Bias aside, we’ve talked among ourselves, debated, escalated, edited, and concluded: the three key questions to ask yourself before choosing a digital agency—the agency tasked to guide you through the oft-changing, oft-bewildering landscape of digital marketing.
Despite the rise and popularity of digital marketing, many companies have a hard time integrating it into their own business model to serve their goals and objectives. Sound familiar? You may be so focused on your own industry and skillset, that you’ve never paused to to truly attempt to learn anything about it. It feels like … a foreign language? It’s new, unfamiliar, multifaceted, and requires a degree of specialization that only comes with experience. And it encompasses multiple disciplines that must all work together in order to be effective: web development, analytics, writing, design, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), behavioral marketing, marketing automation, and strategic content generation. That’s a lot of things. So we’ve kept your selection questions to three.
Three keys to hiring the right digital marketing agency
1) Can they help me find quality customers?
Digital technology does you no good if it isn’t helping you engage customers. One of the primary goals of digital marketing is lead generation: identifying new prospects, engaging them to build trust, and converting them into new customers. But to find these people, you need to understand them—what do they need/crave/want. And where are they consuming their information? So, not only do you have to know what is important to them, you need to know how to reach them with key messages that are relevant and helpful. This is not about selling. It’s about finding real solutions to real problems. The right digital marketing agency will understand your target audience(s) deeply and develop effective tactics and initiatives designed to build awareness and earn their trust.
2) Do they sound too good to be true?
There are tons of digital marketing companies sprinkled around every major town, all claiming to do great things. How do you know who to believe? Beware of the quick fix and the low-price leader. Google has created complex algorithms (Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, etc.) to weed out the pretenders, spammers, and black-hat marketers looking to “game” the system. Shady tactics such as keyword stuffing…or duplicate content generation…or bogus link creation, will only get you penalized. Bottom line: manipulating search engines won’t work and anyone claiming to have found the loophole could end up getting you blacklisted by Google, which means no customers will be able to find you. It is critical that you work with an agency who has demonstrated expertise and has proven results to back it up. Talk to their clients, to the people who work with them directly. Also, make sure they are a certified Google Partner: Google only awards Partner status to those agencies who have demonstrated actual AdWords revenue and growth and have maintained a growing customer base.
3) Can they get actual results?
This is the ultimate indicator. Can your agency demonstrate real-world results and tangible analytics to show which initiatives or messages have worked and which ones have not? This information should be totally transparent—and everything should be trackable. Any agency who says it is not is either lying or unqualified. Period. The whole point of digital marketing is to get the right messages, to the right people, using the right vehicle. Every agency worth its salt is tracking each and every paid post and sponsored story and display banner and remarketing ad to see what is actually working. Your agency should provide a detailed digital marketing report each month that clearly shows you the results: impressions, cost-per-click, and conversions, among other things. Also, you should be able to call your agency at any point and get a weekly update. If they can’t or won’t provide that, then that’s a red flag. The best agencies track everything. Their goal is to determine which messages and tactics are working best so that they can leverage those in the future. A good agency will not only get you results, they’ll get smarter each month after analyzing the data.
Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere, probably ever. That means the good ol’ days of cold calls and strictly traditional advertising can no longer fill the sales funnel. Your prospects and customers are armed with more resources and real-time options than ever before. They’re doing their own research and forming their own opinions about your company before your sales team is even aware. As a result, the sales cycle has been turned upside down. Prospects and leads are entering the funnel at different points, in different ways, for different reasons. The key to success in the digital era is reaching these prospects—your potential customers—where they live, on the sites and platforms they inhabit. And a good digital agency will help you do just that.