How to choose a digital marketing agency
- Research what each agency offers and compare that to your needs
- Don’t opt for the best price, opt for the best value
- Determine if the agency’s work matches your industry and niche
- Figure out if the company is open to change and new technologies
- Get references and word of mouth recommendations
- Communicate early, openly, and often
A company might decide to outsource to a marketing agency for many reasons. They may not have the time or resources to achieve their marketing goals in-house, or they may want outside opinions and viewpoints on the best ways to improve their efforts.
While in-house teams have specialized knowledge about their strengths and weaknesses, their target audience, and the inner workings of their business, agencies can offer a proven track record of success across a broader set of industries and niches.
Successful marketing agencies help their clients earn more sales by using different tactics to attract and convert their ideal customer. Here are some of the ways we recommend setting your business — and your future agency partner — up for success:
Research digital marketing agencies
As with any major business decision, research is crucial. There are many types of agencies and consultancies that specialize in one area of marketing strategy, or focus on a certain industry or group of businesses. A specialized agency could mean more opportunity to succeed in your field of expertise, while an agency that does things differently from everyone else in your niche can help you stand out from the competition.
Research the type of work your agency does, who they work with, what results they’ve achieved, and how they’ll charge you. Research how they communicate with clients and what your reporting schedule will look like.
If your in-house team is looking to outsource to an agency, identify the team’s strengths and discuss where their limitations lie. Where the team’s bandwidth is wearing and what tasks are the most time consuming are the deciding factors as to what channels should be outsourced.
Digital marketing agencies offer a wide array of services, including the following:
- Content creation/Link building
- Video advertising
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Email marketing
- And more!
Don’t opt for the best price, opt for the best value
The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ still rings true. The least expensive agency will rarely (if ever) provide a business with the results they truly expect, and especially not in the long-term. This isn’t to say you should abandon budgeting altogether — instead, carefully consider the quality and potential ROI of this investment.
When comparing agency quotes, their prices and strategies will vary greatly. A higher quote likely means a marketing agency puts more time into research and creating a strategy based on a company’s specific needs. Ask plenty of questions to figure out what value the agency will bring to your marketing.
Agencies offering a questionably lower fee may not actually be offering the ‘out of the box’ strategy they’re advertising. Despite the pretty packaging, you’re likely to end up with cheap copy, duplicate content, and questionable paid links.
While not all low-budget agencies are guilty of this, other factors should be considered. With small teams managing hundreds of other accounts, they lack the time to do extensive research on each client’s industry. And unfortunately, because of the overwhelming number of accounts they’re handling, they may also lack the time to give each site a thorough audit each month. It’s a grind mentality, and not in a good way.
A higher price point may cost a company more up front, but will result in a higher-quality strategy and more sustainable ROI. From their work to their customer-oriented communication, their service as whole may be of a higher quality. Agencies like this often strive to break the cookie-cutter mold and offer personalized strategies that adapt to industry changes. This is particularly important when hiring an agency for SEO work.
Does the marketing agency’s prior work fit your company’s niche?
The more a company views the existing clients and prior work of each digital marketing agency, they can start to get a feel of who would best understand their brand’s needs. An agency that has worked within your vertical before — and has the case studies to back it up — is one to take note of.
However, while similar strategies can often be used across many different industries, there’s a big difference between marketing for e-commerce sites, brick and mortar businesses, and businesses that exist solely online.
Franchises and multi-location business are more likely to be looking for a marketing agency that can fulfill their local SEO needs. Conversely, businesses with a strictly online presence — like some software companies — are looking for link-building opportunities and paid ads.
Take these nuances into consideration when finding the best agency fit for your business.
Marketing is always evolving: Make sure they embrace change
Avoid agencies that don’t keep up-to-date with Google’s algorithm changes, SEO best practices, the latest in social media trends, and what’s going on in your industry. Some agencies can be set in their ways, and it can be difficult for them to adapt, especially when they aren’t willing to.
While staying current with trends is critical to all types of marketing, it’s especially important to digital marketing efforts like SEO. While Google announces broad core algorithm updates periodically throughout the year, small algorithm changes actually happen everyday. Any agency that remains stagnant during these changes gets left behind, and their clients reap the consequences first. Social media platforms are changing the way they display content from businesses to potential customers, and a good digital agency will know the best ways to get your content in front of clients’ eyes.
The right marketing agency will depend on what specific needs and goals a company has at the time, but the right fit will be able to assess those goals and convert them into attainable metrics, while also modifying their strategy as changes occur and challenges arise.
Client history and references: They’re still a thing!
This circles back to the agency’s client portfolio — they are listed for a reason, and enquiring businesses should feel free to contact their featured clients. A company that has had a great experience with an agency will be more than happy to share and promote the agency’s work.
When going through an agency’s online testimonials, be sure to contact their case study participants as well. Ask how the agency approached obstacles, how they communicated with the client, what reports and insights the agency offered the business, and any other telling questions about working with the agency.
Communicate to maintain a partnership with your agency
Failure to communicate tends to lead to the death of relationships, whether personal or professional. While it’s expected that a marketing agency will touch base consistently, communication efforts should made by both sides. Agencies and their clients start off with the best intentions (most of the time) and then silence hits — it’s an awful cycle.
In fact, the number one reason companies break away from their former marketing agencies is because they had no idea what that agency was doing for them. The communication wasn’t there, their fee did not reflect their worth, and it resulted in what felt like wasted time.
Before making a commitment, businesses should pay attention to how an agency communicates with them and how they promote their work process. Choose the agency that communicates to report and educate their clients on a recurring basis and as you need more information.
It’s important to remember that when choosing a marketing agency, businesses should treat it like an investment they’re making into another company. It should be no different than being an active shareholder, so be involved in your investment. Stay on the same page and ask lots of questions, because where there’s consistent and effective communication, success is sure to follow.