When it comes to appointing your digital marketing agency, there are a number of things that run through your mind. For many business owners, it is a daunting and challenging process. Often the biggest fear amongst business owners is that they will have the wool pulled over their eyes, that perhaps, in something akin to Mad Men, they will be signing off million-pound campaigns before the ink has dried on that incredibly long-term contract they will undoubtedly make you sign. Having worked in digital agencies for nearly ten years, I am somewhat ashamed by the reputation given to them, particularly when it comes to smaller businesses. The reality is, of course, that there is rarely smoke without fire. No doubt in the past agencies have “sold the dream” to small business owners, only to leave them under-serviced and condemned to the “one-year” scrapheap.
My intention is neither to defend marketing agencies nor to scare small businesses away from them. I genuinely believe that the right agency partner can offer qualities unlikely to be found in-house. If you are thinking about appointing an agency, I believe that the following points need to be taken into consideration.
Do you actually need one?
Appointing a digital agency should be for the right reasons, not just because you think it is the done thing. The most typical reason for hiring an agency is because of a lack of skilled resources in-house. If you are not going to gain either skills or useful manpower, then you most likely don’t need an agency. Other reasons for getting an agency partner might be; access to expensive tools and software, access to industry thought leaders, access to industry events, sophisticated reporting and modelling.
Have a thorough selection process
Signing on with a marketing agency is often an investment in excess of £24K a year, sometimes much more. With this in mind, make sure that you spend time building a brief, detailing everything that you are looking to achieve from your agency. Once the brief has been completed, make sure you engage with at least three different agencies, as you need to have a sample to compare. Set realistic deadlines and live dates. Ideally, you need to give your shortlisted agencies a couple of weeks to put a proposal together which will add value; if you rush them, then your proposals will be poor and generic.
Make sure your agency is a specialist
Too many times I have heard clients work with agencies because they have worked on something else for them in the past: “I use John’s agency for SEO work, they once did some great work on some press advertising and I enjoyed working with them.” You are working with an agency because you need experts, don’t accept anything but experts. One way of ensuring that your chosen agency can do the work they are proposing is by asking for references, ideally ones you can speak to yourself.
Make sure you are set up to manage your new agency
Having a marketing agency doesn’t mean that you no longer have to think about marketing. Agencies are employed to advise and deliver, but they will almost always require a point of contact at your business on a day-to-day basis. Any changes to your website, spending budgets and marketing strategies are likely to require sign-off from the client. On a weekly and monthly basis, the client will need to review reports and attend follow-up meetings. The closer the agency and the client can work together, the better. If you are looking to simply shift your marketing efforts away from your to-do list, you might find that an agency is not the way forward.
Don’t expect miracles
Many agencies find themselves in deep water with their clients after just a short period of time working together, the reason being that expectations are so high. Just because you appoint a marketing agency doesn’t mean that you will suddenly take over the world. Progress is not always that simple, and even a good marketing agency may only be able to make small improvements to your overall business. The key here is to set KPIs and forecasts at the start of the partnership, make sure both parties are in agreement and then use these same metrics to assess whether your agency is doing a good job or not.
If you are still not feeling confident about this next step, then why not get in touch with Clicksmith. We offer impartial advice on how to choose your agency and the key questions to ask. We can also be involved in the brief and pitch stage, so that you can be 100% sure that your next agency will be the right one.
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