5 Simple Steps to Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency for Your Small Business

Okay, 2020 passed by in a flash, and for many companies, exposed the importance of having a strong digital presence. For many companies, this year was the first time that they could no longer rely on people walking by and popping into their business. The world had moved completely digital, that is, unless you are a supermarket.

Facing an all new digital first landscape for your business may have highlighted that you weren’t quite ready. And don’t worry, this is nothing uncommon, which is why the search volume for terms relating to these services grew in 2020. Are you wondering how to hire a digital marketing agency for small business success? Well this article should provide some simple steps to send you in the right direction when selecting a small business digital marketing agency.

How to Select a Digital Marketing Agency

1. Look for Case Studies and Credible Testimonials

If a company doesn’t have any case studies it will be hard to know if they are the agency for you and your business. Without having case studies and testimonials, you won’t be able to judge the company on their past work. This is a vital part of selecting who you work with.

You are going to want to try and find small business marketing agencies that have worked with a mixture of the following: small to medium size businesses as well as large businesses. Look out for logos and case studies from international brands. Why? You might ask. This is because larger companies will have a far stricter barrier to entry and a better system for outsourcing portions of their business such as the marketing. Signs that companies have worked with these bigger brands will tell you that they will have already gone through a pre-qualification phase with a company that should, in theory, have a well established hiring process.

Of course, to support your business, you are also going to want to know that the company has worked with other businesses similar to yours. This can be businesses that are in the same niche (but don’t compete directly) as well as businesses similar in size and with a target audience that aligns. If the company shows success in your key target audience, it highlights promise for your future campaigns.

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2. Ask for References

This naturally follows the case studies and credibility piece, but before working with an agency, ask if you could receive a reference from one of their current or past clients.

If someone is not willing to give your references or is unable to, this could be a sign that they haven’t done well for any of their past clients. The reason being is that, generally, when giving references clients will only talk about the positives. It is understandable that many clients would not want to for privacy or even scheduling reasons, but a simple email reference should be attainable.

Now, you don’t need to call the references, but instead you can simply ask for an email introduction and ask the person to share their experience in private.

3. Look for Strategic Implementers

Strategy, imagination and execution. You are going to want to target these three traits within your account manager and the company that you work with.

Of course, the strategy should be the backbone of your campaign. You are going to want a company that can come up with well thought out and actionable strategies for your campaign. But the real key point is the execution. There is no point having presentation and meeting after meeting, discussing strategy, if none of it gets executed.

It does not matter how smart the team is that you are working with. If they don’t know how to take it from idea to action, they are never going to get results.

Of course, it may be hard to tell this before hiring, but look for proposals and discussion that not only highlight the ideas for your business, but also the path to actioning those ideas. The company needs to know HOW to implement those changes and to bring that strategy into your business, into your campaigns or into your online presence, otherwise you are effectively paying for a DIY book of nice ideas.

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4. Hire for the company, not the founder

This may seem like a bit of a strange one, but it is a vital point. In the age of the digital guru this has become even more prevalent than ever. It doesn’t matter if the founder of the company is a big name or has a large online following, what is important is the team that reports to that person.

Although they may oversee the top line strategy and take a peek into each of the campaigns, they aren’t going to be the ones involved in the day to day success of your campaigns. Try to identify that the people who will be working with you, do in fact, know more than you. You can do this in your initial calls and meetings, buy asking them open ended questions on strategy and vision related topics.

We can actually reference a past example of this, where we lost a client whose campaigns were performing very well. They attended a large 2 day seminar from one of the world’s most recognisable personal development coaches, or “gurus” as he can be known. After a 2 day long seminar which cost thousands of US Dollars, they were sold into joining the sub company of the guru, which he had founded to help other people become successful online coaches. Filled with inspiration fed by the seminar they handed in their notice to our team, however, after just 2 months they returned to us as they had a lack of results versus expectations as well as quickly realised that is wasn’t the guru who would be involved with their campaigns. – in fact, they never even were able to have a meeting with said guru.

Hire for the team’s knowledge, not the brand or name behind it.

5. Establish Your Line of Communication and Boundaries

A key part which is often overlooked, but one that can make or break your campaign. Ensuring you can have regular, scheduled and structured communication can help both your company and the company you are working with and is a key component of success when working with a small business digital marketing agency.

You need to be clear and open about how often you will be having calls, when these will be and with who. You also need to establish what will be communicated within those calls.

This will help you to not only keep the campaigns on track and for the marketing agency to feedback any questions and highlight key opportunities – but it will also help to give you peace of mind. You will have a clear picture of where your money is being spent, and how this is impacting your business.

It has no benefit for both parties if you are communicating via whatsapp, email or any other line of communication too frequently, constantly having to ask questions and making suggestions. Keep this communication to a pre-planned meeting and allow the company to have room to implement the strategy that you had agreed upon.

Having communication will allow you to be informed not only when things aren’t going as planned, or there is an obstacle in the way that needs to be addressed, it will also allow for you to celebrate each milestone and KPI with your outsourced digital marketing agency.

This article was shared by
Ben Foster
Creative Director