How Digital Agencies Can Break the Cycle of Bad Marketing

Digital agencies have an obligation to society to stop creating bullshit content. Stop it, Ok. Here’s how..

Do you know what the problem is?

The problem is that content isn’t copy. Content is what you put in a jar or a box. Copy is messaging that inspires action. All good marketing strategies balance content with copy.

This is why most services firms’ websites end up being a waste of space/money. They operate on the fools-gold premise that an effective website is the outcome of design/UX, technical features, and content, instead of copy. So they don’t focus on lead generation. 

Which is a shame because there is no more powerful marketing technology, strategy, whatever you want to call it, than your website with compelling copy – copy that sparks a conversation with your customers.

And because for a high-end services firm, ALL forms of lead generation, online/offline, outbound/inbound, word-of-mouth/complete-stranger, whatever the case may be, must go through your website.

This is why you should never hire a digital strategist who can’t write. If you can’t write out a strategy in copy that inspires action, is it really a strategy?

Same goes for positioning statements. You do “[X thing] for [Y type of customer]”. OK, sounds like you just checked a couple boxes. Not compelling, not interesting. Your positioning statement itself need to inspireaction.

Nothing destroys both inbound and outbound lead generation efforts like content where conversion copywriting is called for.

Why am I telling you this?

Copywriting isn’t the end-all/be-all to lead generation, so why harp on it right off the bat? Let me back up. Most of my career I’ve been at digital marketing and technology firms; that’s put me on over 200 large digital projects.

I also helped build my own multi-million dollar, 20-person consulting firm, from scratch, as a partner.

The agency world is full of talent, but the work it does usually lacks something:

1. Effective copy (#1 for a reason: it’s rare)
2. Market/keyword research
3. Precise analytics

I’ve seen this lack in many businesses: SaaS and app startups, coaching/management consultancies, nonprofits & NGOs, UX and web design firms, dev shops, technology/IT consultants – and yes, even ad agencies and marketing firms!

Where digital marketing projects fail

Here’s how projects get sidetracked:

● First, someone says, “let’s redesign the website”
● OR, a new Director of Marketing is hired. Who says, “let’s redesign the website”
● Tons of time and money wasted in discovery/planning meetings
● Over-focus on the web, at the expense of other marketing channels

And so on. Lots of talk, no action. Days debating color choices: “But I don’t like green!”

The end result? A site redesign, instead of a *lead generation* redesign.

So the site becomes unimportant. It rusts.

Then 3 years later someone says, “I don’t like the website. Let’s redesign the website”.

The cycle repeats.

How do we break this cycle?

We start by inserting positioning-based messaging into your site. We transform your business strategy into a market-ready copy. Is your offer worth it? Let’s tell your customer why.

Not that we neglect UX design and technology. We just don’t let it DRIVE your marketing strategy. Web design is not a strategy.

Copywriting by itself isn’t either, but it’s the essential mechanism for (a) communicating your strategic value as a business and (b) putting a business strategy into action.

So what’s the magic bullet? The secret recipe? Is it a this “funnel” thing you might have heard of – or is it a special combination of this technology plus that ad channel?

Of course not.

Your entire digital presence is a lead generation funnel

In 1999, Seth Godin was the first to define inbound funnel marketing, in his book Permission Marketing.

Here’s how that concept is usually defined today, thanks in part to the “Hubspot” jargon: 

(1) Attract strangers (SEO, blogging, ad copy)
(2) Convert visitors (Search and social ads, landing page copy, UX)
(3) Close leads (Web sales copy, UX)
(4) Delight customers (Email marketing copy, CRM, social re-engagement)

By the way, notice a pattern? COPY is everywhere.

But here’s the point: it’s not that funnels are bad or superfluous; there may be a use case for them. It’s that your core need isn’t a system, or a technique, or a trick. Your core need is good copy, throughout your digital presence.

We start with positioning-based messaging on your site, coupled with a single, persuasive call-to-action.

So we write good copy.

Not that we neglect UX design and technology. We just don’t let it DRIVE your marketing strategy. Web design is not a strategy and neither is technology.

No one platform, technology, approach or channel will help your business grow more than another.

I often see a pattern where a business says to me, “we just need X”. A demo-conversion funnel. A lead magnet. An Instagram presence. A Hubspot account. An skyscraper content piece.

It’s this idea that there is a formula for marketing and that you just have to crack it.

THERE IS NO SECRET FORMULA. Your entire digital presence is a “conversion funnel”.

I read the masters of copy: David Ogilvy, Rubicam, Caples, Hopkins, and others. They all say the same thing: there are countless tricks and tactics, like long copy (still reading?), but there is no objective standard for how to apply them.

That’s because you and your business are completely unique. Just as your lead generation strategy should be.

Join me.