Most modern business owners know that they need online marketing to take their revenue to the next level.
But as you’ve probably learned either first-hand or through other entrepreneurs, hiring professional marketers to take over your online campaigns doesn’t always end up being a worthwhile investment.
And once you have one (or a few) bad experiences with an agency or freelancers, it can be incredibly challenging to trust anyone again. Even though you need the external marketing expertise to unlock your business’ potential.
In this case study, however, you’ll learn how online food business Seareal managed to triple their monthly sales revenue in less than 8 weeks, by taking the leap of faith to find the right marketing partner for them.
Read on to find out how Seareal’s “low-risk leap of faith” helped them overcome past negative experiences with marketing agencies/partners, and how to apply this approach to your business too.
Seareal primarily sells high-quality frozen and pre-cooked seafood. Business had been doing well during the Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand, as their target audience were mostly working from home.
And like many business owners, the founder started managing his own online marketing campaigns from scratch, focusing on Facebook advertising.
But when the business started growing from the campaigns, he realized that managing everything took too much of his time and effort.
He also saw the potential of increasing his returns, if he could delegate the campaigns to a proven team of expert marketers. So he decided to hire a marketing agency to take over.
However, his experience with an agency didn’t go as planned, because:
1. The sales goals with their previous marketing agency weren’t met.
Delegating your marketing campaigns only works if it improves your results, and saves you the time of doing everything yourself.
In Seareal’s case, the results of the campaigns were similar to what the founder could drive himself at the time. So it didn’t make sense to keep spending extra fees to get the same revenue.
Eventually he decided to take the campaigns back himself. But this didn’t work out either, because:
2. After continuing to work on the campaigns himself, revenue started stagnating.
Like many business owners, this is where Seareal’s founder got stuck.
On one hand he didn’t have a strategy to improve results. On the other hand, he was finding it hard to trust another agency with his marketing campaigns again. Even though he knew he needed someone with more expertise to help increase sales.
The truth is it normally takes businesses a lot of trial and error before they find the right marketing partner.
In fact, the majority of the 400+ business owners we’ve worked with have listed this as one of their key business challenges, including Seareal.
Overcoming a bad experience with a marketing agency can be difficult. But to do it successfully, you first need to understand how things should be, so you can move on and select the best people for the job.
To find out the most low-risk approach to hiring the right agency for you, you first need to know the key reasons why things don’t work out the first time around.
And while there are several reasons why, we’ve narrowed it down to these 3 most common reasons, based on our clients’ challenges and our firsthand experience:
1. The agency won’t agree to be held accountable for your sales revenue.
If the agency doesn’t want to be responsible for your online earnings at the end of every month, the partnership can turn into a massive investment without any guarantee of returns.
You could even get locked in 3, 6 or even 12-month contracts, which slows things down even more if you find out early on that you aren’t a right fit for each other.
Solution: Keep things low-risk by looking for a marketing partner who will take full responsibility for your revenue goals.
This means they need to have a clear strategy that’s tied back to increasing your sales revenue. And most importantly, they need to be willing to let you leave if the sales goals aren’t met.
That’s how you can ensure the agency is always working towards your benefit.
2. The agency doesn’t have a proven track record in growing businesses like yours.
Even if they have a track record of driving success for some of the biggest brands, it doesn’t always mean they’ll be able to do it for you too.
For example, the agency may only have experience working with bigger companies who have multi-million baht advertising budgets.
Or they may only have experience working with small brands, getting them from point A to point B, without knowing how to take them to the next level.
Solution: Look for a marketing partner who has successfully done it for businesses similar to yours in terms of industry, size and budget.
Let’s say your business has around 100 staff, is making x million baht a year, and has a monthly advertising budget of 2-300,000 baht.
Look for the people behind the successes of businesses similar to your circumstances, instead of trying to work with agencies who only have experience working with the biggest brands in the world.
This will ensure your new agency has “been there and done that” for businesses like yours, so they can apply what they’ve learned to your benefit.
A great tip here is to ask for relevant case studies as proof of their successes. That way you’ll know for sure whether the businesses they’ve helped share a similar journey to yours.
3. You completely lose control over your marketing campaigns after delegating them to an agency. And it makes you feel powerless.
While this step is more the effect of the two reasons above, business owners sometimes feel powerless to make decisions because agencies often take ownership of their business’ marketing data.
Agencies know that intellectual property makes money. This includes audience insights, best-selling products and especially the marketing strategy used to drive the results.
That’s why many choose to protect the data they generate, instead of sharing it with you. Such agencies do this by locking you out of advertising accounts, so you can’t see their strategy or campaign setup, for instance.
This means you won’t be able to leave them without losing your data and progress. It also means you won’t grow from the partnership.
Solution: Find a marketing partner who is willing to share all of your successes with you.
A progressive-minded marketing agency should always be looking to find better ways to drive results, instead of protecting what they have.
Look for someone who still gives you access to your back end even after taking over your marketing campaigns.
If the agency can talk candidly about the campaign structure and how exactly they drive sales (instead of just sending you reports), then your business will grow from the partnership and shared knowledge.
So in a nutshell, if you stick to hiring a marketing agency or partner based on these three solutions above, your decision will most likely be a low-risk one.
Both because the partner will most likely be qualified to drive sales for you, and because you’ll be able to end the partnership immediately if you know that things aren’t going to work out.
Our partnership with Seareal was fully based on these solutions. In the next section we’ll explain how exactly everything was applied to their circumstances, to eventually triple their monthly sales revenue.
Seareal’s successful partnership with the right marketing agency started with a mutual understanding on revenue goals.
The fact is the longer-term the goal, the bigger the consequences if it doesn’t work out. So a common understanding on where you want to be is crucial to making the partnership work from the start.
Seareal’s founder’s goal was to continuously increase monthly sales revenue while successfully being able to fully step out of his own marketing campaigns.
And because we agreed to be 100% accountable for increasing their sales revenue, we could clearly break the goal down into two parts:
1. To first ensure the campaigns were fully delegated to us without the existing performance dropping, and
2. To continuously improve results.
This was the best way to ensure a low-risk leap of faith could happen.
The minimum benchmark in the early stages was to at least match what Seareal’s founder could generate on his own.
That way the founder could successfully save his own time, while we as the agency could learn more about the brand’s customers and find better ways to increase revenue. At this point Seareal would already be winning from the partnership.
Trust between the agency and client is most often established once the results match and exceed where the business needs to be.
And while we planned long-term based on revenue goals with Seareal, their contract with us was a monthly one. That meant if the founder no longer trusted us at any time, he didn’t have to wait 6 months to cancel the contract.
From our experience, monthly contracts work best for clients (AKA you) because they act as a consequence for the agency. Compared to a 3-6-month contract, you would be paying them anyway, even if the results aren’t met.
This was the foundation of Seareal’s low-risk leap of faith. And since we have driven success for businesses similar to Seareal before, we had the track record to prove that we could repeat it for them.
Being accountable for their sales revenue meant everything we did was tied back to increasing sales. Any KPIs we monitored (for Seareal it was the amount of new messages to the page’s inbox), were directly measured with increases in sales revenue.
You can see here that everything we measured was tied back to sales:
That way the founder could see where results were improving or dropping at any time, without having to step into the actual marketing campaigns.
This is especially crucial for business owners who have been hurt by past partnerships with agencies before. Being able to see the numbers in one place helps make things easier and provides a strong foundation for a positive partnership.
And lastly, in addition to building trust through increasing sales revenue, we also allowed Seareal full access into our marketing campaigns and accounts.
The founder could see exactly what we did to improve their marketing campaigns, such as improving campaign structure and introducing testing approaches.
One example is A/B testing, where we test several creative approaches against each other to see which approach drives the most sales revenue.
The founder could clearly see through these tests how we increased sales by tying the amount of messages we drove to increased sales revenue.
Here’s an example:
By being able to see everything that was going on, he could learn more about his business too, since he still owned the data.
He could learn more about how to market his best products, his online audience, and how to even test for himself. And this is where trust between agency and client solidified.
At the end of the day these solutions paid off, as you can see from the results graph below:
Seareal’s founder no longer has to manage his own marketing campaigns, or worry about a handover that may ruin his progress.
Through the processes we discussed above, what resulted was an approach that was focused on the highest chance of success possible.
Revenue more than tripled in the space of 2 months. The founder can now rest assured that they’ve found the right partner for the job, while we continue to find ways to take Seareal’s sales revenue to the next level.