As an email marketing consultant, one of the most common questions I am asked, is how much does it cost to work with an email marketing agency? In this blog, I hope to cast some illumination on work with email agencies and how much you should look to invest.
What are you looking for your email agency to help with?
So, you've probably got a requirement to get some support with email marketing and you're about to contact agencies. Whether it's creative, strategy, new templates or anything else for that matter, a good agency will be willing to discuss your plans and build a brief with you. I always encourage marketers to share the responsibility of briefing with the agency, instead of serving a brief. The reason for this, is that it creates connection, and as the quote goes, "a problem shared is a problem halved". It's the best way to begin a partnership and if you're the one appointing an email marketing agency, it's going to serve you better in the long run to be as open and collaborative as possible.
So, define what you want support with, what the problems are, what the goals are and what your thoughts are in terms of overcoming those problems and achieving those email marketing goals and list what you feel you need support with, paying particular attention to business goals and personal goals, then share this with your email agency.
Start by defining the categories of what you would like help with. Here are some suggestions for what you might ask an email marketing agency to do for you:
- Email strategy creation
- Email marketing audit
- Email design
- Email marketing copywriting
- Email marketing HTML development and templating
- Automation and workflow creation for email marketing
- Specialist analytics for email marketing
- Email optimisation, refinement and enhancements
- Best practice advice - this should run through all the work you do with your email agency
- Platform, ESP and technology selection advice
- Campaign creation, broadcast and send
- Ongoing advisory
Not all email agencies will offer all of these services - I wouldn't see this as a showstopper - look to the agency that you have the best connection with and if you need to, fill any gaps with contractors or freelancers. Also, you might find that one email agency is fantastic in one area, but not as strong in others. In cases like this, I recommend that you work with the agency on their strengths. It's tempting to move away from an agency when it's realised that they're not experts across all areas, but it's normal for agencies to specialise in one area of email and to be not quite as strong in other areas. You might find that one email agency are best positioned to support you with strategy and another is better for campaign creation.
On a side note, Enchant can help with all of the above, so if you are looking for an email marketing agency to work with, drop us a message and we'll be in touch.
Insist on transparent pricing and costs
An email marketing agency worth its salt will be honest, open and clear about costs. At Enchant, we've taken it to a whole new level where we publish our email agency pricing publicly. Most agencies find this challenging and whilst it's normal for an ESP or tech company to publish their pricing on their website, I've not actually seen other email agencies do this.
Whilst I encourage you to choose an email agency that is transparent with their pricing, you should expect prices to vary to some degree. No two projects are the same, so they have to be priced accordingly - don't view this as a negative, as it shows commitment to working together.
I personally avoid any day-rate pricing or per-hour costing and at Enchant we've always worked to fixed costs with our customers. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary reasons are to work to scope and provide clients with fixed costs. If you are working with an agency based on a time estimate, paying the email agency by day rate and they burn through the time, you may have to go and find more budget in order to complete the work. I just don't see how this serves the customer well - no one wants variable costs in any part of their organisation and in marketing, well I don't know how you can manage a marketing department with unknown variable costs.
Retainers are usually the way to go...
Marketing retainers tend to get a bad wrap, but they're usually the best way to go in terms of cost and results. You'll almost always save money and even find that you get better work and results when you invest in an email agency subscription. Why? Well, you're committing to a scope of work that is significant and this means that the agency should be able to offer something of a favourable price for this.
Retainers are great for a steady monthly cycle of services that will support you in terms of growing your email marketing program. If you're adverse to this, try it for a short while at a low commitment. A good agency will journey with you on mutual terms, so that you're not left feeling like you've over committed. A great agency will allow you to leave at short notice, so that the focus is on the work and not a big commitment. At Enchant we recently retracted all of our long-term contracts and put all of our clients onto a new agreement which means they can give notice at any time. Consultants and agencies that are really good at what they do, won't be so concerned with long-term commitment. Look for the email agencies that are more interested in talking to you about your scope of work and email marketing challenges over those that want to talk 2-year contracts.
Cost should not be your primary driver for selecting an email agency
I advise you to be open with your email marketing agency about your budget. The best way to do this is to give a budget scale or window to show what you're looking to invest. Your agency should be clear with you from the start about whether your budget is viable, considering the scope and the goals of the relationship you will form.
Cost should never be the main driver when selecting an email agency and I suggest being wary of the cheapest quotes - you get what you pay for and if you're hiring an agency who have a roster of strong brand clients and a team of experts, you'll get quality back in return for your investment. Ask where the team are located and see if you can meet some of the people you'll be working with before you commit.
How much does it cost to hire an email agency then?
You can pay as little as £1000 for a strategic plan or monthly retainer and the ceiling for spend is limitless. The key, is choosing an agency where you get value, based on the scale of your project and goals. Start by looking at these and have a "window of investment" that you can share with your agency. For example, you might look at your scope as being:
- An email marketing audit and roadmap
- A new email marketing creative template
- Ongoing support with campaign sends and creative
Looking for a bargain when "agency shopping" is a bad plan. You will get back what you put in, so if you have a frugal budget, you can expect the minimum requirements to be met but that will likely be it. If you have a modest budget, then you should expect a little more than this and if you have a significant budget, you should expect a partnership and a shared accountability for making a success of your email marketing through a solid relationship with your email agency.
Are you looking to work with a new email marketing agency? Get in touch today and we'll be happy to discuss your requirements!
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