If you're like most business owners, your time and attention is already spread pretty thin, and finding the right digital marketing partner can be a tricky process even for those with time on their hands. The digital marketing industry has expanded significantly in recent years, creating a situation in which an abundance of choices further complicates matters. Also, because digital marketing is a relatively new industry, existing agencies haven't had much time to develop strong reputations among clients, and many of these agencies are winging it with little experience.

However, selecting the right digital marketing partner is a key element in the overall success of your business. The wrong marketing approach can damage your brand, which will ultimately have a negative effect on your bottom line. Fortunately, you can hedge your bets significantly by implementing the following strategy designed to help businesses like yours make the best possible decision when selecting a digital marketing agency.

Identify Your Company's Goals

The first step is to clearly identify the specific needs of your business and what your overall goals are. This will help you be able to clearly convey what you're hoping to accomplish with digital advertising to prospective agencies. Typical business needs include Google Analytics implementation and reporting, professional search engine optimization (SEO) services, paid media strategy, conversion rate optimization, web development, and comprehensive digital strategy. You and your team should also determine a workable budget, discuss which key performance indicators are the most relevant to your business, and analyze which parts of your current digital strategy are working and which ones could use some help. Once you've done this basic groundwork, it's time to begin investigating different agencies to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Research Potential Agencies

The next step is to develop a list of possibilities. Ask others for recommendations, as well as do your own research.

The first thing you need to do when compiling your list of possible candidates is to eliminate any that don't exhibit absolute transparency. For instance, agencies who don't show a physical address, client lists and testimonials, and company and employee bios may be trying to cover up for the fact that they're an offshore enterprise that offers little actual value, particularly if their rates seem too low.

After you've prioritized your list, it's time to being the process of narrowing it down in search of that one perfect fit.

Reach Out to Potential Agencies

Now that your list is compiled and prioritized, it's time to reach out to potential agencies. Start with those on the top of your list and work your way down.

Pay careful attention to the initial conversation. If they aren't helpful and responsive, they may not be the agency for you. However, be sure to create a list of relevant questions to ask during the initial contact — being vague will only cause confusion on both sides. Examples of pertinent questions include:

  • Have you worked with businesses like ours before?
  • What tools do you use for different channels?
  • How do you handle performance projections and estimations for your strategy?
  • What awards and certifications do you have?
  • Does your team receive ongoing training and certifying?
  • Do you use work management software? Will we have access?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How often do you report? Can you offer a sample report?

It's also fair at this point to request an estimate of overall costs, but keep in mind that it'll only be a ballpark figure. No reputable agency will quote a cut-and-dried price until they've talked with you further to discern the specific needs of your company. You should also ask for references from existing and past clients at this point.

When you ask for client references, be sure to request at least one reference from an account that didn't go very well. They'll naturally want to steer you toward the clients who have nothing but glowing praise, but it's important for you to see how they handle those situations where clients are less than satisfied. Be sure to peruse their case studies carefully, and look at their certifications and awards.

Be Alert to Potential Red Flags

Some companies specialize in outdated churn-and-burn SEO techniques that don't deliver value, and these companies really don't do much else but concentrate on link-building for the purpose of optimizing Google rankings. A sure sign that you're talking with a company of this caliber is if they come out of the gate with phrases such as "number one rankings" or make allusions to being experts at manipulating Google algorithms. Even though SEO needs to be a part of their overall strategy, the focus should be on growing traffic organically, and authentic brand building should be the primary part of the picture.

How to Find the Right Digital Marketing Agency - red flag

Digital marketing agency red flag

Another red flag is a failure to ask many — or any — questions about your business. A good digital advertising agency knows that one-size-fits-all solutions don't exist, and they'll want to know as much about your business as possible in order to work with you to craft a customized approach.

Choose the Agency That's Right for You

Many companies make the mistake of going with a digital advertising agency that's got great credentials and whose clients sing their praises but who nonetheless just aren't a good fit for their particular circumstances. However, in some cases, going with a smaller, lesser known agency might be the best decision. It's important to listen carefully to your gut feelings when making this decision. Also, be sure to keep in mind that you and your digital advertising agency should work on a partnership level rather than on a vendor/service provider level.

The agency you choose should have the flexibility and the expertise to work with you to craft a customized approach that meets the specific needs of your business. For instance, if you run a restaurant in a region with a competitive culinary scene, you're going to want an agency that's adept at creating a vibrant, engaging social media presence. If you're struggling to get promising startup off the ground, you need an agency that excels in brand building.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to us for more information on how the right digital marketing agency can make a significant positive difference in your company's bottom line. We're always happy to hear from you and chat!