There comes a time when you simply have to throw your hands up and admit that you need to bring in the big guns to develop marketing strategies, manage campaigns, set key performance indicators (KPIs), and analyze data. That’s where a small business digital marketing agency comes in. Working with an agency can allow you to launch an expert, top-quality digital marketing strategy without expending your internal team’s time and energy that your small to mid-size business likely doesn’t have to spare.
The world of digital marketing is ever-evolving, make sure you choose an agency that knows how to keep up with the latest trends, software, platforms, and best practices. There are a few time-tested actions that will ensure you choose the right agency as your long-term digital marketing partner.
10 Must-Do Tips to Choose The Right Digital Marketing Agency for Your Small Business
1. Vet Multiple Digital Marketing Agencies
We’ll start simple first. Unless you have a wealth of glowing references from trusting industry contacts that saw tangible success from working with a certain digital agency, always, always vet multiple agencies before deciding on who you will hire.
2. Ask the Right Questions
When it comes to vetting a digital marketing agency as your partner, not only should you ask a lot of questions, but you need to ask the right questions. Here are the 7 most important questions to ask a digital marketing agency before hiring them for their services:
- Can you describe your process in establishing and meeting my marketing goals?
- What digital marketing strategies do you recommend for my brand?
- How do you measure the success of these strategies and campaigns?
- What level of communication should my team and I expect? Do we have weekly phone calls?
- Who at your agency will be on the team for my account? Will we have an established go-to contact?
- What experience do you have in working with past clients in my industry? Please be as specific as possible.
- Can you explain how your pricing model works?
- What type of monthly reporting can I/we expect to receive?
- How much input will my team and I have in the development of campaigns and strategies?
- When should I/we expect to see results? (see next tip – #4)?
3. Ask About Industry-Specific Experience
Often, marketing strategies can be applicable and see success across a variety of industries, but creating and launching a digital strategy for a brick-and-mortar chain of hotels than an e-commerce company selling women’s shoes and accessories. Industry experience is incredibly important. It often even defines the agency, as some agencies specialize in specific verticals such as healthcare, food service, or real estate.
The perfect agency for you will have experience garnering digital success for another client in your industry or one that aligns with yours. Make sure you ask about this up front. If your business is a chain of local brick-and-mortar restaurants, ask what experience they have working with restaurants and how they were able to bring in more customers through digital strategies.
4. Look for an Agency That Promises a Strategic Partnership, Not Immediate Success
Be wary of agencies that promise “guaranteed” ROI in a short time. Sure, digital marketing efforts start gaining KPIs such as clicks, traffic, views, etc. near-immediately after campaign launch. But marketing efforts, especially inbound marketing efforts, take time and nurturing to achieve the results you desire. If it feels like an agency is overpromising on results, they are likely the type of agency that will ultimately under-deliver.
This is especially true when discussing your small business SEO strategy. SEO is incredibly complex and it requires a substantial time investment and a lot of work to see your website move up in rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). If an agency says they can increase your search rankings in a short time: run.
Look for an agency that views you as a long-term investment as a client, just as you are looking for a long-term agency partner to manage your digital needs.
5. Find an Agency with a Company Culture That Aligns with Yours
Keep in mind that agencies aren’t only marketing for your brand, they are marketing themselves and their services. Agencies tend to have a very strong community culture that tends to lean one of two ways. First, some agencies are creative, casual, and tend to have a company culture encouraging teams to think outside the box. Others are more corporate, formal, and tend to have a company culture that adheres to strategies that have garnered past success.
Ask yourself, what is your company culture? Does their approach align with that culture?
6. Determine KPIs Up Front
If you leave your initial meeting with one thing, it should be that the agency and the team you will work with can set key performance indicators (KPIs). These quantifiable goals for your digital marketing strategy are essential to measuring the success of specific campaigns, strategies, and of the agency’s performance in meeting your goals.
7. Ask To See Past Work Examples
When you take an initial meeting with a potential digital marketing agency, don’t leave the table without asking them to follow up with examples of past campaigns. Ask them to provide the KPIs and performance results of those campaigns. Top agencies will come to the initial meeting already prepared with examples of past strategies and campaigns. The best agencies will come with examples that are relevant to your business, your goals, and your industry.
Expert Tip: If an agency won’t provide you with some form of past work examples and/or references, consider it a major red flag. An agency with a history of client success will always have examples and references. If clients are happy with the work that the agency did for them, they will gladly give references and allow the agency to share a high-level view of the campaigns and strategies that were used.
8. Look Locally First
As a small to mid-size business, you likely aren’t looking to hire a national or global marketing firm to manage your strategy. Smaller businesses tend to do very well bringing in agencies that are local or at least close enough for in-person meetings. A local digital marketing agency will have locally-specific insight into your audience and will have a better finger on the pulse of what will attract local consumers to your business. Your dream digital agency could be a lot closer than you may think.
9. Don’t Get Blinded by the Flash
Marketers are naturally generally high-energy people that know how to put on a good show. Digital marketing is a naturally flashy field, full of innovation and deep-level statistics. Don’t let the flash and excitement of what an agency can do impress you so much that you stop focusing on what they will do for your business. If they throw around a lot of industry jargon, don’t be afraid to ask them to speak in general terms; you shouldn’t leave the meeting without a firm grasp on everything that was covered.
You also may be attracted to an agency due to the client list they boast, or the fact that they have worked with a brand you particularly admire, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right fit for your needs.
10. Seek the Best Value, Not the Best Price
The age-old adage of “you get what you pay for” is 100% applicable when it comes to the agency you choose. The promise of very low fees typically is a red flag for poor service and meager results. Great service and great results don’t come cheap. If you see a brand new Mercedes Benz on a car lot with a price tag of $5,000, would you think “wow, that’s the deal of a lifetime!” or “what’s wrong with that car?” The latter, right? Do the same when you are searching for an agency partner.
On the other end of the spectrum, watch out for highly inflated fees that tend to come with the bigger-name agencies. In those cases, you are generally paying for the name, not for premier services. Ideally, seek out an agency that prices its services well. They should know their worth and price accordingly.
Conclusion: Do Your Homework
When it comes to hiring your digital marketing agency, the most important thing is to do your homework before bringing an agency on board. You will need to weed out the pretenders from the contenders. When it comes to hiring an agency, learn as much as you can about them before taking a formal first meeting. You’ll want to look at things such as their social media messaging, recent press, awards earned,
Take a look at their website first. Note how the verbiage appeals to you, if the design is up to par or underwhelming, and how the imagery reflects their culture. Does their company blog contain a decent amount of authoritative, quality, well-written content? It is also exceedingly important to take note of how things feel when at your initial in-person meeting. Note how they present themselves (casual vs. corporate) and make sure their overall “vibe” is one that you feel will align well with your brand’s.
Taking the time to do your homework on multiple agencies takes time. However, consider it an investment in your brand’s future growth and success through your partnership with the perfect digital marketing agency for your brand.