How to Hire a Great Digital Marketing Agency

When pursuing business goals and enhancing your marketing, a big part of your decision-making is deciding what to do about marketing. Do you hire a digital marketing agency? Do you try to do it in-house? Do you hire a Marketing employee? These questions are a normal part of the growth of any business. 

1. Establish the Goals or Objectives you want to Achieve

If you are running your business well, you have a plan. Maybe you have a one, three, or a 10-year plan. We come across all types of companies: Some have their plans and goals in a very tidy presentation. Some companies are well established, and the CEO Suite dictates their goals. In contrast, other businesses have their exact plan in their head, waiting to come out upon request. Some companies haven’t even thought about these things since five years ago when the business began.

If you are going to hire an agency, take a few minutes and write these down. You don’t have to hand over your whole plan, though setting some expectations always helps get you where you want to go. 

Some examples of great goals are:
  1. More leads each month/quarter. e.g. Double our qualified leads each month for the next six months.
  2. x% more e-commerce revenue this year. e.g. a 30% increase in revenue YoY.
  3. Increased brand awareness to [these] target audiences. e.g. Increase exposure to B2B companies in the United States.
  4. Get found on page 1 for [these] terms in [this] market. e.g. Rank on the first page of Google for “Bozeman marketing” and “Bozeman web design”.
  5. I want to improve the existing customer experience and enable my team to answer questions and represent our brand consistently and accurately.
Bad goals and objectives include: 
  1. I want to beat “x” competitors (especially with no justification as to why).
  2. I heard I should be doing Google Ads.
  3. My friend told me to post three times a week on Facebook.
  4. I want to rank higher for everything.
  5. Vanity Metrics such as Trust, Domain Rank, Authority.
  6. Freshen up the look.

(Not all of these are inherently bad goals to want to accomplish, but they lack substance and a plan. For example: freshening up the look might be useful, but asking who your target audience is and why you want not to feel dated are the right questions to ask yourself.)

2. Think About Your Budget

Some people are extremely secretive with their budget. Others are an open book. Even if you don’t want to share your budget with a digital Marketing agency to start, you should have an idea or range in mind for what you are willing to spend to reach your goals. When we talk with our clients, we speak to them about what they expect in terms of an ROI or a ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) for their efforts. If you sell $100 gadgets and your goal is to sell 10,000 gadgets this year, you should ensure your budget matches these expectations based on your existing market efforts. If you have a fundamental idea of what you want, your conversation with an agency will be better informed and productive. 

3. Put Together a List of Consultants or Agencies and/or Ask for References

An excellent way to find these digital marketing agencies is:

1. Ask for references from your friends or professional network.
Quite possibly, the best option is to phone a friend and find out who they know or are using. 

2. Ask similar or non-competitive companies that you respect.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to another company about their experiences, especially if it is a brand or company you think does digital marketing well.

3. Review the agency’s website. Ask some of their clients what they thought of them.
Early on in my career, I kept getting inquiries from companies I thought were working with a competitor. I finally asked why they were talking to us and they told me that they called the clients listed on their website for a reference, and all three calls were horror stories of the experience. Call and ask, especially if they don’t have any reviews or have low ratings. 

4. Assemble a List of Questions to Ask Potential Agencies

1. What does your process look like?
Look for companies with a reliable process and some flexibility to try new strategies and tactics that work. Seek out an agency that is strategic and can also execute on tactics. 

2. What is your communication and reporting process?
Look for a company that understands data and can report it to the level you need. Find the company that communicates in your style. Maybe you need a proactive communicator who checks in with you weekly, and perhaps you need a quarterly report and check-in. Whatever you need to feel things are handled, talk to the company about that.

3. What resources do you have available on your team?
A good team has a diversity of skill sets: Analytics proficiency, project management, design, content writing, and advertising chops are all excellent signs of the right team. 

4. What do you do when things aren’t working?
Look for a company that communicates openly and honestly. Good agencies are not afraid to change direction if things are not going the right way. They are willing to work with you to reset expectations and forge a new path as needed. 

5. Things to Look for in an Agency

Communication style match
How do you like to communicate? Do they fit your style? If your communication styles match and the conversation flows smoothly, it is a good sign. If you walk away feeling like things weren’t explained well enough or something just didn’t fit, don’t be afraid to find a different company that fits your needs.

Can you trust them?
Look for examples of how they handle the work, not just a yes or no answer. 

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. What kind of work do they do?
  3. Do they have contracts and proposals?
  4. If something goes wrong, how do they handle that?

Referrals
Getting referrals is pretty self-explanatory:

  1. Can they provide a list of references?
  2. Are the references good?

Price and cost structure
Choose a plan that works for you. Typical agencies have an upfront cost and bill either time and materials; or have a monthly or quarterly retainer. Make sure you find someone who can work with you and your budget needs.

6. Common Mistakes and Things to Look Out For

1. Getting deceived by a pay to play phone call/sales pitch
Many cold calling companies claim to fix all your problems on Google and others. They are 99% spam.

2. Choosing an agency based solely on a webinar or in-person event
A good agency is often working hard on behalf of their clients. Webinars can be an excellent way to introduce yourself to an agency, though it should not be the sole reason. Most of the time, the webinar presenter will not be the person working on the account.

3. Trusting Google results as your only form of judgment
At Big Storm, we rank pretty well for a lot of terms. However, early on, we didn’t put in the time to rank higher or design our website well. We were too busy working on our clients’ websites and digital marketing efforts. Today we spend time working on our own digital marketing efforts because we realize the importance. However, there are still months where we need to ensure our clients get the attention and need to pause our internal efforts.  

4. Believing in magic
There is typically no secret sauce or way to make all your dreams happen magically. At least not anymore. Early on in digital marketing there were many hacks, but today the web is far more mature and merely posting or creating a new website or brand does not magically increase sales. Find and follow a plan that works for your company. There is no one secret sauce, and typically the right combination differs for each company. The point is, if an agency is telling you that it is magic or trying to hide methods or techniques, they may not be entirely truthful about their practices. Digital marketing can be complicated, though a great agency can provide you with clear information about what is being done and why.  

5. Being dazzled by fancy charts, graphics, and buzzwords
There are a lot of fancy graphics, charts, and buzzwords out there these days. Be careful with them. They are often run through an automated system and spat out to make you think the agency knows what they are doing. Yes, there are many tools and automation that can make things easier, but spitting out a dashboard may not take everything into account. Words like PageRank don’t matter like they used to, and Pagespeed tests are updated often. Hopefully, you find the agency to talk to you about these items and work with you to explain them— and the way that they matter to your business specifically— as needed.

Choosing and hiring a great digital marketing agency for your business is a worthwhile investment when done correctly. We hope this article helps you on your journey to finding and working with a digital marketing agency that meets your needs. Full disclaimer: Big Storm is a marketing agency in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more about our marketing services.