Partnering with a digital marketing agency is an important decision that many organizations are faced with. Whether the decision comes from a need to accelerate growth, supplement strategic or tactical skill sets, or simply to act as a trusted digital advisor, hiring an agency can be challenging. Let’s face it, there’s no one-size-fits-all online marketing agency that works for all companies. Here are the factors we recommend considering when partnering with an agency.

Digital Marketing Experience

While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of so-called digital marketing agencies in the U.S. alone, it’s important to evaluate each based on their experience with the many digital marketing disciplines.

  • Digital Advertising - Look for an agency that can help you understand the right digital ad platforms for your specific business and goals. For some, this might be Facebook Ads. For others, it might be search advertising through Google and Microsoft Ads. A B2B-centric marketing strategy might include LinkedIn Ads. Ensure that your agency has experience on the platforms that are right for your business.
  • Search Engine Optimization - If your goals include growing traffic, search engine exposure, and ultimately leads or sales from search engines, you’re going to want an agency that knows how to perform search engine optimization. An agency that promises you a number one ranking for specific keywords is certainly a red flag. Find an agency that can talk more holistically about your business goals related to search, not just a fleeting ranking that might not result in new business.
  • Content Marketing - Content often goes hand-in-hand with SEO, but it’s really at the root of all good digital marketing. Find an agency that has strong writers who can write for a variety of mediums, including website and blog content, digital ads, email, social media, and more.
  • Email Marketing / Automation - Most agencies, in fact, most individuals, can find a cost-effective email platform and start emailing a list. Find an agency that can help you choose the right email platform, design custom mobile-friendly emails, and write high-performing email copy.
  • Social Media - Organizations often take on social media internally, relegating it to a junior employee. The problem is, it’s often absent of a strategy. Look for an agency that can help you identify the right social media platforms, leverage tools to automate social posting, and develop content specific to each social network.
  • Reporting/Analytics - Ensure that your agency is providing you with a good snapshot of your digital marketing performance. If you’re getting a report each month that you don’t understand, that’s not good enough. Find an agency that uses reporting and analytics to help you understand how your digital marketing efforts are impacting your business success. ROI? Yes, please!

Strategic Experience

In simple terms, there are two types of agencies. Those that do the work, and those that do the work and act as a strategic advisor. If you have an experienced in-house team that is comfortable developing an ongoing digital marketing strategy, then you may not need a strategic advisor.

But, if you’re like most organizations, you’re looking to partner with a digital marketing agency because you need a trusted resource to guide your digital marketing strategy. Here are some key things to look for to evaluate strategic experience:

  • Employee Background - Find out about the makeup of each agency’s digital marketing team. What kind of experience do they have? Have they been in strategic roles before?
  • Industry Background - Does the agency have experience working in your industry or a similar industry? If so, what kind of success or insights can they share with you? If not, do they show an ability to understand the dynamics of your industry?
  • Process - It’s important to understand how a digital marketing agency is going to learn about your company, industry, audience, products, and services. You’ll likely want an agency to be an extension of your company, so finding out how they approach the discovery process will be important.

Beyond an agency’s background and process, you need to understand how each digital marketing company approaches crafting a digital marketing strategy. Ask questions like:

  • How do you create a digital marketing strategy for a new client partner?
  • How often is strategy reviewed, revised, or updated?
  • How do you track strategic performance on an ongoing basis?

Customer Experience

Many organizations that are choosing a digital marketing partner are doing so because they’re unhappy with their current or past agency. Alternately, some organizations will be choosing an agency for the first time. In either case, it’s important to find a partner that aligns well with your organization. Here are some things to consider:

  • Communication - You can take cues as early as initial conversations. How is the communication? Is the agency responsive? When you think about partnering with an agency, who will be your point of contact? Can you get a hold of someone if something goes wrong?
  • Pricing Model - Not to bury the lede because this will obviously be a significant factor in your decision-making process, but it’s critical to find out about each agency’s pricing model. Go beyond retainer fees and understand what will happen if you go “outside of scope.” Will you be receiving unexpected invoices for work each month
  • Partnership Model - Agencies offer a wide variety of partnership models, including project-based, retainer-based, fee-based, etc. You’ll want to make sure you not only understand the partnership model but that it also aligns with your expectations. Be cautious about locking yourself into a two-year retainer contract without proof of results. Understand whether you need to work on a project basis or require a long-term strategic digital marketing partner.

Putting It All Together

We know that choosing a digital marketing agency is one of those big decisions that an organization makes. It requires due diligence and careful consideration to find the right partner. In addition to the items above, have each agency you’re considering share relevant case studies and examples with you. Meet members of their team—digital marketers, strategists, and web designers—and not just salespeople. If you’re in the process of evaluating digital marketing agencies, let us know!

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