What Are You Paying For?
These days, most agencies don’t charge by the hour. There’s just not enough transparency with this model. It makes it impossible for the client to know if they’ll stay on budget.
Instead, agencies charge per project, offer monthly or quarterly retainers, or use a points pricing model. With points pricing, you purchase an allotment of points each month and spend them on the projects you need. This allows you to stay flexible if your priorities change.
But the real question is, what are you paying for, exactly? Certainly, you’re paying for the projects and services themselves. But you’re more interested in results. You should be able to set goals and pay the requisite price for achieving it.
An agency must price their services in accordance with the labor commitment on their end, as well. If an agency charges $300 for a complete website overhaul, they’ll probably get plenty of inquiries. But they won’t have a viable business model.
We boil marketing pricing down to three things: time, complexity, and (most importantly) value.
The Time it Takes to Do Marketing Tasks
Marketing takes time, especially if you’re creating original content, designing a custom website, or doing copious amounts of research.
According to HubSpot, writing a 500-word blog post can take anywhere from 1 hour to over 4 hours. Most marketers spend 1-2 hours. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily include the other tasks that go into making a blog post live.
Research may be required, the blog post needs to be optimized for search engines, and at least one image (original, purchased, or taken from stock) needs to be posted with it. Links need to be built between the blog post and other pages.
The blog post may also need to be promoted through social media, or through other venues as part of a backlinking strategy. Long-form blog posts may take longer.
If your agency is writing 8 blog posts per month, that work could take as long as 32-40 hours to complete. This doesn’t include time for approvals or the time it might take to strategize beforehand.
Other projects, like building a website, can take months, with benchmarks along the way.
Marketing agencies don’t generally charge by the hour. But they usually reflect their hours in their marketing pricing.
The Complexity of Each Marketing Project
Jazz musician Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
Processes, creativity, and technology make some marketing projects simpler. But when multiple people have a hand in a project’s success, it’s characteristically complicated.
For example, posting to your company’s social media accounts is relatively easy. One person can do it. Automation makes it even easier – just schedule the posts in advance. That makes it a pretty inexpensive project.
Writing a whitepaper using industry research, designing that white paper, and then promoting it involves many tasks, subtasks, and points of approval. It may also require multiple marketers with different skill sets.
The Value Each Marketing Project Provides
Naturally, nothing is more important than the value that each marketing project provides you, the client. The most complex marketing projects usually provide the most value, so that value is reflected in your marketing pricing.
For example, original content, custom-designed images, and a new website are of immense value to your business. Once they go live, they’ll stay online until they are taken down or changed. They are your assets to use as you wish. They’ll attract visitors to your website and get people interested in your business.
An automated email campaign is also valuable and somewhat complex. It will help you convert and qualify leads, so your sales team has more opportunities.
Quantifying Value in Marketing Pricing
But it's best to measure value quantitatively rather than qualitatively.
You probably want to know that X number of dollars has brought you Y number of customers, for example. Or, at the very least, you want your marketing budget breakdown to show that you've generated measurable results and that you’ve reached the goals you initially set.
It’s difficult to measure the quantitative value of an image. But if you’re paying for content creation, image creation, SEO, and social media, a KPI like website visits-per-month is a good measure of your success. If you’re paying for email automation, content offers, landing pages, and custom forms, a measure like leads-per-month is a good measure.
From experience, your agency will know which services provide the most value. To measure value, you should first set goals with your agency. Then, your agency can help you choose the ideal package for reaching those goals. Measuring the effectiveness of your strategy over time is the best way to determine if you need to shift to a new one.
If you’re starting with nothing, a content strategy may take some months before you start seeing real results. Think of it as introducing yourself to the internet. Not everyone will take immediate notice. But if you keep at it for a year, there’s a good chance you’ll be in a much better position.
PPC ads may give you some immediate wins, but your budget will dictate whether they are an option. Depending on your industry, good Google Ad keywords may be more expensive, and you may be competing against industry giants.
Onboarding and Third-Party Services
Some marketing agencies partner with other providers so they can deliver better services to their clients.
For example, we partnered with HubSpot. When we take on a new client, we will only provide our services using HubSpot’s tools (with some exceptions). As a HubSpot partner agency, we’re certified in the use of these tools. They're an integral part of how we provide value, and we know how to get the most value from them that is measurable and trackable.
Obtaining HubSpot involves an onboarding process, and the client must purchase HubSpot if they don’t already use it. Marketing pricing may include other third-party services, such as digital advertising, website analysis tools, purchased images, and any other tool that the client finds useful. The agency may charge a small fee for managing some of these tools, but the client purchases the tools for themselves.
It’s important to include these services as part of your marketing budget when shopping around. Speak to an agency directly to find out which third-party services they typically recommend and if you need them.
But most importantly, ask your agency how each of their services provide value. They should be able to offer you a detailed strategy that covers all the marketing bases: attracting visitors, converting leads, and enabling your salespeople to close more deals.
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