Posted at Jan 30, 2020 6:30:00 AM by THAT Agency | Share
Digital marketing seems to change at a breakneck pace. Every day there's a new tool or strategy. It can all become overwhelming very quickly. The best digital marketing agency is one that's shown it can adapt and keep your marketing ahead of the curve. There's no magic button that changes your marketing overnight. It's about identifying strategies that will stay relevant and build a foundation of success for a long time to come. With that in mind, what are the right questions to ask your digital marketing agency?
What to ask a marketing agency really depends on what business goals you are looking to achieve with help from the agency's services. Keep those business goals in mind as you ask the following nine questions of your digital marketing agency:
1. What is your approach to assessing my marketing needs?
Many businesses jump straight to strategy questions. If you're interviewing an agency, they haven't made an assessment yet. They can give you indications and ideas that work at a general level, but anything they tell you will be potential at best - and inaccurate at worst. They haven't sat down and analyzed your company's needs in depth yet.
They can give you an overview. What you need to know starting out is what their process is for coming to strategic recommendations. What's their process for assessment? What will they be looking at, and how will they be measuring it in your market and among your competitors? You've got to be comfortable with their process and feel that it's complete and thorough.
Before knowing strategy recommendations, you need to know how they'll assess what strategy fits best in the first place.
2. What marketing have you done for other Businesses like mine?
You can feel most confident that an agency can help you when they've helped others in similar situations before. That can mean other businesses in the same industry or other organizations that have had similar needs addressed.
Any agency can highlight the crucial digital marketing needs of the day. They can teach you important ideas and ways to think about marketing that hadn't occurred to you. That's great, but more than a first step is needed. Not all agencies can demonstrate how they've utilized their knowledge in real ways on behalf of their clients.
They need to show you previous and current clients who they've helped grow by using specific strategies – content creation, SEO strategies, customer segmentation, social media platforming, direct messaging, website redesign, the list goes on. Whatever components you need, they should have a demonstrated and measurable experience of coming through on them for other clients.
On the same token, you will want to make sure that the agency you are vetting is not exclusive to one industry, as an industry-exclusive agency is most likely doing work for your competitors.
The best digital marketing agency practices what it preaches. Do they swear by content creation, for example? Great, then where are their own blogs on marketing? An agency that tells you something is a strength, yet that doesn't rely on it for its own marketing, may be misrepresenting that strength.
Digital marketing agencies are, after all, businesses. They need to advertise themselves as well. If they don't use a strategy for their own marketing that they want to use for yours, there should be a good reason for it. Sometimes, there will be – perhaps the two industries are very different from each other or serve client and customer bases in different ways.
Yet the more foundational a strategy is, the more you should expect the marketing agency itself to use it for its own marketing efforts.
You can't simply rely on a marketing agency to handle every single thing for you forevermore. That won't empower your business. A marketing agency should be able to teach you, to automate processes, and to hand off certain elements to your team when they're trained and ready. It will vary by organization, but think about it this way:
When a marketing agency can hand certain processes off to your staff, they can then start on the step that goes beyond that process. Rather than simply maintaining a few marketing steps and strategies for you, they can progress into new, more aggressive strategies while your team takes on the more basic work. This allows more work to be done across the board.
You don't want a marketing agency doing all the same things a year from now that they're doing on Day One. [Click to tweet.]
You want to take some of those processes on so they're still delivering results for you while your marketing team can be blazing into new territory for you. That's how growth happens.
On the communication front, setting up regularly scheduled meetings is vital to making sure project deadlines and goals are met. You can ensure any lingering questions are answered and that your marketing key performance indicators are trending in the right direction.
5. How do you develop relationships with bloggers and influencers?
Everyone hates influencers until you need one to do an ad or product placement. Then they're the best thing on Earth. If this is a route you'll take, then you'll want to know your digital marketing agency's experience on this front. Influencers exist on every platform: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch – if it's social media in any way, an influencer is making money from it.
It goes beyond social media, too. Bloggers, podcasts, and other mediums are extremely popular ways to convey a product or an entire brand. Best of all, these influencers already have a deep cut of particular demographics and a streamlined method of delivering content to them.
How does your marketing agency reach out to bloggers, influencers, and others who can help your product and brand? Do they have existing relationships, or proven campaigns where they've worked with influencers?
6. How does your agency handle a Google Search penalty?
Ideally, an agency hasn't seen one of their own clients penalized in organic Google searches. There's a good chance that a client who was already penalized has come to them for help. Regardless of whether they have worked with a penalized company before, they should have a pre-existing plan for how to help a client out from under a search algorithm penalty.
The best digital marketing agency operates on the foundation of steady growth and consistently building a list of successes. This will improve your organic search results, your customer satisfaction – everything under the sun when done right.
The best agency will also have a plan in its pocket it hopes to never use. That plan is for if anything should go wrong, Google Search penalty or otherwise. An agency should be prepared on your behalf for any kind of emergency. Ideally, that emergency will never come. If that day does come, though, you want an agency that's thought about it and trained their people how to manage negative PR.
7. How will you Perform research for content creation?
One of the biggest – and most overlooked – digital marketing questions to ask is how agencies manage content creation. Content creation is one of the most valuable investments. As you feature more and more content (that itself features SEO keywords and presentation), the hits that content creates will build on themselves so you'll see steady engagement.
You do need to hit a certain level of quality with content creation, however. There's a lot of bad content out there, and businesses that feature it are left to wonder why their efforts don't work. Content can't be half-hearted. It needs to be engaging, passionate, and well researched. Talk to your digital marketing agency about their content creation approach. They likely work with writers in-house and with media creation partners with whom they have experience.
Everyone creating content will be able to research topics quickly, will know how to fold SEO practices into the content in organic ways, and will be able to match the voice that you want portrayed. The best content begins to take the role of thought leadership – that is to say, it can help educate on relevant topics, it can build the narrative of your brand, and it's intriguing enough for others to want to naturally share it.
This demands content creators with an ability to research, write complexly, match voice, convey passion, and to even identify ways to make the content more than the sum of its parts.
Every organization's needs are different, so every approach to judging success will have to be tailored. It is important to know that your agency will work WITH you in deciding what success will look like. There will be goal markers on the way. These should be set up ahead of time so you can see what changes have taken place in real, measurable ways. It's easy to get six months in and think things have improved, but if they haven't met a measure on schedule, that can indicate that an adjustment needs to be made. It can indicate that a part of your process or strategy isn't efficient or is working against the parts that are successful.
Analytics don't just show you a straight up-or-down assessment of how well your marketing is doing. They show you the parts that are working and the parts that aren't. Knowing how quickly or slowly a strategy is intended to work allows you to judge it accordingly.
Certain strategies take a real time investment to build before blooming, so slow-but-steady improvement can indicate that the strategy is working as intended and will start delivering more. Other strategies can be judged on harsher measurements and even be used to assess where improvements need to be made.
The bottom line is that, ultimately, your digital marketing agency should be able to present some positive results, no matter how small.
Watch the video below for tips on setting SMART marketing goals:
9. How long will it take to See Results?
Beware the digital marketing agency that tells you they can turn things around in a matter of months, or even weeks. Chances are good that they mean they can do this with an outsized amount of expenditure on your part, invested in a very risky hit-or-miss approach that can leave a business set back for years.
Marketing is not magic. It demands consistency and regular measurement. Inbound marketing is by far the most effective long-term marketing strategy, and it also demands time. SEO strategies require a certain critical mass of content and a bit of time for Google (and other search engines) to react accordingly.
That content is an investment that will compound the more content is produced beside it. A real inbound marketing strategy designed to thrive in the long-run will take about 6-8 months to start showing that “compound interest” behavior. It takes about 12-24 months for the strategy to hit full bloom and be feeding regularly into customer acquisition. The content creation is easy to keep up, builds on a mass of other SEO content, and continues compounding and feeding into a growing rate of customer acquisition.
Do you have more digital marketing questions to ask? We’re here to provide you with clear, actionable answers. Contact us today! And be sure to download our free marketing agency selection scorecard tool by clicking below:
Editor's Note:This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.