Whether you run a 10-man startup or a 1000-employee corporate entity, it can be difficult handing over control of your company’s marketing to an outside agency. But you can’t hold onto your marketing forever. Even if you’re a Fortune 500 company, at some point you’ll need outside perspective or expertise to help your organization grow.
But when push comes to shove, many companies get stuck on the question of how to find the best digital marketing agency to fit their needs. After all, you don’t want to hand over control to just anyone. You need to find an agency that you can trust and deliver a return on your investment. But with so many agencies to choose from, the perfect partner can seem elusive. It’s not made any easier by the fact that marketers are inherently good at selling—and selling their own services in particular.
The right partner is out there, though. And with knowledge on your side and a bit of elbow grease, you can find them.
Why hire a digital marketing agency in the first place?
We might be slightly biased, but a digital marketing agency can make a huge difference to your business. Short of providing expertise that you simply don’t have in your marketing department, a digital agency can help in a number of different ways, including:
They can save your business money
If you don’t hire a digital marketing agency, you’ll need to hire an in-house team. When you consider that the median annual salary of a digital marketing manager is $63,584, a digital marketing agency’s monthly retainer can seem like a bargain. What’s more, you’re getting a team of specialists instead of one person. And it’s a team that isn’t affected by sick days or holiday, either.
Provide a fresh perspective
In-house marketing teams are great, but there is always a risk that their ideas become stale. After all, they have to market the same business every single day. An agency, on the other hand, gets exposure to loads of different industries all the time. This can fuel new ideas that help to reinvigorate stale corporate marketing strategies.
Offering a scalable service.
When you hire an in-house team, it can be hard to scale quickly. But it’s also hard to spend less if you need to. An agency, on the other hand, offers a much more flexible service that can be scaled quickly from one month to the next. Then, if your budget becomes tighter and you need to scale things back, it can be done instantly without needing to fire any in-house team members..
More time to focus on your business
It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s true. By hiring a digital marketing agency, you no longer have to worry about your Twitter profile or your rankings, the agency will do all of that for you. Instead, you can focus on growing your company and converting all the new traffic that will be coming your way into new business.
5 tips to find the best digital marketing agency for you
Let’s be clear, we’re going to assume that you are able to use Google and any industry contacts to draw up a list of potential digital marketing agencies. Instead, these tips are going to focus on how to narrow down that shortlist to find the best digital marketing agency for you. So, if you’ve got your shortlist on hand, these 5 tips will help.
1. Scan their website thoroughly
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to check for any major red flags. What do we mean by red flags? We mean anything that makes you think twice about using or trusting the agency in question. The first place to start looking is their website. Is their website modern or does it look like something from early 2000? Does it have all of the pages you’d expect, as well as an office address and telephone number? If an agency doesn’t spend the time to take care of their own website, how do you think your account will be handled?
As soon as you land on a prospect’s website, three things should be easy to identify: Who they are, what they do and where they do it. If the basics are missing, move onto the next one.
…And, check their social media presence
If they have accounts on Facebook and Twitter, are they up to date? When was the last time the agency posted something? As a digital marketing agency, you would expect them to have fully branded social media accounts that are regularly updated. Consider crossing any agency off your list that doesn’t have a complete social presence. Finally, check the agency out on the Better Business Bureau. If several negative complaints have been made, consider crossing the agency off your list as well.
3. Be realistic about price
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is expecting the world without spending a thing. In many ways, it’s understandable. However, digital marketing is not something you want to skimp on. Low prices are almost always associated with low quality service.
The only way agencies can afford to offer their services for a couple of hundred bucks a month is if they use blackhat digital marketing tactics such as PBNs and link farms. These aren’t just ineffective anymore, they can be incredibly bad for business. Blackhat tactics are actively penalized by Google and getting caught using them can result in the removal of your website from search results. You don’t just risk success in the short-term by being cheap, you risk the long-term health of your business, too.
When getting quotes from agencies, immediately ignore the cheapest ones. If the most expensive ones are well over your budget, you can ignore them, too, if you like. But if a lot of agencies are quoting more than you have budgeted for, it may be time to rethink your budget completely. Competitive pricing is key.
On average, most SEO agencies charge between $1000-$2,500 a month for their services. There’s no point investing much less money into digital marketing than this because the chances are the agency you hire won’t be doing it properly. Go back to the drawing board and reassess your budget to free up more funds for digital marketing. Work with a reputable agency, and you should see a decent ROI soon enough anyway.
4. Don’t hesitate to ask about current work
When agencies show you their portfolio, virtually every piece of work will have already been completed. Some may have been completed years ago. It’s hardly the best example of how an agency works. After all, maybe they had a particularly creative Creative Director who pushed through a lot of great work. Maybe they’ve had a lot of staff leave since then. You need to understand the work that the agency puts out at the moment.
During your consultation, don’t be satisfied with just seeing examples of previous work, make sure you ask to see examples of work they are doing at the moment. Naturally, they may not be able to show you everything for privacy reasons, but any decent agency should be able to show you some of the campaigns that they are working on and the improvements they have seen month on month. If an agency isn’t willing to do so, consider crossing them off your shortlist.
Also, case studies, case studies, case studies.
4. Understand what you need and want out of your agency partnership
What do you want out of your relationship with a digital marketing agency? Is there a particular area of digital marketing that you need help with—SEO, PPC, content marketing? Are you looking for a short-term fling or a long-term relationship? Do you have certain targets that you want to achieve?
While talking to agencies, it’s important to make sure that you are both on the same wavelength and share the same goals. For instance, there’s no point partnering with an agency that specializes in PPC if you want to improve your organic ranking. Similarly, if you’re a home contractor company, there’s no point partnering with an agency that specializes in marketing E-commerce stores. The partnership just won’t work.
By talking through exactly what you want to achieve before committing to a particular agency, you can make sure that the agency you choose understands precisely what you want and can help you achieve it. In short, forget about the agencies that don’t share your values or visions.
5. Ask for references and you shall receive
By now, there may only be one or two agencies left on your list. That’s great, you’ve nearly found the perfect agency. There’s one more thing you need to do, though. You need to make sure that everything the agency has told you is the truth. Have they provided a case study that shows what they have achieved for a particular client? Make sure that you pick up the phone and speak to that client to check credibility.
Do your own searches to make sure that the company ranks for the keywords the agency says they do. Ask the agency to speak to a number of current and previous clients. The current clients can help you understand what it’s like working with the agency at the moment, and it can be helpful to understand why previous clients have left. Was it because they achieved their goals or could no longer afford the services? Or was there a bigger problem? Remember to ask probing questions where possible. The agency isn’t going to refer you to someone who is going to bad mouth them. So make sure to tease out any hiccups or difficulties the client had with the agency and ask them to explain how they were overcome.
Want to find out how we can help?
We know that it’s tough for companies to find the right digital marketing partner. That’s why we try to be as open as possible. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation so that they can understand what we do and how we work. It also offers us an opportunity to get to understand you better. When you’re ready, request a free consultation and we’ll get back to you in a New York minute.