For Part 3 of the series, I want to discuss the other types of Agencies we use. While I am sure many Marketing Agencies can offer these services as well, the reality is the skill set needed to execute any of these services correctly is very high and many times the marketing agency’s talent for these services is below par.
For the first year of BattlBox’s existence, Affiliate Management was done in-house. While we did manage it ourselves, it was absolutely reactive management. Approval for a new affiliate application or an affiliate requesting some assets was the extent of what we did. There was no proactiveness, no relationship building of our affiliates, and definitely no reach out to get new affiliates. For BattlBox, the affiliate sales channel is responsible for 15% of new revenue. That’s a big number and responsibility. In order to accomplish this for BattlBox, you would likely need more than 1 full-time employee due to some of the skill sets needed to run an affiliate management program successfully. There is a chance you could find a unicorn that could do it all, but unicorns are difficult to find. Layer in our other brands that are large enough to require true management of the affiliate program and you would at the minimum need 2 full-time employees. The other benefit of using an agency for your Affiliate Sales program is when that agency has existing affiliate relationships and massive experience in our space. We were lucky to find an agency that checked all of these boxes and we have seen growth with them while they in turn have grown as well. Setting up an affiliate program has a considerable upfront time lift and you often hear about Agencies trying to just put your brand on cruise control after the hard part is done. That is what you need to watch out for. If the agency is not constantly bringing new opportunities to the table and coming up with new ideas for further sales, watch out! I am also BIG on relationships and become friends with Greg Powell of Tactical Marketing Co. through the years (we have used them for the past 4 years).
Web Development Agency
Know how to code? I do not. As BattlBox grew and we wanted additional features and functions on our websites, we quickly hit a roadblock. At the time, the BattlBox site was on CrateJoy. While CrateJoy was great for us when we launched, we quickly wanted experiences on our website that you could not accomplish with the ‘website creator tool’. We were referred to a development agency and we ended up going to and using a total of 5 in our first 2 years for various projects. The story was always the same. We felt we were being overcharged. The final product was never as good as we would have hoped. Timeframes were rarely ever met. Clean up and fixes after a project was always difficult (agency already paid so our priority level never seemed high).
The fact of the matter is once you get to a certain size, you are going to need someone with web development skills for your platform. Web Developers are also very expensive to hire and finding one that is proficient in every aspect of your needs is likely a unicorn. This was one part of the business where we never even considered hiring internally. The economics just never made sense. Finding the right development agency is definitely just as difficult as finding the right marketing agency. When we switched to Shopify Plus from CrateJoy we got connected with Alen Malkoc and the rest is history. Again, they check all the boxes and all the previous pain points we had with the other agencies do not exist anymore. Furthermore, Alen and I have become friends through the years. Relationships matter.
Public Relations Agency
This is one that is often overlooked by most brands. Truth be told, it was overlooked by us for several years. It was not until right before our Netflix show Southern Survival premiered that we decided to add this to our strategy.
Prior to having a PR Agency (we use EBM) we leveraged our marketing agencies and attempted to do some activities ourselves. Needless to say, this was never in the wheelhouses of either. 90% of all of our media coverage was organic or solicited by the media.
This is definitely an area where I will be the first to admit, we have little experience, but we are learning and learning quickly. We have only been engaged with this agency for a few months so while the initial results have been great, the next few months will define success or lack thereof.