As most savvy business owners know, digital marketing has become is a very important piece of one’s marketing mix and overall growth strategy. Some businesses work with an agency, some do it in-house, but sadly, some aren’t doing digital marketing at all either because they’ve tried and failed, are uncertain about how to select a reputable agency or are just too baffled by the whole thing. If you’re among the group of business owners who is not doing digital marketing currently, or are unsure about your agency’s performance, below are some tips on how to select and manage a digital marketing agency.

With so many agencies coming at you with so many messages with so many claims in so many formats, it’s not surprising that business owners are confused and frustrated about moving into digital marketing. How do you know who’s the best? Who’s the real deal? Do they even care about digital marketing, or is it just another revenue stream or at worst, a get-rich-quick scheme? These are all valid concerns because many agencies are either brand new at this or have recently added digital marketing to their mix of services. You might be surprised at how many big names are jumping into the game without bringing in experts to do the job… but we won’t name names here!

In banking, loan officers evaluate credit risk by their clients’ willingness and ability to repay loans. In marketing, we evaluate agencies by their willingness and ability to deliver expert digital marketing solutions. The industry is filled with entrepreneurs anxious to get into the digital marketing game. Most have good intentions but some do not. Even among the agencies who are truly interested in doing a good job, many have little to no experience. So how can you identify the agencies who care enough and know enough to do a good job for you? Here are a few tips and if you questions you can ask to help identify agencies that will be looking out for your best interest and will have the capabilities to drive good performance for your business.

First and foremost, find out how long the agency has been in business and research all claims relating to certifications, partnerships and awards. Make sure that any agency you work with has experience in your industry. If they do they should be able to provide you with references, ad examples, and more detailed data like keyword performance for similar clients. Ask about service levels including the frequency of reports and scheduled calls. Many agencies operate with a “set it and forget it” plan. That is, they get your contract, launch the account and then set it on autopilot, freeing up their time to chase new accounts… because in many cases, spending time getting new accounts is far more important than optimizing and managing existing ones. So, always ask how often your advertising accounts are going to be optimized and ask for a list of tactics that they utilize to improve performance on a regular basis; with regular being at least weekly. Ask if the reports are customized according to what you need to see. Are they fully automated or is there a narrative that spells out what they are doing to improve your performance on a regular basis? Does the agency you work rely on contractors or overseas help? This can be dangerous for lots of reasons not the least of which is inexperience with your market. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of talented people all over the world but when it comes to marketing in the US, especially if your business is local or regional, an overseas resource is not going to understand the finer points of effective marketing including ad creative, demographic and lifestyle targeting, and geofencing high-performing neighborhoods. Find out exactly who will be managing your account and research that person’s level of experience and qualifications. Some of the largest agencies are the worst offenders when it comes to delivering quality account management. They bring in one big gun with great experience, plaster those qualifications all over their website and in their marketing collateral and even task that big gun to help close your account. But once they have the deal sealed, you may find yourself working with an ever-rotating set of newly minted college grads who really have no clue about digital marketing or marketing in general. So again, ask specifically about who will be working on your account. Last but not least, avoid one-year commitments; six months is plenty of time to fully optimize a digital marketing effort.

If you do your homework when researching potential digital marketing agencies, you are far more likely to have a good experience and excellent results. If you are unhappy or unsure about your current digital marketing efforts please give us a shout and we would be happy to evaluate your efforts and give you some suggestions …on the house.