Digital marketing...now there is a term you’ve never heard before! Ha! The phrase is thrown around all over the place and can refer to any number of things. Maybe SEM and PPC, maybe display advertising or social media. The term spans the gamut and carries with it a connotation of “easy”. I often think of the term digital marketing like pizza. It’s one of those things that can be a million different things and yet somehow all fits into the same category. Follow me for a second. What kind of toppings do you put on your pizza? Are you a plain cheese type of guy? A pepperoni gal? A mushroom and anchovy type? Or maybe you like the Hawaiian? The point is that all of these varieties are still pizza even though they are all different. Now add in that it can be a New York style thin crust, Chicago style deep dish, hand tossed, pan, or any number of other variations. Yet they are all pizza. I once ordered my dairy intolerant sauce disliking daughter a pizza without cheese and no sauce with pepperoni. I looked at my wife and asked why we didn’t just throw some pepperoni on some breadsticks, but alas she said my daughter wanted “pizza”! And, that is what she got. Crust and pepperoni. Still pizza.
A digital marketing firm can be something like that of a pizza place. Sure, we do digital they say. What kind of digital they serve, however, can vary greatly. So how can you tell if the digital agency you are talking to is a good choice? It’s not as simple as ordering a pizza one time and reviewing them on Yelp if it is amazing or terrible. (Although the agency world could probably do with some Yelp like reviews!)
Below are 5 things to consider when you are looking for a digital marketing firm.
Experience (with proof)
We know that the more you do something the better you become. But as my high school music teacher used to say, “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Some agencies have a lot of experience. That doesn’t mean they are perfect. That also doesn’t mean they do a good job. So, while experience is important, experience with performance is more important. You need to know that the agency you are considering is going to give you the best results for your money.
I have seen some agencies that were boasting about their fantastic impression delivery, but when you looked at the conversion they were below the national average. So, while they had a large network and access to the impressions, they weren’t delivering the ROI of other agencies.
The Right Tools
Let’s jump back to that pizza conversation for a minute. If you are looking for a cheese pizza would you buy from a pizza place that only offers pepperoni? I know, you COULD pick them off and end up with cheese pizza that slightly tastes like pepperoni. Or, you could buy from a place that actually offers cheese pizza.
A digital agency is only the right partner for your company if they offer what you need. And let’s be honest, there are some agencies out there that signed up for a Google AdWords account and tell the world that they are a leader in the digital space. They tell you they can do everything. AdWords offers a ton of tools, but that’s really not the limit to what digital can do. What about social media, networks outside of Google, direct placements, database, inbound, content marketing, SEM, SEO, and the million other digital solutions that exist?
It’s more than just having the tool and having used them before. As I mentioned earlier, perfect practice makes perfect. When evaluating a digital agency ensure you are comfortable with the agencies KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This will tell you how the agency measures success for the campaigns they are pitching you. Make sure the items that you measure are also being tracked by the firm. For example, an agency may tell you they track impressions and clicks, but if time of day and demographic data such as age or gender are important make sure they are capable of tracking and reporting on those metrics before signing a contract.
It goes without saying, but I will anyway, that past performance is an important indicator of the abilities of the agency. If you are looking for an agency that can handle everything from strategy to creative to media buying then you will want to ensure that the agency has done it before and has results that show they are capable of handing your program.
A lot of companies require references for past work as well which can be a good way to find out if someone was good to work with and delivered on their promises. This can be a large time constraint for you, but worth it so you get a reliable and results driven agency that is going to advertise your brand.
It’s Friday afternoon at 3:00 and the ads you approved last week are now all wrong because the event you are planning has to start 30 minutes later than originally planned. The campaign kicks off Monday morning. You call your agency and receive their voicemail saying they are “...away from their desk or on the other line…” for the 6th time.
I’ve also been on the other end of the spectrum where a client called every day to ask for changes to things that were far outside of scope and complained that we weren’t responsive.
The ideal is finding a team that you work well with. An agency that has good responsiveness will reply within the agreed upon timeframe. Make sure you communicate up front with each other on communication. How does the agency prefer to communicate? I know one agency that uses a ticketing system for all their communication. Anytime you want an answer to anything you submit a ticket request and they will reply. I know other agencies that have dedicated account reps that will be there to answer the phone whenever you have a problem. Make sure you choose an agency that communicates the way you want.
I think this is one of the most important aspects to business and with that important to any company you decide to work with. Beyond just the synergistic increase in productivity you gain from working with someone who meshes well with your company, having a true team dynamic with an agency will reveal wondrous possibilities. What I mean by this is simply this, if you hire an agency to do a job, they will do it (hopefully well) and then they will leave and you will be back to the drawing board on your own. Having a team player environment with your agency opens doors to new ideas, tactical ways to hurdle obstacles, and an invaluable resource when you are up against a wall.
Something I have always found interesting is that a marketing agency is one of the few functional roles that is deeply rooted in every aspect of your business. Obviously it affects sales and finance, but it also has its hands in operations, HR, technology, and so much more. Think about that, a marketing agency can literally change every aspect of your business. Having one that just shows up for a project and leave can cause an impact in your entire company and if they are gone after the project is over it can be up to you to see those effects through. But when you partner with an agency in a teamwork environment, when the campaign ends, the agency is still there helping you see beyond single executions into the wide world of possibility.
There are few things I like more than getting a call from a client who says, “I want to do X and Y...how do I do that?” And it opens the door to a beautiful conversation about this and that and we, often, get carried away into a world of possibilities that were never thought of before. Honestly, the times we are contracted to do a single campaign we do them well, but it always feels like something is missing. That fully integrated approach that offers the opportunity to talk about other areas that can impact your marketing. Think about your CRM system. If you hired a digital agency to place banner ads for you and they didn’t talk about landing pages or collecting leads and submitting them directly to your CRM you will likely be forced to manually re-enter those leads into your CRM. Don’t you want someone that is looking holistically at your company, your ad campaigns, your operations, your finance, your HR so that they can help you think outside of the one dimension of your campaign?
Overall, there are a lot of things to look for in a digital agency, but at the end of the day I truly believe these 5 things to look for in a digital agency are the keys to starting off on the right foot. So when you are looking for an agency, don’t get tunnel vision on one aspect, can you do the job. Look broadly at the relationship to see if there are other opportunities, make sure they can deliver the results you are looking for, and make sure they are responsive to your questions and feedback.
Are you looking for a digital partner to help with your marketing initiatives, or want a second opinion on if you are getting a good deal? Give us a call. We’re here to help with more than just buying media. We help solve problems every day, it’s what we enjoy most!
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