How to hire a digital marketing agency

Getting marketing support for a small business can be expensive, we discuss what to look for and how to hire a digital marketing agency so you don’t make the mistake of partnering up with the wrong fit for you.

What we will cover

Let’s cut to the chase, When you’re planning how to hire a digital marketing agency for your new website or digital marketing strategy there are three basic routes you could go down:

  • Hiring a freelancer (or several freelancers)
  • Working with a small digital or local web agency
  • Working with a bigger agency

Let’s look at some key things to be aware of so you know how to hire a digital marketing agency.

Why choose a Digital Agency for a small business

You can guess which choice we think you should make so we’re not going to list out the pros and cons of each strategy here. However, these are the advantages you get when you hire a (good) small digital agency:

Less pricey than a large agency

With large digital agencies comes overheads. To compete for the best talent, wages have to be competitive and employers often add company perks into the mix (onsite gymnasiums, pool tables, offsite team activity days, etc.) Anyone want to guess who ultimately pays for that?

You need to make sure you will be a priority and the right fit for your agency, don’t pay over the odds and end up with a lack of support from a bigger agency.

Smaller agencies don’t need to push that boat quite as far out and can therefore offer better rates for their clients. This doesn’t mean there is a sacrifice of talent either. Small web agencies often attract people with experience of working for bigger companies but who prefer the vibe of a smaller team.

Wider set of skills and styles than an individual freelancer

There are many talented freelancers out there but they will all have their own area of specialism. For example, they might have a strong design background, be meticulous coders or excel at social media marketing.

While you could achieve a better skills mix by outsourcing a project to various different freelancers, you then have to play the role of co-ordinator. With an agency, the team managers and collaborative software handle this aspect of the project.

With an agency, each employee will bring their unique set of skills to each project. The end result is a more balanced website or digital marketing approach with each element given full attention.

After all, web designers are aware of the latest trends in design, the most effective content management platforms for different types of business, the best use of colour, font and space to create visual impact, etc. Marketing professionals are adept at managing the engagement with customers that all businesses need to thrive. Copywriters understand how to use words to persuade customers to take specific actions or to convey the tone of a brand, but only by these people regularly being brought together as an agency do you achieve synergy.

You could compare this approach with renovating a house. You could employ a single builder with some skill in each area but you are more likely to be happy with the final result if you get a building contractor in who can orchestrate electricians, carpenters, plumbers and the other trades.

Working with you and your team

The quality of the final product will depend as much on the relationship between your project team and the digital agency involved as it does on the collective skills of the digital agency.

Do you have the budget to pay for all the copy to be re-written for example? If not then find an agency who you form a connection with now, because they may have to politely nudge you for your contribution to the project later down the line.

Choosing what is right for your audience, not you

Be cautious with anyone promising the world or paddling easy answers, a healthy marketing relationship will challenge you think about your business from your customers perspective, it should challenge you to think and do differently.

If your website and marketing is self-serving and based on personal preference rather than what website visitors want. You might be delighted with the appearance of the final product but feel let down when the expected interest doesn’t materialise into new leads or sales which is what you will ultimately judge it by.

Set goals and treat your extended team like “we are all in this together”

As always from our perspective, if you have somewhere you want to get to, then the best way is to do that thinking work and ask frankly if that is realistic to you selected agency. Questions like, “what budget would I need to increase turnover by 10%?” may be far more valuable than “can you make a website that looks like this?”.

Our largest clients work with us closely, treat us like we’re part of the core team, and we all have a collective mentality of setting targets and measuring our progress, with the feeling that it is a shared success when we get there.

Listening to your story?

Marketing agencies know to how to project themselves, after all it’s what they do, but they can be obsessed with producing award-winning work at the expense of the brand they are representing.

Be aware if they love to tell you about their high profile clients, their amazing designers and their portfolio of stunning websites and then when you start talking to them about your story, they glaze over.

A good agency will focus mainly on your business, your brand and your goals. Expect to be answering lots of probing questions about your story and where you see the business going.

This leads on to the next section because what the best agencies are really looking to find out is whether you will be a good fit for each other.

Are they only after the one thing?

A bad agency goes into your first meeting with the object of closing the deal. The sooner they can get you to sign a contract and part with a deposit, the happier they will be. They are rarely selective about who they partner with.

On the other hand, good agencies will carefully match their service offering with your vision for your business and see whether the two marry up. For example, there is a big difference between a monthly mailout and complex personalised email automated CRM.

A good agency won’t claim to do it all, and may probe deeper into your ideas of taking the product/service to market. These questions ensure that they will be able to approach the relationship from the right place, and ensure they have the skills and capacity to take on your project.

Such an agency will not be afraid to tell you that the relationship won’t work (although they will let you down gently and may point you in the direction of a trusted partner).

If you do decide to work together, your relationship will be properly nurtured. Ongoing communication will be a priority and they will assign you an account manager who can answer all of your questions.

Reputable bunch?

As a final check, it is worth looking closely at other projects they have been involved with. Again, look beyond the design to see what the agency is communicating as success.

Customer reviews are also a good source of social proof – they can give you a good idea of an agency’s potential weaknesses. You may even be able to meet with some current or past clients of your shortlisted agencies to find out if there are any red flags to watch out for.

Vu’s USP’s

Vu exists to serve overstretched marketing teams, what they are trying to deliver is an effective, results-oriented marketing strategy.

For many SME owners, the marketing department (and sometimes a marketing manager alone) is supposed to be in charge of everything under the marketing umbrella, both on the strategy and delivery side.

Only when they start trying to unravel the results of a campaign do they realise that there is a lot more to marketing than producing flyers and deciding what budget to put into an AdWords campaign.

What they need is an effective, results-oriented marketing strategy. The best way to achieve that is almost always to partner with a specialist digital or find a local marketing agency.

Expert advice: Strategy is Better Than Tactics

Due to a lack of resources and knowledge, what passes for strategy in many businesses is a vaguely connected series of tactics. This can appear to deliver results. For example, a highly targeted PPC campaign launched at exactly the right time can engage a niche audience and convince them to buy.

However, as business picks up, the extra resource needed to cope with the demand means marketing takes a back seat. With no long-term strategy, the boom passes and the company find themselves back where they started and scratching their heads.

In contrast, a digital or marketing agency partner will help the business to create a high level marketing strategy and deliver a level of consistency. They will engage their team of specialists to co-ordinate the various marketing activities: web developmentdigital designSEOcontent delivery, social media marketing, PPC etc. into an overall plan.

Hands on help: Blending Familiarity and Objectivity

Another advantage of a marketing agency is the unique blend of familiarity with your business and the objectivity from having conducted campaigns for many different businesses over many years.

A decent marketing agency will spend a lot of time in the initial stages getting to understand the story behind a business. Only when they are fully in tune with the essence of the brand will they start collaborating on a marketing strategy.

At the same time, they will be able to guide, coach and sometimes even train the marketing teams they work with on the specifics of campaign delivery. An SEO marketer can advise on keyword selection, a copywriter can tighten up written content and a PPC specialist can fine tune ad spend for maximum cost-effectiveness.

Transparent reports: Harnessing the Power of Data

In the modern marketplace, data equals power. Those marketing teams with the best access to data and the deepest understanding will be able to spot the opportunities that others miss.

Each specialist in a digital agency will have the tools and knowledge needed for an in-depth understanding of the data relevant to their field. For example, a PPC specialist will be able, at a glance, to see which audiences are clicking ads, what devices they are using and which campaigns are converting. An SEO expert will pick up on the hottest keyword trends. The social media whizz will know what types of posts are driving engagement and what platforms an audience favours.

Most importantly, when you find a marketing agency you trust, they can draw all of these stats together and present them as a regular report, accessible to all members of the marketing and executive team.

Making the Relationship Work for you

So, does that help with how to hire a digital marketing agency? We hope that you or your team get the balance right for your project?

If you are the owner or decision maker in a business where marketing is a challenge, the Vu Tribe may be a good fit. We offer three packages aimed at businesses of different sizes and budgets. Each package is focused on finding the story behind the business and using our marketing expertise to strengthen that story and spread it further.

In short, make sure you will be a priority, set goals and truly offer a partnership like you would an employee. If you want a relationship like this with us then check out the Vu Tribe, if the ethos and budget fit then we might be just what you’re looking for.

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