Essential Steps to Evaluate a Digital Marketing Agency

by Josh Yang  October 7, 2021

A digital marketing agency is a valuable business partner; they develop a multifaceted strategy to target your customers, build relationships, and improve your overall success. They target a variety of tactics but ultimately develop your company’s marketing efforts. Choosing the right agency isn’t always a simple task. You need to trust your agency to make critical decisions for your brand. The wrong agency can mean catastrophic results, wasted time, and capital spent on ineffective efforts.

Knowing how to evaluate a digital marketing agency can connect you with a company in line with your vision. They’ll bring a seamless customer experience to your company without sacrificing your ideas in the process.

Always Do Your Research Before Hiring

Knowing what you need from a digital marketing agency is imperative. Maybe you need help with online content, or perhaps you have no plan for the foreseeable future. Determining the level of involvement required isn’t just recommended; it’s a requirement. Agencies offer a wide array of services, depending on your goals. If you only need piecework for an online campaign, tell them that. If you’re hoping for a more hands-on approach, discuss a monthly retainer with your contact. Establish your goals and direction before you contact different agencies.

Establish The Agency’s Definition of Success

Any reputable company isn’t focused on likes, followers, or social metrics. They understand the big picture for your brand, which starts with a cohesive strategy. Building your digital footprint takes time and often can’t be measured exclusively by statistics or page views. Ask the company to outline its definition of a successful campaign or target. If needed, they can explain their thoughts on the campaign and help you determine adequate goals moving forward.

Ask Them About Industry Experience

You wouldn’t want a baker responsible for repairing your car’s transmission, would you? A digital marketing agency is going to have specific industries they’re experienced within. Ask each company for past clients within your industry and how you helped them achieve their goals. If they have any case studies available, read through each of them carefully. If a company can’t produce a previous client, ask them how they anticipate decoding the industry without prior experience. Any experienced agency will have previous experience or a willingness to perform industry analysis before beginning.

Evaluate Reviews, References, and Feedback

Although confidentiality agreements may prevent listing all clients within the agency, most companies are happy to forward a few references if you ask. Ask the contact about their experiences working with the marketing representative—question the best and worst parts of the agency and any tips for a new client.

If the agency assigns a specific point of contact, run a background check on the agent. A background check will validate any educational degrees, certificates, courses, or diplomas achieved by the representative. It will also confirm that the individual you’re working with is in control of their finances. While this may seem superficial, companies within the financial niche need to maintain a solid public image.

Understand the Entire Fee Structure

The fee structure for your digital marketing services is going to vary, depending on the agency. Ask the representative to clarify how your budget is spent throughout the month. Agencies will often work on a percentage basis for advertisements (with 10%-30% being the industry standard), per piece (usually this will break down as per-word pricing), or through a monthly retainer. If you’re paying for a monthly service, inquire about an emailed breakdown of services. Many agencies work on a ‘pay before’ schedule, requiring the monthly payment in full before starting services.

Figure Out the Contract Terms

A contract is a legally binding agreement, so you must understand the entire document. Contracts often include legal jargon that is difficult to comprehend without counsel. Before signing, always confer with a lawyer. Make sure any contract terms are fair and reasonable, without steep penalties for early termination. Some key questions to ask include:

  • Will I be locked in for a year of service, or does the agency offer a 15-day cancellation process?
  • What happens if I’m unhappy with the results?
  • Where is the company physically located?
  • Do you outsource their contracts? If so, who will be writing my content?
  • Can I suggest topics for content creation?

Find an Agency That’s Comfortable with Questions

As a prospective client, you need to feel heard and appreciated. A strong sales pitch is only going to work if you’re confident in their services. Ask the agency questions about their process. Know how long it’s going to take to see results, especially with organic marketing efforts. Any company that promises immediate results is either lying or using methods that could get you barred from search results.

You want to find a company that clicks with your company and vision while still being approachable. If you feel rushed, hurried, or disregarded by asking questions, move on to the next agency. You want to find a company that makes time for potential customers, even if that means answering endless questions.

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