A number of our clients come to us with burn scars—battle wounds from working with a digital marketing agency who either could not or would not live up to what they promised to deliver. Sometimes an agency is overwhelmed, does not understand the client’s brand, needs, or the agency is simply dishonest. Regardless, at the end of the day, your brand may be suffering from serious burn scars.
Having a negative experience with a digital marketing agency can carry some advantages. Ultimately, the experience makes you wiser and more knowledgeable about what to do and what to avoid when you start shopping around for a new agency. That being said, how can you make sure you are signing a contract with an ethical and competent agency; one that will deliver a product built on best practices while understanding your brand and helping it grow the right way? The answer? You need to do some homework before signing on the dotted line. Dig deeper to discern the true nature of an agency before contracting with them. Here are a few things to consider before choosing a digital marketing agency.
Asking others about reputable agencies can go both ways—ask for recommendations and references. Query colleagues, business partners or other brand owners in your industry about which web agencies they used. You will probably get recommendations for companies you should contact and some companies you shouldn’t. Once you contact a digital marketing agency, don’t be afraid to ask for references of recognizable (i.e. easy to find online and well-established) brands they represent. You wouldn’t hire a babysitter without doing some background work, why would you trust your website or online presence to just anyone?
Is The Price Too Good To Be True?
If you have a few proposals from different agencies in front of you (which you should), and pricing between them is radically different, you need to seriously be asking WHY.
Typically, pricing variations within a digital marketing agency are based on four things: team, technology, process and expertise. Someone that comes in really cheap may be relying on some kind of automation service and/or outsourced contractors to produce and disseminate content and/or build platforms. This may be totally fine in certain cases with certain companies, but diligently assess the quality and customization of their work for other clients.
Outsourcing, if very well managed, can be totally great; however, experience has taught us over here at Alter Endeavors to keep all of our services US-based simply due to communication and timelines. It makes us a little more expensive, but we are also able to control the outcome of services rendered much more closely, quickly and efficiently. This may change for Alter Endeavors if we ever come across an outsourcing resource that we feel meets our needs.
Technology can also mean automation. Some automation, especially when it comes to analytics and goal tracking is great. For example, we created Catch Engine to help automate some aspects of lead generation or review acquisitions, but not everything. If any agency says they can have you simply fill out a survey and then put you into their system for insta-automated-magic success, run away as fast as you can. Things need to adapt and change constantly, and artificial intelligence isn’t far enough along (yet) to replace the human element in this process.
Speaking of process, ask about it. Cheap pricing can possibly mean an agency is new or inexperienced or dishonest enough to simply ignore the need for a process to discover and help achieve brand goals online and off within a promised time frame.
Lack of experience or expertise may also be a reason for cheap pricing. The agency may be hungry and is willing to work for peanuts in order to build experience and their portfolio. It may be that an agency, although inexperienced, could be able to quickly adapt and grow into an effective marketing machine for your brand, just be careful that their inexperience does not cost you time, money or reputation.
On the flip side, seriously question higher-priced agencies. Just because they are the most expensive does not mean they are the best either. Ask the same questions above and vet them further with the following techniques as well.
Have More Than One Conversation
Just like if you were buying a car or a house, don’t be pressured into doing something you are not ready to commit to. For many small to medium-sized businesses, the budget required to create a website or maintain a social presence is not insignificant. Before entrusting any agency with your funds, interview them more than once. You want to make sure that the digital agency is a good fit for your brand. Be honest with the agency about your needs and timeline and a reasonable agency will do their best to give you a good idea of what they can accomplish and how they can meet your needs. Good agencies will tell you upfront when they are not a good fit for your brand, but will then suggest someone they think might be—something we do over here at Alter Endeavors more often than folks expect.
Ask About the Team
If you have met with a representative of a digital marketing agency in person, more than likely, your first point of contact will be someone working in sales. As the conversation progresses further, don’t be afraid to ask to speak directly with someone you will be working with. The process of building a website is very intimate—you will be entrusting this agency with passwords, your email and more. Ask to be put in touch with your potential point of contact. A good relationship with your point of contact is necessary, especially if you might be signing up for an ongoing social engagement. You will be corresponding with your account manager on a monthly basis or more.
Know Your Goals
Sometimes a less than satisfactory website or failed social campaign isn’t the result of an incompetent agency, but a premature or undeveloped business idea. In order for an agency to execute a solid product, you need to enter knowing your goals and your business. A deadline, eager business owner or half-baked plan can lead to a hastily put together website or social media presence that doesn’t truly represent the brand or achieve the desired goals. Put the time and thought into developing your business, sales funnel and calls to action first. If you don’t have all the details ironed out, it’s not a deal breaker. You may need to build extra time into your website building or social media planning process so that your agency can assist with your overall branding strategy.
No agency is perfect, including Alter Endeavors, but great agencies know this. Great agencies have systems in place to deal with infrequent mess-ups and failures. They are also constantly proving that their successes far outweigh the occasional, inconsequential blunder. There is definitely a difference between an agency who can help your brand thrive online and an agency who cannot —maybe even hurt it. Want to start a conversation with Alter Endeavors about your online presence? You can ask us ALL the questions (we don’t mind). Our goal is to build a powerful and sustainable online presence that will help you grow your brand!