It's a fragmented market with low barrier to entry, and that can be good for skilled hustlers. However, creating an actual asset is hard, unless you really go deep into a niche and build a name.
 
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I won't lie, I read @Sean Marshall 's thread and got interested enough to drop a few bucks on his Udemy course to see what the buzz was about.

Turns out that 20 some years of being a weekend warrior code geek left me with more than enough technical skills to do the work. On the sales side...

...well, let me say first of all that I'm the type to see a crowd and head back to my desk with a bottle of scotch, so I wasn't just overjoyed to see the way things were looking on the red ocean of FB groups and page one Google SERPs.

For MJ's original question, I think the good rule of thumb here is that if somebody's selling courses for it and you're seeing it in the ad networks, you've mis-timed the blue ocean. Whether you're okay with that is a separate issue.
 

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