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Choosing the right digital marketing agency is one of the most critical hiring decisions you’ll make for your business.
A marketing agency has influence, in no small measure, for the financial viability of a company, and getting into a 12-month contract with the wrong agency can be disastrous. Doing your due diligence as well as understanding your company’s goals and expectations is key to getting the hiring decision right the first time. This may be further complicated by the fact that marketing agencies are just so numerous and many college students have updated their LinkedIn profile to portray themselves as the CEO of a marketing agency. So how do you know which option is best? The answer is ultimately a bit of a “Schrödinger’s marketing agency”--you won’t know until you know. However, there are excellent pieces of due diligence that can increase your chances of hiring the right digital marketing agency.
The first step to hiring the right digital marketing agency is to evaluate your marketing needs. You may not know exactly what service you need. However, you should have a basic understanding that your pay-per-click advertising is lacking or that your search engine optimization (SEO) needs a bit of work. With this comes the understanding of different marketing goals which are often revenue or attention-related. To best grow your business, you need to have a clear understanding of what the end goal is.
Beyond understanding your business needs, the different candidates you’re interviewing must understand your business needs as well. Some marketing agencies are one-trick ponies and will try to shoe-horn their solution into your problem. This ends up being awkward in the beginning and usually ends in total failure. Some marketing agencies can only run PPC ads (which is fine). However, if you need an agency that can run an SEO campaign, don’t go with the fellow mumbling to himself about lookalike audiences. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing multi-tool that will solve every problem and if you find a digital marketing agency that thinks otherwise, run! Marketing is strategic and nuanced; every problem must be understood and only then can you begin to implement solutions.
Budgetary concerns also come into play when identifying your business needs. The results you can expect should ultimately be moderated by how much money you’re willing and able to invest in the process. If you only have a $ 1,500 budget available for PPC advertising, you probably shouldn’t expect a return of $100k. The right agency should also be able to adapt its offerings to the budget that you have available, within reason.
Researching agencies should take a fair amount of time and consideration. This is a big decision that frequently costs tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds of thousands; it shouldn’t be taken lightly. When considering which agencies you may want to interview, there are two routes that you can take. The first is the local route where you look for agencies in your local area, and the other is the “best-in-class” route.
There are distinct advantages to both. Local agencies are a great option to work with if you need local acumen. Brick-and-mortar businesses that primarily do business with walk-in customers will find particular benefits from these relationships. These local options are also great even if you have a location-independent product but still want to sit down in front of someone and have a real meeting with them.
The “best-in-class” marketing agencies are often remote and are heavy hitters when it comes to producing results across the board. These engagements don’t require in-office visits and have limited interaction and collaboration capabilities while still being effective.
One of the first things that you must look at whenever you’re making a hiring decision is an agency's reviews, especially on Google, LinkedIn, and any other relevant platform. Generally speaking, you should stay in 4 to 5-star territory while looking for a good number of reviews. However, beware of fake bad reviews. The competition within marketing is fierce and many agencies have tried to ruin the reputations of other agencies just to remove them out of the “competition pool.” If you see a number of 1-star reviews within a short period (normally a few days or a maximum of 2 weeks) then there’s likely a larger story. If you have any doubts, ask the agency about these reviews and what happened. Most agencies will be happy to have the opportunity to clarify any bad reviews.
When researching different marketing agencies, you should make sure their expertise and specialization match well with your company’s needs. Some agencies are excellent at branding while others excel in paid advertising and SEO. You may need to interview several agencies to see exactly how they would solve your problem; good agencies will be able to give a justification as to why their approach is the correct one.
Marketing agencies should be able to call on several past clients and case studies to prove that their approaches work. Don’t be afraid to ask for internal case studies as well as references from other companies that have used the agency before. Hearing other people’s experiences is crucial and this step of due diligence is especially important given the amount of time and energy that goes into hiring an agency. Be specific when communicating with the agency and explain that you want to see case studies that are similar to your own situation.
Most agencies will require a contract due to the large amount of up-front work required for most engagements and to protect their legitimate interests. However, some agencies may put terms in their contracts that we regard as predatory and may even be illegal. They may exclude you from accessing pay-per-click ad accounts so that you don’t even know where your money is going. Frequently these agencies won’t even guarantee reporting which justifies the money being spent and helps determine the effectiveness of the engagement. The goal here isn’t to protect anyone’s interest, it’s simply to keep the hiring company in the dark so the agency won’t be held accountable.
Lower-quality agencies will want to hide the data and will take their work with them when they leave in an effort to keep you cornered into a perpetual engagement with them. This is immoral and may even be illegal in some instances. We recommend having your own attorney(ies) review any contract before signing it. At Be More Digital, we invest substantial time and effort in reporting and data analysis so you can understand where each dollar goes and what effects our efforts are having. We do this for two reasons:
1. We want you to be informed
2. We’re proud of our work and we’re happy to show it!
Once you’ve evaluated an agency’s past clients, expertise, and reputation, you may want to inquire about their technical proficiency. Technical proficiency goes beyond having basic knowledge of digital marketing tools and platforms; it encompasses an agency’s ability to deploy these tools to drive success while navigating the constantly evolving digital environment. At a bare minimum, agencies should be able to explain the different tools that they’re using. However, the best agencies will have their own industry-leading product offerings like Be More Digital’s Household Remarketing.
You should also probe into how the agency integrates and leverages these technologies to create cohesive and effective marketing strategies. For instance, ask questions like, “How do you utilize data analytics to inform and adjust campaign strategies?”, “Can you illustrate how you’ve successfully integrated CRM tools to enhance customer engagement and retention in previous campaigns?”, or “What SEO tools do you employ, and how have they been instrumental in elevating a client’s search engine ranking?”
Moreover, delve into their technical team's qualifications and experience. A proficient agency should house a team of experts well-versed in various digital marketing disciplines, each bringing a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success to the table. Request information on the certifications and training the technical team has undergone, and ask for examples of successful campaigns they have spearheaded that underscore their technical acumen and prowess.
Ultimately, gauging an agency’s technical proficiency requires a combination of understanding the tools they use, how they use them, and the level of expertise and experience embedded within their team. Through diligent questioning and a keen evaluation of their responses, you'll be better positioned to select an agency equipped with top-shelf technical skills and knowledge.
Finding an agency with the right cultural fit for your business is another important consideration. Some companies take a laissez-faire approach to marketing while others want regular progress updates. Likewise, some marketing companies are more willing to allow their clients into the day-to-day of the marketing campaign than other agencies are. There is merit to both of these approaches, but a marketing agency’s ability to accommodate different kinds of communication is something to address before any contracts are signed.
The complicated thing about addressing culture is that many agencies will not have a satisfactory answer to the question, “What is your internal culture like?” Neither is it good practice to base a hiring decision entirely on this answer. A better way to do this is by considering for a moment what your expectations are, and then framing these as questions to the agencies you’re interviewing: “How quickly do you normally respond to emails? What happens in case of emergencies? How frequently can I expect status updates? Would you be willing to visit our company’s location at some point to do an in-person presentation of your work?” These questions are much less abstract and deal more with the sort of information that both of you are actually interested in. Based on these answers, you can begin to make a hiring decision.
Marketing is notoriously difficult to forecast and the efficacy of different marketing activities can be influenced by a number of factors that lie outside everyone’s control. Things like seasonal changes, algorithm updates, new technology, and more can all influence the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Variables notwithstanding, a good marketing agency should be able to ballpark potential ROI numbers as well as deliver concrete numbers when it comes to pricing models, ad spend transparency, additional costs, and opportunities that may arise during the course of an engagement.
B2B companies in particular seek and value long-term marketing partnerships rather than just a one-off engagement. Having the continuity of familiar faces who are familiar with your business and your industry helps long-term efficiency while building rapport and trust. On several occasions Be More Digital has successfully executed an engagement and was subsequently handed the reins for deeper strategies because of the trust built during the original engagement. Having these sorts of partnerships can be invaluable to businesses that need to focus on client relationships and product production while trusting that marketing is being properly executed.
Choosing a digital marketing agency is more than just a business decision; it's a partnership that can shape your brand's future. By aligning your business goals, understanding the agency's strengths, and ensuring a mutual cultural fit, you set the stage for a productive and impactful collaboration. Of paramount importance is your comfort level with the agency and its ability to provide real results that will drive new business and revenue. It’s worth noting that even some otherwise quality agencies may not be a good fit for your business and that’s okay. Finding the right agency is no less than proper execution, but it is also far more than this.
If you’re researching different digital marketing agencies for your company, Be More Digital would welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs. Our professionals have decades of experience in PPC, SEO, email marketing, video production and more that we can bring to bear to make your marketing efforts successful. Get in touch with Be More Digital today for a comprehensive review and proposal or take a look at our numerous case studies to see a sampling of some of our success stories. Our customer experience team is standing by and is happy to answer any questions you may have.