These days, marketing services are plentiful and highly accessible to businesses owners of all shapes and sizes. But that isn't necessarily a good thing. In fact, the overwhelming number of options can introduce new challenges and points of confusion for business owners -- especially those unfamiliar with marketing and advertising in the first place.

Marketing Availability

According to a representative from AgencySpotter, if you count different types of agencies like PR firms, design studies, and digital agencies, there are something like 120,000 agencies in the United States alone, with half a million available worldwide. Website-related service providers like GoDaddy and Wordpress offer their own built-in marketing tools and options for business owners as well, including both DIY tools and full-on agency services. On top of the thousands of agencies clamoring for attention through ad strategies of their own, you don't have to look far to be bombarded with options.

These agencies vary dramatically based on focus, range of offerings, skills, and price. Chances are, if you look hard enough, you can find an agency exclusively focused on your industry (like, say, law firms or HVAC contractors) and for a price you can afford.

If you're new to the marketing world, this sounds like a good thing, but this overabundance of available services is problematic in a few key areas.

Analysis Paralysis

First, there's the phenomenon of analysis paralysis. The basic idea here is that when there are too many options, or when those options are so similar that a clear choice isn't evident, a decision maker can become practically "paralyzed," rendering them unable to act. In this case, a new business owner may be so intimidated or frustrated by the thousands of options available that they never end up choosing an agency to help them, or they make the decision blindly.

Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, suggests that having more options makes our decisions harder. Not only that, but when we make them, we usually end up more dissatisfied. Accordingly, business owners may be more inclined to be dissatisfied with the marketing services they receive, leading to a cycle of high turnover and resentment in the marketing industry.

The Deceptive Allure of Cheap Marketing Services

We also need to pay attention to the prevalence and destructive capabilities of cheap marketing services. To compete with the major players, inexperienced (and sometimes outright deceptive) agencies will cut their prices; and since many entrepreneurs factor price heavily into their decision, they end up choosing these inferior providers.

Dani Owens, an SEO expert from Pigzilla, describes the trend of cheap SEO pricing, in particular, as an epidemic: "Many SEO companies that charge very low prices outsource their SEO work to contractors who are willing to work for a lower wage. [These] low-cost workers may not be well acquainted with SEO best practices or care to abide by them. Essentially, you get what you pay for."

Because so many agencies are advertising ridiculously low prices, business owners scoff at agencies committed to quality work. Instead, they seek out these cheap providers, and end up dealing with inexperienced, unskilled employees, or might never receive the services they signed up to receive. Afterward, they're left with a bad impression, that all agencies must work like this and they're reluctant to move forward with any other options.

In other words, the price-slashing agency barely makes any money, business owners get burned, becoming cynical and the reputation of the entire field takes a massive hit. It's not good for anyone involved.

Bad Advice From Non-Experts

The barrier to entry in the marketing industry is low. You don't need a specific degree or passing grades on a regulated exam, like you would to become a licensed physician. You often don't need to prove your expertise or past experience. Instead, just about anyone can start a marketing agency, even with no experience, claiming to have a background as a "marketing guru" or expert. If you have a good-looking website and use all the industry buzzwords in the right way, you can probably fool a business owner who isn't familiar with how the industry actually works.

An abundance of agencies and individuals with minimal experience has led to a crisis of advice and information integrity. One person writes a bad piece of advice, and a thousand others copy it, because they don't know better and because they don't want to write new advice on their own. Before you know it, publications and search engines are flooded with this piece of bad information, and business owners are none the wiser. For example, you might have read that a certain color has a powerful effect on your conversion rates, or on consumer behavior, when in reality, color psychology is much more nuanced, and isn't universal or unchanging.

While it may seem like a good thing, both for business owners and the marketing industry as a whole, for there to be hundreds of thousands of agencies, in reality, this surplus of options is damaging. If you're a marketer or a member of an agency reading this, do what you can to distinguish yourself from your competitors, and charge reasonable prices while double-checking every fact you try to bring your audience. And if you're a business owner, try not to be intimidated by the number of options available -- but do your due diligence before making a final decision.

Published on: Sep 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.