The Who, What, Why & How To of Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency

Business Marketing, Higher Education, Non Profit, Paid Media Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Web Design

Curious about digital marketing agencies? Well, you’re in the right place then! We’ll dig into:

  • What Digital Marketing Agencies are
  • How DMAs can change your life (in a good way)
  • Some steps and tips for picking the right agency for your business

What Are Digital Marketing Agencies?

Before we go any further, it’s imperative that you have a clear understanding of what a digital marketing agency is and does, and what it isn’t and doesn’t do. Not everything that walks or quacks like a DMA is a DMA….

Yup, This Is A DMA!

A digital marketing agency is a firm that specializes in online and electronic means of marketing. DMAs — and the nature of your engagement with one — can vary greatly. You can hire a DMA to do everything for you, soup-to-nuts, or cherry-pick specific projects or tasks (an à la carte approach).

At any rate, among the many possible things a DMA can do for you:

DMAs come in all sizes, from one-person freelancers to ginormous multinational enterprises. Many specialize in a particular niche — such as a specific industry or demographic group. Others offer deeper expertise in fewer areas of digital marketing, whereas other agencies pride themselves on a broad and comprehensive menu of services (and maybe ancillary offerings, too!).

Nope, Not A DMA!

Yup, the pic in your mind is becoming clearer. Let’s really crisp it up with a few words on what a digital marketing agency is not. A DMA is:

  • Not an in-house team. They are an independent group of experts in their field. As such, you’ll have a different sort of relationship and level of control.
  • Not an event planner. Yes, they can help with some aspects of events, but this isn’t the central focus of their work.
  • Not a print shop. By definition, DMAs are into soft copies, not hard copies. (But a good agency can help you arrange to get print needs fulfilled.)
  • Not psychic. Along the same lines, they also aren’t miracle workers, babysitters, cat wranglers, therapists, your BFF or…well, you get the gist. DMAs may be damned good at what they do, but that still doesn’t make them mind readers or magicians! It takes hard work to understand and communicate your and your customers’ needs and then create thoughtful, effective marketing efforts.
  • Not a catch all for everything websites or internet related. When you hire a digital marketing agency you’ll agree on a specific scope of work. They won’t be able to execute your strategy AND take care of every tiny thing that comes up if you don’t increase your engagement with them. And some stuff might come up that they don’t do at all, like managing your office email. 

Why Hire A Digital Marketing Agency

This is the big $$ question. As with many facets of business, you may face the “make vs. buy” dilemma. Should you hire an outside firm to assist with your digital marketing needs or DIY it (either yourself or with an in-house team)?

Advantages Of Using A DMA

You don’t have to look long, far or deep to see that benefits can far outweigh costs.

  1. Better results. With the savoir-faire of a DMA, you’re more likely to get improved ROI, more leads and conversions, better qualified leads and so on. Basically, you’ll see results that are of a greater magnitude than what you’d accomplish on your own.
  2. Flexible bandwidth = agility. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to scale up or down with the flow of your business volume. A DMA can add valuable people power to your marketing team’s capacity. Plus, from a money perspective, it may be very cost effective to contract for services rather than float the $$$ for an employee’s salary + bennies.
  3. Vast Expertise. DMAs are packed with subject matter experts. It’s what they do. It’s what they know. Leveraging that technical and pan-industry experience, training and knowledge can save you tons of costly time, effort, mistakes, lost opportunities, frustration, etc.
  4. Focus on running/growing your biz. Piggybacking off #3, hiring a DMA lets you get back to doing your thang. Not everyone has the time, interest or ability to master digital marketing and implement a full-stack program. (We get it. It’s a lot.)

How To Choose A Digital Marketing Agency

Like tracking down the perfect pair of jeans or the ideal significant other, zeroing in on the right digital marketing agency is about finding the proper fit. Just because a given agency won awards or has a mile-long roster of elite clients doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your business.

The best-for-you DMA might seem like an elusive unicorn. But, with some careful research, you will find an agency that’s waving at the same length as you. With that in mind, here are some things to take into consideration as you evaluate DMAs and decide which one to go with.

What To Look For

  1. Collaborators. The most effective DMA is one that’s a partner that wants to work with you, not just for you.
  2. No “Yes” people! Think devil’s advocate. If you suggest an idea that doesn’t advance your business towards the stated goals, a good DMA will push back. And offer more viable alternatives. Through this honest and open discourse, you’ll end up with much better outcomes.
  3. Life-long learners. Agencies that prioritize professional and personal development will continue to have top thinkers and performers. It’s the only way to keep talent and skills sharp and to stay abreast of evolving tech and trends.
  4. Straight shooters. You want to work with folks who are up front and clear on costs, timelines, expectations, deliverables, roles and responsibilities, terms, assumptions, reporting, outcomes, etc. No guessing or gameplaying.
  5. Solid reputation. It behooves you to engage a firm that knows what it’s doing. A quality DMA will have referrals/references, a track record, testimonials, case studies — a legacy of proof that they’re pros.
  6. Rapport. Finding a DMA with a personality — that matches that of your biz — may be important. You’ll be working closely together, so things run better and smoother if you get along well and have an amiable, communicative connection.
  7. Communication, communication, communication. Yes, it’s so critical that it really deserves to be there three times. You need a DMA that’s going to keep you in the loop. And with whom you can share info and ideas.
  8. Aligned values. Your company values are the essence of your business. Select a DMA that identifies with them, too. Doing so will ensure more authentic and compelling digital marketing.
  9. Results oriented. Judge prospective DMAs through the lens of your goals. Opt for one that’s proven to deliver results that relate to your objectives.
  10. Right-sized. Hitch your wagon up to an agency whose reach and pricing lines up with your needs and operation. DMAs aren’t a one-size-fits-all dealio.

Need help evaluating one DMA from another? Here’s a list of questions to ask a digital marketing agency before you sign on the dotted line. 

What To Run Screaming From

Yah, that’s a pretty thorough list of things to gravitate towards. But, there’s also some major red flags to be aware of. Steer clear of digital marketing agencies that:

  1. Pretend they have all the answers. A confident, high-quality DMA won’t be afraid to ask questions or say “I’m not sure; let me find out and get back to you.”
  2. Are one-hit wonders. Digital marketing is very personalized to you and your business, so avoid DMAs that only offer a single solution. A DMA that pounds square pegs into round holes is not acceptable — they lack the ability to properly serve you. 
  3. Don’t listen. It’s your business, your customers, your money. You need to be heard by your DMA because they serve you. Plus, you’re sure to have loads of invaluable data and details about your customers, products and market that your DMA needs.
  4. Make unrealistic promises (e.g., instant results for SEO). Ugh. It’s kind of like you can’t have champagne and caviar on a ramen noodle budget when you’re in outer space — the output doesn’t match the input or the operating environment. An agency that makes performance guarantees that don’t correlate to the time, investment, context or norms is leading you astray.
  5. Drama. If your first encounter is one of wild stories, crazy excuses or unnatural friction — it’s time to bid that DMA “buh-bye.”

Intuitive Digital — Where Your Search For A Digital Marketing Agency Should Start (& Possibly End)

We wrote this long-ass blog post, so obviously we know we’re not for everyone, but we might be just right for you. 

We know our stuff and have the street cred to back that statement up. Intuitive Digital offers a full array of services, so we’re sure to be able to tackle your digital-marketing to-dos, and then some. And, we’re a fun group to work with.

What’s this mean for you? Everything. You can count on stellar results for your digital marketing dollars. If that’s not enough, you’ll hopefully appreciate a streamlined and enjoyable experience.

Reach out today to see how we can help you.

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

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