If a company wants to get the word out about their services, they need to effectively market themselves. A marketing firm like MarketingSage can help a business do just that.
MarketingSage offers cost effective services so businesses may concentrate on other aspects of running their company without the hefty price tag. They also offer a franchising opportunity for those that find interest in lauching themselves into the marketing business.
What does your marketing firm do?
MarketingSage operates as a full service marketing firm that helps other marketers and business executives increase revenue by cost-effectively generating sales leads, building brands, launching products and developing sales channels. With MarketingSage, clients can add expertise, bandwidth, specialized tools and contacts when needed, for as long as needed.
Our associates (franchisees) combine their product and market knowledge with the MarketingSage best-practice methods and tools to provide their clients with the services they need. We train our associates and equip them with our proprietary productivity-enhancing tools and when they need backend support, they can turn to us or another member of the MarketingSage network.
What was the inspiration for MarketingSage?
My partner and I had long marketing careers in Corporate America before we founded MarketingSage. We managed marketing departments so we hired and managed many in-house teams, agencies and freelancers. And, like marketing executives everywhere we faced the skills dilemma.
To be effective against better funded competitors we wanted specialist marketing skills on demand. The problem is that the required marketing skills are quite diverse so many employees and/or agencies are required. And, because most agencies specialize in tasks (e.g. PR, advertising, design), not products or markets, they are often ineffective at driving sales.
We realized that we wanted a one-stop marketing firm that understood our products and market. One firm would be easier to manage and we wouldn’t be paying over and over again to bring new agencies up to speed. Nor would we be paying for the overhead of multiple firms. If they understood our products and markets they would be much more effective at positioning what we were selling and they would require less hand-holding from us. This perfect agency did not exist – and certainly not at price point that could be reasonably afforded by smaller businesses. We realized that demands of smaller firms for cost-effective, sales centric marketing services were not being met by traditional agencies.
We also realized that the traditional agency business model has very significant flaws. The bigger the agency, the higher their overhead costs and the more expensive their fees need to be. This effectively means that big agencies can’t, and don’t, serve the biggest market – small businesses. The agencies with the lowest overhead are sole proprietorships, but there is only so much an individual can do. One person will never have the bandwidth or the breadth of skills of a team. This limits their earning ability. When an agency’s service offering is too narrow they only qualify for a small portion of a client’s marketing budget. Therefore the agency needs more clients and that increases their cost of sales. In turn, high sales costs can decrease profitability and/or require them to increases their fees, making them less competitive.
As soon as a sole proprietor agency starts hiring, their overhead shoots up and they immediately burden themselves with a sales quota. Agency owners are effectively working for their employee as they seek additional business to keep that employee productive. The tendency is to hire lower cost, less skilled people – a key reason why clients find many agencies to be ineffective.
MarketingSage solved both the problem faced by marketers who want cost-effective, sales centric marketing services and the problem faced by smaller agencies who want to expand the services they offer without significantly increasing their costs.
Our solution is to specialize in products and markets that we know well, to offer a comprehensive set of integrated marketing services and to relentlessly increase productivity by automating. Clients could get what they needed when they needed it and only pay for the services they use. Effectively we were able to provide superior services at about 50% the cost of adding to payroll or using multiple agencies.
With this broad offering and productivity enhancing tools MarketingSage wins more of a client’s marketing budget so we need fewer clients to make the same revenue as a traditional agency. This lowers our sales costs. That in turn, makes us more profitable and gives us the ability to lower the cost of our services.
In a nutshell, we reformulated the agency business model to better serve both clients and agency owners. Now MarketingSage is franchising our model.
What businesses, in general, should hire the services of a marketing firm? Why?
Any business that needs to generate ongoing sales and communicate with customers and stakeholders benefits from effective marketing. For many businesses, hiring top caliber marketers and providing them with the tools they need for their job is neither practical nor cost-effective, so engaging with a marketing firm makes sense. For instance, we estimate that MarketingSage can deliver a full suite of integrated marketing services for less than half what it would cost a client to add to payroll or to engage multiple agencies.
How has your company changed since it launched in 2001?
The biggest change has been our decision to expand the business through franchising. By working with owner-franchisees, clients will never lose the personal touch and the executive engagement that has helped us build our strong reputation and high customer satisfaction. The decision to expand through franchising has also led us to stay at the cutting edge of marketing developments and to adopt and develop tools and processes that ensure that clients get top notch marketing at very competitive rates. Examples include video and online marketing and metrics-driven lead generation.
What are your franchisee requirements?
We are looking to recruit business professionals with experience in sales, marketing, service, or management who are ready to invest in themselves and their careers. Likely these are successful individuals in their field who want to invest their experience and expertise, as well as some capital in a business venture that gives them independence and balance in their lives.
The majority of franchise opportunities are in the retail or restaurant industries. For a white collar worker, going in this direction is a major departure and doesn’t take advantage of the business and communication skills they’ve acquired. A MarketingSage franchise, in contrast, builds on the skills and contacts of the franchisee and enables a business professional to own and run a rewarding and stimulating business for a modest investment.
A MarketingSage franchise can be started for less than $50,000 and does not require leasing a premises, hiring staff, or working weekends to service clients. However, franchisees should be organized, good communicators, and committed to their own success by working the system and establishing their client base.
What separates you from the competition?
If a franchise candidate was comparing us to the more common retail or restaurant franchises, they’d find that the initial investment for a MarketingSage franchise is considerably lower. However so far, we do not appear to be competing with retail or restaurant franchises. The experienced, well educated franchise candidates we are working with are looking for a white collar professional business that leverages their corporate careers. Therefore, we are primarily competing with their option to go-it-alone (or remain an employee).
Compared to going-it-alone we can help the marketer generate revenue faster by providing them with a turnkey system. They can increase their productivity, and therefore the number of available billable hours, with our proprietary software. And, they have access to the backend support they need to deliver a broader set of services simultaneously to more clients. As a result we expect that many candidates will favor the ROI potential of our franchise over going-it-alone.
What goals do you hope to achieve over the next year or so?
We hope to recruit a small number of excellent franchisees and work closely with them to ensure they get up and running successfully, while maintaining high levels of customer value and satisfaction at the client level. We expect to have strong, long-term relationships with our franchisees, so their continued success is far more important than recruiting a large volume of mediocre franchisees and letting them fend for themselves. As we get started, we want to make sure that we listen to our early franchisees and adapt our model to meet their needs as well as build a sustainable platform for growth and success for the network.
As the economy rebounds we expect that businesses will what to ramp up their sales as quickly as possible. However, their marketing budgets will remain constrained and they won’t have the time or desire to add to their marketing payroll. This situation presents a great opportunity for MarketingSage to step in with on demand, cost-effective, sales centric marketing services.
What are some of the lessons you have learned from your business?
We have learned how rewarding it is to be business owners and, at the same time, how risky it can be to go it alone completely. From the available research on startups and from our involvement with many would-be entrepreneurs, we appreciate how fortunate we have been in coming up with a business model and suite of services that is successful and in demand. A lot of startup attempts fail. We have created processes and proprietary tools that make MarketingSage very efficient and affordable. But we have learned that, without an owner’s passion and pride involved in the business, it is hard to sustain the essence of a company, that spark that makes it special for a client. So we are excited to be growing this business with owner-franchisees. Franchisees are independent business owners who can utilize our tools, processes, and services, yet inject their own expertise and passion.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with anyone that might be seriously considering your franchise opportunity?
My advice to any would-be franchisees would be not to undervalue your time. Being a good marketer, for instance, is not the same thing as being ready to recruit and service clients and start earning money as an independent business. Time you are spending on tasks that do not relate to servicing clients is lost revenue. By becoming a franchisee, you have access to a proven system, tools, and a support structure that can help you get your business underway and help you be more efficient with your time so that your ability to service clients and generate income is much increased.
MarketingSage franchisees can expect to have a rewarding and balanced lifestyle, but that’s not the same thing as semi-retirement. Even though you may choose to work from home and have the flexibility to attend to family needs, you must be sufficiently disciplined and productive so that you get your work done.
Because MarketingSage offers such a broad suite of services, a potential franchisee may be a little daunted and feel that they do not have the skills necessary to fulfill all of the services their clients may demand. But in reality, that’s where the power of the franchise comes in. Franchisees can receive backend services and support to supplement their own particular areas of expertise, and yet offer superior services and value to their clients.
For example, a franchisee may have particular interest and expertise in the area of public relations yet have the opportunity to provide creative design and video services to a client whose PR they handle on a retained basis. Such a franchisee may choose not to do the design and video services themselves, but rather source these from the MarketingSage back office. However, the franchisee would still bring their knowledge of the client’s business to the creative and video projects and ensure that the efforts on all fronts are integrated and meet MarketingSage standards of excellence expected by their client.