How to pick the correct Digital Marketing Agency for your business
12th May, 2022
Many business owners have recognised that the practice of digital marketing can’t be ignored any longer. Although digital marketing mediums are the most cost-effective marketing mediums, digital marketing presents a myriad of challenges including skill, time and a shift in strategising for all marketers.
Digital marketing mediums are fundamentally different from traditional marketing in that:
- Traditional marketing “tells” and digital marketing “listens”. The way a business markets themselves digitally, has to evolve to the digital channel they are marketing on, has to be technically sound and has to target the right audience.
- Sales teams and marketers alike, need to understand and adjust to the types of leads generated digitally versus traditionally. A social media lead is fundamentally different to a website form inquiry, purely because different digital marketing channels serve different parts of the digital marketing funnel.
- Digital never sleeps, making time of the essence. Today’s consumers seek instant gratification and real-time responses more than in any other era. This reality requires proactive and reactive dynamic teams to cater to consumer needs.
- There are so many digital marketing channels that all serve a different purpose and operate to platform-unique algorithms. A digital marketing team needs to understand each digital channel’s technical best-practice standards and how to translate the business’s marketing strategy effectively, through each digital channel identified as an effective medium for their business.
It is for this reason that many businesses seek the services of a digital marketing agency to plan, execute and manage their digital marketing function. A digital marketing agency employs a team of skilled, certified and dynamic digital marketers that all specialise in particular digital marketing fields, including, but not limited to: Web developers, SEO specialists, Google Ads Specialists, Social Media Specialists, Digital Marketing Strategists, Copywriters, Digital Content Creators and much more.
However, many business owners and business executives struggle to find the most suitable digital marketing agency to cater to their needs. In this article, we aim to assist you through the process of picking the best digital marketing agency for your business.
What to observe before engaging with a digital marketing agency
As much as internet users have grown exponentially in South Africa since 2019, so has the business opportunity to open a digital marketing agency. Some specialising in particular digital disciplines such as social media agencies or SEO agencies and others presenting a full range of digital marketing services. However, the biggest shift in the digital marketing industry is the rise of freelancers. Freelance sites like Bark and Fiverr have thousands of listed freelancers all over the world, with active profiles, ready to take on any project cost-effectively and in relatively short time frames.
All of these options make it difficult for a business to pick the best digital marketing service provider.
In your research phase, regardless of the type of agency or digital marketing service provider you choose, you should observe the following:
- When was the agency established or when did the freelancer start practising digital marketing?
The mass job losses realised in South Africa due to the national state of disaster and multitude of covid-19 lockdown revised regulations, created an influx of new digital marketing agencies and digital marketing freelancers. A newer digital marketer often lacks the industry knowledge and experience than a more seasoned digital marketer can offer.
- What certifications does the agency or freelancer hold?
The biggest misconception about digital marketing is that you don't need to be qualified to execute a digital marketing strategy. The reality is, that most digital publishers like Google and Facebook require one to hold their platform-specific qualifications. They even offer their qualifications for free. Albeit, time-consuming, a qualification for the digital marketing services you are seeking, should be a prerequisite when picking your service provider.
- What does the agency or freelancer’s digital marketing landscape look like?
The digital marketing industry is technical and complicated, but still in its infancy of market maturation. This has created a massive need for digital marketing education and knowledge, but it has also created a negative stigma around digital marketing as many digital marketers don’t practice what they preach. If you are looking for a website developer, analyse the developer’s website. If you are looking for a social media agency, analyse the agency’s social media presence. If you are looking for an integrated digital marketing agency, analyse all their digital marketing efforts i.e. their Google Ads presence, organic ranking, social media presence and website content.
Once you are sure that the service providers you are researching have a track record, are qualified and are actively digitally marketing themselves, you can create a short list of digital marketing service providers to start engaging with.
What to observe during the engagement with short-listed potential digital marketing agencies
Regardless of the type of agency or digital marketing services you are seeking, there are core fundamentals that any digital marketing professional should explain and cover from the onset of your engagement. Digital marketing is simply a marketing medium, much like television, print media, radio or out-of-home. The differentiators include cost, measurability and technicality. But be that as it may, digital marketing is as much a vessel to translate your marketing strategy as any other marketing medium.
Therefore, make a conscious effort to note if your short-listed service providers are asking the following questions:
- What is the full range of products or services you offer?
- Who is the perceived target audience and what is your key messaging to each audience segment?
- Who are your top competitors and why?
- What makes your business unique or different to your competitors?
- What marketing objectives would you like to achieve through your digital marketing efforts?
A professional will use the above information provided to audit your current or previous digital activity as well as current digital health. The research phase should form the foundation of the digital marketing strategy and services proposed. Understand fully what the proposed scope of work is and how the efforts employed will assist in achieving your overall marketing objectives.
Questions to ask your digital marketing agency ahead of signing a contract
You have now successfully identified a service provider that will effectively assist you with your digital marketing efforts.
However, whether a short-term project or a longer-term agreement, you will most likely be required to accept a contract of sorts. Below is a list of questions to ask your digital marketing agency, ahead of signing the contract:
- What is the scope of work, applicable rates and deadline dates proposed?
It is important that expectations are clearly documented between client and digital marketing agency. Understand which services and skills you are purchasing, what the competitive or comparable rates are and when your line items should be delivered by. Digital marketers cost the work out according to time needed, skill needed and level of effort required to complete the project. Make sure that you and your agency are on the same page as far as this is concerned.
- What are the payment terms applicable, and if not adhered to, the repercussion?
Most business owners are unaware that global publishers like Google and Facebook require an upfront payment ahead of campaigns going live. Most digital marketing agencies will therefore bill for services in-advance and will expect full upfront payment ahead of execution. On projects outside of digital marketing campaigns that require a particular skill - like website development or content production, a 50% deposit will be required to commence the work and balance payable ahead of final delivery.
- What are the applicable cancellation or termination terms and conditions?
Every agency is different, but the industry norm on termination of a signed agreement is one calendar month’s notice. In order to execute a digital marketing strategy effectively, digital assets need to be set-up and technically sound. This includes your website, social media pages, tracking accounts like Google Analytics, and advertising accounts like Google Ads and Facebook Business Manager (to mention a few). It is very difficult for a digital marketing professional to ensure all work is completed and assets released without sufficient notice. Likewise, it is also unnecessary to sign long term contracts in excess of 12 months. Digital marketing success is based on data and you should be re-strategizing your digital marketing efforts at least every 12 months.
- What will happen to your digital assets if the agreement is cancelled or terminated?
Understand the scope of this very clearly before signing any contract. The reality is, all previously owned accounts that you granted your agency access to, should be returned to you, upon final settlement of your account. This includes items like:
- Your website and website content
- Your tracking accounts like Google Analytics
- Your social media pages
- Your advertising accounts like Facebook Business Manager or Google Ads. It is important to note that your agency will invest much intellectual property in setting up campaigns through your advertising accounts. Therefore, the account does need to be returned to you, but they don’t need to return the assets with the agency built campaigns still in them. Also, your agency won't be able to return the ad accounts until their payments profile or cards have been removed from the accounts and replaced with another payment profile that you are able to manage.
It is important to build a relationship of trust with your digital marketing agency. Communicate effectively about the relationship you would like to have, the way you would like to work and what makes you feel uncomfortable or comfortable. If your relationship is based on effective communication, you should be able to establish a great successful working relationship with your agency.
How to manage the relationship, scope of work, deadlines and deliverables with your chosen digital marketing agency
First and foremost, establish a relationship of trust. Hiring a digital marketing agency can seem invasive to a business owner. Your agency will need to gain access to your digital marketing assets and will be exposed to much of your business’s customer, sales and marketing data.
This shouldn’t make you feel vulnerable, but rather that the data accumulated and analysed is in turn used to improve your digital marketing performance.
Secondly, ensure that there are always clear lines of communication. Remember, Digital Marketers are experts at Digital Marketing. You, however, are the expert on your business. Ensure that you and your agency have regular catch-up meetings to analyse reporting and the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts. Also, make time to analyse the operational workings of your digital marketing function. Discuss ways of improving your collaboration and reducing operational time and costs. Also, ensure that you schedule conversations about changes within your business and how they could affect your digital marketing performance, or how your digital marketing performance is affecting your business operations.
Lastly, seek to understand and build your knowledge about digital marketing. Ask your agency as many questions as you need to, about the various digital marketing disciplines and how they can be applied to your business. Understand from the on-set, that you will be embarking on an educational journey with your agency learning about industry best practices, platform or algorithm updates as well as the time it takes to effectively construct a successful digital marketing campaign.
It is important to hold your digital marketing agency accountable for the scope of work, deadlines and deliverables they have proposed. But it is just as important to hold yourself and your business accountable for the same things, in the relationship.
Employing a digital marketing agency can be a daunting task for any business owner. However, choosing a digital marketing agency that you can build a great working relationship with, has the correct skill, qualification and experience will gear your business towards substantial growth in achieving your marketing objectives.
In our next article, we will address the top frequently asked questions about digital marketing agencies, but if you have additional questions to ask or require more information, feel free to contact us for a no-obligation consultation.