Navigating the world of digital marketing is a daunting task for most business owners whose time is already tight. Many need a trustworthy and competent digital partner to manage their online marketing needs. The increase in the number of digital agencies in recent years has made choosing the right agency a difficult task. It doesn’t help that many of these agencies have little experience and learn quickly.
Choosing the right digital partner is critical to your bottom line. A mistake can drain your budget quickly and negatively affect your brand. So here is my recommended strategy for finding a digital marketing agency that can help your business grow.
Understand your needs and budget.
The first step in the process is understanding your needs. The better you can describe your business needs in terms of website, search engine optimization (SEO), advertising, social media, and graphic design, the better your conversations will be with potential digital agencies.
You should also understand your budget and what you are willing to spend. There is no set price – you are not buying a radiator for your car. A good marketer should be able to work with any reasonable budget and set your expectations accordingly. For example, a restaurant will get a lot of social media business and there won’t be much advertising, while the plumbing business usually spends heavily on advertising and social media needs are low.
Understanding your needs and budget is the first step in choosing the right digital marketing agency.
They demanded full transparency.
Lack of transparency is the primary and most overlooked red flag as well. Check the agency’s website, and if you don’t see a title, resume, and client list, it’s probably not worth your time. If the agency seems to be hiding something, it probably is. Simply. For example, there are many third-party agencies that make great promises of cheap rates.
Most of our clients come to us immediately after a bad experience, and more often than not, there is little information on the websites of their previous agencies. Complete transparency should be the first criterion when choosing the right digital agency for your business.
credibility It is important.
Be sure to establish the agency’s credibility and expertise. Read customer testimonials on their website and review sites like Clutch, Expertise, and even Yelp. Do the certificates look real?
Ask for customer references, including references from an account that did not go well. All agencies have engagements that haven’t gone well, and it’s important to get an idea of how they handle them as well as good recommendations. Call these references instead of sending an email – you’ll be surprised how much additional information you can get from a phone call.
Finally, does the agency have a decent website? Does the website appear highly in search results, indicating SEO acumen? Are their social media pages properly maintained and of high quality content?
Industry experience can be misleading.
Does the agency have experience in your field? If so, ask about those engagements, what went well and what was challenging. If it doesn’t, it’s not a red flag. Instead, ask how you approach a new industry.
We’ve seen many industry agencies take a cookie-cutter approach, and we often see this in code remnants and content that indicates use in other businesses. Oftentimes, a new set of eyes and a new approach are needed to launch a stagnant marketing strategy. A good marketer can assess the customer’s industry, online presence, and competitors, and devise an effective strategy.
Consider the client, agency, and technical aspects.
Most marketers talk about the client and the agency. You are either on one side or the other. But there is a third aspect that is often overlooked and often the most important: the technical aspect.
Understanding website development techniques is crucial to any marketing strategy. The site is your mother and should be properly built and hosted. Ask your potential account manager what aspects of this trio they have had previous work experiences with. If their career takes them to all three, the jackpot! Most likely they have a comprehensive view of digital marketing.
Account managers who have experience working on both the client and agency sides have an advantage in developing digital strategies because of their operational experience. Thinking outside the box is very important in digital marketing and innovative ideas often derive from operational experiences.
Give her a beer test.
Once you’ve shortened your list to only legitimate contenders, ask yourself what you really want out of this relationship. Everyone wants something a little different in their relationship with their agency. Marketing is meant to be fun for business owners who do all the normal operational tasks needed to run their business. Therefore, choose an agency that matches your personality and availability, and is also fun to work with.
I was once hired as CIO for a billion dollar organization, and I asked my boss why I was chosen instead of some of the big industry hitters, since I was relatively young. He told me, “I love hiring people with a degree in math who also pass my beer test.” When I asked what that meant, he said, “At the end of the day, I ask myself if I want to have a beer with this person.” I told him I had heard it before.
The point here is good and can be transferred to the client agency relationship. In my view, the most important factors in choosing a digital marketing partner are 1) can they do the job, and 2) do you like working with them? In the end, that’s all that matters.