How to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Agency for Your Business – Entrepreneur

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By Sergio Alvarez
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
If you’ve ever done the marketing agency shuffle — hopping from agency to agency trying to find one that meets your expectations — then you know how hard it can be to start new campaigns over again. But what if you could go into your next season equipped with the knowledge to select the right digital marketing agency for your business?
First, get clear on your goals. For an agency to be successful, they need to have one clear guiding light to follow. Conflicting goals for marketing campaigns are common (even expected), as each department has its own priorities — but this is kryptonite to a successful digital campaign. While you can certainly have more than one goal, the main goal needs to be distinct and clear. The others can fit in after.
Next up, decide who within your company is going to take the lead on the communications. As multiple competing goals can lead to chaos, so can multiple and conflicting voices from the client. While multiple stakeholders can have a say in the partnership, there needs to be clarity about who is taking the lead.
Related: 5 Tips for Finding the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your Business
In today’s world, we are spoiled for choice in seeking out digital agencies. However, some key considerations will help you find the right fit for your business:
1. The range of services: It’s unlikely that you’ll find a single agency specializing in services that will help you achieve your goals. Having more than one digital marketing agency on board is okay, but ensure that they’re not working against each other or overlapping too significantly.
The decision about which agency should take the lead will ultimately be guided by the range of services that best match your identified overriding goal. Be transparent about the role each agency plays.
2. Industry experience: It may be tempting to base your decision solely on an agency’s experience in your industry. While previous industry knowledge is beneficial, that alone doesn’t ensure a successful partnership. Often, understanding how digital platforms fit into multiple industries is more beneficial. Broader experience sets bring an understanding of how various customer journeys play out across the board.
3. Honest references: Glowing references are great, but they aren’t everything. It’s the clients that are no longer working with those agencies that will offer a true understanding of their brands.
Ask openly about why clients have canceled. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but it will give you two vital pieces of information. First, you’ll get an immediate understanding of their willingness to be transparent. And secondly, you’ll get a feel for how well that agency fits with your brand.
Another clarifying point is whether the agency actually knows why their clients are no longer with them. Not taking the time to find out speaks volumes.
4. Analytical capabilities: Data is everything, especially in paid media. A digital marketing agency that relies solely on platform-specific analytics is a red flag. That is not a holistic attribution, and you will never really know how your campaign has fared if those are the only attribution capabilities they employ. It’s crucial to ask how they analyze data, what attribution platforms they use and how often campaigns are being optimized based on the analysis.
5. Cultural fit: Your chosen digital marketing agency needs to align with your organization’s culture. The agency is essentially your voice in the digital realm, so they need to communicate the same brand strategy that you would. Communication style and business philosophies should be similar for the partnership to be successful. For instance, a digital marketing agency focused on traditional strategies may not partner well with an innovative brand eager to explore new and unconventional strategies.
Related: 4 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Marketing Agency
A lot of work goes into starting the journey with a new agency. And there is often a lot of emotional buy-in — so, if you don’t see the results you’d expected within a timeframe you deem acceptable, it may be tempting to make an emotional decision, cut ties and move on.
Before you do, though, ask yourself if the results you expected were clearly communicated upfront. Did you define success for the agency, or was the image only in your mind? Secondly, is the timeframe you’ve allotted for these results to develop realistic? Digital marketing strategies do not show overnight results, and even when they do, they may not be sustainable in the long term. To avoid unnecessary conflict, expectations should be determined upfront. Define success and the milestones for that success before starting. Then, narrow down a realistic timeline based on other campaigns in your industry.
Even when these aspects are clearly communicated, there may be unavoidable influences that get in the way of achieving success with your chosen agency in the expected timeframe. If this happens, consider whether you can shift focus with the existing agency rather than starting afresh with another. When tweaking these levers, it’s vital to ensure that you are actually looking at the right data to support your decisions. But, most importantly, if you choose an agency capable of holistically analyzing data, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Ideally, you don’t want to jump from one digital marketing agency to another. Long-term partnerships built on careful consideration, clear communication of goals and transparent reporting and follow-through will ultimately serve your business, the agency and your customers. The longer you are able to foster such a symbiotic relationship, the greater the opportunity for your agency to really become a part of your team, and the more likely it is that your customers will reap the benefits of a synchronized brand voice that understands their journey.
Related: The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly: Which Type of Digital Marketing Company is Pitching You?
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