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How do I choose a digital marketing agency?

Post by
Steve Bambury

Digital marketing is so complex and fast-paced that to do it yourself is to see sub-optimal results, and in some cases actively negative ones, like drops in online visibility, website visits and revenue.

By partnering with an agency, you’ll ensure that attention and skill is applied to digital marketing, and that your business begins to tap the endless potential of the channel. But only if you choose a good one.

The truth is that many traditional digital agencies fail to focus on the things that really matter in digital marketing. In a relatively new world overflowing with channels and metrics, it can be difficult to understand exactly where to focus energies. But the best agencies know how, and your organisation deserves the best.

How do you choose an effective digital marketing agency? To answer, let’s break that big question down into a few smaller ones.

What are the types of digital marketing?

To find your ideal digital marketing partner, you should first understand the types of digital marketing that will be most beneficial to your business. Amongst dozens of digital channels, the most common (and effective) include:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): The process of making your website rank higher on search engines through organic means.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM): The process of making your website more visible on search engines through paid means like pay per click (PPC) advertising.
  • Content marketing: Using things like web page content, blogs, videos and imagery to increase your online visibility.
  • Social media marketing: Using social media profiles to build an audience, engage with them and convert them to customers, both through paid and organic means.
  • Email marketing: While it’s been around forever, high quality email marketing remains incredibly effective.

Other types of digital marketing include display advertising, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing and audio/podcast marketing, and your business may choose to leverage a couple of these where relevant. But for the most part, your perfect marketing mix will be mostly made up of the top four channels, with the size of each slice depending on your business, industry and target customer.

The most important digital marketing element, meanwhile, is your website. As your digital storefront and your most important salesperson, finding a digital marketing partner with deep website expertise should be at the top of your list. Check out our ebook for a comprehensive look at the process of building a profitable website.

How do you find digital marketing agencies?

The importance of finding a digital marketing agency with the appropriate skills and experience is obvious. The question then becomes ‘how’? It turns out that in many ways, finding the perfect marketing partner is about seeing if they can walk the walk.

Does an agency rank well on Google for the service they are offering? If you’re looking for a local provider, type your city and preferred marketing channel into Google, e.g. ‘Auckland search engine marketing’. Those that know what they’re doing will come up on the first page.

As any marketer knows, word of mouth remains the most powerful form of marketing for a reason: people trust people, at least more than they trust brands. Ask for recommendations from your personal network by putting the feelers out on social media.

What makes a good digital agency?

Every digital agency will describe itself as good (if not great) – they are in the business of marketing after all – but what separates the very best from the rest? Amongst the wealth of different traits and talents, it can be difficult to know which are important, and which aren’t.

There are however a few things that the best digital agencies tend to have in common:

  • A focus on the right data: The answer to almost every business question can now be found in your data – it’s simply a matter of drawing them out from the zeroes and ones. But most digital agencies can tend to focus on ‘vanity’ metrics that, while making you feel good, have no direct relationship to sales revenue or ROI. Good agencies will lean heavily on the truly meaningful data to measure and improve your digital marketing performance.
  • An expert team: Good agencies will boast teams that have the perfect balance of experience and an innovative mindset. A successful track record speaks volumes.
  • The right tools: To succeed in digital marketing you must lean heavily on technology. Good agencies will utilise smart tech, and the best will have even developed proprietary tools, like Growth Partners’ Digital Enablement Program.
  • Transparency: Between high-end tools and endless acronyms, the world of digital marketing can seem quite complex. A good agency will make it decidedly less so, using easy to understand language and remaining perfectly transparent throughout your dealings.

How to identify bad digital agencies

Just as important as identifying the good agencies is identifying the bad. Look for agencies with an overt focus on vanity metrics - while things like click through rate (CTR) and impressions can provide good indications that you’re on the path to success, they don’t necessarily demonstrate success itself. Metrics with more direct relationships to sales revenue and ROI are far more valuable, though they’re also more difficult to gather and analyse, which is why bad agencies won’t bother.

Furthermore, content created by bad digital agencies won’t align with buyer search behaviour, nor with what your sales team actually needs. This explains why sales reps never use up to 90% of all marketing content.

How to know if you can trust your digital marketing agency

A good digital marketing partner will be willing and able to earn your trust. This is a simple process of proving that they can do what they’re promising they can do, through things like reviews, testimonials and case studies.

Trusting an agency shouldn’t be a matter of taking their word – their quality should be independently verifiable. Take a look at their past clients, and check for the names of large organisations, as such companies are generally more picky about who they work with. Ask former customers about their experiences, and try to find evidence for claims that the agency makes.

What should I ask my digital marketing agency?

Finding a good candidate is the first step of the process. You then need to understand whether they’ll be a good fit for you, which you can do by asking some pertinent questions. Examples include:

  • How much does your service cost? This is less about the actual figure than how well the agency justifies it.
  • How long should it take to see a return on investment? Beware any agency that overpromises. An example: it will take months, not days or weeks, to see the results of quality SEO work.
  • Have you worked with a business like mine before? Industry experience can be invaluable.
  • Who are my online competitors? Digital agencies should be able to provide key competitors and their market share relative to your brand and the overall market. 
  • Do you know the size of my online opportunity (relative to your key revenue streams)? This drills down further on the question above.
  • Do you have relevant case studies of similar work? How successful were these projects? You want an agency with a proven track record who can demonstrate results and happy clients.
  • What metrics do you track? Look for things like ranking, CTR, CPC, conversion rates and cost of acquisition for leads/sales.
  • Do you know where to invest, how much to invest, and the ROI I can expect? This again drills down further on the question above.
  • Can you provide me with accurate sales forecasting for each of my key revenue streams? This question gets to the heart of an agency’s capabilities, the way in which they work, and how confident they are in that work.
  • What are the terms by which you work? Always read the fine print, no matter how boring.
  • What does your ideal customer look like? Does it look much like your business?

To this last point, at Growth Partners our proprietary technology works best with companies with turnovers of $3+ million, who understand the value of digital marketing and want to use it to grow, but who may not have clarity on where and how to make the necessary investments, and the ROI they should expect.

This proprietary technology has also been developed to answer measurable questions listed above. It has been designed to focus on the meaningful, to empower your internal marketing team (or the external agency you currently work with) with the intelligence they need to make better decisions. The end result? Your website turns from a simple business brochure into a powerful lead generation machine.

Opportunity awaits. Click here to book a 15-minute consultation with Steve, Growth Partners’ Co-founder.

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