Partnering with a team of experts provides you additional resourcing so that you can focus on other areas of your business. The digital marketing industry overflows with agencies of all sizes, so it can be challenging to cut through all the noise and determine which one is right for you.
Ultimately you need a team you can trust; a team that will push your marketing further than you ever could alone. So, to help you make such an important investment in your business, here’s a guide to choosing the right agency for you.
1. What are your goals and objectives?
Partnering with an agency without first setting your own clear goals and objectives is like jumping in your car and starting to drive without knowing your end destination. To determine your goals:
- Start with deliverables
- Add the goal of each deliverable
- End with the outcome you hope to achieve
A simple example:
- Deliverable: a fully managed content marketing plan & strategy
- Goal: collect more leads by bringing in more website visitors with high-quality content
- Outcome: 100% implementation and managed by someone else
Mapping out your objectives and goals in this way means you can clearly articulate your needs to potential agencies. Your agency should actively seek out your goals to determine your overall strategy. So, if they don’t – proceed with caution.
2. Have you done your research?
After you’ve nailed your goals and objectives, it’s time to research agencies and their offerings. This may include a Google Search, reaching out to your network or some recommendations you’ve received. Arrange virtual or in-person introductory meetings with a few agencies, to get a feel of how they operate and assess the general vibe.
Things to look out for during the research process:
- Do they have an up-to-date website? While we never recommend judging a book by its cover, it’s important that a digital marketing agency practices what they preach.
- Does their website showcase a credible list of clients & case studies that they have worked with? Note that many agencies need to sign NDAs with their clients, so they may not be able to showcase all their best work on their website – in that case, be sure to ask them verbally for other examples of what they have achieved.
- Do they provide additional resources to prove their credibility / expertise? The digital world is always evolving and your agency should be at the forefront of it.
- Who is the owner, founder or director? Jump on LinkedIn and learn more about them. Are they actively involved, are they sharing relevant content and are they up-to-date on happenings in the digital world?
3. Does the agency understand your business?
It’s not realistic to expect all agencies to understand every product and service immediately. However, the team need to show willingness to learn and get deep into your offering. Just as you learnt your company’s products and service when you first started, your agency will also need time to become fully immersed in your brand. A willingness and proactiveness to learn quickly are important.
4. Are they transparent & trustworthy?
Probably *the* most important consideration when choosing a marketing agency to partner with. The digital marketing world is full of ‘cowboys’. When you know what to look for, it’s not too hard to identify the credible from the phoneys. Some important areas to analyse:
- Do they give you clear and concise answers to your questions?
- Is it clear how you will be investing your budget?
- Do they have a solid reporting system so you can track your campaign performance?
- Do they have client testimonials displayed on their website, and are they willing to put you in direct contact with a current client?
- Do they make unrealistic promises?
- How readily accessible and contactable are they?
- How experienced is the team?
Having an open and honest conversation about this upfront will determine the long-term success of the partnership. Don’t shy away from this. Equally, ring the alarm bells if your potential agency tries to dodge and weave their way out of answering these types of questions. Make sure everything is crystal clear before starting any relationship.
5. Who are the people you’ll be working with?
Your agency should be actively working as an extension of your team, so you need to ensure the right culture fit from the start. Do you get a good energy from the people involved? Are they open to collaboration? Do they ask you the right questions?
Also, while specialisation is great, it is not always key. Learnings from different industries can be a good thing and will bring a fresh perspective to your brand.
6. Do their culture and values align with your own?
Great marketing agencies do not like to work alone. They want to partner with you, collaborate, communicate regularly. It’s important that the partnership is based on shared values.
Start by openly discussing:
- What are your values?
- Do you share the same business ethics and morals?
- How often do both parties prefer to meet for regular WIPs?
- Do you both value open, honest, constructive dialogue?
- Do you have similar or shared processes and structures to make the relationship smoother?
Communication really is key. If you think having a weekly/fortnightly meeting with your agency is consuming too much time, then the alternative is much worse.
7. Are they proactive?
You are busy. You have business to run, or a team to lead. Your agency should not be waiting to react to your requests. They should be actively recommending and proposing ideas to smash that next campaign, push that product launch further or repurpose that blog content in 10 different ways.
When you provide a brief to your agency, you should not expect that regurgitated back to you in a proposal or recommendation. Your agency should have taken the time to explore all possible avenues for success before they provide their recommended approach.
8. Will they do whatever it takes to deliver?
If you’ve been in business long enough, then you’ll know things are not always perfect. Things can change at the last minute. Projects can be briefed with short deadlines. Unusual requests can throw a campaign off-course. How does your agency respond to this? There are 2 approaches:
- With a sigh OR
- With a smile on their face, ready to challenge themselves and do whatever it takes to deliver for you
This is a game-changer. When you find an agency with a whatever-it-takes mindset, you’ll never look back.
9. Are they actively educating you?
The digital industry continues to move at an unprecedented pace. From Google algorithm updates, social media algorithm changes and the introduction of web 3.0 and NFTs – it can be easy to fall behind. That’s where your digital agency comes in. Partnering with digital agencies should afford the added value of always being made aware of the latest industry trends and updates. They should be actively educating themselves, so you don’t need to.
10. What additional value do they bring?
Most successful and high-performing agencies these days are full-service. So, will you be able to call on your agency for help with an event, videography, photography and sourcing merchandise for example? Can you simply call them for advice, direction and recommendations?
If you’re simply looking for a digital marketing agency, then you can choose any. If you’re looking for a true long-term partner to set you up for success, then opt for an agency that keeps delivering value at every possible opportunity.