by Ekaterina Elliott on August 4, 2018 | Digital Marketing Resources

We’ve all been there. Looming targets, creeping quarterly reviews, results dwindling. We know we have to get help, but we just don’t know where to start. Picking a digital marketing agency to run your digital marketing – either all or some of it – is a daunting task. Why? Because it’s your neck that’s on the line if things go sour. But they won’t. Not if you know how to pick the right agency for your business.

Read on to discover what essential elements you need to consider before you pick an agency which will transform those looming targets and smash them out of the proverbial park.


Can you trust them? Do they make it all about YOU?

The number one thing, hands down, is trust. Who are you getting in bed with? If the agency makes you feel safe, secure and confident, then you’ve found the right one. How have they made sure that you feel this? Through solid communication, complete openness and data driven results to back up their claims and research. Typically, an agency will ask you specific questions in order to understand your business. This is essential in establishing trust and reflects well when an agency wants to dig deep about

YOU and YOUR problems and YOUR needs. Expect to hear things like;

  • What’s your current media budget?
  • What channels are performing?
  • What pressure are you receiving from upper mgmt.?
  • How do you prioritise between campaigns?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What’s your forecasted/ideal ROI?

You should feel like the agency’s number one priority. If you feel like they have treated you like the next guy, used a standard pitch template or simply skipped over important business objectives you’ve communicated clearly, this is a red flag. Make sure you can trust them, and actually feel it.


Seamless storytelling with hard data to back it up

A great way to understand what an agency can do for you is look at what they’ve done in the past. Ask them questions about who they’ve worked with, what industries they are familiar with and look for similarities. Ask to hear about the data behind the results.

You don’t want to be fanatic and reject an agency simply because they work with a competitor of yours either. Working with competitors is a good thing. The agency will know exactly where the hot points are, what the target market looks like, what language they speak and most importantly – have made past mistakes on accounts which aren’t yours. Perfect. Ask questions like;

  • Who else do you work with?
  • What’s worked well in the past?
  • Do you have any stand out stories/clients?
  • What’s the best lead generation strategy for my industry that you’ve seen?
  • What are some insights you have from working with our competitors?
  • What’s the advantage here of you working with XXX company?

A professional + skilled agency will be able to answer all those questions honestly and you should feel like they are telling the truth and trust them to do as good if not a better job with your account. Remember it’s about you. If you feel worried that the agency is working with a particular brand, ask them about what that would mean for your relationship. Gauge their answer and you’ll know if you can trust them. More often than not, it’s a great asset that an agency is working with your competitors because it means they already know things about your market which they can apply straight away to get you results. Back this up with data and you have a winner.


Do they think outside the box?

This is a big one and perhaps less quantifiable than the others. How do you even know what thinking outside the box is when you’re not quite sure what the box itself is? This doesn’t necessarily mean the agency will come up with an entirely new strategy. You can only try so many combinations of PPC, SEO, Social, EDMs… A great agency will give you fresh perspective about your brand, your voice and new messaging. They will come up with new ways of tearing apart your personas to arrive at the core of their problems. The new perspective will come from a new line of questioning. The agency will get on a call with your sales or customer success teams and really understand who your target market is and their biggest problems. Then they will revise the messaging to be more in line with your target markets actual needs. This is where the outside the box thinking comes in. To get some zany, fresh ideas, expect to hear questions like;

  • What’s the real life problem your market is facing?
  • How have you communicated your USP?
  • What’s your sales process?
  • At what point is the decision made to engage with your product/service?
  • How are you introducing your brand to cold prospects?
  • Can you describe in 25 words or less what your product/service is and what its main benefit is?

Usually there’s a special workshop dedicated to discovery and question probing. Expect these to go for a minimum of two hours. The ideal agency will come organised and with an expert team of professional probers who know how to get underneath your kneejerk answers to really get down to the core of what matters. Only then, can your fresh, new messaging be released onto your unsuspecting audience.


Team matters – who’s working with you?

Look. It doesn’t matter if the agency employs Batman – if he’s not working on your account then he’s not saving your Gotham. Find out exactly who the primary contacts are, who will be managing your account and ask questions about the specialists, their backgrounds, what different things they bring to the table. These people are going to make or break the campaign. It’s not abstract awards and relics of times past which will carry your campaigns to success. What, or rather WHO, will get you results is the people working behind the scenes to set up your campaigns, write your ad copy, strategise with the wider team etc. Know who you’re getting in bed with. It’ll make your life that much easier. You should be asking;

  • Who’s working on my account?
  • What have they done before?
  • How does their particular expertise stand out?
  • How often can I expect to be in contact with my account manager/specialist?
  • Will they come to the more technical meetings/if I need to present to my boss?
  • Will they answer my questions directly or skirt around unfavourable results?

Be sure you know who’s behind the scenes. It’s the people that make the agency so invest a little bit of time into understanding who they are. You’ll also want to understand their culture a little so as to gauge what the general vibe of the office is, how they problem solve as a team and their approach to collaboration. With that sorted, you’re ready to establish a grounding, trusting relationship!


Cost does not equal value – how to understand what you’re really paying for

Most of the time cost and value dance together in an alluring and sometimes unclear tango. Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s good. Or, just because the price is high and there’s only one benefit being delivered, doesn’t mean that the value of that benefit isn’t worth it. You’ll need to use your intuition and understanding of the industry here before you make a decision. Have a look at what the agency is actually offering. Move beyond the strategy, the channels, the people, the investment. What’s the ROI and what does it mean for your business? Is the investment clearly a winner? Will it give to you what you need? It’s hard to suggest ways to understand this without knowing your business objectives, but think of cost v value this way;

  • Will this engagement benefit your marketing strategy overall?
  • Can you see how this engagement will have a positive impact on sales?
  • Would you be happy to recommend this to the boss? Why?
  • Are you comfortable standing by your decision to engage this agency?
  • Does the agency offer accountability and have they covered all the risk?
  • Do you feel like they understand your business and its needs and will put them first in devising strategy?

You want resounding “yes” to the above. This is how you know you trust the agency and in turn, that they will provide value. It’s with the trust that the value will come. You trust them to do what they need to do to get you the results that you need. Simples.

A final tip – watch out for agencies who pitch their strengths instead of your needs. The conversation should ALWAYS be about you and what you need, not what the agency does well. Only anecdotal references should be sprinkled in your comms about past success – the rest is all about YOU.

Well, are you ready to pick your perfect agency? Did we mention we are on the lookout for new clients?

Give one of our consultants a call to answer any final questions you may have. Remember, it’s all about you, so take your time choosing the right agency! Because when you will, you’ll wonder how you ever did without.



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