A digital marketing agency can serve as an external marketing team. Choosing one can be a challenge. If you google “How to choose a digital marketing agency,” you’ll find lots of articles, some published as contributions to business news sites like Inc and Forbes, some blogs on their own websites, written by people who work at digital marketing agencies.
They’re likely trying to steer you in the direction of an agency like theirs.
This is not one of those articles.
Yes, Alaniz Marketing is a digital marketing agency. But really there is no universal formula for picking an agency that will work for every business. There are some commonly listed requirements that may have been true before the digital revolution that just aren’t true now. Here are three of them.
- They should have experience in your niche. “The more experience the better in your niche,” writes John Lincoln in Inc. Lincoln owns Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing agency. Yes, domain experience can be helpful. But it’s more important that the agency knows how to help any business grow revenue and thought leadership. More important are your metrics for success, what the agency has accomplished for clients with similar goals, and how long it took to reach those goals. John Brennan, writing in the blog for the digital marketing agency Vital, gets it right: “The best digital marketing agencies are experts at becoming experts.” Amen! To be fair, before the content explosion on the web, it was more difficult to become an expert on a market or industry.
- They should drive results. This isn’t a myth in and of itself. It’s just something every agency will say, for good reason. Ironpaper, a digital marketing agency, has a blog titled, “How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency that will Drive Results.” Find an agency that ties itself to your bottom line. Otherwise, you’ll end up with “fluffy” metrics that don’t really drive business objectives forward.” I can’t imagine any digital marketing agency, or any business of any kind for that matter, that would say it is not accountable for results. In the same article, Ironpaper rightly says that you need to be clear on this question: “What is your main goal in hiring a digital marketing agency?” You need to agree on what results matter most. Accountability for results goes both ways, and shared accountability works better than one-way accountability. An agency can only be successful if a) you agree on the goals; and b) you agree on what is required by both the client and agency to reach those goals.
- Evaluate their own marketing. This is a tricky one. Should a marketing agency excel at marketing for itself? SingleGrain thinks so. “One of the best signs about an agency that will indicate what they can do for your business are the results they’ve generated for themselves.” Perhaps, if the agency has a dedicated internal marketing team. On the other hand, according to Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz, “Most of the very good companies, the ones that are in high demand, the ones that do consistently great work and get great referrals, they’re overwhelmed with clients all the time because their clients refer them to people and lots of people in their network refer folks to them.”
References: No Myth Here
Now, on the other hand, almost every article on how to find a digital marketing agency encourages you to check references. “References really matter,” John Lincoln says. They do. If a company doesn’t have clients that will rave about it, that’s a big concern. But consider this, do you like being asked to give references? It’s time-consuming and disruptive. So many firms, ours included, give references at the point where you’re doing to diligence to confirm that you’d made the right choice, not during the discovery process. We respect the time of our clients too much to use them for information rather than confirmation.
Special Hint: A great question to ask of an agency is, “can you give me an example of something that went wrong and how it got fixed?” No one is perfect. If an agency is afraid to talk about mistakes or miscues, it might lack the transparency you will need for a productive relationship. You should ask the same question of the client when conducting references. If their stories match, that’s a very good sign.