Digital marketing—from website development to optimizing your site and overall marketing—is a huge need for most businesses. Last year, spending on digital marketing in the US and UK grew by 44 percent to $52 billion, according to recent reports. If you’re a business owner or manager who’s considering outsourcing digital marketing projects to an agency, it might seem overwhelming.

Working with a digital marketing agency for your small business represents a significant investment of your time, capital and resources.

At 10x digital, our expert staff comes from a diverse background, with many having run and owned small businesses in the past. At a recent company retreat, we polled our team on what clients need to know before working with an agency. Use the following checklist to help guide your decision to work with a digital marketing agency.

Understand Your Unique Business Needs

Before you outsource any tasks (from marketing to operations), you need to understand why. More often than not, this comes down to making sure you’re in tune with your unique business needs. Yes, you may think you want to ramp up social media to increase brand awareness—but why? How will that help you achieve quantifiable success?

We recommend breaking down your business needs into three manageable points: target audience, goals and pain points.

Target Audience

Who is your target audience? Whether it’s clients for B2B or customers for B2C; who are you trying to reach? You need to have a clear image of your target audience(s) to help a digital marketing agency get started. They can help you further divide into targeted subgroups, but this is a must to begin the conversation.

Goals

You need to have clear business objectives. Even if it’s something simple such as: “I want to increase sales this year.” A digital marketing agency needs to learn about your business model or business plan. From this information and definition of clear-cut goals, they can help you understand how to get there.

Pain Points

What’s your motivation for outsourcing digital marketing? Do you not have enough time? Does your team lack the expertise to achieve certain goals? Alternatively, perhaps you need to drive significant traffic, sales or conversions for a specific event. You may even need to fill talent gaps with your internal marketing team. If you know your pain points in achieving your goals, this will help an agency understand how to overcome those obstacles and provide solutions to your problems.

Bottom line: if you don’t understand your business objectives, it’s diffcult for a marketing agency to be a trusted partner in helping you achieve them.

Know That Bespoke Agencies = More Access

Without sounding like a shameless self-plug for small to mid-sized digital marketing agencies, know that size does matter when it comes to working with an agency. Based on volume, smaller agencies generally work with fewer clients, therefore have more time for a personalized approach. Steve Olenski, marketing expert, and Forbes contributor, dubbed this the Jerry Maguire principle. “With large agencies there’s less room to treat clients as individuals with individual needs for whom you can offer individual solutions,” explains Olenski.

What’s more, many large companies like Popchips Sprint, and Honda recently made the switch to smaller agencies, according to Digiday. With a small agency, there’s less bureaucracy. You’ll have direct access to decision makers willing to be agile and flexible with their strategy to meet your individualized needs. There’s no cookie cutter approach.

You may feel like a mid-to-large sized digital marketing agency is better suited for your needs, just make sure to do due diligence which brings us to our next point.

Interview Potential Digital Marketing Agencies

You would never think of hiring a new employee without first interviewing them, and it should be the same with a digital marketing agency. If you’re not sure what to look for, or which questions to ask, use the below list to interview candidates.

Questions to Ask and Points to Consider:

  • Do they have case studies for previous clients wins? The proof is in the pudding. Make sure an agency has proven success, with projects of a similar scope to your needs.
  • Ask about the team that will work on your account. Discuss each employee’s background and expertise. Ask if the agency outsources its talent or has dedicated staff.
  • Discuss their communications methods. Do they use email, phone, slack, etc.? Will you have an account manager to ping with small issues? How many times can you expect to meet throughout the duration of your project or retainer?
  • What tools do they use? Will you have access to a project manager to track progress? Are their tools and programs compatible with your current work process? Will they help with any learning curve (for example, provide a tutorial on new software).
  • What type of reporting and metrics will they provide? Ask to see samples of reports, dashboards and analytics examples from other clients. Seeing and understanding results is essential to the overall success of your working relationship.
  • Do they have experience in your industry? More specifically in your niche? Does their team have knowledge of your products/service, audience and competition?
  • Perform a quick check of their online presence. Sure an agency might talk the talk, but do they walk the walk? Do they have an attractive, well-performing website? How’s their social media presence? Is their blog regularly updated?

Have a Budget Prepared

The bain of any digital marketing agency is a client without a budget. It’s a common tale that after putting in the work to create a proposal, an agency finds out a client’s budget is limited and not adequate to accomplish the job. It’s okay if you don’t have an exact number, or you want to see what an agency generally charges first. You should at the very least know what you can afford to spend and be up-front and communicative from the start.

Remember, with a digital agency you’ll save significantly compared to bringing on in-house marketing staff or hiring freelancers and managing them yourself. When you work with one, you’ll gain an entire team of experienced professionals. However, working with a digital marketing agency for small business still represents a significant investment to ensure high-quality work.

Recognize That Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Most digital marketing strategies are a long-game, especially SEO and content marketing. There’s no easy path to overnight success. Any agency that promises you an increase in ranking in a month uses black-hat techniques (i.e., prohibited and can get you penalized by Google).

You can’t publish a blog post and expect to see web traffic rolling in immediately. Organic and targeted digital marketing takes time, effort and expertise, with a team that keeps up-to-date on the constantly shifting landscapes and best practices. We typically recommend a six-month retainer for maximum effectiveness. This isn’t for us to get paid more, it’s so we can create real, sustainable results for our clients.

Clear KPIs Help Manage (Everyone’s) Expectations

Straight-forward key performance indicators (KPIs) are a must when working with a digital marketing agency for small business. How else do you know that the work you do is successful without benchmarks and metrics in place? Before you sign a contract, make sure the agency outlines very clear KPIs that you agree to and understand. Then you’ll both know the expectations of your partnership. What’s more, all digital marketers worth their salt know that data-backed metrics are the best way to evaluate success.

Work With a Digital Marketing Agency For Small Business

The right digital marketing agency is a partner that is motivated to help you reach your unique and dynamic business goals. However, there are many out there and choosing just one can be daunting. Follow the above steps to evaluate candidates, choose an agency and create a successful working relationship.

What do you need help with? Get in touch with us today to talk to our experienced team of digital marketing pros and get a free website audit!

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