Every agency is becoming a digital marketing agency these days. And how they are doing it? They simply add “Digital Marketing” to their “Services” section in their website and profile. How easy isn’t it?
It’s pretty easy by the way. They have their existing list of clients to whom they are providing services like Web design, App Development, Creatives or even Logistic Management, so why can’t digital?
Digital Marketing agencies and individuals are facing the other side of this scenario. Besides having the industry experience and expertise, despite delivering successful campaigns, their existence is being questioned by agencies who provide other services to the same clients.
That’s quite normal because most businesses prefer a single window solution and a single point of contact for almost all their needs(!). So when it comes to managing their marketing/advertising, the easiest thing they can do is to let one single agency handle all these for them so that they can sit back and relax. Most of the time it’s too late that they understand the damage they created for their business by going ahead with their jack of all trades.
2016 was a year every business, no matter SMBs or large corporate brands, understood digital is the future big thing. But that’s an old story, digital is not the future anymore, Digital is the present – And we are living in a year that’s going to be accountable for the immense transformation about whatever that’s online. 2017 is changing the entire marketplace which includes the user behaviour, online purchase intent, and most importantly how brands and marketing agencies look at digital marketing as a whole.
This is a time when businesses should consider the importance of choosing the right agency or personnel to manage their digital marketing initiatives. Mere understanding of digital marketing concept won’t be enough for your all in one guy or firm to hold the hand of your business in the ever-changing digital world. So if you are a business owner or somebody who is a decision maker in a business aspiring to go online or already doing it, admit it – a jack of all trades won’t be the best choice to do digital for you.
For me, working with digital agencies, in-house marketing teams and on freelance contracts, I would like to share some inputs for choosing the right agency for your digital marketing initiatives.
Understand Your Goals and Requirements
Before you start searching for the digital marketing agency to manage your campaigns, it’s important for you to have a clarity on the goals your business wants to achieve through these campaigns. Then only you can make the right choice of the agency that fits your business in long-term. So before you or your team sit together to choose the agency to manage your digital marketing initiatives or you are ready to evaluate digital marketing proposals presented to you by various agencies ask yourself few questions.
How much budget you have and what do you expect in terms of ROI at the end of the day of spending money online?
What are the channels that you think might be useful for your business to produce the outcome you expect?
Are you planning to use the digital marketing agency’s skills in few of the marketing aspects only or do you expect them to completely take over the digital marketing process for you?
How outsourcing your online marketing initiatives will affect or help the current sales and marketing process?
How do you expect the digital marketing agency to effectively merge into your internal process and communication system without conflicts and thus creating delays?
Now that you have an understanding of your requirements and goals its time you start shopping for the digital agency that is capable of meeting your demands and matches your business.
Invite tailored proposals from digital agencies
As discussed earlier, there are numerous proclaimed and genuine digital marketing agencies out there in the market. And if you are an already established business chances are that your inbox does have few proposals and pitches from different agencies. Even if no digital marketing agency has approached you earlier, you won’t find it difficult to get few referrals from your network.
Agencies come in different sizes, services, specialities, and expertise. Evaluating the options of digital marketing agencies depends on the goals requirements we put together earlier. Easy point to start is to invite custom campaign proposals from agencies you expect that can work for you. To ensure their proposals bring value, make sure you provide them with a good brief about your goals and objectives and creative concepts. Nothing else than a good client brief helps good agencies to come up with tailored campaign proposals and to be on the same page.
Along with the proposal for your business don’t forget to ask for the agency’s profile and case studies of their previous works. This will help you to better understand your potential collaborators, their strengths, and weaknesses. A good digital marketing agency can bring into table enough industry knowledge and market insights from their experience of working with businesses like yours previously.
Looking at their agency profile you will get an idea about the size and positioning of the agencies and how deep they care about the work they do. Again keep in mind the jack of all trade story we discussed early – an agency being the best web developers, creative designers, logistics managers or whatever heck they are on earth doesn’t mean that they are good at managing the digital initiatives. Check if they have a proven track record of managing successful digital campaigns and their team is experienced and capable enough to handle businesses of your size and type.
Google Partner Status
Google/Bing Partner Status is the easiest way you ca n filter the quality and recognition of a digital marketing agency. Advertising platform giants like Google award their advertising agencies with partners status.
Companies who have earned Partner status will be having unique access to Google events, training programs and materials, industry insights and much more. They can even provide you with some AdWords promotional offers at times. There also will be well trained dedicated account managers from Google itself helping the agency to manage your AdWords account.
You can find the Google Partner Agencies in Your Area by visiting the partners portal.
Evaluate the digital marketing agency proposal
Now that’s all good and you have few options of agencies to choose from and your table or inbox is filled with fancy looking proposals from fancy named digital marketing agencies (Yeah, they love it) its time you make the right choice among them.
Don’t get distracted dealing with the numbers in the proposals. It’s all the development and implementation of the strategy that matters. So keep that in mind while evaluating digital marketing proposals.
Does the strategy align with your business objectives?
Assuming that you have already briefed the digital marketing agency about your business objectives, they are expected to provide you with a clear-cut strategy to reach out those objectives based on the data available. So check whether the agency has understood your brief and come up with a strategy that seems good enough to meet your both short time and longtime business goals. If you are looking for collecting leads to the top of the sales funnel check the proposal has smart campaigns to collect quality leads for your business.
- Have they done enough homework and brought data?
Market insights and performance forecasting are few of the best advantages of advertising online. Advertising platforms like Google offer a tremendous amount of data through various tools and a good agency will not forget to add the info collected into proposals. So make sure the proposal and media plan is based on the smart data collected from these insights and not merely on assumptions. This data can be anything like
- Current market trends and statistics
- Potential Keywords and their Search volume
- Display ads targeting options
- Targeted audience segmentation in social media
How well is targeting audience and targeting methods explained?
One of the biggest advantages of advertising online is their targeted behaviour. You get to show tailored ads to highly targeted people in the moments that matter. So any digital marketing proposal is supposed to have detailed explanation of the audience that can be targeted and data that shows the historical behaviour of this particular audience that you plan to target. Precise audience targeting might include defining the targeted user persona, criteria to segment the users based on that persona and methods to successfully reach out those audiences.
There are a good number of tools and mechanisms to analyze the competitor activity in the online marketplace and a good agency will never leave this area untouched. They would definitely study the activity of your direct competitors and provide you with valuable insights to help your digital marketing initiatives. Of course have an idea about what your direct or indirect competitors are doing online to reach out to your common potential customers. But an expert agency can get deeper into the sea and come up with actionable data to learn what other players are doing and how the market responds to them. These deep insights will help you build a working strategy to understand where your competitors are missing out and position yourself as a better alternative among potential customers.
It’s always important to know your competitor, because
Realistic and measurable goals
Defining and proper tracking of campaign goals is important. A good digital proposal would include realistic and measurable goals that perfectly align with the brands short and long-term business goals. It could be anything like Conversions, E-commerce sales, App downloads, Clicks, Impressions, Video Views, User Sign-Ups etc based on your business and industry. Look for the specific numbers or the strategy to achieve these numbers or goals in the agency proposal. Don’t stop here and go ahead with your discussion with the agency to tailor the goals in a way that perfectly matches your business.
Clarity on the Budget and Expenses
Any campaign will have its own budget and associated expenses. A budget usually refers what we are going to spend on different advertising platforms like Google, Facebook etc with realistic assumptions on the return of investments. But it doesn’t end here, there are associated expenses as well. Go through the strategy and you will see the contents you need to develop and creatives needed to be designed. These expenses also contribute to the budget of your overall marketing budget. So agencies are expected to provide a clarity on the additional expenses that will directly affect the campaign budget.
How the agency charge their services?
Apart from the budget, you spend on ad platforms and content development, you need to pay the agency for their services There are different digital marketing agency pricing models. And it plays a vital role from the budget to the overall performance of the campaigns.
Percentage of Ad Spend: Probably the most common and widely used pricing model by digital marketing agencies across the world. Here the agency will charge you a specific percentage of your total ad spend. This percentage will vary from 10-25 as per agencies and the project.
Fixed Charges or project-based pricing: In this model, the agency will charge the client a fixed amount based on the complexity of the campaigns and services included. The flat fee might include an initial set up charges and monthly campaign management charges.
Value-based commission: In some cases, agencies charge the client based on the value they bring to the business through the campaign. That means they won’t be charging you based on how much you spend, but based on how much you earn.
Anyways it’s up to you to decide the best pricing model that matches your business type and long-term goals. Go for an open discussion with the agency and always keeping mind that quality comes with a price.
A digital agency carries your sigil in the wars to come throughout the online world. So consider them as your marketing partners and always include them in your overall marketing strategies. Finding the best agency to manage your digital marketing initiatives is hard work but it definitely makes a huge impact in long run for your business. While you are filtering these agencies make sure that you are not looking for the one that is the best in the world but the one that well suits your business. Now that’s really important, you are not here to judge the agencies of the world, your intention is to find agencies that might help you the best results available. So be sure that you take a strategic approach and make the right choice.
Digital Marketer by profession – loving and learning the industry to the core, holding the vision of playing my part in making the online advertising space to be transparent, reliable and accountable in such a way that benefits all parties – Advertisers, Publishers & the End Users.