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How to hire the right Digital Marketing Consultant or Agency?

I must admit that I never imagined that I would be part of a digital marketing Agency or industry. When I started my first business (Peergrowth Technologies), I kept thinking that I needed to find a better way to gain clients. Yes. I had tried cold calling, attended countless networking events and business seminars.  In no time, I realised that all these processes took tons of time, money and worse there wasn’t any ROI.

I started looking into alternative options. I noticed that not much companies were implementing digital marketing to gain clients. After doing some research, I decided to learn it and implement it in my business(yes, that how I learned Digital Marketing back in 2013).

Digital Marketing in brief.

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Pay-per-Click (PPC)
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Public Relationships
  • Digital Products (to support the digital marketing efforts such as apps)

Some of the skills that are involved in implementing a proper digital marketing channel:

  • Graphic Design
  • Web Development (you could use a content management platform)
  • Copywriting
  • SEO (yes, this is an art itself)
  • Business Analysts
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Video Production

With all of these things to implement, it is no wonder why I have an excellent team working with me. Instead of putting your energy into all of these tasks and losing sight of your actual business, it is always better to hire a Digital Marketing Consultant or Agency who can act as a partner of your organization to bring in online leads. Otherwise, you might as well become an agency yourself, right?!

Digital marketing is dynamic. It keeps on changing time to time. What worked a year ago doesn’t anymore? ‘Best

practices’ of five years ago can get you penalized now.Staying up to date is challenging but rewarding as well. That’s why at some point, you’re going to need a digital marketing consultant or agency to help you.

The Problem is, how do you know which kind of services you need? How do you find the best fit?

Here we will be discussing few tips for hiring the right Digital Marketing Consultant or Agency.

 

  1. Understand the current position

    Some companies are ready to start the process while others need to start from scratch. Never thought about SEO? No professional AdWords account setup? No goals in Google Analytics setup? If this is the status, then you’re going to have to go backwards and fix, setup, and improve. This stuff isn’t tough. But it is time-consuming. So, expect at least a 3-4 week on building blocks that might not generate any substantial return right out of the gate.

  2. Let’s Dig Deeper

    Check what is the issue that you are currents facing. I know, it’s not possible to find all of it. A good consultant will always share what is the issue and hiccup available. Prepared the list. Great. Let’s proceed one step further. The funny yet important thing about Digital marketing is that everything affects everything else. So, a poor website doesn’t just hurt a visitor’s experience. But it also hurts your SEO rankings and conversions, too.
    Few tools to try:

    1. The Website Grader from HubSpot.
    2. QuickSprout has a simple SEO assessment.
    3. WordStream has an AdWords Grader.
  3. Self-Education

    A basic understanding of Digital Marketing and how it works will surely be helpful. No, you don’t want to be an expert. A common example “Server Response Time”. You need to understand the existence of the issue and communicate with the right person or department (even if you have no idea what that is or how to fix it).
    The idea is to be able to communicate those issues clearly to someone you’re about to hire. And in turn, somewhat to understand what they’re saying when they recommend a few steps to correct course.
    Otherwise, you won’t know if they’re legit. And you won’t understand how to price or value their services.

  4. Set the right Goals

    Digital marketing consultants and companies are good. But they need a target to aim for. You need to share the goal and outcome that you are looking for. You need to help them to understand exactly what you’re looking for.
    Getting “More traffic” isn’t a goal, it’s a responsibility for any Digital Marketing Consultant or Company. Increase awareness and decreasing the costs you’d have to spend on AdWords to hit similar traffic levels is a little bit closer.It’s their job to figure out how to get from A –> B. But… only when they know where B is.

  5. Reverse Engineer What Success Looks Like

    You want to increase your sales and revenue. Good. That’s a start. But how much? $50k? Fine… now, how many new customers is that? If each customer’s worth $100, you need 500. Great. Now, look at the history of your conversion rates from leads to sales. And web traffic to leads.These little steps help you put together a model for what success should look like. You now have a game plan to discuss with consultants to bounce ideas and ask what’s realistic.  It gives these vendors an understanding of how your business works so they have a better understanding of how their individual services fit with your work. It helps you understand the link between their work and leading indicators (like rankings or click through rate) and sales.

  6. What exactly You Need

    You’ve done a lot of homework so far. You’ve ‘modeled’ success. The whole point is to help you differentiate what you need from all the ‘extra’ stuff you don’t need.

    For example, SEO refers to a BUNCH of different activities:

    1. Technical SEO
    2. Keyword research
    3. On-page optimization
    4. Link building
    5. Reputation management
    6. Content creation and more.

    So. You might need ‘SEO’ work. But which parts, specifically, do you need the greatest help or work?

  7. Practical Expectations

    Whenever there’s an issue between a company and digital marketing consultant or agency, it usually comes down to a miscommunication of what’s expected.  There are intangibles at play. And you both need to understand the risks posed. Similarly, the SEO stuff you’re looking for (like new sales) is a lagging indicator. For example, it takes a lot of work to get rankings to fluctuate, then traffic starts to change, then conversions, then finally sales. So, work done between months 1-3 only start to bear fruit in months 6-12. We’re talking SEO specifically. But the point applies no matter if we’re talking PPC, conversions, content, social, or websites.

  8. Begin with An Online Search

    It’s always a better idea to start online. The good news is that you can find everything needed to ultimately decide by browsing for a few hours. For example, you know those steps we just ran through to grade your own website or SEO or PPC?
    Now do that for the agencies or consultants you’re thinking about hiring. If they’re a web design firm, grade their web design and site infrastructure. If they’re an SEO agency, how is their SEO presence? Every website’s going to have issues. And every (good) agency is going to prioritize client work ahead of their own. (So there will be ample issues.) But you should quickly be able to identify if they know what they’re doing (or not).

  9. Check on LinkedIn

    Most good consultant and agencies have a LinkedIn presence. You can check peer recommendations, see what consultants or agency partners are publishing etc.

  10. Check all Social Media Networks

    Social media can be an inside view of a company’s organization. Sometimes it’s of interest to clients, like related news articles, featured work, or other timely announcements. But other times, it’s not for clients at all. This informal content can also be the most helpful. It gives you raw insights into who the company is and the types of people you’ll be working with. There are many good agencies and consultants out there. Ones who’re up on the latest techniques. But you’re going to need to enjoy working with these people at the end of the day.Testimonials on their Website & LinkedIn.The best results are specific and verifiable. They contain result, % increase, or money saved.
    Most agency sites should have testimonials (in one form or another) on their website. OR they should have recommendations on LinkedIn (from customers – not fellow peers in the digital marketing sphere.

  11. Look for Industry Participation

    Any good Digital Marketing Consultant or agencies (and top agency consultants) will be easy to find. They’ll be attending big conferences, being written about and contributing to the industry. You’re looking for two things primarily:

    1. Do they know what they’re talking about?
    2. Are they ‘respected’ within the industry?
      If other people are agreeing with what they’re saying and referencing them often, you’re in good hands.
  12. Now Let’s check their Site

    Digital marketing agency websites commonly ‘lag’ a bit because they’re always slammed with client work (the best ones are anyway).

    For example, an agency web design says a lot about who they are and the style of work they do. The branding and design speak to their aesthetics. The copy says a lot about their culture. And the attention to detail says, well, everything.
    Sure. Press coverage and all the other flashy stuff is important. But your gut and instinct will tell you if this is a company you’ll eventually want to partner up with.

  13. Should they be #1 in Rankings

    Based on the last point, an SEO agency should rank #1 for key terms in their location. Right? Yes and no. Once again, they might be busy working on client’s sites. Also, a quick look at the search results will confirm something you’ve known all along: there’s a ton of crap in there! So, it’s not as black and white as it seems.

  14. Blog says a lot

    You can forgive a company for not ranking #1 for a competitive keyword. There’s a lot that goes into it, after all. But no blog posts since 2012? Not good. Especially as some services, like SEO for example, have evolved tremendously since then. But if their latest post was published yesterday, is 2500+ in-depth words with images and examples, and another 200+ social shares, you at least know they’re onto something.

  15. Freebie Offerings

    Most Digital Marketing Consultant and agencies will offer free resources. eBooks, whitepapers, videos, infographics, and more. In our case, we offer a free initial consultation to start with. Obviously, you should take them up and every offer.

  16. Specialization Niche or Service?

    You need to understand that Digital marketing is insanely difficult. And only getting more so by the day. Now there might be areas overlap. For example, SEO firms will commonly provide PPC (and vice versa). They both fall under the ‘Search Marketing’ umbrella. So you’re mostly safe.

  17. Full Service

    Some companies can do ‘full-service’. Take ‘inbound marketing’ for example, which typically is like outsourcing your entire digital marketing department. But there’s a catch. The firm then must hire and staff all of these key skills in-house. For example, an ‘inbound marketing’ firm should have content writers, strategists, conversion experts, and designers all in-house. Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to deliver ‘full scope’ campaigns. When done correctly, this ‘full service’ approach can be cost-effective. Meaning, you can tap all these individual experts at barely half the cost of hiring one of them in-house for your own company. So once again, there’s some grey area to navigate.
    We offer Full Service. Yes, we have the complete team to cater it.

  18. Hours vs. Activity

    Hourly billing was the standard industry practice for the longest time. But here’s the point: It’s kind of a meaningless metric. It doesn’t really consider the value being produced by a Digital Marketing Consultant or agency.  So, the hourly metric doesn’t make sense. One can charge more than another. Yet can be totally worth it (based on the value provided) at the end of the day. Activity-based metrics are a step in the right direction. X campaigns or key phrases or blog posts or links built per month for $Y.

  19. Compare

    Digital Marketing is on the cutting edge of marketing techniques. But here’s the thing: They’re mostly selling the same thing. Sure. The differences come out in the way they might execute on those services and the value they’re able to provide. Otherwise, comparing a few different options that run the gamut from big agencies to solo Digital Marketing Consultant will give you some perspective on how each is positioning themselves, what is offered, and ultimately who you’d like to work most with at the end.

  20. Estimation

    There’s an industry-wide move to pricing transparency. More and more marketing companies are publishing pricing tiers on their website to provide consumers with more insight. But you, as the window shopper, still need to come armed with a concrete budget when opening discussions with them. A website could cost $100 (if you use WordPress + Themeforest). Or it could be $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000. The techniques, technology, and the result will differ wildly. And a budget helps the consultant or agency know which ‘gameplan’ to put together for you. The biggest red flag, for an agency, is when a prospect won’t willingly share their budget. It means they don’t know what they want and aren’t ready. If you’re serious about working with a consultant or agency, you need to be willing (and able) to share budget information up front to get the conversation moving in the right direction.

  21. Team Size: The Upside of Big Agencies

    Big agencies are staffed with professionals. So, you’ll find teams of creatives and developers working together, all under one roof, to help get an ‘integrated’ campaign to the light of day. They also know people. With large networks that can help find you partners or bring awareness to your cause. That’s on the plus side. However, there are a few downsides as well.

  22. Team Size: The Downside of Big Agencies

    How do most companies find agencies to work with? (Outside of personal referrals?) On the enterprise side, it’s through awards and conferences. These ‘top lists’ of agencies that work on campaigns for household name clients. That may or may not be the right choice for you. Big agencies bring a lot to the table. But with it, they bring big fees. And your work isn’t being done by the firm partner that wowed you with his impassioned speech. Instead, it’s being done by the 22-year old entry-level kids. (Who’re being billed at the same inflated hourly rate, no doubt.)

    Sometimes that’s worth it. Sometimes it’s not.

  23. Team Size: Small Agencies

    Now contrast that with small agencies. You’re more likely to have face time with the expert. These people, even the principal or President, is still most likely ‘stuck in the weeds’ with client work daily. That’s especially true with solo consultants, who’ve decided to specialize and stay small to ‘stay closer’ to the work they love doing on a daily basis.

  24. Look for ‘Niche’ Experts

    The way to work with smaller agencies or consultants to gain all the benefits, while decreasing the downsides, is to look for those who specialize not only in the service being delivered (like conversion rate optimization) but also who they do that work for (like veterinary hospitals). Here’s why. Most websites suffer from the same flaws. Take B2B. Tons of dry, boring, technical, ‘branded’ content. Little-to-no interesting or engaging stuff. That means your site is getting a lot of ‘branded’ visitors that already know about you. While almost zero from new customers. Point is, there are a few recurring issues that certain businesses all struggle with. And the faster someone can diagnose those, along with recommending a few fixes, the faster you can see results (generally speaking).

  25. Beware of Bad Niche Companies

    Here’s the sign of a bad niche agency. They put you on their proprietary platform. They sell you a ‘website package’ that includes SEO, social media, and everything under the sun. For ‘only’ a hundred (or two) bucks a month. These outfits are especially common in competitive niches like real estate or law. Are they good? Meh. They’re OK. Just understand what you’re getting into before signing up.

  26. Who, Exactly, is doing the Work?

    Agency-standard practice is to have more ‘junior’ people doing the day to day work on your account. That’s not always a bad thing. Many of them are good (if hired and trained properly). And they also have no lives, so they really are working day and night on your account. But you can also run into problems with agency staffing. For example, contractors are another excellent go-to scaling option for smaller agencies. Trouble is capacity. If those contractors are tapped, their turnaround slows down. Which means the chances of your website getting out the door also slows down.

  27. Local vs. Global

    Most companies like working with local agencies. They like the local meetings and in-person visits for reporting on progress. But global (or multinational) agencies are becoming more common. Virtual companies, or ones that operate out of a few cities around the world, because most of the work is done online. Hangouts or Skype sessions are common. Most will fire up a screen sharing app and happily walk you through what’s going on and how things look. But you may not always get the same face-to-face relationship building, either.

    So, what’s the difference between going with a local vs. global company? If you’re a local business, it makes sense to work with a local partner. Someone who understands that unique challenge of bringing in foot traffic. Otherwise, don’t get too hung up on location, an agency’s office address (or lack thereof). There are more important criteria to look for when making this decision.

  28. Brutal Honest Statement

    Agencies or consultants should be completing most of the work. It’s true that they’re the experts; they should be able to create the strategy and execute. However, they can’t do it all alone. They need help. They need your backing and resources at times. Marketing isn’t some isolated random event. The best marketing team in the world can’t save a company with little-to-no brand awareness or worse, one that has terrible customer service and 1-star Yelp ratings. Even PPC performance, which is kind of isolated, still leans heavily on the landing page or website that traffic is visiting. You’re hiring a specialized team, sure. But you still need to work closely with them.

  29. You Need to Be Supportive

    Say for example you’re getting a website re-designed. Everything starts off smoothly. The first round of designs looks pretty good. Not much feedback. So, they go straight into development in order to meet that tight deadline. But while the site is being built, your team now has some design feedbacks. They want to go back and start messing with design elements and requesting changes. Even though the site is being hand-build as we speak. Now the agency or consultants have to go backward, rip up what they were working on, and re-do all of the work a second time. Guess who’s footing the bill for that extra work?

    Another common scenario: Website re-designing is going smoothly. Which is good, because you’ve got that big trade show coming up and want to look your best. The design and development phases are almost complete. Only one thing stopping the site from going live now: lorem ipsum. The dummy copy that agencies use on websites during development if they’re not responsible for the copy and images. Instead, they’re waiting. On you now. You were supposed to get them that content last week. And the project images yesterday. And so, they wait. The project is now on hold because simple things that should take a day or two at the most haven’t been a turnaround in enough time. Agencies, meanwhile, can’t have staff waiting around idly. So, they start work on the next project and yours falls to the back of the line.

  30. Realistic ROI Expectations

    Paid search can produce an ROI within a month or two. But that’s about it. Even Facebook ads require a longer timeline. The mythical A/B test that delivers a huge ROI lift overnight are things of fantasy. Conversion rate optimization, too, can take months to pay off. Search Engine Optimization can be the worst. (In terms of timeline.) It takes a ton of up-front effort and activity. After that waiting to see rankings move. Then waiting to see traffic come in. Then waiting to see conversions move. And even longer if you need to now sell and close those new leads.If a consultant or agency is promising overnight returns, you should be sceptical. That’s may not be possible. But if a consultant or agency can’t give you an idea of when returns might happen – and they lack the case studies that also show results – you should also be sceptical.

  31. Past Clients

    The best salespeople are not inside an organization. They’re happy, satisfied customers. Most agencies can’t or won’t give you their client contact roster. They don’t want some random prospect bugging their clients. That’s only natural. But can you still find any past customers? Look for case studies or testimonials on the website and reach out. If they’re not currently working with them, most will be happy to share the Pros and Cons. Things they liked and don’t. You can also indirectly ask them about projects they helped with to shed light on the results they were able to provide.

  32. Cultural Fit

    Every digital agency’s website makes them look. However, that’s not always the case. Sure. Those hipster ping pong tournaments and keggers on Fridays make it look like a fun place to work. But is that culture going to gel with your own? At the end of the day, you’re going to need to work with these people. And if there’s a cultural mismatch, where your organizational temperaments don’t align, there’s going to be problems. No matter how good the work.

Conclusion

Digital marketing evolves so quickly that half the job is simply keeping up with the times. It’s not easy. Barely sustainable. Which is why working with an outside consultant or vendor is almost a necessity. You need a topic expert who can afford to stay on top of what’s happening, changing, and how to adapt. But it’s not easy. There are so many different shapes and flavours of a ‘digital marketing consultant’ that it’s tough to know what you need.

Showing 2 comments
  • Umer Idrisi
    Reply

    Nice information here, thanks 🙂

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