Search: Should You Hire a One-Stop Shop?

The search-centric approach to the world dictates that every online and offline marketing discipline is related to -- or draws from the basic activity of -- seeking out what we humans desire. The essence of search marketing is designed to fulfill that need.

On the other hand, research coming our way from the likes of The Center for the Digital Future -- indicating that more and more users are going online with no idea what they are looking for -- represents an opportunity for search marketers to reach out and influence someone.

Life is like a box of chocolates, but your online marketing experience shouldn't have to be a confusing array of service comparisons. Last week, I reviewed eight ways to achieve search marketing bliss.

This week, let's take a deeper look at comparing the use of best of breed (where you go with a different vendor for each search discipline) to hiring a one-stop shop.

What breed?
The best-of-breed quest is a demanding yet rewarding endeavor for any marketer, and the process by which you find, manage and succeed can be complicated, but it's not impossible. Often, a different partner will be required for each specialized discipline, such as search advertising, natural search or site analytics.

Of course, operating within a marketplace that has gone from being a rounding error to a multi-billion dollar industry in only a few short years has complicated matters a bit.

Today's quest for best of breed can include hiring experts within specific disciplines, such as search engine optimization, public relations or brand reputation management. In the paid search world, yesterday's analytics providers are today's bid management tool providers.

Determining your needs and requirements may be as simple as evaluating internal resources. If you have the intangible assets (read: staff) to facilitate and manage each initiative internally, then you will most likely be able to manage multiple vendors across multiple disciplines.

But you will need to keep an eye on costs: each time you add a service or require additional resources the fees will pile up. Additionally, getting your partners to work together can be a challenge, but with careful stewardship in defining the specific roles and responsibilities you can keep quibbling about overlapping services to a minimum.

All around goods
Some people do a few things very well; others do a lot in a most mediocre capacity. While I am always weary of the one-stop shop (living in New York City can do that to a guy) limited internal resources and a burning desire to avoid territorial disputes (and the associated counterproductivity) lead many to seek an all-encompassing search partnership.

The argument for handing over every discipline of search or online to the primary agency of record is sound and works for many marketers-- that is to say, as long as there are plenty of disclosures as to which tasks are being administered by the single source. All too often, marketers believe they have achieved the rare single-source partnership, when in reality they have hired one vendor who in turn manages all of their other vendors.

Again, the above-mentioned scenario is acceptable and can often function well, but a danger exists for the single source partner.

If the client shifts strategy or inadvertently discovers the true nature of their relationship, a positive revenue flow and an excellent client relationship can turn sour in a New York minute.

Know yourself first
Sometimes it's hard to clarify exactly what your needs are. How often have you heard the phrase, "we don't know what we don't know"? While playing possum with the exact details of your current situation might be a great way to get a consultant to cough up some free advice, it won't do much toward actually solving the problems you face.

The phrase, "if they fail, you've failed," is a pretty solid piece of advice offered to me as a wet-behind-the-ears account manager in the dark days before the internet brightened the world.

A very wise gal that I worked with for many years had this philosophy when it came to working with partners: do your homework before heading out into the great wide open. This is true when your partners are agencies or, sometimes even more so, those who would provide outsourced intelligence in almost any capacity

Kevin Ryan is chief executive officer of Kinetic Results and iMedia Connection's search editor. Read full bio.

Meet Kevin Ryan at ad:tech New York and Shanghai.

 

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