How To Hire a Digital Marketing Agency
Engaging a digital marketing agency can be the best decision you ever make…Or not…Before a business engages a digital marketing agency, it’s best to understand the ways that an agency can be hired to support your marketing goals. If you understand these options and the associated risks, you can improve your chances of making a good decision.
Digital Marketing Strategy & Plan of Action
If you’re new to digital marketing, the best place to start is to design a digital marketing strategy and plan of action. Think of this as a blueprint. And, think of your digital plan as a skyscraper. You wouldn’t build a skyscraper without a blueprint, would you?
A digital marketing strategy requires research and a lot of collaborative discussion between the agency and the client. Some of the research is focused on key competitors to gain valuable insights. Other elements of the research focus on developing a content strategy that meets the needs of each target audience. And yet other elements define the direction of your web assets including website architecture, blog format and selection of social marketing channels for community engagement and multi-touch communication strategy.
A digital marketing strategy deliverable is a detailed document summarized in visually compelling slides to communicate to the executives the key elements of the digital marketing strategy and plan of action which spans a minimum of 12 months.
Risks: A digital marketing strategy serves as your blueprint or foundation. Ignoring the strategy recommendations risks a wasted effort….Collaboration between the agency and the client is crucial, including the client’s IT resources. Lack of collaboration among all the stakeholders can sabotage the success of your digital marketing plan.
Whether or not you start out by engaging a digital marketing company to develop a strategic plan, one option that should be considered is to retain an agency as your Digital Agency of Record. A retainer based approach is an investment in a relationship that should have a long term perspective. At a minimum, this arrangement should have a 2 to 3 year outlook, even if the contract between the client and the agency is annual with mutual ability to terminate by the client or agency. A longer term perspective allows the agency to become intimately knowledgeable about the client’s business. Agency personnel can develop strong relationships with the client’s personnel, map out plans, execute them together, measure them and make revisions as the results warrant.
Risks: It’s very important to define the scope of a retainer based arrangement. The more clearly the scope is defined and mutually understood, the better for both parties. There should be a definition of how work is to be handled that is understood to be out of scope.
Campaign Design & Execution
If your digital marketing plan is in full swing you may be in need of digital campaign ideas and execution support. The digital agency you select should quickly learn your key message points and your target audience attributes. The digital agency should pitch creative campaign ideas to the client that align with the client’s goals and target audience. A collaborative approach is needed between the client and the agency to vet out campaign ideas and arrive at campaigns to implement. The campaign elements should then be fully documented in a creative brief (CB) that serves as the blueprint for the campaign. The CB should also spell out the budget for the campaign and who is responsible for each element of the campaign. Then, the campaign execution begins.
Risks: A campaign that is under budgeted or under resourced is doomed to fail….Members of the agency team and the client team must work well together. When egos clash, campaigns can fail…An agency should never predict that a campaign will be a smash hit.
When a client has a short term need with an engagement that has a start and end date, this is a project. Digital examples of projects can include a website redesign, tactical search engine optimization, landing page design, email template design, banner design, email campaign management for a season, etc.
Risks: Agency selection for projects can be influenced by price. Sometimes, price driven selections don’t yield good results. Often the agency priced the project aggressively to win the project, but once they’re engaged, they may not be satisfied with the deal and they might assign junior staff to the project that yield sub-par results…When a client works consistently with one or more agencies on projects, the risk of sub-par work is greatly reduced due to the relationship building factor in a sustained business relationship.
Coaching or Advisory
When a client needs the services of a digital marketing agency but their primary interest is to complement their internal staff with external advisors, this approach can be very effective. A good example is a client whose digital strategy is mature, but they seek to stay closely informed of new ideas, trends and digital marketing best practices. In this scenario the client retains a digital agency to provide advisory services with a human touch that complements the client’s consumption of online articles and research reports.
Risks: Perhaps the biggest risk in this scenario is when a client begins to expect more than advisory support from the digital agency. It’s important that the scope of the coaching service is clearly spelled out up front and well documented to avoid confusion down the road as to what it is expected from the digital agency.
Before you engage the services a digital marketing agency, consider your needs and the support of your stakeholders. These five distinct ways to engage a digital agency offer options that can suit most situations.