One cannot deny the significance of digital marketing in today’s business landscape. Indeed, most companies across all industries understand the inescapable need of having a marketable online presence. The number of internet users rises steadily, and with it so does the number of social media users. Both entail an ever-expanding pool of potential customers, many of whom are actively looking for products and services. Therefore, as businesses seek ways to advertise online, digital marketing only solidifies itself as an invaluable tool for any business. Choosing a digital marketing agency is no small task, however – more options introduce a higher chance of choosing poorly. Thus, in this article, we will explore the steps you may want to consider when choosing a digital marketing agency.

1. Carefully determine your company’s advertising needs

As with any business endeavor, you should begin by carefully examining your company’s needs. Ideally, you should precisely identify your digital marketing goals and needs in advance, which will naturally vary by industry. Thus, when choosing a digital marketing agency, consider the following:

  • What are your exact advertising goals?
  • How much time and money are you willing to invest?
  • What are your in-house marketing team’s shortcomings?

Doing so will allow you to identify the exact services you will need, and thus make a better-informed decision. Furthermore, having such insight in hand will allow you to more seamlessly cooperate with any agency you choose.

2. Consider your industry

Apart from your company’s individual needs, you should also consider your industry; its characteristics and trends are vital to note. For your moving company marketing efforts, for example, you may prefer to focus on web design; a pristine website performs well. Additionally, you may take seasonal fluctuations into account and reduce traditional advertising during underperforming months. Conversely, a business in the restaurant industry will likely prioritize social media over advertising altogether.

A person holding a pen over a pie chart on traffic sources.
You should always consider your industry’s unique characteristics, such as seasonal fluctuations and optimal web traffic sources.

You should thus look for an agency that deeply understands your industry’s needs, apart from your business’s goals. Any digital marketing agency can provide basic marketing support, but one that fits your tone and industry will always serve you better.

3. Be diligent in background research

With established goals and a clear industry focus, you may start to filter through digital marketing agencies. There are a number of indicators that you should consider during this step – from first impressions to presence to testimonials.

Do they “practice what they preach”?

The mantra that agencies should “practice what they preach” has merit, precisely because it’s among the most reliable metrics of successful conduct.

If you are choosing a digital marketing agency on grounds of social media, examine their social media presence. Conversely, if you are hiring them for SEO, examine their own rankings. Your shortcoming may instead lie in responsive web design – and there is indeed a distinct link between responsive web design and SEO. In that case, go through their website and examine its accessibility and overall user experience.

A person designing a website on paper next to a mobile device.
Responsive, efficient web design should be a priority for any digital marketing agency.

It is vital that any digital marketing agency can best exemplify the merit of their work through their own success. If they cannot, the services they offer may not live up to your budget and offer the best ROI.

Customer testimonials and affiliations

Credibility is undoubtedly important when choosing a marketing agency. For instance, it should be perfectly safe to dismiss agencies that don’t offer transparency and client lists right away. For all the others, affiliations and testimonials can best indicate a track record.

Thus, you should examine their customer reviews, as well as their authenticity. Consider their overall score, as well as individual cases which did not succeed. For any long-standing agency, such cases are to be expected; consistent shortcomings in any one area are not, however. Customer reviews are often among the most trustworthy testimonials of success or lack thereof.

Lastly, for the US, consider their Better Business Bureau (BBB) ranking – or their equivalent for other parts of the world. Their professional network and affiliations can also ensure that they are indeed trustworthy professionals. Few established professionals will maintain risk-inducing relations with subpar agencies, so this is an equally reliable metric of success.

4. Before choosing a digital marketing agency, contact them

Finally, once you have established your goals and finished your research, you may begin contacting your candidates. There are many criteria you should consider in this crucial step, from their tone to their answers to specific questions.

A close-up of a man's extended hand.
When choosing a digital marketing agency, you are establishing a long-term professional relationship.

Fill out their contact form

A basic first contact would be filling out their contact form. This will allow you to measure their responsiveness, which is a great, albeit not infallible, metric to note. Here you should also expect a general fee structure; your cooperation will hinge on their ability to optimize your budget.

Send a request for proposal

A request for proposal (RFP) will allow you to collect more valuable information on your candidates. This information will help you better calibrate your efforts towards meeting your goals and budget.

Before choosing a digital marketing agency, ask for case studies

When choosing a digital marketing agency, case studies are invaluable. A case study on your exact needs and goals should reassure you that they are capable of meeting your demands. Carefully examine the results their services yielded in cases similar to yours, in no uncertain terms:

  • ROI
  • SEO results
  • Traffic growth
  • Sales funnel growth

Such results can be clear indicators that your candidates are indeed demonstrably qualified for your tasks at hand.

Send them a task

If customer testimonials and case studies do not suffice for you, you can also send them a task to complete. A successful task on-demand can offer you peace of mind that they are indeed efficient and consistent with timelines.

Conduct a “beer test”

Lastly, if all else succeeds, a meeting with the agency should be last on your list. It should always be kept in mind that, when choosing a digital marketing agency, you are establishing a long-term business relationship. You should thus consider what is colloquially known as a “beer test” – a meeting that gauges your compatibility. Personality clashes may not be absolutely prohibited, but they can certainly be detrimental to your relationship. A “beer test” can help you identify such clashes early, and potentially avoid turbulent cooperation that may jeopardize your efforts.