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How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency

Whether you’ve been handling your marketing in-house or are disappointed by your current agency, choosing a new digital marketing agency can seem like a daunting task. Besides trying to figure out who will best help your business and who you can afford, you also need to consider the relational aspect of a partnership. You don’t want to choose a digital marketing agency that doesn’t know what they’re doing, and you certainly don’t want to be stuck working with a bunch of jerks.

The following tips will help in your search for the right digital marketing agency for your company.


Where to Look for a Digital Agency Partner

Google Partners – While accreditation from the other search engines – Bing, Yahoo!, etc. – should not be overlooked, Google has developed a fantastic database of their partner agencies. It shows how many people at the agency are certified and in what categories – search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video ads, shopping and GoogleAnalytics IQ – as well as minimum monthly budgets the agencies work with. It is a great tool for finding agencies that are backed by the legitimacy and trust factor of Google.

Referrals – It’s important to understand what the experience of working with an agency will be like. Referrals from peers or other agencies are a great way to find out more about an agency, with all of the marketing and salesmanship removed. Unlike the quantitative results you would derive from a simple search, referrals tend to give you a better idea about what it’s actually like to work with someone. Are they pleasant? Responsive? Do they get involved, or are they far removed from the clients they work with? Referrals can bring to light these more qualitative and personal experiences.

Search – This is how we do things these days, isn’t it? So how can you utilize a search engine to find an agency? Be specific. Searching for “digital marketing agency” gives you 155,000,000 results, including a ton of different types of agencies. Meanwhile, a long tail search such as “b2b digital marketing agency Chicago area” cuts the results to 3,590,000. Chances are that the top agencies listed will be a much better fit for you and your needs.


What to Look for in a Digital Marketing Agency

Credibility – Does the agency have a decent website? A terrible site should be a red flag for any advertising agency, and especially an online marketing agency. Does their website include client logos and testimonials? Most do. Do they have experience in your field? With similar-sized companies? Are their reviews positive? Do their testimonials seem authentic? Are they certified in a variety of disciplines? Have they won awards? All of these things are factors that help build credibility. Certainly there are great agencies that might not meet all of these standards, but if too many red flags are raised, it would be wise to take notice and reconsider.

Case Studies – Case studies give you real-life examples of what an agency can do. So if you can’t find any on an agency’s website, make sure you ask them for examples of how they’ve helped their clients achieve success. Look for real, lasting results, and pay attention to the strategy which drove those results. Was the agency thinking outside the box and developing a custom marketing strategy for the client, or did they apply a cookie cutter program that barely moved the needle? If an agency can’t provide any case studies, that should be a major red flag.

Expertise – The whole purpose of going with an agency is that they’re the experts. Have them prove it. Get a sense of their skills. They handle search and paid social media marketing; can they also handle content marketing? What about web design and email marketing? Do you have confidence that they can take over your analytics?  Before you hand over your marketing efforts, you’ll want to be sure that an agency can handle your immediate and future marketing campaigns.

Vibe – Go meet with an agency at their office. Take a look around and talk to some of the team members. Have a casual conversation with the people who would be managing your account. What is the agency’s vibe? Are the people good communicators? Are they friendly? Do they seem like they enjoy speaking with you and helping you, or do they seem annoyed and frustrated? Paying attention to these often overlooked intangibles will help give you a much clearer picture of what working with the agency will be like.


What To Ask for When Seeking Agency Proposals

Audit – Give agencies the opportunity to prove themselves. An audit is a great way to allow them to do so, and also provides you with insights into improvements you should be making to your marketing. It’s a win-win. The more an agency uncovers during an audit, the more they probably want to work with you, and the more likely it’ll be that they pay closer attention to detail in managing your account should you become their client.

Experience – Ask the agency team what outside experience they’ve had. Diversity of thought is very important in digital marketing, and those innovative ideas are often sparked by previous experience. Outside experience is also important in helping to develop empathy, as your account team must have a solid understanding of the challenges you face every day in order to provide valuable solutions. Agencies that have experience working on both sides of the client-agency relationship will often have a great advantage in providing real life solutions.

Passion – Passion is one of those words that has been so overused that it has lost much of its power. Allow us to throw it out there once more. Ask  potential agency partners what gets them excited about your business and about working with you. Ask what industry innovations they find fascinating. Since people love talking about things they find exciting, this will help develop a personal connection and comfort level. It will also give you great insights into what would motivate them as your account team to help you succeed. If their answers focus on things that benefit them – ego, awards, making more money, etc. – you will know that they are driven by personal gain and your success is an afterthought. But if they are driven by passion – curiosity, genuine interest in your business, desire to be on the cutting-edge of innovation, etc. – they are more likely to help you succeed. What do we not mean by passion? Don’t ask if they are passionate about keyword bidding or title tag optimization. Anyone who says they are is either a liar or crazy.


The Best Fit For You

These are just a few of the things to consider when searching for a new digital marketing agency. Consider what you want from your agency partner. Everybody wants something a little different from their agency relationship, so make a list of the tangible and intangible must-haves, and then utilize this post to expand your list and go find an agency that meets your needs.

It might even be us. Lever Interactive offers a different agency experience, one centered on your growth as a true partner. We might not be the right fit for everyone, but we’re experts at what we do and awesome to work with.


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