No matter how skilled a business owner you are or how good a marketing specialist you feel you’ve hired, no one individual has enough arms to do everything your business needs in order to market effectively. There are not enough hours in the day! That is why hiring a digital marketing agency is in the best interest of your business and its growth.
Think about all the facets of digital marketing: there’s online advertising, website design, SEO/content creation, and social media. And with so many new businesses with innovative business models cropping up every day, the “set it and forget it” mentality won’t work when it comes to digital marketing. The digital landscape is in a constant state of change, so much so that it can be impossible to keep up while also running a business.
There are many reasons to consider hiring a digital marketing agency but doing so should not be taken lightly. This is a company who is going to be representing your brand to the public; just like you would when hiring a new team member, you need to make sure they are a good fit for your business.
Digital marketing agencies help businesses by creating a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and optimizing the business’s online presence through services generally including paid search, display advertising, social media, SEO, and content creation. But not all digital marketing agencies are created equal. Your search for the perfect one will be easier if you know what to look for and what are some red flags to watch out for. Keep reading because we’ll hit on both.
It’s important to define which specific areas of digital marketing you want to emphasize before beginning your search. If you’re a fairly new business and you don’t have a website or you have one that doesn’t render properly on mobile, that should be your first order of business. If you have no social media presence or you’re posting once a year, you should look for a digital marketing agency that offers social media as a primary service. If you need it all, you should look for a full-service digital marketing agency that has a proven track record of success in every area.
Do a thorough evaluation of your needs because when it comes to hiring a digital marketing agency, it will end up costing you money if you aren’t on the same page. According to HubSpot, the more aligned your sales and marketing relationship is, the more successful your marketing campaigns will be.
It’s wise to look for an agency with experience in your industry because they will be able to craft a marketing message that speaks specifically to your target audience. Let’s say you are a home services company and you have a large target audience that can be hard to define digitally. You want to look for a company that has many clients in the home services industry but will not just recycle a previous campaign used for another company.
Once you’ve found an agency that has experience with your industry, have them prove that they have success on a conversion metric similar to your own.
If you come across a marketing company that’s promising you some amazing website and they don’t have one of their own, you should probably look elsewhere. If you’re seeking a digital marketing agency to manage all of your social media but their accounts are non-existent, should you hire them? No! One of the best things you’ll find is an agency that delivers for themselves on what they’re promising you.
Since you defined your needs in step #1, you know what you’re looking for and should do some research based on those categories. If you’re looking for a social media expert, check their social media and make sure they’re posting frequently and that their followers engage with them. If you want a new website, make sure theirs renders well on your phone and desktop and that it has a nice design but is also user-friendly.
If you’re hiring a digital marketing agency, you should know what tools they use and they should be the right tools. Let’s say, for example, you are hiring a company to do email marketing (shameless self-plug: make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date on the ever-changing digital landscape). Are they using MailChimp or Campaign Monitor? If they’re running your SEO, are they using Raven Tools, SEMrush, Ahrefs, or another powerful tool that monitors trends and tracks keywords?
This all may seem trivial to you but it’s important data that will distinguish an average company from a company that’s constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve.
Reporting is an essential part of gauging the success of your marketing campaigns and your partnership with the digital marketing agency you choose. Ask them how often they report to their current clients. See if they can provide you with an example of a typical report they would send. The most common reporting tools include:
Every agency has different reporting standards but the most important thing is that they’re keeping their clients in the loop. A great digital marketing agency will have a baseline report that they customize to fit whatever metrics or goals you wish to track.
You should also ensure that a company isn’t just promising and reporting on increased brand awareness. Yes, brand awareness is great but it’s hard to track and it doesn’t spell business growth quite like leads do.
Digital marketing agencies come in all shapes and sizes and the size does matter. A smaller agency is able to give you more direct access to the people running your campaigns while a larger agency may have so many clients that you don’t get that one-on-one attention. Bear in mind that a larger agency will probably give you less control over every aspect of your marketing campaign. They generally handle everything for their clients and while sometimes this can be a good thing, it can also create a sense of detachment from your own brand.
You have to evaluate for yourself what you need out of your relationship with your digital marketing agency. If you’re looking for super-specialized services, you may not be able to find that with a small agency. According to a 2020 study by WordStream, the most common services offered by digital marketing agencies are as follows:
When looking for a digital marketing agency, the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. If you have an agency quoting you a super low price that sounds too good to be true, you should be a little skeptical. Dig into their pricing: ask them why their prices are so low and how they manage to keep their rates so low while also providing quality services.
Look at it from their point of view. If their prices are super low, they may keep a smaller portion of what you’re paying for their services which means they’re less likely to pull out all the stops in your campaign. They may be outsourcing the work and using cheap labor.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg to hire a quality digital marketing agency but agencies that charge a higher price tag tend to do more for their clients because they have the budget to do so.
Your search will be much easier if you are able to define reasons off the bat that a company wouldn’t be a good fit. Here are a few:
The prospecting period is when the agency is supposed to perform at their best because they are trying to get you to sign with them. If they are taking weeks to answer your emails or they consistently miss your phone calls, know that this will only carry over if you become a client. Any agency that you are considering should be responding to your emails and calls in a timely and respectful manner, providing you with clear guidelines as to how your project will go, and host structured, informative meetings with you.
It’s important that before you invest a great deal of time and money, they are able to show you successful campaigns that they’ve run with minimal errors. You don’t want your brand to be their guinea pig.
Just like you would with a job candidate, you should review a potential marketing agency’s online presence. Are they posting inappropriate pictures on social media? They probably aren’t best at making judgment calls. Conversely, if they’re not posting at all and yet they’re promising you that they’ll post on your social media channels every single day, that is something you should be wary of.
A digital marketing agency should tick all the boxes before you hire them.
Erik J. Olson is the Founder & CEO of Array Digital—a marketing agency that enables its clients to achieve their dreams, fulfill their missions, and impact more lives with their services.