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When it comes to hiring a digital marketing agency, we know it can be difficult. The below 6 tips to hire a good digital marketing agency could help save you from hiring the wrong partner. There are a lot of digital marketing agencies to choose from, each with unique teams, skills, offerings, rules, limitations, stipulations, promises, and guarantees. So how do you see through it all and hire a good digital marketing agency? We have assembled a list of qualities to look for while shopping for a new digital marketing agency. These also apply to an agency you may already be working with.

Hire a Good Digital Marketing Agency

1. Reputation – In today’s world where information is vastly accessible, it’s important to do some homework to understand a company’s reputation. In most cases, a company will have online reviews on Google, Facebook, or other platforms. In addition, there are platforms like Glassdoor, Better Business Bureau, etc. that can be revealing. For example, one of our clients came to Mosaic eMarketing from an agency they previously worked with. They left the last agency due to a very poor experience. When we Googled that agencies name plus “fraud”, the results were telling. We redacted their name below to be fair, but with some quick research we found red flags that could have been caught prior to engaging with this agency. Invest time into some basic due diligence and make sure you don’t find any red flags like the below.

In addition, make sure they are certified with Google, and/or the other marketing platforms they plan to work in.

6 tips to hire a good digital marketing agency

2. Communication – This one might be difficult to understand prior to working with a digital marketing agency. Once you enter that relationship you will quickly find out how responsive they are, but how do you get a read on this before agreeing to work with a digital marketing agency?

  • Take note during discovery – Make sure to ask questions during the discovery process. How quick were they to answer those? Are they being answered by a sales team, or the team that would be performing work? If by a sales team, I would ask to speak with the people who would be managing your account and follow through on the next bullet below.
  • Ask about communication – Ask them if they have any internal policies, or practices when it comes to client communication. Try to understand if they value communication and welcome an open line of communication and not just a scheduled one-off monthly meeting.

Based on our experiences in working with our clients that have come from other digital marketing agencies, communication was often a relationship breaker. We hear a lot about “the agency was unresponsive”, and “response times were extremely long”, and “they were not good at communicating the work that was being performed”. I was once in a meeting with a potential new client, who is now an outstanding client, where I was debriefing them on what we found and how we thought we could help them achieve their goals. After the presentation the first question asked was “will you respond to our emails, because the agency we work with now does not.” This seems like the easiest thing to get right, but so many agencies get it wrong.

3. Ownership and your best interest – These two things go hand in hand. When we say “ownership”, we mean make sure that whatever a company sets up for you, you own it and not them. Below is a list of common things we see agencies maintain ownership of, through legal language in agreements their client’s sign. Often people reviewing the legal documents don’t know any better, and it’s never disclosed otherwise.

  • Websites
  • Mobile Apps
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Facebook Ad accounts
  • Google Ad accounts
  • Etc.

Agencies will do this to make it hard for their clients to leave. “How can I leave, my website will go away and I’ll have to invest in a new one.”, or “If I leave, I’ll lose all my historical web analytics.”. See … it creates an issue if you want to take your services elsewhere. We believe this is the WRONG way to do business.

I just heard a horror story last week where a large franchise, which supported thousands of franchises, wanted to leave their digital marketing agency for a new one. The issue was the agency owned their website, their back-office system, and everything on the list above. To move to a new agency, they basically had to start over. They decided to do so anyway, and it took them 6+ months, plus a big investment, to establish everything again before they could cut ties with the other agency.

Regarding the “your best interest” line, the ownership dilemma is the difference between your best interest vs. the agencies best interest. In addition to the above, we often see agencies try to sell business on what makes most sense for the agency, not the business. For example, if your goal is customer acquisition, make sure the strategies and recommendations they provide are tailed to customer acquisition, and not something else like “impressions”, “clicks”, “engagement”, etc.

Same with web development. Is the platform they are developing on a common platform that other agencies and professionals can manage or is it a home grown platform only the agency can own and manage?

I know this can be tricky to see through for people who are not digital marketing savvy. To that person, I would say make sure you know your goals of a program, make sure they set up tracking to understand how the program(s) are meeting those goals, and don’t let them sell you on doesn’t feel right.

One cleaver way to potentially get a read on an agency is to throw out an odd ball scenario. Something you know might not be in your best interest, or counter productive to your goal. If they push back and let you know why it’s not a good idea, that’s a good sign. If they see it as an opportunity to sell you something and don’t advise against it, that’s not a good sign.

4. Transparency and results – This one is straight forward. Make sure they offer reporting that clearly shows how your money is being spent, how much their fees are, and if the program is generating the results towards the desired actions. I know of a handful of agencies that sell “packages” for set amounts. For example, “give us $10,000/ month and we will launch and manage a Google Ads search marketing program.” They then will provide reporting that lumps that $10,000 into the total cost and never disclose how much of that $10,000 is going towards marketing spend vs. how much is going towards management fees. The unfortunate part of it is, in almost all cases, the agency will do that to take a much higher management fee than what’s average. One large agency that I know of that does this takes 60% of the total to pay themselves, which is outrageous! They will also spin the data to look favorable. “Look, we generated 1 million impressions!” The problem is, were they the right impressions, and did they generate business?”.

For example, WordStream publishes and updates Google Ad benchmarks by industry. This will give you an idea if they are below par, on par, or above par in your industry.

Transparency also applies to the work they are doing on your account, and in other aspects of digital marketing like web design, development, and all other project-based work.

5. Program Management – The beauty of digital marketing is the vast access of on demand analytics we can leverage to drive continually optimizations and improvements. We see it all to often, we audit an account, or take over an account from another agency, and the agency basically just “set it and forget it”. They don’t dig into the data, they don’t test, they don’t optimize, they don’t try to achieve better. Ask the digital marketing agency questions about how they approach management. Do they just take the clients feedback and only focus on that, or are they also proactive in testing, tuning, and driving incremental improvements? Ask questions about how they test, what their testing cadence is, how they optimize, what their optimization cadence is, and what do they focus on to drive optimizations?

6. Flexibility – Working with a digital marketing agency should not be a one-way relationship. Yes, you are paying them to perform work, but it should go beyond that. Make sure the marketing agency is flexible in the below ways:

  • Can you adjust budgets on demand with no penalty?
  • Can you stop a marketing program, and relaunch on demand with no penalty?
  • Do you own everything they build for you?
  • Can they adapt and be flexible enough to meet all of you digital marketing needs?
  • Do they allow for some flexibility in the agreement, and not nickel and dime you to death?
  • If something is not working, can you pivot to something else with no penalty?
  • Do they require a term contract?
    Side note on this one. Terms contracts are a not always a bad thing. If you have full confidence in the agency, you are hiring and a term contract is mandatory, then that’s a personal preference if you want to sign it.

We hope this information helps you hire a good digital marketing agency. If you are interested in getting a quote or audit from the Mosaic eMarketing team, we would love to chat! We check all of the boxes above.

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