If you’re in the market for a digital marketing agency, this post is for you. Digital marketing agencies are easy to find. Most have a unique perspective, but often times that perspective can act as a deterrent from what really matters, strategy and performance.

Our goal with this post is to provide you with the right questions and knowledge to move forward in your journey. Oftentimes, agencies require long term commitments from the word go. It’s important that you make the right choice in finding a viable partner.

#1: Overall Digital Marketing Strategy

Your strategy discussion shouldn’t wait until the onboarding process. It’s NEVER a good idea for a business to spread out their digital efforts to various agencies. Not only is it more expensive, but it’s very costly and inefficient.

The agency that’s pitching for your business should be discussing a full funnel strategy. Those digital marketing efforts should involve multiple channels and multiple strategies. If you’re hearing one off pitches, for one off channels, turn and run. Every channel represents another touch point with your target market. Your messaging better work cross channel.

Bundling services with one agency makes sense for another reason. Keeping the work together also keeps the strategy together. For example, knowing the SEO team can share data with the Paid Media team is going to assure synchrony in messaging, keyword collaboration and assisted conversion funnel expansion. Think about it. If you were building a house, would you hire ten different contractors to lay ten different areas of the foundation? Or, would you hire one contractor to lay the foundation for the entire house?

#2: Account and Project Managers

This may seem like a no brainer, but many agencies just don’t see, or are willing to pay for the value of a project and account manager. They are expensive and that cost will be passed along to you. Which most agencies know that by forgoing this expense they are more likely to get your attention. Yet, that cost is well worth it.

Account managers are not just responsible for helping you spend more money. Account managers are also responsible for understanding your goals, internal and external collaboration, the success of your project, foreseeing opportunities, challenges and keeping a healthy relationship with you. Without these things, your account will simply be a number in a spreadsheet.

Word to the wise. Most agencies have vastly different definitions of account managers. It’s only fair that you know what you’re walking into. Be sure to challenge your sales rep with many questions, including the job description of your account manager.

Project managers may not be as flashy, but they are equally important. Project managers are responsible for keeping the entire team, internal and external, on target. Without a project manager, someone will be surely wearing that hat, ever extending themselves and undeserving your account.

#3: Subject Matter Experts

Real agencies will be serving your entire digital marketing strategy. This will include PPC, paid social media, organic or search engine optimization, lead nurture, email strategy, conversion rate optimization and even reputation management. This takes a lot of work, and to truly be efficient, a subject matter expert is needed for each division.

Dig as deep as you can during the sales process to find out about your prospective agencies’ internal structure.What you’d like to see is multiple subject matter experts working solely on their own area of expertise. Be careful in your selection process that the firms your deciding from are not stretching their employees to thin, across multiple channels. You want to employ focused experts, who can collaborate internally with other departments, but stick to working in one area.

#4: Similar Industry Case Studies & Analytics View

Don’t be shy about challenging results. You should have already been given a number of case studies, or prime examples of their best work. Always take the time to dig a little deeper into those results. Learn exactly what actionable items were completed to accumulate such amazing numbers. If it passes the sniff test, chances are it’s a reputable example.

Digital marketing agencies are plentiful. Make sure your selection has vast experience in or have worked in similar markets as your industry. With every new industry, comes a new audience persona. You want to be sure the chosen agency has experience adapting to new markets. Or better yet, that they have experience in your particular market!

#5: A Commitment to Numbers & Results

As sure as star athletes will repeat the line ‘at the end of the day,’ digital marketing agencies will shower you with ‘while we can’t guarantee the same results.’ Blah, blah, blah! Agencies should not be scared to commit themselves to a result. In fact, results are what we strive for at GlacierCode, and those times we don’t hit them are just as valuable as those times that we do. There is always something to learn from not seeing the numbers you expected, which ultimately drives long term, sustainable success.

#6: Paid Media Ad Spend Fees

Reading the fine print doesn’t help a whole lot if you’re not sure what to look for. Unfortunately, some agencies get sneaky with their ad management fees. They’ll reel you in with a flat fee for ‘maintenance’ and then tack on a percentage of the cost per click. Bottom line, you should ONLY be paying a management fee, nothing on top of that. .

A healthy structure for Paid Media Management fees is something like the following:

  1. Channels included: search, social and display
  2. Services included: optimization, pacing and strategy
  3. Minimum fee tiers: $1,000-$3,000 (depending on agency and contract terms)
  4. Baseline fee of 15% (kicks in if minimum fee is surpassed), decreases percentage points as ad spend reaches certain thresholds.
  5. An Example:
    1. Family Dentistry spends $10,000 in search, $7,000 in social and $13,000 in display.
    2. Total spend is $30,000.
    3. Agency charges a minimum fee of $2,000 or 15%, whichever is greater.
    4. Total fee is $4,500, or 15% of $30,000

#7: Organic SEO Results (Diving Deeper Into Engagement)

Search Engine Optimization is tricky business. SEO experts are a lot like doctors. They’ve forgotten more about their practice then you’ll ever learn, so most of the time they’ll be using terms you don’t recognize. Yet, there’s one major difference. To be an SEO expert does not require a license, or more importantly, malpractice insurance. Anyone with vocal chords and a hefty bunch of courage can walk outside right now and scream at the top of their lungs, ‘I’m an SEO expert!’ And it would be true.

You have to find an expert you trust with your life, literally. As well, you have to monitor their efforts. For example, if they’re claiming performance is up because total sessions are up, then verify that it’s the kind of performance you want. Here are a few questions to do that:

  1. Sessions from which channels are up?
  2. Are Organic sessions up?
  3. What about unique sessions, the ones that matter?
  4. Has bounce rate moved up or down with the new traffic?
  5. What search queries are driving this new traffic?
  6. What do pages per session look like?
  7. Most importantly, are leads or revenue increasing from this channel?

You may not be familiar with any of these concepts and that’s ok. They should still be able to answer you. If you really want to be able to look under the hood of your own website, we would recommend taking the Google Analytics certification course.

#8: Process: From Link Building to Content Execution

Another great sniff test here. You’re a business owner, or marketing manager of some sort. You understand process and how difficult it is to keep everything glued together. Keep an eye out for process and how things will get done. If you find yourself poking holes in one item after another, this is a sign of things to come. Again, turn and run.

#9: Innovation: What Exactly Sets Your Digital Marketing Agency Apart?

As we mentioned, digital marketing agencies have been manifesting quicker then bubbles out of an electric bubble machine. Because the industry is so competitive, most are about as stable as one of those bubbles. The fact is, if an agency hasn’t found their own secret sauce, it’s all too easy for the next bubble to come along and under cut them on price.

#10: Negotiating Room?

Digital marketing strategies are hard work. You may have budget limitations, as we all do. A word of caution, if you’re asking for pricing flexibility and getting it, then you’re in trouble. Knowledgeable agencies know exactly how long it takes to build a reputable online presence. If they’re willing to slash their prices just to keep you from running out the door, or worse to get you to put ink to paper, then one of two things is true. Either they were over priced to begin with or they will cut out essential steps to developing your digital marketing strategy.

Don’t try to drive a hard bargain. Instead, focus on driving towards the right agency. Raise your frequency to the level of success you want to achieve and require that the parties who work with you raise theirs frequency to match yours.

In Conclusion

Choosing a digital marketing agency is a difficult process. If your not familiar with the field, you need to know what to look for and what questions to ask. Don’t be shy when it comes to intaragating prospective agencies. Focus on their strategies, value propositions, internal structure, pricing structure and case studies.

Most importantly, your next agency needs to know your #1, above all else goal, which 99.99% of the time will be revenue. If they are not learning that information immediately, then they are not the choice.

Best of luck!