What Tools Should You Own vs Your Agency?


Posted on August 23, 2016 in Business, Consulting Strategies

Last week I wrote about SEO tools and I’m doing it again today because it’s an important topic that isn’t talked about much these days in the digital marketing world.

Today I want to cover the question I have often thought about and heard around what tools a business should have access to vs what tools they rely on their agency for.

I’ve worked inhouse and at agencies with clients, using many of the tools on the market today. I’ve gone through many iterations of my thinking around this topic, but have recently arrived at this:

Businesses should have their basic tools in place that they control the logins to – Moz Pro, a keyword tracker, etc. At the same time, an agency should have its own workflows and tools that it likes to use that help them do their job better for their clients.

Let me explain myself a bit more.

1_2

Own Your Tools

As a business operating in the real world (and the virtual world is real world to0), you need to control your own data. Just as you would not outsource your financial books to another company and not get access to all of the data to do with what you please, you also should not give a third party agency total control over anything (rank tracking, website hosting, etc) that they could use either as leverage against you (not that many would) or charge you an exorbitant account management fee while not actually doing anything or giving you the power to make decisions with the data.

Thus, I recommend that any business have their own software in place for their basic SEO metrics. You should own your rank tracking, your brand monitoring, your content marketing production, your Google My Business listing. You can add your agency/consultant to these as another user, but you should always own these yourself.

If these are not already set up, your agency or consultant should be able to tell you which ones to use.  You should be the one to pay for them and then give access to your agency if you are paying them to set them up.

Finally, you won’t work with the same agency forever. You probably start an engagement thinking that it will grow into something long term, and it very well might, but you will not work the same agency for the rest of your time in business. Your needs will change, the agency will change, and one day you will no longer by the right fit for each other. And that’s ok. And precisely why you should own the tools that have your data.

Tools Are Tools

Everyone has different features that they value in a tool. For some it’s heavier on usability, for others it’s the ability to build your own tools off of the data gathered. For some it’s the price and for others it’s that the tool does everything in one place.

The points is: there are a lot of tools out there and what works for you might not work for others. Therefore, what works for others might not work for you. The tools that your agency uses are meant to be one-size-fits-all, meaning that they can use the same tools to serve all of their clients so that they get the most bang for their buck.

But this doesn’t mean that they are the best tools for your business to use.

I’m tool agnostic from a purely philosophical perspective. Tools are a dime a dozen in the internet marketing industry; you only really get value from them when you use the right ones for your needs and combine then with the expertise to make sense off the data and insights that the tools provide you.

Learn Your Tools Well

As I said above, I am tool agnostic. You should use the right tool for the right job. But you should also learn that tool well so that you can get the most use out of it for the money you are spending to access it.

When I was a consultant working for Distilled, we had tools that we used for our clients as well as some homegrown tools for reporting. But most of the time, we would also use the tools that our clients had. Because of this, I got experience working with pretty much all the major enterprise tools, from rank tracking (SEOclarity and Conductor) to the content marketing platforms and different auditing tools.

This was great on the one hand – I knew the benefits and pitfalls of most of the tools of the day and could recommend different tools for my clients. But it also probably hurt my analysis for some of my clients because the tools I was familiar with were not necessarily the right tools for them. When I started with a new client that used a different tool, I had to learn how to use that tool afresh which slowed down the ramping up period.

What I learned is this:

The best tool for the job is the one that you use.

I’ve used many tools during my time as a digital marketer (almost 7 years now, which is hard to believe). But now I have the tools that I use often because I work with a specific type of client (enterprise marketplaces needing B2C organic customer acquisition). I know SEMrush, Moz, Majestic, and Screaming Frog incredibly well now and can do so much with just those specific tools.

The best tools for your job are the ones that you use.


What do you think? Agency owners/consultants, how do you handle this conundrum with your clients? Businesses, what tools do you pay for vs relying on your agency to have? Sound off in the comments!