Working with a successful, experienced digital marketing agency can be critical to helping you build marketing infrastructure and scale for your company down the road. However, if you’re considering hiring a digital marketing agency that isn’t a good fit or can’t get the job done, it could be a very costly mistake. To help you avoid any chance at finding out the hard way, we’ve compiled a few tips about what to avoid when you are searching for and hiring a digital marketing agency.
Don’t believe all agencies are one-size-fits-all
Your business is unique; therefore, the results you are looking to obtain will be unique. You’ll need to have an idea of what you’re looking to accomplish from working with an agency prior to going into the search. You don’t have to know specifics as you will eventually create a definitive strategy with the agency you choose, and they can help guide you in understanding what kind of results you should be able to achieve. However, to start, you’ll want to know some basics on your side
Do you need serious help with your SEO or paid advertising? Does your website need an overhaul? Do you need a major boost around content? Are you looking for a quick fix or would you like to work with someone more long-term? Do you want to work with a local agency that you can meet face-to-face?
Decide what is most important to you prior to starting any kind of search activity for an agency so you at least know where to start looking.
Avoid choosing an agency based solely on location, pricing, or shiny promises
If you are pinching pennies, you may be enticed by the cheapest option you find, or you might be tempted to just find the firm that is closest to you. To be successful in the long run though, you’ll want to look into the capabilities of any digital marketing agency before you dive in and hand them your money. Marketing is a saturated market, there is a massively varying scale of capabilities and ability to produce results. Keeping this in mind, you’ll also want to be careful of being lured in by shiny messaging or promises that are right on the surface. The main point is to do your homework before spending a dime and hiring a digital marketing agency.
Evaluate more than just the surface
Check out the websites of your prospective agencies. For each one, consider if it clearly describes what they offer. Is the blog (assuming they have one) well-written and informative? Are there any customer case studies or online reviews? Narrow your list of potentials down to between 3-5 and get ready to have some conversations.
Prior to getting on the phone with an agency, have a rough idea of the budget you’d like to stay within. It may be difficult to find upfront pricing online because most agencies do custom pricing based on your objectives and the deliverables required to hit goals. That being said, though, if you have a budget range, a good agency should be able to demonstrate what can be done at that level.
In addition to a budget range, go into your conversations with a few set questions that you will ask every single agency you speak with. It can be easy to get sidetracked or a little lost in initial conversations because there is typically a lot of ground to cover. So, write down your questions in advance and make sure you get to all of them. You may want to save the pricing conversation until near the end of the initial call so the agency representative has an understanding of what you might need from them and can give you an accurate estimation. Here are some questions we recommend asking your prospective agencies.
Overall, hire a digital marketing agency who is transparent, quick to share examples and results, easy to talk to, knowledgeable, and experienced. You should never feel talked-down-to. Especially if you are going to work long-term with them, you’ll want to make sure your communication styles are a good match.
Don’t allow work to start without a clear plan from the very beginning
Any agency should have a proven, repeatable process framework they can walk through with you. They should also have the ability to customize their typical processes to your specific needs and situation. They should make recommendations and tweaks to their processes based on what you are looking to accomplish and where you are with your marketing today.
Before starting the real work, a Service Level Agreement or some kind of full layout of the plan to get the project up and running should be presented for your approval. (Read about our Sales and Marketing Alignment SLA here!) Once you’ve signed off on it, persona work will likely begin with your agency. All of the work the agency does moving forward will be based on these personas, so you want to make sure they are accurate in order to target the correct audience with all marketing efforts.
At the start of the project, the agency should do a full walk-through (or Kick Off) of their plan with you. They should lay out their strategy and tactics and communicate the expected results. This should typically happen in a conversation that includes some kind of documentation for you to follow along, maybe it’s a slideshow presentation or a handout, but they should walk through it with you before jumping into the actual marketing communications.
It’s also important to note that inbound marketing can take 6-12 months to gain traction and upwards of 18 months before making a major impact. An agency that promises immediate results might be blowing smoke. Similarly, be wary of any agency that seems staunch in their plan. Inbound typically requires fluidity as data are gathered and knowledge gained. The ability to pivot as needed is key.
Avoid confusion later on in the project
Before getting off of your Kick Off call with your chosen digital marketing agency, you should have, at the very least, your next call scheduled. Ideally, you should set up a weekly or bi-weekly recurring time to meet and review progress. Even if you don’t end up needing or using the time every week, it’s great to have it on the calendar just in case.
Another thing you’ll want to establish right away is clear and set definitions of everyone’s role in the process, both from your own company and the agency. Who will be in charge of what, who will provide and receive updates, who has action items prior to the next check-in, etc.. Knowing these answers will help manage your relationship through its entirety.
Finally, you should have a good understanding from the beginning of what kinds of metrics are important, how they will be tracked, and how they will be reported on, as well as how you can view and understand those reports.
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