More and more businesses are reaching the point where they need to outsource their digital marketing. Whether you've outgrown your internal capabilities or are rolling out an aggressive growth strategy, finding an agency with a high quality offering that's closely aligned with your needs is crucial. So where do you start?
It's important that the agency you choose is focused on long-term strategy rather than just service delivery. Good agencies will take the time to work with their clients not only as a solution provider but also as a business growth advisor.
With no shortage of agencies making sweeping guarantees, you want to find one that's focused on your business first and uses data to make smart predictions. Digital agencies that over promise and say ‘yes' to everything, are often the ones that underdeliver. A good agency will manage your expectations and understanding from the get-go.
Set yourself up for success with our top recommendations on choosing the right digital marketing agency for your business.
Know your business objectives and budget
Your decision will fundamentally be guided by your business objectives and your budget. Whether it's revenue targets, leads per month or ranking positions, having clear goals will enable an effective digital marketing agency to reverse engineer your strategy. They can also validate whether or not your objectives are achievable within your budget. Your agency should understand the best channels for your audience and use metrics like conversion rate and closure rate to calculate projections. A good digital agency might even encourage you to set goals that are more specific and/or better linked to profitability and growth.
Determine your service mix
Before you approach any agency, have a rough idea of the services you're interested in. The better you understand your unique requirements for different marketing services, the more revealing your conversations will be with any prospective agency. Ask the agency if your quote is inclusive of all services involved, as sub-services like copywriting for SEO or landing pages for AdWords may be quoted separately.
Your service mix will depend on your audience and objectives. A winning digital agency will conduct a thorough market analysis and provide recommendations of the best channels and services for your audience and its segments. Beware of agencies that seem to push their most profitable products and services rather than those which best address your core campaign objectives. The right agency will recommend the right services and clearly define specific deliverables for each service.
For services that require your input, whether it's providing content or reviewing and approving materials, be sure you can realistically deliver that input within appropriate timeframes. Finally, consider your internal capabilities and only outsource that which you require expertise for. For example, someone within your team might be better placed to write your blog and social posts, having the skills and business knowledge.
In your hunt for a digital agency, you're likely to encounter acronyms. Here's a quick guide for reference:
Only accept a tailored strategy
Some digital agencies focus primarily on bringing as many leads as possible in the door, pumping out templated services to businesses in different niches with different needs. A cookie-cutter digital marketing strategy will never be as effective as a tailored one, and can cause serious issues by neglecting critical business considerations.
When an agency has taken the time to analyse your competition, ask about your objectives and ambitions, and lay out a realistic high-level strategy for your campaign, they're likely to bring the same conscientiousness to their work for you. Ask your prospective agencies how they will address your unique business problems and assess how personalised and detailed their responses are. You can also ask your agency what kind of split testing and continuous optimization they will be running, to ensure you're not getting any kind of ‘set and forget' solutions.
Investigate technical ability and industry experience
Before you meet any agency, scope out their website for previous clients, campaigns and results. A lack of transparency here is a red flag. Experience matters! Ask not only how long the agency has existed but how experienced are the strategists who will be running your campaign? A team with varied experience across multiple industries (including yours) is highly valuable.
When you do meet an agency, prepare a list of varied technical questions to put their abilities to the test. Putting them on the spot will not only highlight their skills but their transparency. A good agency will tell you honestly what is and isn't possible.
You can also investigate how well the agency markets themselves. If you're looking at SEO agencies, check domain authority. If you're after social, flick through their Facebook page. Find an agency that practices what they preach.
Find a local team you get along with
First things first, look local. Working with a local agency will always help the relationship and communications, both pivotal for success. Secondly, ask whether the agency outsources any work. An in-house team indicates that the agency prioritises quality and wants to stay in complete control of their work.
Once you've drilled down to the final key candidates, it's time to find out if you actually get along. If you can share a few laughs and perhaps even a beer, you're on the right track for a successful relationship. When you enjoy working with your agency, it's easier to navigate challenges and explore innovative new territory.
Quick Reference Checklist - Your Agency Should:
- Understand your business and objectives
- Be honest and realistic with targets
- Provide a tailored strategy broken down by service
- Have solid technical expertise and industry experience
- Work locally and in-house
- Form a positive and genuine relationship with you in person