Research shows that almost half of all businesses spend at least $500,000 on digital marketing initiatives every year and consider digital marketing agency partnerships for their different needs.
There’s no way around it: Traditional advertising is giving way to feature-rich, online outreach that’s more personalized and innovative than ever before.
Is your B2B or B2C enterprise ready to ride this wave of transformation?
You could spend thousands of hours and even more dollars trying to get your team up to speed. Or, you could partner with a digital marketing agency and hop on the fast track toward success.
Yet, not all agencies in this space are equal. Chances are, you’re already fielding daily calls from account executives looking to win your business with promises of growth and dollar signs. How can you discern which digital agency partner is the best fit for your needs?
Today, we’ve put together a list of steps that can help answer that question. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
Know Your Needs and Set Your Budget
Your time is valuable, and there’s no need to waste it on digital marketing agencies that offer services irrelevant to your business requirements. The same goes for ones that are way above your price point.
Start by figuring out what areas you want to optimize. A few of your options include:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social media
- Graphic design
- Website development
The better you can define the gaps you’re looking to fill, the clearer your conversations can be with prospective agencies.
Yet, before you begin meeting with anyone, it’s important to figure out what you’re willing to spend. Most agencies offer scalable services, meaning you can use them for certain pieces of your puzzle, or the entirety of it.
Remember, there is no defined pricing structure for these types of services. You aren’t buying an off-the-shelf item. As long as your budget is reasonable, any reputable marketer should be able to work within those limits and explain what you can expect to receive.
Your specific requirements will likely hinge on your industry niche. For instance, if you’re a service professional, you might be more interested in dynamic web design than a robust social media presence. On the other hand, a small business owner might prioritize social media above any other element.
Digital transformation has changed our marketing capacity for the better. Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for scammers to deflect detection and slip in under the radar.
Before partnering with a marketing agency, make sure you do your due diligence.
Begin by reviewing its website. You should be able to find basic contact information, team pages and a list of clients. If these elements are not available or difficult to find, take that as a major red flag.
The same goes for any sweeping promises you see accompanied by minuscule rates. You should expect to get the level of service you pay for and transparency is key to helping you separate the top-tier offerings from the rest.
Ensure Experience in Your Area
Of course, it’s critical to ensure that your digital agency partner is both credible and experienced. There are myriad ways you can check this legitimacy, including:
- Reading client testimonials on the agency’s website
- Reviewing online feedback and ratings
- Contacting the agency, asking for references and contacting them
One note about that last bullet: Ask the agency to send you reference information on at least one challenging past account. It’s easy to choose the same top three clients as references, but this one can help reveal how the agency works past an obstacle and handles conflict.
As you’re navigating this step, make sure you’re not only looking for years of experience or a high-level marketing degree.
In addition to a lengthy and esteemed career in the field, your digital agency partner should also have experience working with a company in your business niche. This way, you can make sure the team knows how to handle the specific audience, jargon, compliance requirements, and other nuances that comprise your industry.
For example, a web design firm specializing in restaurants might not be the best fit for a dental office looking to spruce up its social media presence. Talk with all prospects beforehand and inquire about how long they’ve worked with businesses like yours.
Check Their Own Web Presence
Let’s say a digital marketing agency for small businesses claims to specialize in SEO. However, this agency ranks near the bottom of the Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
What does this say about their abilities? How can they promise you a coveted spot on the first page if they aren’t taking advantage of these tactics? Likewise, it’s not uncommon to see a social media guru promising to help you optimize Twitter and Facebook, only to have a rarely-updated profile on those same platforms.
This isn’t akin to a hairdresser who’s so busy styling others that she neglects her own tresses. This is a major investment you’re considering, and you need to trust that the team you hire is up to the job. If they’re letting their digital marketing efforts slip, you can almost guarantee they’ll do the same to yours.
Discuss Relevant Technologies
Any conversation with a potential digital agency partner will inevitably steer toward technology.
For best results, make sure that the agency you hire is up-to-date on the most recent marketing trends and technologies that your peers are already using, as well as up-and-coming ones they might not know about yet.
From social media scheduling tools to email marketing platforms and analytics software, your agency should be well-versed in them all. Moreover, they should be able to explain how they’ll leverage these tools to strengthen your marketing stance.
Consider Starting Small
You don’t have to hand over all of the reins to a new marketing agency partner on the first day. Rather than investing in a massive overhaul of your existing best practices, it’s often best to start small.
If you’re on the fence about a prospective agency, give the team the opportunity to work on a minor assignment. This way, you can gauge their performance and decide if you want to move forward.
For instance, why not ask them to audit your website. Are there any operational issues? What about technical errors, broken links, SEO problems, content mistakes or other concerns?
The answers you receive will shed light on each agency’s expertise. Are the answers quick and vague, with no real resolution? Or, did you receive a thorough and professional report, detailing the steps you need to take to optimize your site and how the agency can get you there?
Understand Their KPIs
Standing for Key Performance Indicators, KPIs help provide measurable metrics for success. Instead of saying, “We think our email marketing efforts are paying off“, you can look at a KPI to see if your email-driven sales are indeed increasing.
This way, you have specific numbers to gauge campaign performance and effectiveness.
It’s easy to find digital marketing agencies that track what’s known as vanity metrics. These are outcomes that help your industry reputation but don’t exactly translate to dollars into your pocket.
For instance, be wary of a team that begins its proposal with a guarantee to increase your follower count. While this can improve visibility, it doesn’t translate into direct sales. You don’t want to shell out your hard-earned money to see your number of followers rise while your bottom line dwindles.
Instead, ask about company-specific KPIs that align with your greater business goals. Some important ones to track include:
- Time spent on site
- Number of unique visitors
- Bounce rate
- Open rate
- Click-through rate
- Traffic source metrics
- Cost per click
The agency you select should be able to explain these KPIs fluently, describing the tools that their employees will use to track, obtain and report on these metrics.
Find a Digital Marketing Agency You Can Trust
As the competitive landscape continues to heat up, successful companies will be those that know how to harness the power of digital marketing.
Whether you’re new to this sphere entirely or just looking to revamp your existing campaign, we’d love to help.
We’re dedicated to bringing you relevant, timely tips that can help you make your corner of the internet shine. We’ll also put you in touch with a digital marketing agency that can help you bypass the pitfalls and setbacks that can accompany this effort.
To get started, check out our location-specific member agency listings, such as the New York directory. Let’s grow together, one partnership at a time.