Choice, and rapid evolution are everywhere in marketing today.
And while that’s a positive - never before have we had the technology, tactics and targeting ability to reach the right people, with the right messages - for individual marketers, the options can be overwhelming.
Strategy choice is not the only decision to make either. To ensure best value and return for your investment, you need to be certain you’re partnering with the right-fit agency to deliver on your goals.
In an ever-diverse and rapidly shifting landscape, that means you need to find an agency who can not only align with your business and understand your unique challenges, drivers and audiences - but one that ideally has experience in your niche, and has the agility to adapt as quickly as the market changes.
So, faced with a wealth of agencies available, all with differing USPs, how do you know which one to choose?
Think Strategically, and Objectively
“How do I know what I want?”
Faced with a seemingly endless choice of agencies, strategies, tactics and more, it’s understandable that many marketers either don’t know where to start - or often, what’s actually needed to deliver on their goals and KPIs.
If you’re faced with this dilemma, the best approach is to think strategically. Before you make any decision on strategy, define your main objectives. A good agency partner can help you to do this.
What is the end deliverable that you want to achieve? It can be difficult to look at a list of agency services, select an option and hope that it will align with your goals. So, put your deliverables first to inform the rest of your strategy. A good agency should be able to discuss your goals with you, then assess which strategic approaches (such as ABM, or Inbound) will 1: deliver on those objectives, and 2: work for your unique target audiences and industries.
Getting the strategy and planning stage of a campaign right is crucial to deliver results. So, don’t be afraid to make the most of your agency’s experience and expertise!
For this reason, it’s wise to partner with an agency who has a proven track record in your specific industry or niche, with a history of targeting the personas that matter to you. That way, you can benefit from their in-depth knowledge, research and market experience to know you’ll achieve those deliverables.
What Types of Agencies Are Available?
As marketing itself has evolved, so too have agency options and specialisms. For example, we now see agency types that include:
Web development agencies
Content marketing agencies
Traditional marketing agencies
Full service agencies
Specialist vertical consultants
No two agencies are the same! Some are purely web design agencies. Others may have evolved from a traditional (think, offline or outbound) marketing history, focus on PR, or offer additional sales support.
Consider too, that agencies often specialise in certain markets; B2B or B2C are common defining choices, but within that, some agencies are further experts; Strategic IC for example is a full-service B2B Inbound Marketing & Account-Based Marketing specialist, focused on the Technology industry.
If you’re not sure what services you need, choosing the right agency can be a daunting prospect. It’s often tempting to just pick an agency that seems cost-effective. But keep specialisms and expertise in mind. You’re not hiring a strategy; rather, you’re hiring a consulting team who should be able to use their experience to advise you on the best approach for your unique situation - and have the agility to change tack if a strategy isn’t delivering.
Do I Need A Specialist Digital Marketing Agency? Can’t Traditional Agencies Do Everything Digital Now?
While you may expect all marketing agencies to understand all approaches, many may not support all bases, or have the combined expertise to align across web, marketing and sales campaigns. Others may have a general knowledge of wider strategies, but not the specific expertise you need in a certain area.
Based on your defined objectives, you should assess the areas where you need support (and what areas you already have covered, either in-house, or with other partners). You can then align your agency options accordingly.
For example, you may already have an in-house web team and content specialists, and be working with a social media agency. Here, you’ll want to go back to your objectives to identify where there may be gaps in your strategy and existing resources required to meet those goals. Then partner with an agency who can bridge the gap in your resources to ensure strategic alignment across your entire marketing ecosystem.
Consider your wider marking and sales environment
It may help to consider your marketing and sales presence holistically; what you do in one area impacts results in another; from your web design and digital marketing strategies through to the quality of leads you generate for your sales team, and sales strategies you should be implementing.
A quality full-service agency will be able to advise you on the best approaches and strategies to consider across your on and offline marketing and sales activities, mapped to your objectives, niche and audience.
Criteria to Consider When Selecting an Agency
Still confused as to which agencies are the right fit for you? Before you decide on an agency partnership;
Be clear about your objectives and the budget you need to work within. You may not know the specifics of what strategy or tactics you need, but you should have an idea of objectives and budget. A quality agency will be able to take these, plus your audience and vertical specifics, and use them to inform the best approach.
Be clear about your initial investment and what success looks like for you . What specific outcome are you looking to achieve from your campaign investment? Quality lead return? Increased awareness? Growth in sales conversations? Define this with your agency ahead of any campaign launch.
Consider whether a specialist agency would suit. For niche industries, or those targeting a very specific vertical or persona, it's wise to choose an agency with proven experience in your vertical, as they will already know how to nurture and engage the audiences you care about . A vertical specialist agency will also understand the nuances of industry jargon and persona pain, and know in detail which digital environments and channels own the persona relationships you want to leverage; providing the maximum opportunity to deliver value. This way, you can evolve your channel approach beyond 'the same old channels' to a specific set of channel variations that are proven to work for your vertical. Before working with a vertical-specific agency, you should request real-life case studiesof how they've addressed similar marketing and sales challenges within your vertical.
Seek out agility. In the early stages of an agency/client relationship, agility is key. Flexibility in approach, and the confidence that your agency will proactively test, optimise and rework strategies for best ROI should never be underestimated. You should also ask your agency on expected time to see a return. Many tactics, particularly inbound, may take time to ramp up; both you and your agency partner should be clear on expectations.
Identify what a partner agency will need from you (and vice versa). A marketing partnership goes further than signing a contract! At the outset of an agreement, your agency will need a range of information such as permissions access and current marketing collateral. Beyond this, consider what commitments both parties need to adhere to. Do you need weekly updates and calls? Are you able to review and approve agency recommendations within an appropriate timeframe to keep campaign timelines on track? Your agency should be willing and understanding of the best approach for you; and may even recommend ways to simplify communication, such as video calls or reports.
Bigger isn’t always better. A small, focussed and dedicated team may suit, be easier to communicate with and offer greater agility.
Other key points to ask and consider include:
How (and how often) will the agency track, optimise and report on campaign progress? Can they align with your own internal requirements?
How does the agency package and price their services? How flexible are these options within your budget?
How (and how often) will this agency communicate with you? Can they fit your preferences?
How long must you remain with this agency? What flexibility and notice options are there?
Does this agency have a good understanding of your niche, vertical or audience? Are they able to create campaigns and content that fit your niche? (Again, consider if a vertical specialist agency would be a fit for you).
If you don’t know what agency services you need or want - don’t be afraid to ask! Keep your defined objectives in sight, and see what your potential agency advises. Equally, if you think a particular strategy may be a good fit for you, discuss it in initial conversations.