How to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency

“Part of knowing who you are is knowing who you aren’t.” I first heard this quote from our head of business development, Dan Posner, while we were deep in discussion about our core values and better defining who Big Leap is as an agency and why we do what we do.

As Big Leap has grown and evolved, we’ve become very good at knowing who we are but also who we aren’t. It’s tempting for many agencies to want to take on any client and revenue opportunities that come their way. The reality is most agencies have a sweet spot. It could be particular services and skills or even the types of clients they work with.

Over the last 10 years of working in agencies and consulting with clients, one of the main factors that determines success in a client/agency relationship is finding the right fit.

Even as a client, it may seem appealing to find the biggest, most recognized agency in the country but if you’re not in their sweet spot, it’s entirely possible your campaign may fail while it could have succeeded with another agency.

There are 6 main factors that we’ve identified in making sure that clients and agencies are the right fit for each other.

 

  1. Strategy vs. Execution

Some agencies and consultants love to analyze, plan, and strategize for their clients but that’s where they stop. There can be a tremendous amount of value provided by this group but if you don’t have the capacity to execute, all the nice looking reports in the world isn’t going to move your campaign forward.

On the other hand, there are lots of agencies out there who specialize in the execution but may be weaker on the strategy and planning aspects of a campaign. If you’re an experienced digital marketer and are blazing the trail for your company, this may be just what you need. Many of our clients have the expertise in-house but need a partner they can trust to help with the leg work.

There are definitely agencies that can do both but we typically find they’re better at one or the other. If I had to rate Big Leap, I’d say we probably lean 65% towards execution and 35% towards strategy.

 

  1. Agency Size

Choosing the Right Sized Digital Marketing Agency

There are amazing agencies that have 2 people and amazing agencies that have 200 people. There really is no right answer but the size of the agency can make a difference depending on your needs.

There are pro’s and con’s to small or large agencies. With the right small agency, you may have more direct access to the most experienced assets at the agency. However, that may come with a high price tag when a mid-senior level marketer may be just as capable with certain tasks.

Large agencies can provide stability and a breadth of resources from video to analytics to web development. Larger agencies often have good processes in place which often helps but sometimes causes them to be inflexible and more difficult to work with.

Ideally, you want to find the right “Goldilocks” fit for your business based on your resources and needs. One area where we see this come into play often is with startups and entrepreneurs. You may not be able to predict what your company is going to look like in 6 months so you need an agency that is nimble and flexible to change with you.

I’ve personally worked at an agency that had 250 people and as an individual consultant when Big Leap was just getting started. With our current team size of about 45 people, we have a great mix of experienced individuals where we feel we can provide a strong offering in paid advertising, organic search, content marketing, and social media.

 

  1. Industry Experience

There can definitely be some value in finding an agency that has experience in your industry. There are even agencies that specialize in various verticals. We’ve always taken a broader approach which we believe helps us learn and expand our knowledge outside of a single industry.

More important than the industry, we suggest finding out if an agency has had success with a similar type of conversion goal. Finding an agency that has experience selling online life coaching may be difficult but many agencies have experience driving conversions to a registration page.

Experience in a specific industry is definitely helpful but not one of the most important items when finding a good agency.

 

  1. Services & Skills

Being a digital marketing agency can mean many different things. Some digital marketing agencies focus on a single skill like SEO or PPC while some agencies offer 10-20 different services.

We don’t necessarily believe that a company that only offers 1 service is better at that service than an agency that has multiple services. However, we believe many agencies claim to be experts in far too many things.

Depending on your needs, finding a highly specialized agency could be the right solution if you have all the other aspects of your digital marketing covered. However, since many digital marketing channels work together and overlap, it’s beneficial to make sure whatever agency you work with understands this and can help you maximize all channels.

 

  1. Communication & Reporting

Reporting and Communication

During our sales meetings, I’d say only about 30% of potential clients ask about reporting and communication but it’s such a critical component of a successful relationship.

Agencies vary quite a bit in how frequently they report and in what format. Some agencies even have specific limitations on how often you can communicate with them.

Our communication and reporting for clients is very fluid based on their needs. We start with our baseline report template and customize it to focus on the KPI’s that are most important to our clients.

Reporting frequencies can also vary from client to client. Some of our engagements require daily communication while others are busy executing other areas of their business and prefer a bi-weekly or monthly strategy and reporting meeting.

When selecting an agency, you want to consider what your time and resources look like and compare that to what the various agencies are suggesting to make sure you have a great reporting and communication relationship.

 

  1. Pricing

Determining a budget for any digital marketing campaign can be difficult. You could meet with 2 SEO agencies and ask for the same services and get a budget that ranges from $500 per month from one agency and $5,000 per month from another agency.

In addition to wild pricing variations, you also have agencies with different pricing models. Most agencies typically sell retainer models where you pay a certain fee each month but there are agencies that are built on a performance model where you may only have to pay for results.

Depending on your business and what stage you are in your business, one of those pricing models may work better than another for you.

 

I’m sure there are many other points that could be added to this list but from our experience in working with hundreds of companies over the years, these are some of the most important factors to consider when trying to find the right agency for your project.

Bryan Phelps
CEO at Big Leap
Bryan is Big Leap's CEO and founder. When he's not working on the business you can find him spending time with his family, enjoying the sun in St. George, UT, or hitting the links. Maybe all three.