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Businesses are moving away from traditional methods of marketing to digital marketing and they are doing it at a fast pace.

If trends are to be believed, Digital marketing has already eaten into a substantial amount of budget, earlier allocated to traditional methods of marketing such as TV, Newspaper, etc.

Here is a graph to substantiate what I wrote above:

Source: https://searchengineland.com/smbs-spend-an-average-46-of-marketing-budget-on-digital-177502

And the above graph just gives us an overview of how marketing spending has changed over the years.

We now have industries which are allocating more than 60% of their marketing budget on the internet or mobile marketing – all part of Digital Marketing.

Here is another graph to show the Growth of ad expenditure in different mediums (year: 2017)

Global Ad Growth 2017

In all the major countries around the world, Digital advertisement growth has been in double digits reaching as high as 30% in India.

You are living under the rock if your business is not using Digital Marketing to its advantage.

As per Search Engine Land, “On average, SMBs spend 46% of their marketing budget on digital marketing.”

Digital marketing is no more a trend you can just ignore. It is the present and future of marketing and promotion.

Today, in the business world most companies do in-house digital marketing or contract digital marketing work to a Digital Marketing Agency.

And though companies have gotten some small work done in-house, they have preferred to outsource Digital marketing work to professional Agencies.

However, there is always the risk of settling on a wrong digital marketing agency that may not deliver the expected results.

It is always a daunting task to choose a digital marketing agency as there are many options available in the market.

It is always the desire of every company to get a team of professionals who understand their job and are willing to meet your customer demands but if only, life was so easy.

I have been helping small businesses succeed on the internet for years. One of the crucial aspect to help them succeed was helping them find the right digital marketing agency for their online campaigns.

I have dealt with the good, bad and ugly in the world of Digital marketing.

And the one question which I get a lot from clients is “How to hire a Digital Agency” or “how to choose a digital marketing agency?“.

I usually ask them to search on google.

If only life was so easy and google was not prone to manipulation. (all DM companies have a team of ORM experts to paint them as the best in the two).

Here are a few steps to help you find the right Digital Marketing Agency:

1. Where to “Search” Them?

I know it’s a dumb question to ask. You have search engines, yellow pages, search engines.

How difficult would it be to find the right digital marketing agency?

To start with, most of the small businesses are as lost as I was, when I started my business.

Here is how you can use the “already known” methods to better find Digital Marketing Agencies for your business.

  • Search Engine: In the modern digital world, you can actually find an agency of your choice by make good use of the search engine. It is advisable to be more specific in your searches to avoid wasting a lot of time going through thousands of results. You can minimize the number of results by including your location in the search to find agencies near your area. Some of the best agencies that can meet your needs can be found at the top of the results lists.

So, how do you do that?

The first step is to prioritize your search by identifying the factors which are important for you to select a Digital Marketing Agency.

Few of them which comes to my mind when I think of finding a Digital Marketing Agency using Search Engine are:

  • Cost: Keywords like Affordable should be of help (Do not use cheap. I hate to use the word and most of the businesses who have used the keyword to find the digital marketing agencies using the keyword have actually found “cheap” agencies in a literal sense. As they say “If you pay peanuts, you will only get monkeys)
  • Type of Business (small business, startup)
  • Industry experience (this details the type of industry your business belongs to – Pharma, healthcare, hotel, etc)
  • Location: If you hate to communicate via internet and want someone you can meet face to face – Location should be a criterion for you to find the right agency.
  • Referrals: The good old referral method still works wonders. You reduce the risk of failure by working with someone who has worked with an acquaintance and has done a wonderful job for them.

Your acquaintance might tell you beforehand about all the advantages and disadvantage of working with a particular digital marketing agency based on their own experience.

Referrals provide you with an opportunity to see beyond the salesmanship and marketing of various digital marketing agencies.

In short, you get to see the True Picture which is not possible – if you are finding the agency via web.

2. Google Partners: Reputable search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing have partner agencies that can come in handy when searching for a Digital Marketing Agency who have been assigned as their preferred partners.

This method is quite successful when you are looking for specific services like Google PPC, Facebook Ads, etc.

A certified preferred partner from Google definitely has an edge over other when it comes to running a PPC Campaign for your agency.

In addition to the above, Google has a database of digital marketing agencies arranged in different digital marketing categories such as Shopping and GoogleAnalytics IQ, video ads, mobile advertising, display advertising, and search advertising.

You can get the expected budgetary requirements for working with various agencies.

The trust factor and legitimacy of Google makes it a good tool for finding an effective digital marketing agency for your company.

 3. What to consider while selecting them?

By now you have your list of Digital Marketing Agencies shortlisted for your business and now you want to filter them in order of your preferences.

They all look equally good, but you cannot hire them all. Right?

Here are a few points to help you shortlist the ones matching your criteria.

  • Credibility: This is the most important thing to consider when looking for a digital marketing agency. Any credible agency should have a decent website that provides basic information about its ownership, location, and services.

An online marketing agency that does not have a website should be avoided as this is a major red flag.

You must be wondering “How is it possible that a Digital Marketing Agency does not have an internet presence?”

Frankly speaking, it is not only about having a website. The website should be built in a manner to effectively communicate their services.

Few important points to help you with the process are:

  • The website should be built as per the latest standards. I hate tacky websites with a lot of flash, JavaScript, popups in them. The latest standard is all about Simplicity. You will know what I mean when you look at a good website which communicates its services without pushing them on your face. Another important point is the responsiveness of website on all devices and the latest browsers.
  • The website must have a blog which is regularly updated and helps websites visitors learn something about the industry. Now, this is a must. We are in 2018 and if you find the blog of a website was last updated 3 months back, take a step back and think “If they do not update their own blog, how will they update mine?”. Bottom line is “You should not preach what you do not practice”.
  • Once you are done checking the basic stuff, time to move to Testimonials and Clients section. You should check whether the website has testimonials and client logos or not. In addition to that, you should also find out if the reviews are from genuine clients or not. I always ask my clients to dig out a bit of history of names, companies posted in the testimonial section.

I ask them to take that extra pain of going to LinkedIn and find the name of the person whose name is displayed on the website and if you are at the last stage of shortlisting, how about you drop them a LinkedIn message and ask them about their experience? You will have the real authentic feedback from someone who has had a first-hand experience with the digital marketing agency you are considering.

Few more additions to the website which should help you give that extra point to the agency are:

  • Have they published any case studies on the website?
  • Any experience from a similar business as your business should be awesome.
  • It would be amazing if content creators in the company are published on some other websites too (remember, digital marketing is now turning into content marketing. The more the content they have published on other publications, the more is the expertise level of their team)
  • Check the variety of industries they have worked in and how comfortable they will be in developing content for your industry.

3.Vibe: You should take the time to visit the agency’s physical office to determine its vibe. In this case, you should engage in casual conversation with some of the company’s employees and study the mood at the office to understand the agency’s vibe.

Find out if the team members are friendly, good communicators, and helpful.

Most people ignore such intangibles and end up hiring agencies that cannot deliver the expected results.

Team members that appear frustrated and annoyed may not do a good job as marketing requires a positive vibe. And check they comfort level in working with your industry. Trust me, the most difficult part of running a Digital Agency is producing engaging content for fields which are considered boring in the market.

You need a passionate team. The word passion has lost its power because of being overused but is still important when it comes to marketing. The agency should tell you what excites them about your company and how they feel working for you.

In addition, you should ask them about their favorite industry innovation and what they find fascinating about the industry. You should avoid a team that is only excited about the money, ego, and awards as this mean that they have no passion for what they do. It is advisable to consider a team that is excited about innovation and has a genuine interest in your business as this indicates that they are driven by passion.

4. What Should You Ask?

  •  Audit: There is a need for an agency to prove itself as competent and asking for an audit of your business’s current Digital presence is a good start.

I know of a company which got a paid audit done by 3 companies and selected the one which really understood what they wanted. Their logic of going for a paid audit from 3 companies made a lot of sense to me. As per them, this is a long-term relationship and requires a lot of close interactions and planning to make the project success.

They would rather spend money on 3 companies now than get stuck with a wrong partner and suffer later.

Do you know which digital marketing agency they selected?

They selected an agency which did the current audit to perfection and laid out a perfect beautiful plan for the future of their business. In the process, they also did some free sample content for clients.

The business owner was really impressed with what he saw. Most importantly, he appreciated the fact that this agency understood his business better than others.

An audit helps in identifying areas that need improvements when it comes to digital marketing. Through an audit, a digital marketing agency is able to uncover some of the failures in your current system and in the process increase their chances of working with you. A proper audit will help the new digital marketing agency to do a better job as compared to their predecessors when you eventually hire them.

  • Experience: For me, the biggest challenge a Digital Marketing Agency can take is to set the client’s expectations right and then meet those expectations. For ex, not all businesses will get leads from internet. Some businesses need digital marketing for exposure. Your experience should help you set the expectations clear with clients. A good digital marketing agency should have some outside experience as this is very critical in the modern business world that is very competitive.

Previous experience sparks innovation and that is why it is important to consider diversity when selecting a digital marketing company.

An agency can only provide valuable solutions after they develop empathy from outside empathy. An experienced agency has a solid understanding of the daily challenges that organizations face in digital marketing. The need for digital marketing agencies to provide real-life solutions makes it necessary for marketing agencies to have some experience as an agency and client.

Another important point while looking at the experience is what is the kind of experience the agency has. For ex, our agency has a good experience in Content Marketing but we are rate ourselves 5 out of 10 (self-criticism) when it comes to running PPC Campaigns.

To make a sound judgment you should know what you want from Digital marketing because Digital marketing is a very loosely used term. If you look at the offerings in Digital marketing, you will notice Digital marketing comprises of:

  • SEO
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Paid Marketing

Make it a point to ask the digital marketing agency, which of the above will hey use to meet your expectations.

This is where the experience of an agency will come into the picture. For ex, I ask B2B Companies to focus more of LinkedIn and Quora than Facebook and I tell them, you should focus more on SEO than social media marketing because that is where you will find your clients.

And before I end, do not forget to map your budget with what they can deliver. The word affordable has a different meaning for everyone in the service industry.

Ensure, you have your expectations set straight from day one in terms of deliverables, money and timeline.

It is important to look for a digital marketing agency that suits your specific marketing needs.

I might have missed a point or two in my blog to help you select the right digital marketing agency but overall the blog has all that I have learned working with a variety of clients and helping them succeed on the internet.

Jasmeet

Founder at The Sharp Brain
Jasmeet is one of the brains behind The Sharp Brain. Although, not the sharpest brain amongst the team he gets to lead the team because of the "founder" designation next to his surname.

He shares his startup experiences at http://lessonsatstartup.com
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