Selecting a digital marketing agency for your business is not a trivial undertaking. You are seeking to establish a long-term relationship with a company that will design and probably implement a social marketing strategy that reveals your business to the world. That’s a big deal. Not just any company can do it well. You want to discover the best digital marketing agency that can represent your business in an absolutely amazing way.
Here are some major considerations to ponder before you interview and select a digital marketing agency. And, as a bonus, one thing you should NOT overemphasize when seeking a digital marketing firm, and what you SHOULD emphasize instead.

Consider Your Company’s Needs

Before beginning your search for a digital marketing company, you must know your needs in the digital marketing realm. Do you need a full line of services that include demographic research, content creation, and social media account management? Or can you handle some of the basics and just need a few helps along the way? It’s important to know what you need, so you can shop accordingly. Some agencies only offer certain services, while some may require all or nothing – complete control of your digital marketing strategy.
Begin by making a list of everything you need but cannot do (or do not wish to do) yourself. Your list may include:

  • Analytics
  • Blogging
  • Content marketing
  • Creating content
  • Email marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • Online advertising
  • Public relations
  • Search engine marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media management/marketing
  • Website development/coding
  • ..

Know what you need and be ready to discuss each area intelligently with each digital marketing firm you interview. This will require doing some research and becoming somewhat knowledgeable on these topics.

Consider Each Digital Marketing Agency’s Strengths

All digital marketing agencies are not created equal. Size doesn’t always translate into effectiveness. Knowing your needs will allow you to measure them against an agency’s strengths. Expertise in your particular market can be a plus; just avoid boilerplate solutions that “work for other, similar clients.” However, don’t be afraid to venture out to interview firms that do not have clients in your industry. Often, a smaller firm will be willing to do the necessary study to learn your business and become a valuable partner.
Review each firm’s previous work for other clients. Are they creative? Do they embody different voices well? Have they done work that you admire, even outside your industry? How is their own social media presence? Does it model value and consistency? Examine the style and voice of their blog content. What about video content? By what metrics do they measure success? Are you seeking similar growth in your business?

Consider the Price

Most often, price will be determined through contract negotiation in consideration of what services you require. From the outset of negotiations, put your desired quote on a spectrum instead of sticking to a hard number. Place the high end of the spectrum at your absolute top budget amount. Leave room for negotiating different contract lengths or dropping services to maintain your budget.
Bear this important point in mind: as a lower-paying client, you will probably not enjoy the services of the firm’s top people, especially if they freelance a good deal of their talent, or pay employees a percentage of each client’s portfolio. If you want top-level talent, be prepared to pay top dollar fees. Those who only pay peanuts attract monkeys.

Consider When to Hold and When to Fold

Your hard-earned money is at stake, as well as the reputation of your business. Don’t be afraid to break off negotiations if things are not going in your favor. There are many digital marketing agencies available. Set realistic standards and be clear about the direction of your company. The right agency for your business will be enthusiastic about your company and its vision, and how they can contribute to its success. If you get negative vibes at any point through the interview or negotiation process, go with your gut and walk away.
Stay firm to your convictions and budget restrictions. Companies are not built in a day, and your search for the right digital marketing agency will also take time and patience. Being adamant doesn’t mean you have to be rude. In fact, your courteous manner of refusal may influence the firm in question to revise their position in order to work with you. The right firm will be a good fit and enjoy a better outcome for all parties involved.

Bonus: What NOT to overemphasize and what you SHOULD emphasize instead

We touched on this a bit in the content above, but let’s examine something you should avoid overemphasizing, and something you should seek to emphasize instead.

“Does your firm possess experience in my specific industry?”

You may ask this question, but getting hung up on it is unwise. Here’s why. “Industry experience” is overrated when searching for a digital marketing firm. Why would a popular shoe company seeking a new digital marketing partner restrict their search only to other firms who specialize in marketing shoes? If you have the budget to support hiring the best, why not open the door wide to any and all experienced agencies, regardless of any claimed ‘specialization’?
Some digital marketing agencies may build their reputation around specializing in one industry or vertical market, but this usually means they think they have found the ‘formula’ that works for that industry. Instead of seeking to create something unique for each client, they tend to fall back on what has worked for others; a kind of boilerplate design, one-solution-fits-all. Do you want mediocre solutions that make your company look like everyone else?
Focusing too much on the “industry experience” question puts the focus on what makes you similar to other businesses in your industry. Instead, here’s a much better question to ask:

“How can your firm make me stand apart from the rest of my competition?”

In any successful marketing strategy the emphasis is on celebrating what makes your business different from the rest of the pack. What makes you special and unique? A smart digital marketing agency will seek to discover your unique selling proposition and how that can be emphasized at every step of the marketing process. After all, you began your company with an idea that you could do it (whatever ‘it’ is in your business) better, faster, safer, etc. than the competition. Shouldn’t that be the primary hook on which to hang your marketing efforts?
What other tips or suggestions do you have for choosing a digital marketing agency for your small business? Share your thoughts with our readers in the comments below.

About the Author: Donna Amos

I believe you can achieve anything you truly want to achieve. “It might sound trite, but time and time again, I’ve seen it happen with my clients. They overcome the fear of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure to creating profitable exciting businesses. My clients do great work, and sometimes it only takes someone else believing in them to give them the confidence to step out and take the chance.”