If you're like most business owners, your time and attention is already spread pretty thin, and finding a digital marketing agency 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, 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.