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    05/11/2023 |

    How To Evaluate a Digital Marketing Agency in 2023

    To drive demand, leads, sales opportunities and new customers, revenue companies today are doubling down on digital marketing tactics. In fact, many companies are going through a digital transformation to upgrade this part of their business.

    However, not all businesses have the in-house expertise and resources to implement a successful digital marketing strategy. That’s where digital marketing agencies come in.

    A digital marketing agency fills the gaps companies need with the necessary skills and experience to achieve their marketing goals. However, with so many digital marketing agencies in the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task.

    In this article, we will guide you through the steps to select the best digital marketing agency for your business in 2023.

    Define Your Goals

    Before you begin searching for a digital marketing agency, it’s essential to define your marketing goals. What are you looking to achieve through your digital marketing efforts? Are you looking to increase brand awareness, generate more leads or increase sales?

    Some digital marketing agencies help their clients with marketing and sales technology too. Is this part of what you hope to accomplish? What are the goals associated with getting the technology upgraded, updated or cleaned up and operating correctly?

    Look for an agency that understands how important this is and asks you to articulate your goals during the sales process. What are your goals over the first 30 days and the first 90 days of the engagement? What are your goals after six months and at the end of the first year?

    You should be looking for a “strategy before tactics” agency that knows that without a strategy, the tactics (whatever you’re running) are likely to underperform. Getting the strategy in place first answers all your questions related to goal definition and expectations.

    Evaluate the Agency’s Expertise

    When selecting a digital marketing agency, it’s essential to evaluate their expertise. Digital marketing is a broad field that encompasses various disciplines, including SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, email marketing and more.

    One approach is to align the specific tactics you need help with to the specific expertise within the digital agencies you’re considering. But another option, and one that we recommend, is to look at agencies that are built to deliver business results like leads, sales opportunities and revenue.

    This means they’ll need to have expertise across the entire “click to close” spectrum. They’ll need to be able to generate demand with paid outreach and generate leads with website, content and nurture expertise. They should also be able to help you with the sales execution so that leads get handled appropriately and can be closed quickly and at a high rate.

    They need to be equally equipped to create the analytics to help uncover insights in your program and then leverage those insights into your action plans. They also need to be solid on the technology platform required to get those analytics and build any automation necessary to deliver your revenue generation machine.

    Review the Agency’s Portfolio

    I’m not a huge fan of portfolio reviews, especially those on an agency’s website. Every agency has its best work on its site; however, you can look for companies in your industry and see an agency’s creativity and their execution within your market.

    You should also be looking for companies with similar challenges to your firm. For example, if you want account-based marketing (ABM) programs, look for those stories on their site. If you want a new website designed and developed, look for those types of case studies. If you want leads, look for stories about how leads were generated.

    I also recommend you look for agencies that are proud to publish quantitative data associated with their portfolio. While you might not be able to see actual numbers because of confidentiality issues, you should be able to see percentage increases and overall improvement data.

    And finally, make sure they work with companies like yours. If all you see are logos from large multi-national companies, then that agency might not be right for you if you’re a small to mid-sized business.

    Evaluate the Agency’s Client Reviews and Testimonials

    Client reviews and testimonials are an excellent way to evaluate the agency’s reputation and quality of work. While every agency usually has at least a small handful of happy clients, look for agencies that have a wide variety of quotable clients.

    Also, look for videos from clients. When people go on camera, you can be sure they are very happy and willing to publicly endorse the agency. Written testimonials and reviews are great, but video shows that they are willing to go the extra mile for the agency.

    When reviewing client reviews and testimonials, look for feedback that relates to your marketing goals. For example, if you’re looking to increase your organic search visibility, look for reviews and testimonials that mention improvements in organic search rankings. If you’re looking to generate more leads through paid advertising, look for reviews and testimonials that mention increases in lead generation.

    Consider the Agency’s Culture and Values

    The agency’s culture and values are an essential aspect of their work. But I’m not suggesting you review the culture or core values section of their website and call it a day. Every agency has core values on their website. You’re going to have to dig much deeper to make sure they live their core values.

    If this is important to you, and it should be, ask for examples of how they embody those values as it relates to clients. How do the core values impact the way the team interacts with clients? Ask for specific examples.

    I would also make sure their core values align with your core values. At Square 2, no fluff is one of our core values. That means we are direct. We tell clients what we think and share our opinions. That might not work for you, but it works wonderfully for the company down the street.

    If you are going to be looking for a long-term partnership with a digital marketing agency, then this should be important to you.

    Consider the Agency’s Pricing

    The pricing or the level of investment required needs to be addressed. However, I only bring this up to make a point. You get what you pay for. Good work costs money. I’ve seen too many prospects go with the lower-cost provider only to have them come back to us a few months later regretting that decision.

    Don’t make a similar mistake. There are good reasons agencies are less expensive, and most of those reasons aren’t great for you. They pay their people less, which generally means they are younger and less experienced. That always means the experience you’ll get for your investment will be less too.

    They might not be staffed appropriately, meaning you might not get the attention you expect or were promised in the sales process.

    They might not be investing back in the agency. This means you might not get access to all the tools, technology or training the team needs to get you the results you expect.

    Finally, it might mean the client turnover is high and the agency is doing whatever it takes to bring on new business. Agencies with high retention rates are generally picky about who they work with and are more expensive because they can be. This is positive. It means clients are happy, have great experiences and get solid results.

    Don’t buy on price ever.

    Look for Value in the Sales Process

    This is really important and not something too many people share with companies looking for digital marketing agency partners. Many agencies are trying to shorten their sales cycle. They huddle with you for 30 minutes and then put together a proposal.

    How can anyone know what you need to grow your company in just 30 minutes? It’s like a doctor offering you a personalized treatment plan after talking to you for five minutes.

    Look for real value in the sales process. Are they sharing their expertise? Are they asking you difficult and challenging questions about your business? Are you learning anything? Are they looking at your technology? Are they looking at your current numbers? Are they giving you insights into how they work with clients?

    They should be spending enough time with you during the sales process so that you’re 100% sure they’ve gotten to know you enough to provide intelligent recommendations, not cookie-cutter recommendations that go to everyone.

    If you don’t learn anything in the sales process, the chance of you learning anything in the engagement is probably pretty low, and today’s digital agencies should have a passion for teaching you how to generate revenue, leverage the latest tools and better understand how your prospects buy.

    Selecting a digital marketing agency can be a daunting task. However, by following these steps, you can select the best agency for your business in 2023. Once you find your perfect agency, you’ll be on your way to achieving your marketing goals and driving business growth.

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist headshot
    CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

    Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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