Selecting a professional service provider is always a catch 22. A lack of knowledge means you need help. This lack of knowledge also means you’re not sure who is best placed to provide it.
Digital marketing is a prime example. Every organisation needs it, but few understand it, and there are plenty of fly-by-night professionals that are ready to exploit the uninitiated. Thankfully there are ways to separate the wheat from the agency chaff. A few pointed questions will go a long way to identifying which agencies are there to help and which are there to profiteer.
Today we’ll be taking a look at seven things that every organisation should ask a digital marketing agency before signing on the dotted line.
1. How much do your digital marketing services cost, and how do you charge?
Understanding what you’ll need to invest is obviously important, but the best answer is rarely the lowest number.
A good marketing agency will be perfectly transparent with their pricing. They’ll outline whether they charge by the hour, by the month, or by deliverables. They’ll itemise the costs, showing you exactly where your investment is going. They’ll give you a good indication of how your investment will result in a return.
It might go without saying, but be sure to thoroughly read any contract that is put in front of you, particularly the exit clauses.
2. Do you have relevant experience, and case studies to prove it?
Many digital marketing agencies work with particular organisations or specialise in certain industries. Finding an agency with relevant experience can greatly enhance your chances of marketing success, as they’ll be familiar with your needs, industry trends and what your audience wants.
Ask the agency for case studies on similar businesses, and where possible contact those businesses to hear their thoughts.
3. What is your process for helping me meet my marketing goals?
Don’t just ask about potential results – explore exactly how the agency plans to achieve them. Don’t just ask about the general strategy – drill down on the individual processes.
If the agency can’t clearly articulate exactly what each step looks like, including the tools they might use and the things they’ll need from you, it’s a sign that they don’t really understand it themselves.
4. How will you measure success?
Ask the agency about the KPIs they track. These will act as your markers for success, so they need to be quantifiable and relevant. Things like search engine ranking, click through rate, content downloads, social media engagement and video views are examples. The right mix of metrics will depend on the goal of your campaign.
Next ask the agency exactly how and when these numbers will be shared with you. Monthly reporting is common, but higher impact or more comprehensive campaigns may demand a more regular schedule.
5. When can I expect to see results?
The intent of good digital marketing is to build an inbound sales machine. This takes time, but once it’s up and running, with a high-ranking website, a strong social media following and a high-conversion sales funnel, the results can be incredible.
Because of this, digital marketing agencies that promise to deliver the world next week are destined to fail. Depending on the campaign, timeframes of months and years are realistic, keeping in mind that the process is never truly complete, it is an ongoing process of iteration.
6. What digital marketing strategies do you use for your own brand?
Now that you’ve got an understanding of how an agency might handle your digital marketing, take a step back and see if they practice what they preach.
Ask the agency about their own marketing strategy. How did they decide on it? What have the results been like? How does it compare with the strategy that they’ve proposed for you? While you may have very different businesses and very different needs, you can expect a digital marketing agency to put real effort into marketing themselves, and there should be a little bit of overlap between your proposed strategy and theirs.
7. Will you get me on the first page of Google?
Our final question is sort of a booby trap: beware any agency that answers with a ‘yes’.
The truth (one that a good agency will be happy to admit) is that Google keeps its algorithm – the magic recipe that decides how search results are ranked – a closely guarded secret. We have an idea of what it likes, but we don’t know the exact code. And for that reason, no agency can guarantee that they’ll get their client onto page one.
A good agency will explain the above, before telling you the ways that it will try its best to get you on page one, offering examples of when it’s done exactly that for previous clients.
Shopping for a good digital marketing agency needn’t be stressful. As long as you take a measured and common sense approach to your choice, and ask the questions that matter, you can be confident of securing an agency that isn’t a supplier to your business, but a partner with it.