Whether your business is just getting started, or you are well-established, marketing is vital and can have a huge effect on your ability to grow. There are many options when it comes to how to launch and support your marketing efforts, including having an internal marketing team. In addition to internal sourcing, you also have the option to hire a marketing agency. When it comes to agencies, you will quickly find there are many choices to finding the right agency for your company. To help, we’ve broken down three digital marketing agency options and how they typically operate.
There are thousands of agencies out there. So how do you pick the best digital marketing agency for your company? This guide breaks down the choice into a few easy steps to help you find, interview, and select a great agency.
Hiring a digital marketing agency is a big decision. It’s the decision to bolster your existing marketing efforts with outside agency resources coupled with which agency will be the best fit for your organization. Picking a marketing partner to work with can be risky because of the time and effort that go into kindling that relationship. You can, however, reduce the risk by asking the right questions up front when selecting a digital marketing agency. Learn how your prospective agency will work, how that will align with your needs, and if it makes financial sense before you engage in a partnership.
Here are six questions to ask your prospective digital marketing agency during the interview process to help ensure a good fit.
1) What is your typical scope of work?
The most important part of asking this question is that it allows you the opportunity to align your needs. Digital marketing is a very broad term that encompasses many elements- blogging, social media, paid media, etc. How each agency scopes digital marketing and the areas they focus on will vary. Find an agency who does what you need. If you only want somebody you post on social media for you, make sure you find somebody who specializes in social and not Google Ads. If you aren’t sure what you need, a full-service agency might be the ticket.
2) What does a partnership look like to you?
Asking your prospective marketing agencies what a partnership looks like will help align your needs with how the agency normally operates. Are you looking for a strategic partner to help guide and implement your marketing? Or perhaps your marketing is on lock, and you need somebody to simply put your own marketing plans in motions? Find an agency that operates that way you need them to operate.
This is critical because if you don’t have alignment here, your relationship will ultimately implode. If you desire a marketing partner to create a full strategic campaign with persona insights and specific tech recommendations (*ahem, Lake One*), you’ll be disappointed if the agency you contract with only does exactly what you say. The inverse of that is absolutely true as well; you don’t want to be fighting over control of strategy if it isn’t something you’re willing to partner on.
3) What is your billing structure and fees?
This one is self-explanatory, but you will, of course, need to talk to your prospective agencies about money. How much will it cost you to work with them? What’s the duration of a retainer? And really, do they even work on retainers or do they go by another structure like an allocation of hours, by campaign cycles, or something else? Next, ask about their invoicing structure. Some agencies will bill monthly while others will expect payment to be made at the start and completion of a sprint. Consider what will work best for your company and be transparent about the budget you had in mind.
Typically, when it comes to retainer amounts, the scope of work can be scaled to meet your budget. Work can be slimmed down if your budget is small or vice-versa. Keep in mind that a large budget usually generates more results. This is simply because more work- meaning things like blogs, additional paid ads, workflows of greater complexity- can be completed in a given timeframe when the budget is greater.
4) Can I see examples of results?
It’s perfectly reasonable and expected to ask your prospective agencies for examples of success stories and wins they’ve accomplished. The hard numbers tend to speak for themselves. Don’t forget to consider the softer wins like website redesign, sales team enablement success, and increases in website traffic, as well. These things are sometimes hard to quantify and measure specifically but can be incredibly impactful to a business.
5) What technology do you use?
Will working with an agency require you to change your current tech stack or CRM? If so, is that okay? Perhaps it’s better to find a tech-agnostic agency that will make recommendations but can work with any platform. Consider what you currently have, if it’s working, and where you’d like to go. Then ask your prospects how their tech will fit into that equation.
6) Can you provide references?
Lastly, when you’re about ready to make your final decision, you can ask your prospective agencies for references from current or past clients. Ask for references from businesses that operate similar to yours and have the type of relationship with the agency that you’re seeking. Here are a few questions you can ask the references provided:
- How long have you been working together?
- What has been the most impressive and disappointing?
- Is the agency’s team easy to work with?
- Are you happy with your results so far?
By asking these questions to determine marketing agency fit, you’ll be able to align your company’s needs with an agency who can create results. Think Lake One might be the agency for you? Request a consult!
Digital marketing is an ever-evolving methodology. What worked yesterday probably won’t work a year from now. See the inbound marketing trends for 2018 in the HubSpot State of Inbound global report.
You’ve got plenty of options to choose from when beefing up your marketing capabilities. When you’ve made the decision to get some outside help, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between all the consultants, agencies, and firms.
When I started Lake One, I thought about my experiences as an in-house marketing and sales leader. I remembered the experiences with partners that stuck and the ones that stuck in my craw.
Between the two, they shaped our values, process, and differentiators as we continue working to be a different kind of marketing partner for growth driven brands that have a diverse mix of experiences and resources in-house.
Our Core Values
Our core values are the foundation behind our modern marketing manifesto. Dripping all over that manifesto that drives our process, is a set of beliefs that extend beyond the work we do, to the culture we live including:
- Outcome Driven – We relentless pursue outcomes. We’re not bound by hours or scope, while we understand those things are important to put up directional boundaries for our business relationship together. We value our clients’ business as if it were our own (see why we’re different below). As a result, we’re willing to be flexible and adjust as we need to and as the market, data and program performance guide us.
- Embrace Failure – We understand that marketing is a long game. As a result, we embrace the failures because we realize behind all the hockey-stick growth success stories out there are a string of failures and determine marketers and entrepreneurs who kept moving forward adjusting as they went.
- No Jerks – in 2004 Stanford professor Robert Sutton wrote a Harvard Business Review article that would become the basis of a bestselling book. The premise of all of the writing is building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. We spend a lot of time with the relationship we build in business and at work. They should be good ones that build us up and don’t tear us down.
- Solve Problems – part and parcel to being driven by outcomes and embracing failure, LakeOners are problem solvers. We seek perpetual learning by not being afraid to say, “ We don’t know the answer to everything, but we can help you find a solution to that problem.” Be wary of people who say they have all the answers. In digital marketing, where the landscape is shifting constantly – it’s impossible to have all the answers.
Everyone has a process. And everyone thinks their process is the bomb dot com. But we’re pretty fond our approach to building a plan of attack, getting your marketing and sales stack up and running and operating marketing programs that are consistent but also flexible to your business needs and insights from data we’re seeing from marketing activity and market feedback. Here’s our process at a high level.
The Digital Marketing Plan – Build your FieldGuide
Leveraging Lake One’s modern, measurable process, we’ll research and document a plan to grow awareness, drive demand and increase prospect contacts for your organization. Putting your organization’s ideal customers at the center of our content, messaging and channel strategy.
The Sales & Marketing Technology – Build your Basecamp
Once we have a plan to attract and convert demand, we’ll work with the rest of your team to identify the best sales and marketing stack to support the handoff of marketing opportunities including documenting a sales & marketing SLA and identify right-sized technology like marketing and email automation and CRM.
Demand & Pipeline Activation – Marketing Sprints
Marketing sprints are the ongoing, 90-day campaigns implemented to attract, convert and nurture prospects all the way through the buyer’s journey. We provide support from program and project management all the way to full campaign execution and implementation depending on your internal resource capacity and needs.
How We’re Different
With values and process in place, at the end of the day, our difference from other agencies and consultants comes down to three uniques.
- We believe marketing is a business partner in growth: deep inside us is a belief that marketing is best served when it is viewed as a business partner, not an order taker. Our values and our process are structured to always drive business forward, uncover insights and align to your goals, not chase shiny objects.
- We act like owners: don’t take our word for it – see what our clients have to say. We truly value our clients’ businesses as if they were our own. The wins, the losses, we feel them all alongside you.
- Capabilities of an agency, flexibilities of a consultant: We’re structured in a modern way, not bound by traditional agency thinking. Every time you call us and email, the clock isn’t ticking. We also are focused on keeping our overhead low while still building a rockstar team of marketers to drive your growth without the bloated rates.
If you like what we’re all about and are interested in learning more, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today!
Like any business endeavor, managing your digital marketing agency relationship should be done with respect, trust, and open communication. The ultimate goal of working with an agency is to create a lasting, successful partnership, but just because you signed a contract, doesn’t mean that’s going to happen.
Here are five of our best tips for managing your agency relationship like a pro.
1) Always Communicate
Communication is key. We can’t say it enough and definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise. Communication is exceedingly important when managing your digital marketing agency relationship. All partnership activity stems from communication and so much so that, communication (or the lack thereof) can make or break the relationship.
Okay, so that brings us to, what should you be communicating about exactly? In a nutshell, everything, but here are a few specifics.
- Goals: Clearly communicate your result expectations from the start. Communicating this early on will help prevent pitfalls later on. From there, you should ideally, work with your agency to set appropriate and achievable goals that both teams agree on.
- Needs: Manage your marketing agency by communicating your needs. What’s your preferred communication frequency? Do you prefer email or would you rather use a different form of communication? Consider anything else that your agency should know about working with you and your team, and make sure you loop all appropriate parties in on relevant information.
2) Schedule Check-ins
Workloads are full and people are busy. We are firm believers in calendar blocking and scheduling time to tackle specific objectives. Check-ins are a necessity for managing your agency. The frequency of your dedicated check-in time will depend on a few factors like the amount of work moving through your pipeline, how much you communicate outside of this time through things like email or Slack, and your overall preference. Scheduled check-ins are an easy way to make sure things stay on track and typically serve as a gentle reminder to meet weekly deadlines. Frequently, weekly check-ins end with things like, “let’s discuss this next week” and carry a general sense of urgency to have tasks completed by the next calendar meeting. Additionally, check-in times are an open invitation to talk about any barriers or roadblocks, discuss new projects, and pivot on the direction of work if needed.
3) Be Accessible
There is often a misconception that you can work with your digital marketing agency in a ‘set it and forget it’ manner; that you can send your agency off with a working direction plus an SLA and get perfect work in return. In reality, you should expect to put in the work to make your relationship with your marketing agency flourish. The best relationships with agencies are ones with continual feedback and support: emphasis on the support part. Your marketing agency will require documents, input, and ongoing knowledge of your inner business workings. If you expect that the output of the work you receive meets your brand standards and captures the direction of your company (which of course you do), you’ll have to be the one to provide the input.
Additionally, to properly manage your marketing agency, you’ll need to be available to approve and/or provide feedback on the deliverables you receive. This is especially important at the beginning of your relationship. Tying into point number one above, constructive feedback on work will improve quality as your relationship deepens while silence won’t garner any change. Of course, there is a fine line between attention to detail and hindering progress because of striving for perfection.
The bottom line here is that to effectively manage your agency, you need to make yourself accessible and dedicate time to the partnership.
4) Know the Plan
A good marketing agency will usually have a plan of attack in place. At Lake One, we refer to our plans as FieldGuides. Successful relationship management with your agency looks like knowing what that plan is and following along as it’s unwrapped. It’d be difficult to manage your agency if you didn’t know what was coming or the reasons why particular pieces of work were slated to be completed. This can lead to frustration and confusion as well as a general sense of skepticism in the whole process. Being familiar with the plan opens you up to be able to trust your agency. In addition, it facilitates an environment for productive conversation and feedback.
5) Have Trust and Be Patient
Once you know the plan, it’s easy to trust it. You have to trust in your marketing agency and the inbound process. Remember why you hired your marketing agency in the first place. You know that they are marketing experts, and you should manage to that.
Similarly, when it comes to inbound marketing, patience is key. It takes time for SEO roots to take hold, and it takes time for leads to trickle through the funnel. Unlike traditional marketing that may show a spike in activity at launch and then crash, inbound aims to grow on a steady upward trajectory. When managing your digital marketing agency, keep this in mind. Then, set your expectations appropriately.
Core to our mission at Lake One, is a deep belief that business can both pursue profit and make an impact in the world.
We’re blessed to operate in a country full of liberties and opportunities. A country working for more then two centuries on it’s bold experiment – ever striving for a more perfect union.
This bold experiment only works when we all execute our most basic civic duty – we vote.
Living our mission
We’re joining with businesses across the country and here in Minnesota to Make Time To Vote.
Lake One will be closed for business on election day. It will be a paid company holiday for our team allowing them the flexibility to participate in our democracy to the fullest extent they choose.
We appreciate your support as we live out our mission.
The Time to Vote campaign is a non-partisan campaign by businesses to make sure all employees have the time to vote.
How you can participate
Sites like ElectionDay offer a variety of ways employers can support their employees ability to vote in non-partisan ways including
- Work from home day – reducing commute time to allow employees to get to the polls
- Shortened office hours – shortening the work day allows employees extra time in their day to get to the polls
- And more
Whether you sell B2B or B2C, digital is a growing piece of your marketing pie. More than 81% of the B2C buyer’s journey and 94% of the B2B buyer’s journey includes some form of online research which means your digital presence plays a starring role. When it comes to turning your website into a lead machine, there can be a lot of levers to pull and often it can be helpful to have an extra hand knowing which levers to pull and when.
Whether you’re just getting started in your online marketing program or your well down the path, there are a few telltale signs that it might be time to outsource some, or all of your digital marketing.
Sign #1: Your Only Conversion Point is a ‘Contact Us’ Form
Making sure there is an easy way for your website visitors to get in touch with you is great! But more often than not – most website visitors aren’t ready for that level of commitment. The reality is around 98% of website visitors aren’t going to convert. Which means in order to make your website perform better, you need to offer other reasons to become a lead. Sign up for an email newsletter, download a premium piece of content, get a discount. There are all sorts of low friction offers you can provide that lets your website visitor take baby steps on their way to becoming a customer.
Sign #2: Your Sales Team Thinks All Your Leads Suck
There have been volumes written about the battle between sales and marketing. You can read about this tortured relationship here, here and here if you’re inclined. But at the end of the day, sales and marketing need each other to be as successful as they can be and in return drive growth for the organization. At Lake One, we bridge the gap between these two functions with a Sales and Marketing SLA – an agreement of what constitutes a lead, how they are handled by the two teams and what roles and expectations are in place for both functions in support of lead generation, nurturing and the close. In addition to the SLA, having regular sales & marketing feedback sessions on what’s coming in from sales and what marketing is working on can go a long way in getting the two teams to work together towards the same goal.
Sign #3: You’re Not Really Sure What to Track
If your reporting dashboard is a 15-page conglomeration of random metrics, it might be time to get an outside perspective. Setting SMART marketing goals that align with your business objectives is critical to setting the direction marketing should go. It defines the most important metrics to monitor but it also helps you focus your resources.
Sign #4: You Struggle to Quantify Marketing’s Impact
If you can’t identify the impact marketing is making on your organization, it can be easy to decide to just stop it all together. That’s risky business. Often, the inability to measure marketing’s impact is an effect of #3 above, a misunderstanding of what to measure. Once you have a marketing program aligned around your business goals with metrics that follow, it becomes much easier to see how marketing is contributing to the overall momentum of your organization.
Sign #5: You’re Budget is Basically a Shrug Emoji
When marketing budgets are a moving target, it’s often a result of not knowing where the biggest bang for the buck is going to come from. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 are all related. Bad metrics and goals lead to a lack of quantifying impact which leads to difficult budgeting cycles. If your organization isn’t able to identify the opportunity and allocate dollars, it might be time to get an outsider who can help you quantify.
Sign #6: You Lack Marketing Muscle
One of the easiest signs your organization is in need of some outside help – is your organization lacks internal marketing muscle. And we’re not talking assigning marketing as a fractional role to someone who is kind of good at social media in your organization. We mean someone who gets to know your buyers and their research patterns, your competitors and can identify opportunities. Someone who can consistently execute marketing, reviewing performance over time and adjusting as you go. One of the biggest pitfalls organizations make is holding out for a marketing unicorn – those rare marketing generalists who can do a little bit of it all.
Sign #7: You’re Not Sure of the Right Tools and Technology for Sales & Marketing
In 2011 there were around 150 pieces of marketing and sales technology – martech. In 2018 that number ballooned to around 7,000. There’s a tool for everything and for every business. It can be really overwhelming to wade through that and not end up with random acts of technology getting thrown at marketing and sales problems with the belief that the technology will solve your issues. Outlining a sales and marketing stack starts with identifying your sales and marketing process and identifying the tools and technology that are right-sized for your needs and your organization. If you’re not sure about where this process starts – an outsider can help you document a marketing plan to attract and convert potential new customers and architect a sales process to nurture them through the buyer’s journey. Then and only then should you select and implement the technology to drive efficiency in the sales and marketing process.
What You Really Get From an Outside Perspective
There are all sorts lists like this on the internet, the reality is you probably know if you need an extra set of hands with or without this list. Ultimately it comes down to resources – human and financial. An outside perspective can help you align your goals, execute consistently and get scale without the investment in building an entire marketing team as you’re just starting to get the marketing momentum going. Over time as the program is successful – you’ll naturally bring pieces of the program back in-house to build the muscle internally.
No matter where you are in your growth journey, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today!