Imagine you’re a Marketing Director for a mid-size B2B manufacturing company. Your boss asks you to create a new website for the organization. Your budget is $50,000. You work with a local design agency, a PR firm occasionally, and an SEM/SEO agency. You like all three, but you don’t believe any of them have the skills to build a website. So, you ask around and some industry peers recommend you use Upwork.com (or Fiverr, Freelancer.com, or a dozen other online marketplaces that promise good work at great rates).

At first glance, the site seems easy — perhaps even fun — to use. The idea that thousands of talented web developers are sitting around, eagerly waiting to respond to your request for a website, and are willing to compete for your business by fighting each other on price, seems delightful. But just a page into the application process you have some concerns.

First, you’re not sure who/what to even ask for. The site asks you to pick if you want a web developer, or a web designer, or a user interface designer, or WordPress developer, or a mobile developer. You want a simple yet beautiful website that integrates with your current CRM software, is accessible on mobile devices and desktops and is tagged with web analytics. Which to choose? You decide to guess and go with “Web Developer” and are then asked a host of additional questions you have no idea how to answer:

  • “What kind of web development are you looking for? Frontend Web Application, Full Stack Development, Static HTML & CSS, Backend Web Development, Other?”
  • “How many freelancers to do you need to hire?” (How do you know, you just need a website? You’ll take as many as needed.)
  • “How long do you expect this job to last? < 1 week, < 1 month, 1–3 months, 3–6 months, 6+ months?” (Again, you’re unsure. How long should it take to build a website with your specific business requirements — which, by the way, the site makes you upload rather than speak with professionals and have an informed conversation about them.)
  • “What time commitment is required for this job? >30 hours/wk, < 30hours/wk?” (At this point you’re starting to think this is a bad idea)
  • “Do you want to boost your job’s visibility” (Meaning, do you want to pay extra to have more freelancers look at your posting in a timely manner? Or did you assume that by buying this service lots of freelancers would be viewing your post already?)

Once the application is complete, you now must vet different proposals from strangers who provide sparse details about their specific approach to your project. None ask questions about your brand, business challenges, competitors, or customers. They are engineers/developers. They exist to build things based on the specs you provide. None offer up Project Management assistance and few have desirable interpersonal skills that make you feel warm and fuzzy that your account is in good hands.

If you have deep digital knowledge, have built, or overseen the development of, numerous website projects, and have LOTS of time to micro-manage remote professionals, you may end up not completely hating your experience with Upwork. Talented professionals are available for hire on their platform. But none of clients I know want to work like that.

According to a study by the ANA, clients value agencies. Marketers believe agencies play an important role in their business strategy and are influential in driving business results. Clients need trusted partners who have taken time to know their business, and equally important, know their culture, working style, and personal preferences about how to give and receive information. If a client’s agency partner is a Commun-o.com member, then they have the added advantage of having a “general contractor” who can oversee a variety of different marketing projects and represent the client’s needs to a host of different service providers.

Commun-o.com is NOT an online marketplace. It trumps those offerings in three big ways:

  1. Commun-o.com is a closed community of curated marketing professionals who have banded together to form unique partnerships and complete a variety of multi-disciplinary projects.
  2. Commun-o.com is affordable for clients because the on-demand nature of a contingent workforce lowers members’ overhead. But, it is not a low-cost provider that makes it nearly impossible for participating members to make a profit.
  3. Most importantly, Commun-o.com is not accessible to end-user clients. Only member agencies can hire other Commun-o members on behalf of their clients. Commun-o.com agencies know best how to properly brief each other, project manage tasks, and appropriately scope the level of effort required to do a job.

Clients have enough to worry about. They need outputs and outcomes from their agencies. They don’t need a large roster of craftspeople clamoring for their time or begging for additional work. Rather, they need one or two deep relationships with marketing service providers who excel at their specific craft and who have access to equally enviable experts who can be called upon at a moment’s notice on the client’s behalf. In addition to a Commun-o member’s specific discipline, their competitive advantage is they know the client. They have the context to provide solutions that are on brand, on brief, on time, and on budget. Commun-o member agencies are uniquely qualified to promise all four benefits while avoiding the huge costs associated with an agency of record or full-service firm.

Commun-o.com has changed how marketers work with marketing service firms and has rendered online marketplaces composed of disparate talent, useless.

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