There are a ton of digital marketing agencies out there offering their services. Search for one on Google, and you will be inundated with hundreds of results. Almost all of them claim to be “the best” or “the top” digital marketing agency in their region or possibly the world. Spend enough time weeding through them, and it can start to feel like you are shopping for a used car. Eventually, you will wonder if they offer “special” warranties or undercoatings.
The “hard” sales language and the sheer volume of options are enough to overwhelm anyone. It isn’t easy to pick the right digital marketing agency when they all sound alike. And selecting the wrong agency can be a waste of money. So how do you find the right one to increase your sales and drive your brand forward? Don’t worry, as we’ve got your back. The following is a list of questions you should ask about any prospective digital marketing agency before employing its services. The answers will help guide your journey to finding the perfect agency for your brand. Read on to learn about the following:
- The right questions to ask to help vet a digital marketing agency.
- The red flags that are warning signs to steer clear of some choices.
- What separates a high-performance digital marketing agency from a low-cost option.
BEFORE YOU START
The first thing to do in your digital marketing journey is to figure out your goals. What does a win look like, and what are you trying to accomplish? Are you looking to build brand awareness or for a specific percentage increase in sales? Or both? Not having a clear vision of your goals is like trying to build a house without a plan. The results are going to be bad and mostly a waste of money. It will also help you vet your choices, as the right digital marketing agency will want to know your goals so they can deliver wins. And they should also be upfront about whether your goals are realistic too. Our blog post, “What to Know About Digital Marketing in 2023,” is a great first read to familiarize yourself with the current digital marketing landscape.
WHAT DO THEY COST?
Figuring out your budget is a significant first step in the selection process. Like buying that used car, you need to know if you are shopping for a Ferrari or a Fiesta. Most digital marketing agencies interested in long-term clients will charge a monthly fee based on a client’s pre-determined needs and goals. Time costs money, and an agency will charge more if those needs and goals are more intensive as they take longer to accomplish. And there can also be a wide variation in what different agencies charge. This article gives great tips for those crafting their first digital marketing budgets and is a good starting point.
Our best advice is to be upfront and not shy about asking about costs. If you know your goals, an agency should be able to give a rough idea of costs before proceeding further. Digital marketers are busy people, and more than likely, you are too. Wasting time isn’t in anyone’s best interests if an agency is out of your price range.
WHAT IS THEIR REPUTATION?
Reputation is everything in life and business. The same is true of digital marketing agencies, as the best ones enjoy solid reputations. But asking some agencies about their reputation can produce biased answers. Most will never admit to having a less-than-stellar reputation. And some of poorer notoriety might even take steps to conceal it.
One of the best ways to circumvent this is to ask around. Other business leaders are usually happy to recommend an effective digital marketing agency they have experience with. While it shouldn’t be the only factor in deciding on what agency to go with, it does help narrow down your choices dramatically.
ARE THEY OVERHYPING THEIR SERVICES?
Like a used car salesman, some digital marketing agencies go for the hard sell. Guaranteeing very specific and astronomically high ROIs in a short-time frame sounds appealing. But anything that sounds too good to be true usually is and should be a red flag. Most are sales tactics to lure you in and get your money. And once you realize that an agency can’t deliver on its outlandish promises, it might be too late, as you are already being billed.
More reputable digital marketing agencies do not need to employ hard-sell tactics. They will not try to dazzle you with wild and unsubstantiated claims. Instead, they will give you a realistic idea of performance based on campaigns they have run before. And a good agency can back up ROI numbers with specific examples. Low-level digital marketing agencies are like used car salesmen because they are trying to make as many “sales” as possible. But the right digital marketing agency wants to build a long-term relationship with the right clients.
ARE THEY BUILDING A SPECIFIC DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY FOR YOUR BRAND?
Every brand is unique with different goals, wins and needs. But some budget digital marketing agencies employ the same generic strategy for every single company. Like ordering an A5 Wagyu Kobe steak and being served a hamburger, it simply doesn’t work and will leave a bad taste in your mouth. But some agencies do it anyway, as the move saves a lot of time, effort and research. They don’t have to perform the intensive work of properly building a high-performing strategy for your brand. Instead, they use the same one they have for every client before you. Yes, there are digital marketing tactics that are common across any industry. But maximizing your ROI really requires a strategy specific to your brand. Check out Forbes’ excellent article explaining the importance of a digital marketing strategy to understand why having one tailored for your brand matters.
DO THEY HAVE REALISTIC TIME FRAMES?
One way to spot if a digital marketing agency is using a canned strategy is its time frame. A well-thought-out and high-ROI digital marketing strategy isn’t something you just instantly turn on. It takes time and effort to develop. Digital marketers must research your brand’s customers and determine the best way to reach them. Setting up a Google Data Studio, gaining access to social media channels and websites, acquiring or creating advertising assets and other logistics all take time. And a competent digital marketing team should constantly monitor and adjust any campaigns once launched. Realistically, it will take 60-90 days before seeing any return on your digital investment. If an agency is throwing around a much shorter time frame, more than likely, they are using a generic strategy and hoping for the best.
DO THEY OFF-SHORE WORK?
Determining where a digital marketing agency’s workers are located is another helpful way to vet them. Some agencies offer attractive pricing by employing overseas shops with low-wage employees. These workers usually have a higher turnover, minimal industry knowledge and zero interest in the long-term success of your company. There may even be a language barrier, and usually, they are less skilled and experienced. Most are simply punching a clock and executing a canned strategy without the follow-up or constant adjustment needed to make a campaign successful. Agencies like these can be hard to detect, but beyond their bargain prices, one sure sign is that you never get to meet the people that do the actual work on your account. Usually, these low-budget agencies use a single U.S.-based point of contact as the go-between for the offshore team. An agency with its entire team based in the U.S. might be more expensive, but it will outperform an overseas shop and produce better results.
DO THEY UNDERSTAND YOUR INDUSTRY?
Digital marketing is different from other forms of more traditional marketing. A skilled digital marketer is more of a data scientist and employs a different skill set than any other type of marketing. But that doesn’t mean that digital marketers can just be “nerds” completely removed from your industry. Any form of marketing is ultimately about attracting customers with different types of branding or buying messages. But that can be difficult to do if an agency has no idea what your company does or who its customers are. A digital marketing team that understands your brand because they are your customers too will have a shorter learning curve and be more adept at targeting. They can operate with less oversight and create more effective digital advertising campaigns. And the results are even better if an agency’s in-house creative team is also an actual participant in the community you are trying to reach. A digital marketing agency that operates in and knows your space will almost always return a higher ROI.
WILL YOU HAVE REGULAR COMMUNICATION?
Any professional digital media agency interested in long-term clients knows regular two-way communication is vital. There is a problem if an agency doesn’t schedule regular check-in meetings for progress updates. Some lower-budget agencies focusing more on quantity over quality will try to avoid regular communication. They don’t have the time or staff because they are trying to juggle many clients. Like fast food restaurants, they are more focused on volume and not a client-centric approach. Treat an agency being non-committal or vague about how often you can expect communication as a red flag.
WILL YOU HAVE REGULAR AND REAL-TIME REPORTING?
Transparency is everything in digital marketing. Any agency worth employing should create a dashboard for your campaigns that provides analytics. This can be in the form of a Google Data Studio or other collection of metrics, but the important thing is that the reporting is in real time. Additionally, the right agency will walk you through how to use the dashboard and understand what it tells you. This allows you to see how your money is being spent and the results it is returning with verifiable data.
Beyond a dashboard, a good agency should also provide a detailed monthly report on a campaign’s status. These reports should be in-depth with actual data and easy to comprehend. Just a link to a Google Data Studio or a vague report without any numbers doesn’t count. After reading a report, you should understand how your money is being spent, what your ROI is and what steps are being taken to maximize a campaign’s performance. And your agency should take the time to walk you through the report and answer any questions if needed. Any agency that leaves you in the dark should be avoided.
DO THEY OFFER OTHER SERVICES?
Some digital marketing agencies are simply that and offer no other services. This might not sound like a big deal if the price is right. But what if you need help creating a digital advertisement? Or what if you need product photography and videos for a campaign? Your digital marketing efforts might also be part of a larger shift, like selling directly to consumers, that you could use expert help with. It is always worth asking any potential agency what other services they offer. Even if you don’t need any of them now, it can save the headache of having to find another agency outside of one that only handles digital marketing. And, like bundling your insurance, one agency handling all your needs is usually more cost-effective than employing multiple ones.
WHY PICK KAHN MEDIA?
Our focus at Kahn Media is not on getting as many clients as possible. Instead, we prefer long-term strategic partnerships with select brands where we deliver measurable digital marketing results backed with data. We don’t use hard-sell tactics or fanciful results and timelines to lure you in but let our past performance and reputation for high-ROI campaigns speak for themselves. Our award digital marketing team is all in-house, easy to access and we don’t farm out work. They are experts at building strategies specifically for your brand that maximize ROI and performance. And we explain those results with highly-detailed monthly reports and regular client check-ins. We are also a full-service marketing agency with specialists in photography, videography, content creation, public relations, event management, strategy development and influencer relations. Our goal is to be a valuable partner that acts as a force multiplier helping to grow your brand’s sales and reach. Contact us today to see how we can help with your digital marketing efforts or act as a turnkey marketing solution for your brand.