Choosing a new digital marketing agency is challenging. Between sorting through the quality, cost, and size of competing agencies, it can be overwhelming, even daunting, to select a digital marketing company. Then there is the most important differentiator, the relational aspect of a partnership. Expertise, strategic insights, and track record all matter but pale in importance to the need for alignment on objectives and the means of achieving success. While Chief Marketing Officers or VPs of Marketing are most commonly tasked with the responsibility to select new agencies, there’s frequently influence from marketers lower on the totem pole in suggesting or helping out with the agency search process. Motivation or impetus of an agency search is likely from pressured marketing professionals seeking a partnership that enables them to reach and/or exceed their business goals while existing relationships are failing. Calibrating the search to find a quality digital marketing agency that best fits the company’s future growth and core values takes patience, intuition, and the following tools.
Where to Find the Best Digital Marketing Agency
Google Partners – While accreditation from the other search engines – Bing, Yahoo!, etc. – should not be overlooked, Google has developed a rigorous process for digital marketing agencies to enter an elite shortlist of partner agencies. It shows how many digital marketers at the agency are certified and in what categories. Marketers can gain certifications for some of the essential functions: search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video ads, eCommerce, and Google Analytics IQ. The Google database also includes the minimum monthly budgets with which the agencies work. It is an excellent tool for narrowing an extensive list of agencies down to a select few backed by the legitimacy and trust factor of Google.
Referrals – It’s essential to understand the experience of working with an agency. Referrals from peers or other agencies are a great way to learn more about an agency, stripping away the fictitious façade of manicured marketing messaging less legitimate agencies often engage in. Unlike the quantitative results derived from a simple search, referrals provide a better qualitative idea about what it’s actually like to work with the agency. Are they pleasant? Responsive? Do they get involved, or are they siloed from the client? Referrals can bring to light these more personal and vital experiences.
Search – Knowing what to Google is serviceable. Knowing how to search for it is ideal. So how can you utilize a search engine to find an agency? By being specific. Searching for (“digital marketing agency”) gives you 13,7000,000 results, including a wide array of different types of agencies. Meanwhile, a more specific search such as (“digital marketing agency” AND “Chicago” AND “SEO”) cuts that down to just 291,000 results. Additionally, the likelihood that results closely match your intent to find an SEO agency is better.
What To Look for in a Marketing Agency Partner
Credibility – First impressions matter; a good digital marketing agency knows this and lives by this. So, what first impression does their website give? A terrible, unorganized online presence should be a red flag for any advertising agency, especially an online marketing agency. Does the website include client logos and testimonials? Most do. Do they have experience in your field? With similar-sized companies? Are their reviews positive? Do their testimonials seem authentic? Are they certified in a variety of disciplines? All these things are factors that help build credibility. Great agencies may not meet all these standards, but it is wise to notice and reconsider if too many red flags are raised.
Case Studies – Case studies give real-life examples of what an agency can do. If they can’t be found on an agency’s website, ask for examples of how they’ve helped clients achieve success. Look for tangible, lasting results, and pay attention to the strategy which drove those results. Was the agency thinking outside the box and developing a custom marketing strategy for the client, or did they apply a cookie-cutter program that barely moved the needle? That should be a major red flag if an agency can’t provide any case studies from its portfolio.
Expertise – The whole purpose of going with an agency is that they are the experts. Have them prove it. Get a sense of their skills. They handle search and paid social media marketing; can they also handle content marketing? What about web design and email marketing? Do you have confidence that they can take over your analytics? Before you hand over your marketing efforts, you’ll want to be sure that an agency can handle your immediate and future marketing campaigns.
Vibe – Meet with an agency at their office or conduct a semi-formal video conference call. Have a casual conversation with the people who would be managing your account. What is the agency’s vibe? Are the people good communicators? Are they friendly? Do they seem like they enjoy speaking with you and helping you, or do they seem annoyed, frustrated, and over-worked? Paying attention to these often-overlooked intangibles will help give you a much clearer picture of what it will be like working with the agency.
What To Ask for When Seeking Proposals
Audit – Allow agencies to prove themselves. An audit is a great avenue to explore to differentiate between agencies. Successful audits will provide insights into improvements and prove an agency’s value. Unsuccessful audits will still offer alternative perspectives and tactics. It’s a win-win. The more an agency uncovers during an audit, the more likely it’ll pay closer attention to detail in managing the account.
Experience – Ask the agency team what outside experience they’ve had. Diversity of thought is crucial in digital marketing, and those innovative ideas often stem from previous experience. External experience is also important in helping to develop empathy, as your account team must have a solid understanding of the challenges faced every day to provide valuable solutions. Agencies with experience working on both sides of the client-agency relationship will often have a significant advantage in delivering real-life solutions.
Passion – Passion is one of those words that has been overused, losing much of its power. Even so, it’s still an important gauge to check before engaging in a client-agency relationship. Ask the potential agency partners what gets them excited about conducting business. Ask them what industry innovations they find fascinating. Since people love talking about things they find exciting, this will help develop a personal connection and comfort level. It will also give great insights into what would motivate them to strive for success. If their answers focus on things that benefit them – ego, awards, making more money, etc. – know that they are driven by personal gain, and client success is an afterthought. But if they are driven by passion – curiosity, genuine interest in client businesses, desire to be on the cutting-edge of innovation, etc. – they are more likely to succeed.
The Best Fit For You
These are just a few things to consider when searching for a new digital marketing agency. Consider what you want from your agency partner. Everybody wants something a little different from their agency relationship, so make a list of the tangible and intangible must-haves. Then, utilize this post to expand your list and find an agency that meets your needs.
It might even be us. If you’re interested in partnering with a proactive digital agency that values trust, confidence, and creativity, you can reach out to us at Sales@LeverInteractive.com. We’re looking forward to helping you with your digital marketing needs in 2022 and beyond.