How To Choose An Agency

Saturday, May 23, 2020

There are plenty of reasons why you might be considering hiring a digital marketing agency. Whether you’re looking to outsource all of your digital marketing needs or add to your existing in-house team, choosing the right digital agency means finding the best fit for your brand and your culture. But how do you make sure an agency is right for your business? 

Hiring the wrong agency can be an incredibly costly mistake. From the monthly retainer to the actual ad spend, it's easy to funnel lots of money into a bad ad. (Pssst. Lot’s of agencies will try to sell you on the fact that you’re getting great engagement and reach! That doesn’t matter! Focus on the right KPIs, mainly your ultimate goal!) To make the process easier, we’re sharing our tips on how to select the agency for your particular needs. 

Do the Internal Work 

Before you can ever go out and find the right agency, you’ll have to have looked internally first to see what you need. It’s important to look past what you assume you need, but to have a deeper understanding of your needs. Get specific. Is it SEO, a website redesign, social media organics, social media paid or all of the things? Ask straightforward questions then answer them as honestly as possible, and be sure to get these answers down on paper. You might want to let your future agency in on your thinking.

  • What are the main reasons for hiring an agency?
  • What is the objective of this partnership?
  • What kind of budget can you allot to this?
  • What team members will have the closest working relationships to the digital marketing team?
  • What kind of personalities mesh well with these team members?

No question is too specific when doing this exercise, so get specific; get your hands dirty and play in the mud – it’ll serve as a great measure of success later on.  

Selection Team, Assemble! 

Now, it’s important that you don’t just make the decision alone. Talk it out with a co-founder, mentor, project lead or your marketing team. As one of the greatest baseball coaches ever, Yogi Berra, said “When you get to the fork in the road, take it!”

Having input from trusted members will make it less likely you’ll fall for a shiny offer that turns out to be a dud. And if it does, well, you can always blame Karen from accounting. In this sense, the first selection process you need to make is that of an internal review team. Make sure you gather people that represent your team well and provide a diverse insight into your business operations. 

Set A Decision Deadline

A schedule is helpful in keeping people on the same page and the selection process moving at a healthy speed. Although you should be selective, the last thing you want is to draw this process out indefinitely. A selection schedule makes it easy for people to work around set times, while keeping everyone accountable and organized. We know startups and small businesses move fast, so just be sure that you took the time to make the decision.

Vetting the Agencies 

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to evaluate your offers. Here are some things that you’ll want in an agency and some red flags that should send you running far far away. 

Look for: 

  • An agency with experience within your niche or industry
  • Demonstrable success with past campaigns
  • A strong portfolio of work
  • Transparency 
  • An agency offering strong value for their cost
  • An agency with the right tools to run successful campaigns and analytics

Run from:

  • An agency with a low quality website
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of demonstrable success or past examples of work
  • Anyone offering instant results or making promises that sound (read are) too good to be true
  • An agency claiming to have a “secret formula,” a proprietary SEO approach or other such outlandish claims. (There is literally no such thing, it’s all BS...)

Common mistakes: 

  • Falling for a shiny offer
  • Going with a cheap agency over ones that offer the most value. Seriously, this always happens
  • Choosing a local agency – for no other reason than that they’re local 
  • Not doing enough research
  • Thinking you can navigate this on your own. It’s a lot harder than it looks!

These are just a few general points and red flags; it’s important to apply all of that internal soul searching you did as a business and figure out exactly how each agency matches your unique needs. For example, how is your current creative team going to work with these people? And, of course, don’t forget about Karen. What kind of expertise does each agency bring to the areas of your business that need the most help? Don’t be afraid to get specific. If an agency isn’t forthcoming with any information, trust your gut and walk away. 

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