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How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency: Part I

by | Jul 2, 2021

So you’ve got two proposals from two different digital marketing vendors. You have a sneaking suspicion that your decision should not be made solely on which one is cheapest. You want a vendor that is going to help you turn your precious marketing budget into a solid return. How do you choose?

I’ve been on the customer side with perhaps 30 different marketing agencies and contractors over the years. I’ve worked with content strategists, search engine optimizers, user experience designers, advertising sellers, graphic designers, brand designers, etc. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned to look out for when choosing a digital marketing vendor:

1. They ask a lot of questions

Everything in digital marketing connects to everything else. Take a social media ad, for instance. To run and ad for you, a vendor would need to know something about your brand, your audience, your objectives, your budget, your analytics setup, your previous ad experiments, and your website to be able to run this ad well and understand it’s impact. The point is, whether you’re looking for an SEO, a web designer, or a copywriter, the vendor you’re looking for will want to know as much as possible about your situation.

At a minimum, a good digital marketing vendor should want to know:

  • your goals and the problem you’re trying to solve
  • your brand guidelines
  • your target audience
  • your key metrics

So if a vendor is a little too much of a yes-man and doesn’t ask you the key questions, they may be more interested in the sale than in setting you up fro success.

2. They want to prove their value

A good digital marketing agency may seem a little obsessed with testing and proving value. Who wants to finish work and have no idea if they did a good job or not? It’s all too easy to forget to ask the question: “How will we know the work we did made the difference we hoped?”

A few signs the vendor you’re talking to will be able to prove their value:

  • They ask for benchmarks
  • They setup analytics
  • They report your metrics
  • They help you understand and act on your metrics

3. They hate the idea of wasting your money and time

A great digital marketing agency hates waste. Small businesses have limited marketing budgets. Every dollar spent on marketing is either making your business stronger or weaker and a good vendor knows this.

You know you’ve found an agency that doesn’t want to waste your money and time when:

  • They won’t sell you ads that send people to your broken website
  • They won’t pitch a website redesign when there’s no clear business case for doing so
  • They won’t encourage you to keep spending money on ads that aren’t working
  • They won’t encourage you to invest in marketing channels that don’t fit your strategy

There are obviously many other things to look out for when hiring a digital marketing contractor so I will need to write a part two and three to this post. The three qualities above have proven to be reliable differentiators between vendors and hopefully will help you choose the right team to work with.


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