So you’ve decided to start your own business, and need to get your name out there as soon as possible. On the flip side, maybe your business has been up-and-running for some time, but it’s still not getting the traction you would like. You’ve realized that you need a better digital marketing strategy—or have to create one from scratch—but don’t know how to choose a digital marketing agency. You aren’t even sure if you need a digital marketing firm at all.
The truth is, it’s hard to get ahead and gain visibility online in 2021 without the help of specialized professionals. This guide will help you figure out why you should have the assistance of a marketing agency—rather than go it alone or hire in-house—and how to make sure you choose the right firm for your needs.
Why Do You Need an Online Marketing Agency?
Why should your business hire a digital marketing firm? Doesn’t it make more sense to have an in-house team that is involved with the inner workings of your business? Maybe you should handle your marketing yourself. Then you don’t have to worry about anyone messing with your messaging.
While a hands-off approach might sound like it doesn’t make sense on the surface, it is the best decision you could make for your business. Here are the reasons why.
Knowledge and Attention
As a business owner, how much marketing expertise do you have? Even if you know the ins and outs of digital marketing, can you honestly say that you have the time to make a fantastic digital strategy? While 47% of small business owners run their own digital marketing campaigns, almost 50% of small businesses spend less than two hours each week on their marketing.
Even business owners who understand that marketing is important don’t have the time to implement a large-scale marketing plan. Some simply don’t understand the time it takes to implement digital marketing techniques the right way. That’s okay. Marketing isn’t their specialty. That’s why it’s important to have marketing specialists on board for whom marketing is a full-time job.
While an in-house team can work for some businesses, it isn’t usually the best route to follow. You still need to have systems and processes in place to build your team, which means less time spent running your core business and more time spent figuring out how digital marketing works.
You may also find that the cost of hiring an ads expert, a social media manager, a website designer, and all of the other professionals that you should have on your in-house team is not worth the cost.
A digital marketing agency has the know-how and the time to take your marketing to the next level. This is what marketing teams do all day. Since they specialize in this line of work, you stand to benefit from ongoing, one-on-one support, and an expansive experience and knowledge base.
Have you been spending time on market research for your company? It’s likely that you haven’t.
The great thing about hiring an agency is that they are used to market research. It’s important to zone in on your target audience members and what makes them tick so you can speak to them via your marketing content. Since you don’t have the time to accomplish this, having a marketing agency to do it for you can work wonders.
Another important element to consider: hiring a digital marketing firm typically sets you back the same amount as paying one full-time employee. This means that you are gaining the assistance of a full marketing team for the price of one in-house professional. What’s more, these professionals already know how to help businesses like yours without much work on your end.
Look at the services offered by SociallyInfused Media. You’d have to pay at least three or four people to handle these elements in-house, whereas you get them all at once from the agency.
You don’t have to worry about hiring, training, or paying a group of employees. All you have to do is choose one high-quality marketing firm and leave the rest up to its team!
In most circumstances, enlisting a digital marketing agency to partner with is a great investment—as long as you choose the right one. At a minimum, you should find a digital marketing company that meets the following requirements:
- The team understands your business and audience.
- The team has the time and resources to confidently get started on your marketing strategy.
- The agency aims to save your business time and money in the long run while delivering on your KPIs.
Are you ready to enjoy all three of these benefits? Finding a leading marketing firm is the best way to get there. Looking for the following criteria will help you ensure that your main requirements are easily met.
How to Choose the Right Online Marketing Firm for Your Business
Now you know why you should hire a web marketing company.
But, how can you find the right one to suit your needs and help you see a return on your investment? Here are some qualities that you should keep in mind when looking for the right web marketing firm.
Remember how helpful it can be to hire an agency that knows what it’s doing? It’s always a good idea to review a firm’s website before choosing to make contact. By looking at their portfolio, services, and team members, you can typically get a feel for the company’s knowledge base and experience level. If it doesn’t seem like your business would be a good fit, it’s time to move on.
As an example, SociallyInfused Media’s website has a full portfolio page with examples grouped by project type. This allows you to quickly get an idea of what your final results may look like when you work with the agency and what types of successes a firm has had. We’re also edgy, cheeky, and fairly liberal — does that align with your brand image?
As a business owner, you already understand that no company pleases its customers 100% of the time. That being said, you want to work with an agency that has had more happy clients than unhappy ones.
While you are scoping out websites, take a look at the testimonial sections, if there are any. You can also look up the companies to find Google reviews. If you can’t find any feedback, or the reviews that are present seem to be too glowing—AKA fake—you might want to trust your gut and look elsewhere.
As a side note, it can also help to see if an agency responds to its clients on negative reviews. If there is respectful dialogue occurring, it can be a sign that the firm owns up to its mistakes and does everything it can to restore trust in its clients. If there’s nothing there, or there are rude replies, you are better off taking the negative feedback at face value and looking for a more trustworthy agency.
What marketing elements does your business need to incorporate right now to improve its digital footprint? Do you need in-depth assistance with your hack-job DIY SEO? Are you looking to outsource your social media marketing? Maybe you need some new blog content. Once you answer these questions, you can start looking for a digital marketing company that understands your needs and can fulfill them.
Some common services that agencies provide include the following:
- Search engine optimization [SEO]
- Paid advertising
- Social media management
- Website design and development
- Content creation
- Branding and graphic design
If you need a little bit of everything for your business’s digital marketing, many agencies can handle the majority of the legwork. Just make sure that you and the agency are on the same page before you sign any contracts or pay for any services.
As a business owner, you know it’s important to stay abreast of new developments in your field. In the same vein, you want to make sure that any firm you work with is up-to-date on the latest trends in digital marketing and knows how to implement them. For instance, crucial onpage marketing strategies that convert are always changing. So are social media trends, website design standards, and Google’s search algorithms.
Checking out an agency’s website can help you get a feel for its level of technical savvy. Reading the firm’s blog or news pages is another way to find out how serious an agency is about staying up-to-date in 2021.
See how SociallyInfused Media’s website has both a Blog section and a News & Press section? Having these types of pages on its site shows that an agency cares about keeping its clients and potential clients informed on marketing news and trends.
Looking out for these core strengths can help you choose an agency that is right for your business’s digital marketing requirements. If all goes well, your chosen agency will be able to bring new ideas to the table and allow your business to compete online in a more innovative way.
Values That Mesh With Yours
What do you value most about your business? What is your company culture like? Having clear answers to these questions is important before you choose a marketing agency. You want to make sure that the company you work with is similar to you and your company where values and culture are concerned.
It’s hard for two parties to form a mutually beneficial and productive working relationship when they aren’t on the same page. Making sure you click with the team that you could be working with for years to come is one of the most important steps you can take while working on your marketing strategy.
Variety of Services
This was touched on above, but it’s important to remind you that you need to ensure that an agency can meet your marketing goals. If you require new content for your blog, you don’t want to work with an agency that only handles web design, and vice versa.
There are many different agencies to meet specific or broad marketing needs. A little Google research will help you weed out the ones who can’t help you. You may even find that you have to work with more than one agency to get the specific results you are looking for, and that’s okay. Many reliable firms will be happy to refer you for any services that they aren’t able to perform with confidence.
Red Flags to Look For When Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency
When it comes to choosing a marketing firm, it’s important to look out for negatives as well as positives. Several warning signs will signal you to steer clear of a marketing agency. Here are some of the most important ones that you should keep an eye out for.
Black Hat Techniques
While many agencies succumb to black hat SEO techniques to save time and boost rankings for businesses small and large, the potential damage involved is not worth the risk. Black hat techniques involve less-than-ethical tactics to boost a business’s ranking on search engines. Some suggestions a black hat-friendly agency might make to your business include the following:
- Buy backlinks
- Hide links or text on your website to boost SEO
- Use cloaking or sneaky redirects
- Utilize keyword stuffing in your content
- Automate content
- Spin articles
Black hat SEO typically leads to lower quality content. It can also cause a variety of headaches for businesses down the road. Google often penalizes websites that are caught using black hat techniques. This can cost a business thousands of dollars and take them weeks, months, or even years to recover from. While the false promises of black hat techniques may seem enticing at first, it never pays off to utilize questionable marketing methods in the long run. Keep everything above board. That way, you will always know you are doing the right thing and avoiding trouble.
Low Service Cost
You are always trying to save money on your business so you can make a profit. Shouldn’t choosing cheap SEO marketing services make for a sound financial choice? In a word, no. In marketing, as it is in every other facet of life, you get what you pay for.
Think for a minute about why an agency you are considering doing business with is offering a low rate. Are its employees doing this as a side job or hobby? Are they just underskilled? Most professionals aren’t going to offer you a low rate out of the goodness of their hearts. Agencies aren’t nonprofits. There’s a reason why a company expects low pay. Don’t be the business owner who finds out why.
Quality digital marketing pays off. If your company runs a solid AdWords campaign, you can stand to earn $3 in revenue for every $1.60 you spend on the ads.
Premium prices usually equal premium services. If you expect dedicated attention, experienced professionals, and quality outcomes from your marketing choices, going with an agency that may charge a little more than you were hoping for is the right decision.
Is the agency you are in talks with promising first-spot Google ranking for your website? (we like to call it the g-spot)
Maybe your representative claims that you will get droves of new customers from the firm’s marketing strategies. Whatever the particular claim is, if it sounds too good to be true…well, it probably is.
There are very few things that are foolproof in this world. If there are any, marketing is definitely not on the list. Marketing is human at its core, and humans are flawed. Add Google’s ever-changing search algorithms, constantly shifting marketing technologies, and ongoing cultural changes to the list, and you can quickly see how large promises from a digital marketing agency are likely impossible to fulfill.
An agency should be able to tell you what it can do to help you reach your marketing goals, but it shouldn’t claim to work miracles. If you feel that you are being sold a fairy tale, move on and find a firm with more realistic expectations of its team.
There’s no greater red flag than an agency that only cares about its bottom line. When you speak to professionals at an agency, they should be letting you know how they can help you meet your goals. If all that you hear is bragging and demands about rates or payments, run the other way.
We all know that most people are interested in making money for themselves. That’s just a fact of life. But a good marketing professional knows that clients and their happiness are just as important as making money for oneself. After all, there can’t be an agency without satisfied customers. Any marketer who only cares about personal goals is unlikely to make your specific wants and needs a priority.
Desire to Own Your Properties
Unfortunately, some marketing agencies are run by bad-faith actors who will do anything to keep you bound to their company. One of the main ways firms will accomplish this is by securing the ownership rights to your website and other digital properties, making it difficult for you to switch to a new service provider if you are not happy with your results.
When you are in talks with a digital firm, carefully ask what their website and account creation process looks like. Who owns the domain of your site? Will you be able to change login details as you please? What will the copyright process be for your web properties?
Asking these and related questions will give you a clear picture of how that specific agency is run and whether or not you can trust its representatives with your business and your information. You don’t want to have to go to court or face months of back-and-forth argument with the agency to get the rights to what you should already own.
This may be hard to find out from a few brief encounters with an agency, but finding a team with transparent, clear, and ongoing communication is vital. If your agency contacts are slow to respond to emails, leave out negative details to paint themselves in a better light in reports, or otherwise fail to be professional, honest communicators, you are better off not working with that firm.
What is one way to figure out how communicative a team is? Ask tough questions before agreeing to any work. If any of your queries are brushed off or are vaguely answered, you may need to look for a company that hires professionals who can speak frankly about your needs and the agency’s abilities. Similarly, it takes forever to hear back from a representative, you are better off finding a more professional team to help you. You will likely be waiting forever to hear back on any issues that arise in the future.
If some aspect of a marketing agency makes you uncomfortable, your intuition is trying to protect your business. There are numerous digital marketing agencies out there. Don’t rush into a bad professional relationship due to cost savings or impatience. Putting your trust in a trustworthy agency is worth the wait and the investment.
The Bottom Line
The truth is that no marketing agency is perfect (except us) , just like you aren’t perfect and your business isn’t perfect. Finding the right fit isn’t about achieving perfection, and any agency telling you it can provide as much is flat-out lying to you. Your time and money are worth more than empty promises. You don’t need to work with liars or daydreamers. You need to work with partners who can visualize and get excited for your goals even better than you can.
What you are aiming for is a firm that understands your big-picture expectations, knows how to put all of the details together to make those expectations come to fruition, and keeps you informed of any successes or roadblocks along the way. If you follow this guide and do your research, working with a digital marketing agency should be one of the best investments you’ve made in 2021.