Your business needs marketing and advertising.
Unless your business is the recipient of some mystical blessing that allows it to naturally generate more paying customers, it’s on you to build awareness, make your brand more appealing, and ultimately get more people to buy what you’re selling.
The problem is, marketing is hard to do on your own.
If you don’t have much experience or knowledge on the subject, it may seem intimidatingly complex. There’s no guarantee that your strategies are going to be effective, and even if they are, you could end up overpaying for what you get.
That’s why so many businesses turn to the help of a great digital marketing agency for all their digital marketing and advertising needs.
But this has a problem associated with it as well; there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of digital marketing agencies available to serve you.
How can you choose the best digital marketing agency for your business?
Why Work With a Digital Marketing Agency?
Why would you consider working with a digital marketing agency?
It should be self-evident that working with a professional marketing team, or at least a handful of professional marketers, can help you see better results in the marketing world. You’ll get better advice, better resources, and more supportive digital marketing services.
That said, there are a few different ways you can enjoy these benefits. You could hire a team of your own internally, you could work with freelancers, or you could even hire a temporary consultant to help you improve your marketing department.
Digital marketing agencies still have several advantages over these other methods, including:
- Access to multiple services. If you want to build out a team for your own internal marketing department or if you’re assembling a team of different freelancers, you’ll need to hire different people one at a time. For example, you can hire a marketing director, followed by someone who specializes in SEO, followed by someone who specializes in PPC advertising. But if you work with a comprehensive digital marketing agency, you’ll get access to all these services and more in one location. That should ultimately save you time, streamline all of your marketing and advertising processes, and lead to greater consistency in your department.
- Expert advice. When you work with the right digital marketing agency, you’ll also get access to expert advice. Your account manager, or the directors in charge of the agency, will work tirelessly to make sure you get the best recommendations for your brand. These people often have years, if not decades of experience, and they may be specifically familiar with your industry. Accordingly, their advice and recommendations tend to be far more reliable than the recommendations of random freelancers.
- Scalable packages. Most digital marketing agencies offer a variety of different packages, ranging from entry level services for a minimal fee to gigantic packages that stretch your budget to its limit. This is advantageous for growing businesses, since you may want to upgrade your package overtime, gradually expanding your current marketing tactics and adding new strategies to the mix as your needs evolve. It’s much easier to work with an agency from start to finish than to try to build your own team and have it grow with your organization.
- Customized service and recommendations. You can conduct searches online to find an abundance of content on how to build an effective marketing and advertising strategy. Unfortunately, many of these articles and resources are filled with generic, universal advice. That doesn’t mean the advice is bad, necessarily, but it does mean the advice isn’t custom made for your business. In most situations, you’ll benefit from more personally optimized advice, which a digital marketing company can give you.
- Accountability and reliability. Agencies thrive and grow when their clients are happy. If you see good results, the agency gets a good review, you keep paying the money, and the online marketing agency has a path to grow. Accordingly, agencies are highly incentivized to serve their clients as effectively as possible. If your strategy isn’t working, or if your marketing path takes an unexpected turn, your digital agency will work hard to set things right and restore your momentum. It’s difficult to find this level of accountability and reliability in other approaches to building a marketing department.
- A high return on investment (ROI). Overall, companies that work with digital marketing agencies tend to see a higher return on investment (ROI) than their peers. There are a few potential explanations for this. It could be because digital agencies tend to be more experienced and more authoritative. It could be because the price to value ratio is lower for agencies. It could also be because agencies are so incentivized to see positive results. Finally, it could be that digital agencies are even more diversified in the channels they use for marketing. For instance, the returns can be smoother and more predictable if you’re measuring ROI from social media vs. say email marketing. Whatever the case, you can usually count on a better ROI with an internet marketing agency than with other approaches.
No Two Digital Marketing Agencies Are the Same
One important thing to understand before we move further is that no two digital marketing agencies are the same, and no two clients are the same.
Some may provide social media management and search engine optimization services, but perhaps you’re looking for paid marketing management. Digital marketing is broad, but most agencies don’t cover the gambit or have the internal bench depth and expertise to provide end-to-end digital services.
Many of the claims we made about the advantageous nature of digital marketing agencies can’t be applied to every agency on the planet; some of them aren’t experienced or trustworthy enough to help you see favorable results.
Similarly, just because a digital marketing agency did a good job for one of their clients in the past doesn’t mean they’re going to do an identically good job for your brand. You have to consider the unique fit in addition to core competencies.
Preparing Yourself: Assess Your Needs and Goals
Before you start researching digital marketing agencies, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself by assessing your own needs and goals. Why are you hoping to hire A digital marketing agency? Which types of marketing strategies do you want to follow? What are your biggest objectives and do you have specific numbers you’re trying to hit? How much are you willing to spend and how much control do you want to retain over your tactics?
I love to use a content marketing matrix (like the one below) to ensure the core competencies of the agency match our own internal needs/goals.
The better you understand your own needs and goals going in, the more effectively you’re going to be able to evaluate different digital marketing agencies.
Factors to Consider in Your Digital Marketing Agency
Each company is going to look for something different.
There’s no such thing as a perfect digital marketing agency that works for every business. Accordingly, you may have very different priorities than the average business, and you may look for a marketing agency in a totally different way than one of your competitors.
Still, this list should effectively capture some of your biggest priorities when researching and evaluating different digital marketing agencies:
- Experience and history. As you might imagine, agencies with more experience and history tend to do better than agencies with less experience and history. Older agencies, and those with plenty of previous clients, have likely encountered countless problems over the years and figured out ways to solve them. They also have more professionalism, more maturity, and access to more resources that they can use to help your brand. That’s not to say that a relatively new agency, like one with only a few years of experience, will do a bad job for you. But on average, more experienced agencies are preferable.
- Reviews and reputation. You’ll also need to check into this agency’s existing reviews, testimonials, and reputation. Can you find many articles about this agency or can you tell that they’ve won prestigious awards in the past? Do they have a good or bad reputation in the industry overall? How many clients have they had and what types of clients have they had; for example, do you recognize any major names in their list of current and former clients? Our clients willing to leave glowing testimonials and good reviews for this brand?
- Team members and specialization. Pay attention to the team members and specialists available at this agency. Initially, you’ll probably talk to an account manager, a sales representative, or a leader within the company. But in the course of executing your marketing and advertising strategy, you’ll be working with more ground level specialists. It’s important to work with an agency that has access to a wide range of specialists, such as link builders, social media experts, and content specialists. This is also a major advantage of working with an agency; instead of relying on unspecialized generalists, you’ll get access to better skilled individuals. Make sure those individuals are available.
- Industry expertise. Does this digital marketing agency have specific experience with your industry or your type of business? This can be a major advantage, especially if you don’t have much experience planning marketing strategies of your own. You can find digital marketing agencies with experience in law, manufacturing, software companies, and almost any other conceivable industry. You’ll also need to consider whether this agency specializes in startups, big businesses, or something in between.
- Available services. What services do you need from this agency and does the agency provide them? Many agencies attempt to offer comprehensive services, from the initial strategizing and brainstorming to the execution of almost any conceivable marketing or advertising tactic. Other agencies are more focused and specialized, offering only a small selection of services. An agency that offers a larger number of services isn’t necessarily a better agency, but it could be a better fit for your needs.
- Claims and processes. What kind of promises does this agency make? And what processes does this agency follow? Generally, your biggest motivation here is to be on the lookout for any red flags. If a marketing firm makes too many bold promises, like claiming they’re going to generate 10,000 new monthly visitors for your site after just a few weeks of working together, you have a right to be suspicious. If the agency refuses to disclose their tactics to you, or if there’s a general lack of transparency, you should be similarly concerned.
- Company culture and values. What kind of company culture exists within this organization, and how does that compare to the values in your own organization? There’s definitely room for some differences here, but you need to make sure you and this agency are philosophically aligned if you’re going to have a successful partnership. Digital marketing success requires collaboration and compromise, so if you and this digital marketing agency have radically different values and approaches, it could set you up for failure.
- Interpersonal dynamics. Also consider the interpersonal dynamics you’ve enjoyed throughout the discovery and sales process. When you’re ready to get more information, or if you have questions, is it easy to get in touch with someone? Do they openly and fully answer your questions? Do they seem friendly and genuinely eager to help you? If you find these people hard to reach and even harder to communicate with, you probably shouldn’t work with them.
- Pricing and budget. Finally, you’ll need to consider your budget and the prices offered by this digital marketing agency. Though not an ironclad rule, you generally get what you pay for in the marketing world; cheap agencies tend to be less experienced and less competent, so if you want high quality services and good value, you do need to be prepared to pay for it. At the same time, you don’t want to overpay for services, nor do you want to prematurely exhaust your marketing budget. Be sure to consider multiple different pricing tiers and consider negotiating if you find an agency you like with a price that’s a bit too high for your budget. If you’re working with a white label marketing agency, you may have individual questions on price discounts for individual services (e.g. the cost of SEO vs. the cost of paid media management)
Which of these factors are most important to you?
Which ones are you willing to compromise on?
Think through these questions carefully before proceeding.
Digital Marketing Agency Discovery and Research
At this point, you should be ready to start the discovery and research process.
That means coming up with a long list of different digital marketing agencies you might want to work with.
It also means uncovering more details about those agencies and evaluating how good of a fit they’re going to offer.
Throughout this process, you should focus on the following:
- Discover candidates in multiple ways. What’s the best way to find a digital marketing agency? Here’s the good news: digital marketing agencies specialize in marketing and advertising, so they tend to do an incredible job of promoting themselves. Because of this, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding potential candidates. Even so, it’s a good idea to try to discover candidates in multiple ways. A simple Google search can introduce you to some of the best digital marketing agencies in the business. You can follow that up with some research on social media. On top of that, you can get referrals and recommendations from professionals you already know. Diversify your selection of candidates so you have more available options.
- Keep an open mind. This is going to be a hard decision, and there’s much to learn throughout the discovery and research process. You’re going to be in a much better position to make the right call for your business if you maintain an open mind throughout this process. Don’t eliminate a candidate from consideration prematurely and be willing to challenge some of your preconceived notions and assumptions.
- Conduct thorough due diligence. You shouldn’t have to agonize over this decision, but you also shouldn’t make it impulsively. Conduct thorough due diligence when you find a promising candidate, better understanding their process, researching past and current clients, and even verifying some of their claims.
Working With Your New Digital Marketing Agency
Hopefully, this guide has given you the resources, concepts, and frameworks necessary to make a better decision for hiring a digital marketing agency for your brand.
But your responsibilities don’t end there.
If you want to have the best working relationship with your digital marketing agency, there are some important ways you’ll need to prepare yourself:
- Come in as prepared as possible. The more research and preparation you do, the better. Your agency will likely help you during the early stages of your partnership, providing you with templates, questions, guidelines, and resources for you to provide. But it’s still important to do your own work. For example, what are your biggest priorities and goals? What is your current budget? How are you planning on growing in the future? How do you see this partnership unfolding?
- Set expectations proactively. For a better working relationship, it’s important to set expectations proactively. How often do you want to meet? What do you expect in terms of communication? When do you want to start seeing results? What sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve your goals? Are there any conditions that would cause you to terminate the arrangement? Being forthcoming and honest about these expectations can set you up for a much better, more productive partnership.
- Provide deliverables promptly. Your marketing agency will likely request certain materials from you, such as brand guidelines, documentation of previous strategies, or lists of ideas from your internal team. When possible, provide these deliverables promptly. Adhering to joint timelines and fulfilling all your responsibilities quickly will maximize your chances of achieving your goals faster.
- Be ready to trust your partner. You’ve hired this digital marketing agency because you trust them, and you trust them because of all the research you did to select them. That doesn’t mean you have to take all of their recommendations or follow every tip they give you, but it does mean you should trust their expertise. If they make a recommendation, take it seriously. If they take control over some of your strategies, let them do the work. Your arrangement will be much smoother if you take this approach.
- Stay involved. At the same time, it’s important to stay involved. Trust your agency, but verify what they’re doing, and pay close attention to the reports you get on your ongoing progress. Similarly, it’s important to ask questions, especially if you don’t understand what’s going on or if you have any concerns about the current services being provided to you. This is truly a partnership, so half the responsibility falls on you.
- Express your concerns when you have them. If you ever grow concerned about the quality of work the agency is giving you, or if your agency is falling short of your expectations, express your concerns. Most established digital marketing agencies will be more than happy to make up for your bad or questionable experiences.
There are a lot of digital marketing agencies out there, but we strive to distinguish ourselves from the masses. On top of offering almost everything you need for a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, including white label SEO services, content marketing services, paid advertising services, and more, we have specialized experts from a variety of marketing niches – and account managers ready to work with you one-on-one on your next project. Contact us for a free consultation today!
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