Finding the Right Digital Marketing Agency in 2021 - A Complete Guide
By Jeevan Tipke
As the COVID19 recession exposes more small businesses to all types of financial stresses, doing due diligence when selecting any business partner is now more vital than ever. Ideally, any business partner should have two characteristics – a healthy portfolio and a host of resources and skills to back it up.
However, in the digital marketing sector, where high flexibility and constant innovation are industry norms, judging the credibility of a potential digital marketing partner is very complicated.
'Just because a digital marketing agency is experienced doesn’t mean it has relevant experience.'
'Similarly, even if the agency’s workforce has impressive qualifications – it doesn’t mean they have adequate on-field knowledge'
Don’t get us wrong – both these qualities are highly important. But, to create future-oriented marketing strategies in 2021, you’ll need a digital marketing partner who is also relevant and authentic.
How to Judge Relevancy and Authenticity?
The digital marketing strategies that worked three years ago are not relevant or as effective today. Very few digital marketers are able to anticipate future trends and keep their clients’ strategies up-to-date at all times. Here’s how businesses can detect whether a digital marketing agency is relevant, authentic, and prepared to create strong, long-term strategies.
Check their Current Portfolio
All digital marketing agencies display their partnerships on their websites. Check previous examples of their work and compare them to the most technically advanced websites or marketing strategies of 2021.
Assess their Experience with Specific Technical Topics
If the digital marketing agency you like doesn’t have past experience in your specific platform or sector, test their technical expertise. Experience in UX design, Conversion Rate Optimization marketing, and other ultra-specific niche topics can be hugely beneficial for your business.
Look through their “About Us” pages and cross-reference the names of the employees on LinkedIn. You may not find the freelancers or contractors that work for the firm on LinkedIn. But, the listed skills of the employees you do find will be indicative of the agency’s overall competency.
This goes without saying – the digital marketing agency you’re interested in should have an easy-loading, easily navigable, and user-friendly website. Don’t get carried away by fancy graphics or complicated UI features. Look for agencies with websites that deliver exceptional user experiences.
These four metrics will help you handpick two or three agencies from a dozen. But, before you get in contact with them, take these steps –
- Plan your digital marketing budget and set clear budget boundaries
- List your business objectives (e.g., higher conversion rates, fixed ROI every month, etc.)
- Reassess your company’s core values to ensure your future digital marketing partner shares those values.
Ready to start searching? Here’s a pro tip before we begin the search – avoid digital marketing agencies that make lofty promises at all costs. There are no shortcuts to sustained success on Google, Facebook, etc. Your goal should be to find a partner that’s interested in doing continuous, consistent work.
Launch the Search
The top digital marketing agencies will make it as easy for you to get in touch with them. So, local organic searches are a good way to start your search. You can also check online directories. However, the safest way is referrals from other companies or from the members of your in-house marketing team.
Spotting Important Red Flags
Once you line up a list of potential digital marketing partners, you’ll have to assess the types of services they offer. Here are the services you’ll be offered by these agencies and the red flags you need to watch out for –
- We Offer Web Design – But do you offer UX (user experience) design? Web design can mean a lot of things – including creating a substandard website that never ranks. On the other hand, UX designers take a functional, metric-centered approach. Their services are backed by heatmap data, not instincts or art-focused trends. Examine their portfolios to check whether you’re partnering with a web designer or a UX designer.
- We Offer Timely Services – Does that mean you outsource technical responsibilities? There’s nothing wrong with agencies that have strong offshore tech-support teams. But, clarify details like long-term maintainability and long-term support beforehand. What if the agency’s offshore partner jumps ship six months into your project? Ask for these guarantees before signing any commitments.
- We Will Handle All Content Requirements – Ideally, content creation responsibilities should be shared between the client and the digital marketing agency. Ask your in-house workers to partner up with the content specialists of your marketing agency. Your marketing team should be optimizing your content based on the intent of your target searchers - not write everything for you. Such arrangements typically lead to the creation of low-quality content that no one ever reads.
- We offer Content Marketing Services – What do their content marketing services entail? Can they create high-quality content and promote it via link building, promotion in social media groups, etc.? Ask for specific details about the marketing channels they aim to target with your website’s content.
- Paid Advertising Services – Ask the representative of the digital marketing agency to explain the following Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising terms – Impressions, Clickthrough Rate, Quality Score, Google’s Conversion Codes, Ad Positions, ROAS (Return on Ad Spend), Ad Extensions, Geofencing, and Ad Scent. Any agency that has run AdWords campaigns in the past should be able to explain these terms.
- We Offer Video Advertising – On what platforms? Video ads can be customized on the basis of demographics, online behaviors, locations, etc. So, make sure the agency has prior experience on platforms that allow detailed targeting. YouTube and Facebook are the places to be for your business’s video ads. If you want to market on these platforms, seek agencies that offer guaranteed video engagement rates.
- We Offer Mobile Marketing – The term “mobile marketing” is quite broad. It can mean in-app advertising, optimizing your business website for mobile searches, and plenty of other things. Reassess your list of digital marketing objectives to determine what aspects of mobile marketing will help your business the most. The best digital marketing agencies always help their clients in such discussions.
Start Creating Tailored Strategies
Pick a partner that’s open to creating customized digital marketing strategies that align with your financial and branding goals. Take your time when discussing these details with potential partners. Meet the team and sign a short-term contract first. Ask for a dedicated account manager, learn what metrics of ROI measurement the agency uses, and keep asking for constant performance reviews!