What To Look For & Avoid When Choosing A Digital Marketing Agency

Give Your Business The Marketing it Deserves

You’ve spent countless hours on your business, pouring your attention into nurturing it from an idea into a living thing, and now you’ve grown so much it’s time to entrust your digital marketing to someone else. 

It’s a bit like sending your child off to school for the first time: you want to make sure before they go that it’s a safe environment, well-staffed with qualified teachers, and with a reputation for both quality education and compassion. 

You do your due diligence with school visits and online research, and only when you’re satisfied that this is the right choice will you sign on the dotted line. 

Choosing a marketing agency involves a similar process: due diligence is essential to ensure you’ve got the right people taking care of your business’ advertising, whose values and goals align with yours and who treat it as if it’s their own. 

Unlike schools, however, that must meet codes for compliance and regulation, digital marketing can sometimes feel like the Wild West. 

So how can you tell if an agency will live up to their promises and deliver results? 

These are the red flags to avoid, and what to look for instead, in your search for a digital marketing agency.

Avoid: They overwhelm you with jargon

You should be able to understand broadly what they do, how they do it, and why, without having to Google each new word under the table during your meeting. 

Using jargon could be their way of showing their expertise, but it’s no good if you can’t understand what’s going on in your own campaigns. You may have to ask them to translate their jargon or use simplified terms so you can keep up with what’s happening.

Look For: They make you feel empowered and confident

You want to find an agency that speaks in a language you understand, so you can feel empowered and confident in your marketing decisions. 

A good agency will be able to explain their processes in a way that you can easily comprehend, so you don’t ever feel like you can’t keep up.

Avoid: Their promises sound too good to be true and can’t be backed up with evidence

Anything that sounds too good to be true should be questioned. The question to ask is: can they back up their claims with case studies or hard evidence? 

If they say they can deliver growth in a short time, do they have case studies showcasing how they’ve accomplished this before for other businesses? 

There are no guarantees in digital marketing and any promises made – for example, ranking #1 on Google or doubling your leads in 30 days – need to be questioned critically. It’s a common tactic to win business, but should be an immediate red flag.

Look For: Reviews, testimonials and case studies to prove their effectiveness

Always ask to see reviews, testimonials and case studies as evidence of past success – a good agency will be more than happy to prove their value in such a way. 

Good agencies will also be hesitant about over-promising or guaranteeing specific results (such as ranking #1 on Google), because they know that results like this depend on so many factors that it’s almost impossible to keep this guarantee.

Avoid: Their own marketing isn’t very effective

If you’re looking for a personal trainer, you’d want someone fit and strong who practices what they preach, right? The same thing goes for a marketing agency. 

Take a look at their own marketing, and take particular notice of where their ads appear and how effectively they reach out to you. Are their ads well made? Are they relevant and specific to your needs? Are they a good example of what you’d like for your own business?

Look For: They market themselves in the same way you’d like for your business

Look for companies with strong marketing campaigns that provide a functional example of how you’d like to see your own business marketed. Look for their Google Ads, their Facebook Ads, and their remarketing campaign to see how they operate across different channels. 

Alternatively, you can also look to their case studies to see examples of how they’ve marketed other businesses, to get a taste of their capabilities and strengths.

Avoid: They don’t ask questions or dig for data

Data is the heart of digital marketing – it tells us what is working and how, what needs optimisation and where, and allows us to test alternatives to fine-tune our results. 

A marketing agency that doesn’t ask questions or dig for data isn’t going to be able to deliver effective long-term results, because their work will be based on guesses and assumptions, as opposed to fact.

Look For: They use data as the backbone of their strategy

Good agencies know the right questions to ask, and depend on data to make decisions. They’ll be proactive with their solutions based on what the data tells them is needed. 

Look for an agency that will take the time to get to know your business, your target audience, and your goals, and use all of this to direct their strategy.

Avoid: Their communication leaves you guessing

A major sticking point for many businesses and agencies is communication. Red flags in communication include vague reporting, showing only a narrow view of results, and long delays in response times. 

They might take days to respond to your queries or to make changes in your campaigns, or pass you around from person to person within their team so you never really know who you’re dealing with. This can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Look For: Clear, timely communications

Seek out a company that delivers clear, timely communications and comprehensive reports so you know exactly what’s being done with your investment, and what to expect from your returns.

Avoid: They promise the same results as their competitors for half the price

A good deal is tempting, but in digital marketing, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and if they’re able to charge half what their competitors are, you have to question how. 

It could be that they’re just starting out, or it could be that they use black hat tactics that could work in the short term but will do long term damage to the online credibility of your business.

Look For: Bespoke pricing that is calculated for your business needs

Digital marketing is an investment, and you have every right to question how an agency is using your investment to deliver its results. 

Your costs should be calculated based on your needs and budget, to help your business to reach its goals as efficiently as possible.

When to stick & when to quit your agency relationship

When you’re in the early days of working with a new agency, you need to bear in mind that digital marketing does take time to show results – around 3 to 6 months in many cases – so some patience is required before you can determine their effectiveness. 

This is also why doing your due diligence at the outset is so important: so you can ensure you’ve chosen a good investment of your time and resources, and your business is getting the attention it deserves. 

At any stage of your relationship with your agency, you should feel confident and empowered to ask questions, understand your campaigns, and make informed decisions about your business’ marketing. 

If your agency has failed to meet agreed expectations within an agreed timeline, it may be time to have some tough conversations about what’s going wrong and why, and whether it’s time to look elsewhere for support. 

When choosing your next digital marketing partner, remember to recheck this list for what to look for and what to avoid, and if you have any questions – we’re here to help.

Give your business the marketing it deserves and talk with the team at Sprocket!

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