When looking for a digital marketing agency to work with, you’re search for a company to enter into a long-term partnership with: the future image, growth and perception of your company will be determined by their work. This means that you’re entering into a relationship of trust and should spend the time to find the correct partner for your business.

In this guide, we take what we’ve learned in our experience to break down exactly how you should approach your search for your new marketing agency.

It’s a two-way street

Businesses and agencies alike are unique. Each business has its own set of growth aims and each agency has its own approach and service offering, meaning that an agency that is perfect for one business might be ineffective for another. The best agency-client partnerships are those that are based on honesty and understanding of what a business is looking for, and how the agency can deliver that.

This means that two agencies that offer the same set of services will perform very differently when paired with a business, and it’s down to you to determine which has the right mindset, approach, team and results to work for you.

But this responsibility doesn’t just sit solely with you the client. The best agencies are the ones who understand their strengths and weaknesses and are confident in turning away potential revenue if the work isn’t right for them. An out-of-its-depth agency and a disappointed client is the perfect recipe for disaster, and yet one that can be so easily avoided.

The ideal client and agency partnership is one in which the aims of the business are aligned with the service offering and previous results of the agency. When these two things meet, great results can be achieved.

Debrief your current agency partner

If you already work with an agency and you’ve decided that it’s time to move on to another, one of the most useful things for all parties is a debrief meeting. Not only will this help your current agency understand why you’re ending the relationship (and in turn help them do better in the future), but it will also help you verbalise what you’re unhappy about. These points can then be passed on to new agencies you speak with, creating an open and honest dialogue from the outset and giving you a clearer picture of what you are looking for moving forward.

Similarly, it’s advantageous to ask your outgoing agency what methods they used to generate the best return on investment. Understanding in detail the work they have completed for you and what did and didn’t work for your business is key information to take to any new agency.

Check the website – it speaks for the agency

Given that most digital marketing agencies offer both web design and copywriting services, their website is a showcase of just how good they are at what they do. From well-considered design and clean development, through to the tightest and most compelling sales copy possible, the better an agency’s website, typically the better their offering.

As well as looking for the quality of work on an agency’s website, it’s important to pay attention to the services and disciplines that they speak most about. Agencies like to talk about the services they’re most competent within, and so if the services you’re looking for aren’t listed on their website, they’re probably not the agency for you.

Similarly, if you’re pitched a service which isn’t mentioned on their website, it’s worth asking the question if they’re trying to facilitate your expectations just to get the work. The risk with this is that if an agency is promising you a service they’re not experienced in, the quality of work might not be what you’re looking for.

Know the agency before you approach them

Although researching every agency you come across may be excessive, digging a little deeper on those who appear to be a good match is worth it.

There are a number of things to look at before making contact with an agency that shows promise.

Firstly, explore case studies that they use on their website. From checking out the quality of their work through to asking for references from their listed clients, having a closer look at just what they’ve done in the past will pay dividends when shortlisting agencies to speak with.

Other places to look include online reviews, to see just what previous clients have to say about them, and their social media accounts and blog to see if they practise the marketing they preach.

Know the outcome before you begin

To truly assess an agency, you first need to know exactly what you’re hoping to achieve through working with them. This means setting out some growth goals and an understanding of where your business is heading, to know what you expect from an agency.

For your business, this might mean having a solid understanding of where you’d like your revenue to be in a year from now, or perhaps how many new clients you’d like to onboard. It’s important to know what your end target is, without a clear view of your aims, you won’t be in the best position to select an agency to work with.

Imagine you’re hiring a staff member

No matter what the size of your businesses, the chances are that hiring a new member of staff is one of the most considered and carefully constructed processes you have in place. For ensuring that they have the correct skills for the challenges they’ll face within your organisation, through to making a decision on whether you think they’re the right type of person to bond with the existing team. There are a number of checks and measures that go into picking the right candidate.

This rule should be applied to selecting a new digital marketing agency to work with.

From the attitudes and passions of the people within the agency, through to just how well suited they are to take on your challenges, it’s important to evaluate all areas of an agency. You’re entering into a long-term commitment which will see the two businesses and their teams work closely together, relying on one-and-other’s people skills as well as their commitment to a common goal.

Understand how you’ll move forward

Once you’ve worked through a process and come to a decision on the agency you’re going to work with, it’s important to understand exactly how you’ll move forward. Often, the first few months can be the hardest in maintaining a client-agency relationship: there’s a steep learning curve for the agency as they work to understand your business and the results will start slowly as everybody needs to get to know one-and-other.

Because of this, it’s important to know exactly how the working relationship will progress so that all parties have the same expectations and understandings.

Conclusion

The best way to start on the path to finding the right digital marketing agency for you is to communicate. Speaking to a number of potential agencies, getting to know your point of contact and gaining an understanding of how each works will give you an instant idea of which ones are and aren’t right for your business.

Treat hiring an agency like hiring a staff member, look at both their body of work and experience but also their EQ and understanding of your business.

And finally, have a clear vision of how things will work before the ball starts rolling. A clear, mutual understanding of the client-agency partnership is the best way to ensure that things run smoothly.

When you find the agency that’s right for you, you’ll know.


This guide is always growing. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know when we drop more practical marketing advice.