Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Agency

Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Agency

Choosing the right digital marketing agency is more complicated than you might at first think.

In today’s high tech world it’s never been easier for people to set themselves up as a digital marketing agency. The barriers to entry are minimal, if any.

Which makes the task of finding the right agency even harder, but here I outline the key criteria to follow to ensure you get the ROI needed. So let’s get straight to it…

Knowing your goals

Think about this in terms of deliverables; the goal of these deliverables and the outcomes expected. Articulating these clearly will help you to search, brief and measure each agency you shortlist.

7 things that make a great digital marketing agency

1. Portfolio

It’s important to know who the agency has worked with, so an agency not showing current and past clients and a summary of the work should be avoided.

But please remember, it’s not always possible to show examples of client work for certain marketing areas, such as content marketing and SEO.

SEO and the results achieved are fluid. If the agency is no longer working for the client on SEO their rankings may have subsequently fallen. So in this case a client list may have to suffice.

But note, with services such as Website Design and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) you should see a well put together showcase of work. If you don’t then move on.

2. Experienced team members

Look for the team and their list of skills. If you can’t find on their website then try their LinkedIn company page, and click to go to the People section to see the profiles of their employees.

NB: Looking at LinkedIn doesn’t typically show you any freelancers or contractors they work with, so it’s not always 100% indicative of who is in their team; and some of their team members may not be on Linkedin at all, some choose not to be on Social as we all know, but it’s a good place to start.

3. Social proof

Look for client reviews on their site, including any sitting in their client work pages. And remember, agencies will be keen to post reviews from clients, so if you can’t see any it’s probably because they don’t have any.

4. Same values

You need to work with a business that has the same business values that you have. This will ensure there is a good team fit between their staff and yours, and that they fit well as an extension to your company.

Look at what they say on their site and the way they say it – does it fit?

5. A well designed site

A digital marketing agency selling digital marketing skills including web design MUST have a well designed site – if they can’t do it for themselves then what makes you think they can do it for you?

If it appears low quality, then go with your instincts and find something better.

6. No crazy promises

I always say that those who promise the world are the ones to worry about.

For example, anyone saying they can get you to #1 on Google for a certain search term in a month and then you’re done simply doesn’t understand SEO. SEO takes much longer, it depends on the search term targeted and the current set up of the client (site design, links in, etc).

And to say ‘you’re done’ implies SEO is a one-off job when in fact it is continual work to remain competitive with other sites trying to move up the rankings.

So pay close attention to the claims agencies make. Make sure they align with what you know about the industry. And remember big promises should be a huge red flag. 

Stick to digital marketing agencies that offer transparency and realistic promises. 

7. Customer support

This is one of the top criteria you should look for in a digital marketing agency.

It should be easy for you to find contact details and a range of contact options; social, phone, chat etc.

And your next steps in terms of making contact and how should be painfully clear.

How to start working with a Digital Marketing Agency

1) Prepare your team

Brief your team, get them to prepare information for the briefing meeting. Make sure this information is thorough and detailed – the agency will need to know the business background, business objectives, agency requirements and goals, KPIs required from the project and so on.

The more you prepare this information the better you can expect the results going forward.

2) Bring all along with the scope, process and timeline

As the project leader you need to ensure each of your team members and the agency staff are fully briefed on the project details and are clear (i.e. you have answered all of their questions).

Follow the 4 key phases:

  1. Discovery and research
  2. Project planning
  3. Execution
  4. Review, results, and offboarding

3) Ask all the silly questions

The agency will have their own expressions, TLAs and processes peculiar to their business. Do not be afraid to ask what seems like silly questions.

4) Search for the niche agencies

Avoid the full service agency – instead select the agencies focussed on just one or two digital marketing services to get the best ROI for your project.

5) Careful with the contract

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my time as a Digital Marketing Director, it’s to keep your commitment to an agency low, at least for the initial few months.

Even if you follow a highly detailed and cautious recruitment process you are still taking a risk. They can present well but you will only really know if you are gelling as a team and they are delivering after 2-3 months. So keep you contract to just that, 2-3 months, and see how you go.

At the end of the day you want to see a good working relationship and a positive lift to ROI. Take your time at the start, measure everything, and only when you can see it working should you commit to a longer term set-up.


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