Hiring a digital marketing agency can be a major investment for any company’s limited marketing budget.
Is it worth it? And how do you find a truly good digital marketing agency?
1. A great digital marketing agency is nimble.
First, the agency is able to shift quickly with changes in the client’s market, business, or marketing plans. Nothing stays the same in businesses or marketplaces for long, and the nimble agency not only knows that but has a culture and processes that enable it to bend with the changes and keep current with the client’s needs.
Second, and perhaps more important, the nimble agency is ahead of the trends in digital marketing in general and in the client’s business in particular. The agency keeps informed of the latest news on digital marketing. It is constantly testing its own assumptions. And it attempts to project where things are going, to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it is” as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously said.
The high-value agency isn’t just aware of coming trends, it communicates those regularly to its clients, and is bold to make suggestions based on those projections, to keep the clients ahead of their competition.
2. A great digital marketing agency knows more than advertising.
suspect Schaefer’s critique comes because many DMAs are actually advertising or public relations agencies that added on digital marketing in a desperate move to stay relevant. But if they haven’t really adopted or committed to the inbound mindset, it’s inevitable that they will fall back on advertising as the easiest solution.
I also suspect that by “advertising” Schaefer’s interviewees mean not just paid to advertise, but also content that is little more than direct advertising.
Advertising and direct selling should remain part of an overall marketing program, but companies engaging DMAs want more than that. The concept of inbound marketing has become pretty well known: marketing assets that bring value to the audience and thereby build awareness and reputation in a way that draws prospects to the brand, as opposed to marketing that interrupts the prospect and tries to coerce them into buying or trying the brand’s products.
A top-notch DMA knows how to build strategies for content that a brand’s audience will love, and that will make them love the brand all the more.
3. A great digital marketing agency emphasizes continuity over campaigns.
Now let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater: campaigns can be a perfectly valid and valuable part of marketing. But if an agency can only recommend campaigns, something is missing.
What’s bad about concentrating only on campaigns? At least a couple of things:
(i) It makes your marketing “herky-jerky.” You might make some progress via a particular campaign, but then that progress comes to a halt while you’re building the next campaign. In the meantime, your competition may pass you by.
(ii) Each campaign is a roll of the dice. If it succeeds, great! But if it fails to meet expectations, then it becomes more wasted time during which the competition could gain an upper hand.
(iii) Campaigns take your focus away from your overall, long-term goals. Everything becomes about winning the campaign, rather than about building a brand reputation over time. So what do we mean by “continuity”?
Continuity involves an overall marketing strategy aimed at building long-term brand value in the marketplace. The best DMAs know how to help their clients build holistic strategies that get everything, online and offline, working together. They aren’t in it for the quick traffic hit. Top agencies know they only win when their client becomes top-of-mind for prospects in their vertical.
That involves strategies that are aimed at big goals for the brand. Then campaigns or individual tactics are put in their proper place. They are just tools (and not the only ones) used to help achieve the bigger marketing goals. Furthermore, with this outlook, the agency helps the client design campaigns that contribute to the bigger, long-term goals, not just to win that campaign.
4. A great digital marketing agency supports rather than runs customer relations.
Schaefer is absolutely correct here. Companies owning and nurturing real relationships with their customers and prospects are marketing gold. Too many agencies offer to take that off the company’s hands, not realizing, in the long run, they are hurting more than helping. (And in too many cases, even those agencies are outsourcing their outsourcing!).
customer relations. Great agencies teach their clients how to manage those relationships better, instead of doing it for them.
This is not to say there is never a time and place for outsourcing the work in marketing, but the old dictum “give someone a fish, you’ve fed them for a day; teach them to fish, you’ve fed them for life” applies well here.
There is a useful middle ground here as well. At Trophy Developers, for example, we often find and initiate valuable relationships, but always integrate the client into the process. The bottom line here is not so much about who runs what as simply that it is not good for the client to be disconnected from customer and influencer relations.
5. A great digital marketing agency believes in data transparency.
Low-quality agencies want to keep the raw data hidden, and only parcel data out via dashboards or limited reports that may give the client a skewed view.
High-quality agencies believe that they and the client benefit best when data is open and shared, and each can apply their expertise to gain insights from that data.
Such agencies are also always willing to show the client the source data behind their reports.
Really, this section underscores a theme that runs throughout all these characteristics of great digital marketing agencies: Partnership. Truly valuable agencies always have a partnership relationship with their clients that works for the greater benefit of both.
6. A great digital marketing agency builds a team of top experts.
In his HBR article, Schaefer shares an isolated anecdote from one client experience to back his claim that “agencies don’t hire the best talent.” While there is no doubt that this is true of some agencies (we’ve seen it too when we’ve taken over accounts!), this is a gross generalization.
In reality, a truly professional agency attracts and nurtures the best talent. Unlike an individual consultant, such an agency can offer the client the advantage of a team of multidisciplinary specialists, who can work together to formulate a holistic marketing strategy.
How Do We Know Such Agencies Exist? Because it’s our work, Year to the year!!! Originally published – Trophy Developers-