For digital marketing to be successful it almost always requires a combination of internal team members working with contractors and/or a digital agency. The trend is currently towards digital agencies because of the variety of tasks needed from a dedicated team not necessarily needed or affordable from an internal team. This makes the agency approach cost effective and the best alternative in most cases.
Avoid Hiring Based on Personalities, Look for Expertise
Many agencies are hired based on the personality traits of the key contacts. Go beyond personality and look for the key attributes leading to successful implementation of your strategic objectives. Also, agencies do not have to be local. Zoom and GoToMeeting are much more effective than in-person meetings for many reasons.
Start with an analysis of how responsive the agency contacts are during the evaluation process. Emails, phone calls, texts and other communications should be responded to within 24 hours or less. If you notice gaps in communication during the agency selection process, this will be many times worse when the project starts.
Find out if the agency is using Slack and a project management tool to track communications. Ensure these apps are fully integrated in client work.
Be aware of agencies who over-promise and under-deliver. Test this during the selection process by asking the agency to do some initial legwork that requires follow-up and planning. For example, request an SEO, website or social media audit. How long does it take to get the audit completed and how deep are the strategic insights?
Determine an agency’s real expertise by reviewing their client work. Ask for design samples, content samples, digital marketing reports and allow the agency to review your Google Analytics reports and offer suggestions and recommendations.
Find out how the agency collaborates with their clients. This can be done by checking references and discussing the process with the agency. How do they collaborate on design projects, SEO, social media, marketing automation and other digital tactics? Review the agency’s client list and understand their work with other clients. Determine how this experience will help your client.
Ask the agency to share their processes. Strategies can easily get lost due to a lack of structure in agency processes.
Finally, look for agencies who do not hook you into long term contracts. The agency should be secure enough in their value that they will work month-to-month or on project based work.
Find an Agency Who Understands Strategy
Ask questions about the agency’s understanding of marketing strategy and how it applies to website development, design, content, social media and other digital marketing tactics. Ask them to show you examples of strategic implementation with other clients.
Don’t expect the agency to develop your marketing strategy. Hold the agency accountable for understanding and using digital marketing tactics that support the strategy.
Right People in the Right Digital Marketing Seats
One of the biggest barriers to strategic implementation is getting the right people in the right digital marketing seats. This includes getting the agency with the right expertise and aligning internal team members towards strategic objectives.
Think of the agency as filling in gaps in your team’s expertise.
Misalignments in digital marketing responsibilities are very common. This happens because there is not a clear outline of the specific skill sets needed and people get asked to do things outside their area of expertise.
There are three major areas that must work together for digital marketing to be successful. The three skill sets are marketing, design and development. Make sure these three areas have distinct people assigned to each role.
Within each area are the key tactics driving your strategy. Here are examples of the hats people often wear in each area.
CMO – Digital Marketing Lead Decision Maker
Content Writers for email, blogs, website and social media
Inbound Marketing Manager for SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Digital Ads – Google Ads and Social Media Ads
Digital Marketing Funnel Manager for Marketing Automation set-up and campaign planning
Influencer Marketing and PR
Website hosting and security
WordPress themes, plugins and structure
Domain name, DMS and nameservers
The biggest challenge and mistake to overcome is when digital team members wear too many hats. You must determine the core competence of each team member and keep them focused. The same is true for the digital agency.
You must also properly evaluate the skill sets of your digital team and how the selected agency will fill in the gaps and compliment the internal team.
Finally, digital marketing leadership is critical and must be well defined by answering the following questions.
- Who is the final point of contact for digital marketing approvals?
- Who has the span of control on the overall project and tactics?
- Who has approval of the final budget and approves budget modifications?
- What is the role of the CMO and the client in approvals and budgeting?
- Who manages and approves the various tactics such as content, design, ad campaigns and other tactics.
Without clear defined leadership roles, digital marketing strategies will falter and implementation will slow.
Project management holds all this together and we will have a future blog post coming soon on this critical digital marketing role.
Digital Marketing Scope Creep
Watch for scope creep in digital marketing work as it is very common. One way to avoid this is to implement a strong approval and launch process. Clients must be very clear on what is included and what is not included for each payment they make. This becomes a regular discussion point in client meetings to review work progress and results.
Also, you must know the difference between brainstorming ideas and the final launch process. For example, when providing feedback on a homepage design following initial approval keep it to concrete changes and avoid discussing new options. This can delay launches and frustrate the team working towards completion.
Avoid Website Launch Delays
One of the classic issues in digital marketing is the website that never goes live. The core issue here is a client who is not happy with the website in development and refusing to go live.
Here a few guidelines to follow to drive successful website launches:
- The website is not a print project and the new website should launch when better than the current website.
- The biggest delay of website launchse is content. Assign content delivery to a writer prior to starting the website.
- Define the strategy and purpose for the website first.
- Develop a navigation structure and site map followed by a wireframe before adding design elements.
- Design the homepage first and have it approved before moving to internal page designs.
- Understand websites are always being improved and are a process not an end-result.
This process helps avoid “I’ll know it when I see it” design problems, where the client continues to ask for design changes without knowing exactly what they want.
Both a new website and agency monthly retainer services should include kick-off meetings. This meeting should be focused on the key client objectives and strategic goals of the website and digital marketing efforts. Your agency should have a clear launch outline and process they can share with you.
One More Thing
Also, the elephant in the room is that agencies have other clients! Basically, agencies can provide what they do at a fraction of the cost of hiring a staff member because resources are being shared with other clients. Be aware of this and be respectful of the agency’s time. Leverage their experience with other clients and markets to add value to your organization.
We hope you consider Intuitive Websites as your agency of record, however we are happy to help guide you get your agency approach right. We are also seeing clients with a variety of specialized agencies coming together to market your brand. We can function as a lead agency partner and help strategize and drive action items with a variety of agencies.
Contact us directly for a free consultation.