More threads by Garrett Sussman

Mar 15, 2016
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Selling Review Management: How To Get Your Agency’s Foot In The Door


It's the end of agencies as we know it.

Agencies are no longer seen by clients as one-stop shops. According to pundits, the "Agency of Record" has died a slow and painful death.

The claim these days is that agency services are modular.

One agency to manage search, another for reputation management, another for PR. What's worse, the barrier for entry is so low almost anyone can start their own agency.

New competitors come with unintended consequences
The agency landscape is a convoluted mess.

The upper echelon of agency life forces firms to complete large amounts of spec work. Clients approach agencies with a laissez-faire attitude. Do free work for the chance to win... more paid work. Spec work has trickled down via design contests.

A cattle call that forces amateurs and professionals into the same muddy pen.

As an agency you're forced to deal with a variety of depressing and incredibly unfair expectations (e.g. SEO agencies that guarantee rankings or traffic). What's worse, most agencies accept these disturbing changes. They don't do it because they have to, they do it because they can't keep the lights on if they don't.

There's nothing special or unique about these agencies.

Which is precisely why most agencies are abused and mistreated by clients. There's no way to tell agencies apart. So clients construct their own abusive set of rules to get the results they want from their agencies.
  • SEO agencies are expected to provide spec work and compete in “design contests” (on the design / content marketing side) to win clients
  • Clients profit from an agency-created brand, campaign or product indefinitely. Agencies get nothing
  • Agencies are automatically expected to give away the intellectual property they create
  • More and more clients demand to know agency costs and other proprietary data – without assurances of how that data will be used
  • This creates an environment where agencies are treated and paid for like utilities
  • Clients are unwilling to pay for value, demanding to pay a rate that’s just above cost
  • Agencies and clients aren’t aligned. Clients want to minimize hourly billings, agencies want to maximize billings
  • Modular services and hyperspecialization erode profit margins overall
  • A hyper competitive landscape and a lack of uniqueness means ex-employees become agency competitors. This erodes profit margins further
  • Agencies, as knowledge workers, are purchased via a list of specs, and treated by clients like an assembly line product
The problems above, specifically hyperspecialization, mean clients are less interested in upsells, right?

Actually, no.

Clients care about the same things they've always cared about.

Uniqueness and results.

Clients in general and decision makers in particularly don't care all that much about specialization. Most don't care about modular services or any of the other problems I've just mentioned. Does that mean these problems don't exist?

If you're running an agency, you know these problems exist.

What exactly are you supposed to do?

It's tough to get clients to go for the big project or national campaign. It's not as easy to get a bigger piece of the pie anymore. These problems, specifically hyperspecialization, are getting worse.


There's a growing shortage of knowledgeable experts.

See for yourself.

What we have here is a meta problem.

Hyperspecialization is being touted as the wave of the future, but it's creating an even bigger problem. There will soon be a shortage of knowledgeable experts. Your clients need an advisor with an A-to-Z understanding of their situation.

They need you.

This is the situation for many agencies. Agencies are much more capable than clients realize. Agency typecasting means clients are far less likely to get the outcomes they actually want. Instead of relying on a few agencies with deep knowledge and a broad range of expertise (such as yourself), clients are cobbling large groups of "specialists" together.

There are two common routes agencies can take.
  • Industry specialization: Focusing on a specific niche (e.g outdoor, financial or ecommerce review management) gives you a deep level of knowledge and expertise.
  • Service specialization: Deep specialty in specific service areas (e.g. crisis management, review outreach) means you’re able to attract clients in need of a very specific skill set. This makes it easier to establish genuine uniqueness.
Specialize to get your foot in the door

Generalize to keep your clients profitable and satisfied.

There are quite a few services you can use to get your agency's foot in the door. But the focus word here is quick win. If you want to attract your client's attention and work your way into a generalist role, you'll need to generate results quickly.

Clients are naturally skeptical.

Online reviews are clear. It's easy for customers to make the mental connection. The more reviews they get, the more customers they receive. It's simple and straightforward.

Here's why we recommend online review management and marketing.
Online review management delivers clients quick wins.

Attract more positive reviews and your client's conversion rate shoots up. Bury your client's negative reviews and their conversion rates go up. Promote positive reviews to your client's customers via advertising/remarketing and their conversion rate goes up.

Get their existing customers to share their story and you have the potential to dramatically boost your client's revenue. With the right approach you can help clients 2x, 4x or even 10x their business.

No other marketing channel offers such a dramatic lift in such a short period of time.

It's a compelling reason for your agency to lead with online review management and marketing services. It's an excellent way for you to establish your agency as a trusted advisor, a role you can use to expand your role with each of your clients.

Read the rest of Andrew's post here. He goes on to list 4 steps for getting your foot in the door with online review management.
I honestly can't believe how many great ideas you guys come up with and how extensive your posts are! Can't wait to read the rest of this one!

I have a really good idea I don't think anyone has thought of for review marketing and to get your foot in the door. Been wanting to write a post, but don't have the "handwidth". I'll send it over to you when I am able to.
Thanks, Linda! Glad you found Andrew's ideas helpful.

I'd love to see that idea that's been floating around in your head. Shoot it over when you have a moment!

I like Andrew's article very much. In fact, that word "modular" - I think I will have to start using that more in my sales pitches. The modules I offer are GMB Optimisation, 360 virtual tours, 30 second videos, review management. We specialise in businesses with a physical location, if you were to dive deeper, it would be Retail predominantly because of the virtual tours, even deeper, we get widespread adoption in the Health & Beauty industry, the Dental industry, the Food Services industry.

That modularity he speaks of as a concept - I worked out what modules you could reasonably offer a client if you could handle IT as well as Digital Marketing solutions, with a focus on outsourcing certain tasks to the Philippines or other countries with a BPO/KPO industry:

YourBusiness Operating System
  • Business Needs Analysis
  • Business Plan
  • Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Employee-Facing application / PWA to include CRM plus?
  • ICT system mapping
  • ICT system security and backups
  • Cybersecurity
  • ICT Support for endpoints and MDM
  • CRM Planning/Mapping/Implementation/Migration
  • CRM Module Customisation
  • CRM Field Customisation
  • Workflow Automation
  • Data Entry/Database Management
  • Troubleshooting and Maintenance
  • Training and Ongoing Support
  • Cloud software integrations
    • Zoho One / CRM
    • Xero
    • PandaDocs
    • Wordpress
    • WooCommerce
    • Point of Sale
    • SMS Integration with Zoho
    • Tableau / Power BI / Zoho Reports
  • Copywriting - text, whitepapers, case studies
  • Multimedia Content Creation
    • 360 Virtual Tours
    • Video content / YouTube Channel
  • Lead Management and Scoring
  • Sales Letters
  • Telesales
  • Website Development
  • Website Graphic Design for Landing and Interior pages
  • Website User Interface and User Experience Design
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Google Adwords Search Engine Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing (LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram)
  • Social Media Management
  • Review and Reputation Management
  • Facebook / Instagram Advertising
  • Email Marketing Automation Design / Strategy / Implementation
  • Bookkeeping
  • Appointment Setting
  • General Administration tasks
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Reports
  • Business Dashboards
  • Digital Signage
  • Teleconferencing
  • Chatbots / Voicebots
Adam, thanks for this comment! I think you're right on point with the modularity of digital marketing services. David Mihm of Tidings talks about it frequently when building the local marketing stack.

Have you thought about pursuing the hospitality industry as well? I'd imagine that all of the modules you broke down would be useful for hotel chains (and reviews are critical to hotel success as well.)

Really interesting stuff. You should write a blog post! Thanks you for sharing.
Thanks Garrett, yes we do definitely work with the hospitality industry!

Virtual Tour Portfolios:

I will eventually get around to writing a blog post, once I have enough new business that I can stop chasing my tail and hire some more assistance.
Awesome! If you ever want to write a guest post on about how you serve clients, please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly.
I know this is an old post but I'm going to take a shot at posting a reply. The link to the article isn't working. Is there an updated link?
I know this is an old post but I'm going to take a shot at posting a reply. The link to the article isn't working. Is there an updated link?
@Travis Van Slooten

Hi, Travis:

That post was pasted from WordPress into vBulletin and the combination didn't survive the subsequent migration to Xenforo very well.

I have fixed the post so now the links and video all work.

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