5 Questions You Should be Asking Your Digital Agency
There are a lot of great marketing agencies out there. Unfortunately, just like in most industries, there are also agencies that may not always have their client’s best interests at heart.
Also, an educated buyer is the best buyer. The more basics you know about digital marketing and partnering with an agency, the better results and relationship you will have. Plus you’ll be able to quickly screen out those partners that don’t have the right capabilities or aren’t the right fit for your business.
Some of these questions may be "tough", but the best agencies will not shy away from answering them. So, what should you ask your digital agency?
Who is going to be actually working on my marketing?
Start with finding out the experience they have on staff. Some firms are sales operations first, and light on digital expertise. It is helpful that your primary point of contact is a good source of knowledge, rather than someone who is more focused on meeting a sales quota and passing along information to those that actually understand how to grow your business.
If the ratio of sales to account management/account setup/campaign optimization is too high, then there is a danger that your campaign will be "set and forgotten". In the process of finding out who is working on your marketing, try to figure out just how overworked those account managers and campaign optimizers are.
Ideally you would like to see your agency have the ability to touch or review your campaign on a daily basis.
Another important point – are portions of your campaign going to be outsourced to a third party? This is particularly a problem with many "traditional" agencies who got their start helping businesses build and execute traditional media plans (ie Television, radio, direct mail). Many of these agencies have begun to add digital talent. However, with the complexity of digital marketing, it is my biased opinion that a marketing firm with digital at its core will be able to serve your needs more effectively.
How are you going to judge the effectiveness of my marketing and advertising?
There should be some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in place that will vary depending on the type of campaign you are running. It is important to note that if you are doing something like awareness advertising (digital display/video, billboard, TV/Radio) it IS critical to have patience and set medium term goals. However, your agency shouldn’t hide behind the "awareness" point for too long.
Good measures for judging the effectiveness of awareness advertising are things like year over year changes in your site traffic as judged by Google Analytics or the change in search queries for your business in comparison to a period of time.
Other forms of digital advertising have more straightforward KPIs. Especially for Paid or Organic search. I won’t go through all the KPIs here, but it is important they are established at the onset of the campaign and reviewed on a periodic basis. I suggest at least monthly.
How is my money going to be spent and how is your agency going to get paid?
This is critical to know. In the worst of scenarios an agency may be outsourcing a portion of a campaign and charging you an additional markup, on top of a markup they may be paying to the digital agency that is running your campaign. This can be a particular problem for the aforementioned agencies that don’t have in-house digital expertise. The end result is potentially less than 50% of your media spend could be going to the actual platform where your campaigns are appearing. I’ve seen this happen most with Paid Search (commonly referred to as "Google Adwords"), but I’ve also seen it happen with Paid Social campaigns (typically Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter paid ads).
Discerning how much of your money is going to be spent in a platform can be difficult. Often agencies will only present to you a "budget" that includes the markup that the agency is taking. Most decision makers do not ask about fees and platform spend. If that question makes your agency uncomfortable, then they are likely charging too much.
So how much is reasonable? Depending on the complexity and size of a campaign anywhere from 15-30% markup is reasonable in the form of a stand alone fee.
At Digiarks, we want transparency. That is why you will always know exactly how much is being spent in the media platforms and how much your are paying us to assist in running your campaigns. We will assess your campaign after discovery and typically charge a fee to set up your campaign and a separate fee for running your campaign each month. Both fees are based on the complexity of your campaign. Completely transparent and no BS.
Why do you think the solutions you are suggesting will be successful for my business?
Did the process of working with your agency start with a healthy discovery that included more questions about your business than pitches about the agency? How can an agency become an extension of your marketing team if they haven’t learned all there is to know about your present situation, opportunities, threats, competitors, and services? All agencies say they are solution oriented, but many will pitch you the same solution set regardless of your situation.
When you are being pitched a campaign, ask one simple question: Why? Why did you propose this particular plan? What was it about my situation that led you to this set of solutions? Again, the answer should come quickly – if it doesn’t, something is wrong.
Tell me about success stories you have in working with businesses similar to mine?
One of the reasons you work with an agency is the ability to obtain expertise that you don’t have in your own business. It is only fair to ask your agency about their level of expertise specific to your industry or business offering. If you were hiring an in-house marketer you would at least ask the candidate how their skills are applicable to your business. It only makes sense to ask the same of your agency.
If your agency doesn’t have a ton of experience with your specific industry, that doesn’t have to be the death nail to working with them. Ask them how the experience they do have is applicable to your business. Is the consumer mind-set of your customers similar to the customers of businesses they have worked with? A thoughtful answer to that question will expose a lot about their mindset and ability to shift their skills to effectively advocate for your business.
We founded Digiarks to have the freedom to serve clients in a 100% open and honest way. We are happy to do a free assessment of your current situation to see if it makes sense to offer. Even if you think you just need a nudge in the right direction, reach out to chat with us. We love to geek out on ways to grow your business. If it makes sense to partner together then we want to become an extension of your business and we won’t shy away from any of the questions above.