Finding the best digital marketing agency seems easy enough, right? Just Google it, or ask someone. That’ll get you a few names, but what about the prep work necessary on your end to make sure one of them is right for you?
I’ve been running digital marketing agency Supercool Creative for 10 years, and in that time I’ve worked with lots of brands, businesses and startups and seen the ways they go about finding the right agency.
Based on my experience, here are some of the most IMPORTANT QUESTIONS to ask when looking for the best digital marketing agency.
1. What Do You Want a Digital Marketing Agency to Help You With?
What are your goals? This seems so obvious, but it isn’t always. Without knowing where you’re going, how can you find the best digital marketing agency to get you there?
When you imagine three, six, twelve months down the marketing road, where are you?
What would you like your new agency to achieve for you that you can’t or don’t want to do on your own, with your own team?
Marketing Speak Buzzword ALERT!
What are your KPIs?
Key Performance Indicators may include:
- Delivery of a workable digital marketing strategy
- Overall brand or product awareness
- Website traffic
- Cost per lead
- Video views
- Social media shares and conversation
- Press mentions
- Landing page conversions
- And of course, SALES
The more you know about your goals when you speak with your agency candidates, the better they can evaluate your needs and estimate the services they can provide and methodology they’ll employ to achieve those goals, and offer you a proposal that makes sense.
2. What Do You Need From a Digital Marketing Agency?
What services do you require form your new digital marketing agency?
Few digital agencies do EVERYTHING, and even if they say they do, they probably don’t.
They outsource it and get their “partner” agencies to jump on those weekly calls and act like they’re part of the team. That’s not the worst thing in the world except you’re paying a premium on the markups.
For several years, the trend has been towards marketing executives using a variety of agencies, best on where their specialties are, including:
- Overall digital marketing strategy
- Video creative and production
- Social media management
- Creative and copywriting
- PR / blog and publication outreach
- Content marketing
- Display and social media advertising
- Inbound marketing
- Website development and coding
- Email marketing
- Influencer marketing
3. How is Your Digital Marketing Team Configured?
How are you set up? What internal capabilities do you have?
Do you have a marketing director and a large team? Are you a team of two? A team of one?
Do you have all the bases covered?
Some agencies like to take over everything while some play well with others.
Id you team set up to where you need help with the overall digital marketing strategy, maybe with content production, but have systems in place to manage your own social media and PR?
Conversely, do you have a solid strategy in place, but need help with execution?
Maybe you want to have an agency work closely with you for three to six months and then back off to an advisory role while your team spreads it’s wings.
These are all important considerations.
4. What Industry Are You In?
Actually, this is the least important criteria, yet one that gets asked all the time.
It doesn’t really matter.
My agency Supercool Creative has worked with a variety of industries and there was always a first, in each industry.
We get plenty of calls asking what experience we have in the transgender footwear app industry, or the non-profit benefiting for-profit tech startups that help Africans who help tech startups industry.
“do you have experience in the transgender footwear app industry?”
This can all be learned, very quickly.
Yet, many marketing executives keep looking for an exact agency match based on industry experience, but like so many people who who have hyper-specific requirements on dating sites, they die alone.
5. What is Your Digital Marketing Sensibility and Brand Voice?
Okay, more important than what industry you’re in is how far you’re willing to go with your digital marketing!
Do you like to go viral crazy? Super funny? Stay-the-course consistent?
Are you used to taking creative risks or do you play it safe?
No judgements 😉 Emoji.
Look for a digital marketing agency that matches your creative sensibility. And by you, I mean your brand, business or startup, not the you that blasts on Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram on the weekends.
You know who you are.
Take a look at several agencies’ work, and see if their campaigns match your sensibility.
Having a creative soul match along with an understanding of how to get marketing results is way more important than anything else.
6. What Have You Done Before?
Have you been in this position for a while? What have you tried that’s worked and what have you tried that hasn’t worked?
Are you new to the company you’re working with? Evaluate what they did before you got there. Did it work?
Look for an agency that can help amplify the tactics that have worked before and help you make the tough decisions to either bolster or ditch the tactics that haven’t.
Upper management may resist. Does your ideal agency have the balls to stick with you and push back?
I remember when a senior marketing exec at IBM asked me that exact question. I said yes.
7. Do You Need a “Partner” – Or an Agency?
OK, this is a semi-rant but personally, I’m getting tired of the whole “partner” thing. You don’t partner with your mechanic, so why would you partner with your agency? You hire your mechanic because he fixes cars better than you do, or you don’t have the bandwidth to do it yourself, right?
I’m sure if you watched a YouTube video about it and felt like getting dirty, you could learn how to turbo boost your transmission so your car could get from here to there faster, but most of us get someone else to do that sort of thing.
And in case you missed the metaphor, you’re you, your car is your business, the agency is the mechanic and “here to there” are where you are and where you want to be.
You’re the client. You set the goals. You set the objectives.
You define what winning means.
You’re the one who’s job or business is at stake.
That’s not to say you don’t collaborate with your agency, but it’s your butt on the line so when all is said and done, you call the shots.
Here’s an article I wrote awhile back for AdAge about Five Ways to Get More Out of Your Digital Agency.
Agencies work for you.
Enough of the partnering thing, okay?
8. Conduct a Digital Marketing Agency Search
Google it. You’ll likely come up with a variety of results including paid ads and organic results. Click through and see what you like.
Check social media. Check LinkedIn. Check Twitter. Check Facebook. Check Instagram. Check SnapChat! Put out an APB. High alert. Check everywhere and see who fits.
Ask colleagues and friends for referrals.
Go with your gut.
Take a look at the agencies’ work, at their thought leadership in the digital marketing space, at their team page and most importantly, although it sounds very hippy dippy, see what “vibe” you get.
9. When You Have Your Short List
Start emailing or calling everyone on your short list.
For best results, be specific about what you want, or you’re wasting your time possibly reaching out to agencies that don’t do what you need.
Many agencies are still going to tell you they do whatever it is you’re looking for, thinking that you won’t check and they’ll go sub out to someone else and turn a profit.
Ask for examples of their work or case studies.
Based on response, meet in person or Skype it. Ask lots of questions. Get a detailed proposal.
Lastly, never sign up for a year. The world moves too quickly. Your industry moves too quickly. Digital marketing moves too quickly.
Sign up for 3-6 months and look at the results. Were your KPIs met? Did you get to where you wanted to go? If so, you made a great choice! If not, it’s only 3 months. Shake it off, rinse and repeat.
Need more? Contact us here.