Marketing on the web involves a lot of moving parts and keeping track of everything becomes insanely difficult without dedicated resources.
Now, hiring dedicated resources can be expensive, which is one of the main reasons small businesses shy away from building an in-house marketing team. Not to forget, there are several other challenges associated with hiring marketing resources such as finding the right people, retaining them, and enabling them with the right tools and resources.
Digital marketing agencies exist to address this problem and that’s why most businesses prefer an online marketing agency to handle their marketing needs.
While coming to that decision is an absolute no brainer, choosing the right agency can be a confusing task.
Like all other industries with a low barrier for entry, the digital marketing industry has now been populated by tens of thousands of businesses, all promising their prospects the moon and stars.
Since marketing requires some serious investment, and organic marketing usually takes a few weeks (or months) to show results, choosing the wrong agency can be a pricey mistake. The worst part is, most business owners don’t realize they have chosen the wrong agency for several months because they have been told that it takes time to see results.
With this article, my objective is to help you avoid such a mistake and guide you through the steps that will enable you to choose a marketing agency that will truly help you meet your marketing goals.
Speaking of marketing goals, understanding them is the very first step in the process of choosing the right digital marketing agency for your business.
Knowing what you want is perhaps the simplest way to find it. However, business owners with no marketing experience simply walk into the process of finding an agency with arbitrary goals like ‘more sales’.
It is important to understand that there are several ways to achieve that goal and you must educate yourself at least a little about these tactics. This way, you will be able to determine specific attributes, strategies, tactics, and deliverables that will enable you to get closer to your goal of ‘more sales’.
For instance, paid social media advertising is a superb way to generate more sales. If you want an agency to help you with the same, you will be looking for someone who specializes in this aspect of digital marketing.
Moreover, if you learn a bit about social media advertising, you will know exactly what deliverables you need. In this case, the deliverables will look something like:
– Advertising campaign ideation and budget management
– Creation of advertising assets (copy, graphics, banners, and videos)
– Execution of advertising campaign and optimization to reduce cost per acquisition
It is important to understand that just like other businesses, most agencies have their set areas of expertise. While many market themselves as ‘full-service’ agencies, they usually limit themselves to certain areas of digital marketing. While some may have great talent to deliver amazing web development services, others may specialize in search engine optimization and content marketing.
Knowing what you want from your marketing dollar will enable you to find the right specialist for the job.
Once you know the kind of marketing expertise you require, you can begin searching for relevant agencies. While Google (or any other search engine) is a great place to begin, it is relatively easier for agencies to manipulate their ratings and reviews on Google.
That’s why, after shortlisting a few agencies, go to the website of Better Business Bureau and check out their ratings and reviews. This will allow you to filter out agencies and ‘experts’ that have no prior experience or have a long list of dissatisfied clients.
It is wise to look for reviews on other platforms such as Yelp and Facebook. Even Glassdoor reviews can reveal a lot about the organization. Think about it, if an agency works hard to keep their employees happy, they are also likely to go the extra mile to help you meet your marketing goals.
By this step, you should have a small list of potential agencies that specialize in your areas of interest and have a decent track record.
Now, it is time to check out their work. Most respectable agencies have a separate section on their home page or a dedicated page on their website that showcases their work. It can be in the form of the brands that they have worked with, or in the form of detailed case studies of how they have helped various clients.
Your preference should lie with the ones that are not afraid to divulge the details of their work and satisfied clients.
The objective of this step is not just to see whether an agency is doing good work, but to try to find an agency that works with businesses that are similar to yours.
This way you can be sure that they possess the expertise you require to crush your marketing objectives.
By the end of this step, your list may have only a few options left.
Next, it is time to research the people that will be working on your marketing campaigns. This is important to ensure that the agency you choose has the expertise and the resources needed to deliver what they promise.
Most agencies mention their most prominent team members on their own website. From there, you can check out the LinkedIn profiles of these people and get an idea of their experience and their areas of expertise.
If you cannot find an ‘Our Team’ page on an agency’s website, don’t fret. Simply go on LinkedIn and look up the agency. From there, you can find the people that work at the agency and check out their individual professional profiles.
If in the case of certain agencies, finding all this information is difficult or if this information is not available at all, it is best to eliminate them from your list and move on to other options.
Now, it is time to start interacting with your final prospects. This is the most crucial step of the process. Keep in mind, the person you will talk to will be an absolute expert at selling marketing services and you must ask them concise and decisive questions.
Many business owners get lost in tracking vanity metrics. For instance, many agencies track vanity metrics, such as likes on social media platforms. However, ‘social media likes’ rarely convert into sales and have virtually no effect on your business’ bottom line. On the other hand, metrics like website traffic, messages received can be tied to revenue and should always be in focus.
That is why the most important question to ask an agency representative or marketing consultant is which metrics will they be improving and tracking. The answer may vary on your marketing goals so it is recommended to do some research on your own before getting on the call.
Similarly, it is a good idea to ask the agency representative what kind of results they promise. If someone promises you exact numbers related to your bottom line, consider it a big red flag. This is because digital marketing is volatile and the exact ROI for every business and industry depends on various factors.
Another great series of questions can be regarding the process followed by the agency. Ask them how they will achieve the results that they are promising, and tell them to explain each step, each term you don’t understand, in great detail. If you receive vague answers, you can strike them off the list.
Remember, true experts with experience will have tested numerous strategies and tactics before getting on a call with you and should have a definitive action plan to present to you.
For businesses that have never worked with marketing agencies in the past, the cost of marketing can be surprisingly high.
While it is true that you can always find cheaper options, remember that you always get what you pay for. An agency that charges lower prices makes lower margins and will have lower motivation levels to go out of their way to achieve the goals that they have promised.
On the other hand, an agency that charges premium prices will always go the extra mile to justify the value of their services.
If you follow these steps religiously, I am confident that you will find the right agency for your needs. With that said, if you want to add some of your own personal touches to the process, feel absolutely free to do so.
If you have any questions, drop them in the comment section and we’ll be sure to respond.
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