Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection
Digital communications (the transmission of marketing communications by digital means) covers a wide range of marketing platforms and a spectrum of channels and for client-side marketers, deciding on what is the best-fit for your enterprise is a complex equation. And to compound this best-fit identification issue, actually seeing beyond the hot technology offers or the hype and such claims as 'we're the largest' or the 'only EU' and so on, and to get a solid understanding of actual agency capabilities is a tough assignment for any marketer.
Platform or channel: what's the difference?
Today, many digital marketing agencies will offer information on expertise such as marketing automation (MA) platform capabilities. Others will offer expertise in social media (SM) or pay-per-click (PPC) or online display advertising. But while agency promotion of these platforms or channels is useful, what it is not telling you is what specific expertise they have in delivering marketing prospects or sales leads - the very thing you need to build your sales, profitability and long-term customer loyalty. So, where does this leave you?
As can be seen, many of these communications elements are either delivery platforms or communications channels and while critical for targeted communication, they are certainly not the strategic marketing message in themselves. So, cutting to the chase, working through all the platform and channel offers, to discriminate between pure platform or channel provision and those who offer platform or channel provision with truly solid strategic communication skill and associated marketing communication capabilities is a critical starting point in your search.
Conspicuous by its absence
Most of these digital marketing agencies will aim to provide content marketing as a part of their offer. This is key, but the quality of this content, its power to engage with your prospects and ability to deliver marketing qualified sales leads that actually buy from you is the ultimate criteria. Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success. Here are five points to consider in order of relevance.
1. Research and strategic market planning
Any long-term and sustainable marketing campaign will require careful strategic planning. This not only helps to optimise prospect engagement, but also to ensure that brand visibility is gained and maintained throughout the campaign.
Always explore a prospective agency's strategic market planning capabilities when you open discussions. A good way for the prospect agency to demonstrate strategic planning capabilities is through the provision of current client case studies.
2. Integrated multi-channel digital communication specialisms
To develop successful digital marketing strategies, your agency will need to provide a multi-channel communications strategy, and this will require a number of integrated communications platforms, delivering communications across several marketing channels simultaneously.
This means you need to satisfy yourself that any potential agency has not only proven expertise in all required platforms and the marketing channels through which they will deliver, but can fully demonstrate how this will work in line with initial - pre-proposal - strategic plans.
3. Sector-specific marketing experience
Again, as with the points above, in order to identify precisely which marketing communications platform or channel is appropriate at which particular point in the marketing journey and at which point a channel will need to close the sale requires critical expertise.
To optimise communications performance in this marketing-to-sale journey, it is vitally important that the proposed agency has a deep understanding of your marketplace, target prospect behaviours and how to engage with them. In short, sector experience counts.
4. Content marketing and search optimisation expertise
In many respects, and like the point above, long-term experience and close market sector expertise are very important in achieving optimum prospect engagement through understanding and delivering what it is potential and existing customers want from your enterprise.
This means selecting an agency that has proven experience in your market sector. That is not to say you should exclude marketers from closely related sectors, but you need to be sure they can demonstrate a very clear understanding of your target audience, and their needs.
You will know your market, so make completely sure your agency does too, because if they talk your prospect's language they will raise your brand and campaign profile and visibility through powerful search engine optimisation (SEO).
5. Performance analytics and management
The final piece is for you to understand the marketing return on investment (MROI) your agency is delivering across the campaigns you will be working on together. You will already know what your required marketing performance metrics are, and you therefore need to ask your prospective agency to formulate and demonstrate performance analytics to closely mirror these requirements.
It has to be said, agency capabilities in the area of performance analytics is variable, but a good agency with a competent analytics team should be able to offer all of what you are likely to need.
Content expertise drives success
As can be seen, technology in the form of marketing platforms or communications channels, and the expertise in utilising these is a very important element in digital marketing communications. But what really counts when selecting a new digital marketing agency is confidence in knowing that they not only understand marketing technology, but understand what emotional and aspirational marketing content to load into it to make it work successfully.