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Marketing & Sales
Jun 7, 2019

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Digital Agency

Sponsored Content provided by Jim Ellis - Vice President, Account Director, Signal

If you’re looking for a new digital agency, chances are that you’re either unhappy with your current agency, or looking to supplement an unmet need on your team, and you want to explore options. Either way, it’s an important decision. Understandably, you want to make the right choice. Otherwise, it’s like hiring someone who isn’t quite right for the job, with negative consequences that can last a long time.
 
As a digital agency ourselves, we know the importance of being a good fit for our clients, which helps us both enjoy a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. Every agency really does have a unique DNA. We recognize it’s difficult to choose based on a meeting or two, but hopefully the ideas outlined here will help you be better prepared for the task.

Below are some questions to ask yourself and potential agency partners, across the following critical areas: Staffing, Strategy, Content, Design and Technology.
 
Staffing
Before meeting with potential agency partners, take a look at your team and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. What gaps do you see? Effective marketing campaigns require careful planning and execution, and your organization may not have all of the resources to do it in-house. What kind of talent do you need?
 
Once you begin a dialogue with a potential partner, make sure you ask about the agency’s staff members and their top competencies, so you can fill your gaps. Generally speaking, digital agencies with a well-rounded team are better equipped to handle your brand’s needs in today’s marketing world. Look for a team with a deep enough bench, but one that won’t get you lost in bureaucracy. And look for experienced professionals with diverse capabilities such as interactive design, application development, user experience (UX), marketing strategy, content development and video/motion graphics.
 
Strategy
This will typically dovetail off of the staffing question, but before meeting with potential partners, it’s important to know if you’re interested in driving your own comprehensive strategy with a collaborative agency partner, or if you’re looking to turn over the reins to the agency. This may help you decide between a smaller, specialized agency or one that’s more full-service.
 
When you meet, ask what experience the agency has within your industry. Or, what steps will they take to become an expert on your business and industry. It’s nice to have an agency that understands your unique purpose and goals, especially if you’re looking for an agency to drive the strategy. Choosing an agency savvy about your industry can save valuable “onboarding” time.
 
Content
Before hearing any pitches, take a look at your content and think about what needs improvement, updating or deleting – and consider any new content you need an agency to develop. It helps to look at your analytics to see what your audience is engaging with – and what they’re not. You can also ask your sales and customer service teams what topics they’re currently hearing for great insights.
 
When you meet, ask about the agency’s content development strategy. Remember, a good process starts with understanding your industry and audiences. Make sure to find out how closely your agency’s social media and content marketing teams work together when it comes to producing content. And, look for an agency who is experienced in delivering across email, search, social, PR and sales enablement. As a resource, think about our 5 Steps to Content Marketing.
 
Design
Before meeting, review the agency’s portfolio online. An agency is putting the best of the best on their website, so this should give you a sense of the group’s design chops.

When you meet, it’s important to find out the process behind the design – how the agency ensures an optimal CX and UX. These are not just buzzwords. Positive UX is critical to your audience’s engagement with your website, tools and key touchpoints along their customer journey. It’s important to find an agency who can describe their process, and who knows that good UX isn’t just about design, but also all of the elements (content, information architecture, interactivity and functionality) which underpin design. Read our UX Demystified feature for more tips.
 
Technology
Before meeting, make a list of the software and platforms used by your organization. At a minimum, this includes your CRM, marketing automation platform and CMS. Are they seamlessly integrated, or are there gaps in your tech?
 
When you talk, find out how familiar the agency is with all aspects of your MarTech. Some agencies “go deep” and are very specialized in a particular platform, while others work across many and can bring a fresh perspective no matter the technology. Decide what’s better for you.
 
Final thought – How will you measure success?
Expect this question from your agency, and know how to answer it. Regardless of the measurement tool, the results should be reported in a format that you and your stakeholders understand, like leads and revenue. Get prepared by reading how to create a measurement plan. When you meet with potential partners, make sure you’re comfortable with how they intend to show results.
 
Knowledge is power when it comes to choosing a digital marketing agency. Ask good questions to help you make the most informed decision.

Jim Ellis has over 20 years of experience in marketing strategy and implementation throughout a variety of industry sectors. Since 1999 he has been with Signal, a digital agency based in Wilmington and Raleigh, North Carolina. Signal has proven strengths serving as the “local agency” for global companies, generating solid results in web design, brand identity, mobile app development, digital strategy and more. Jim provides counsel to many of the agency’s largest clients with an eye toward integrated communications and a vast knowledge of both traditional and modern practices. As a songwriter and musician with a business degree, he believes his artistic/corporate “dual personality” gives him added perspective to be an effective liaison between clients and Signal’s talented creative team. Originally from Ohio, Jim graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.S. in Business Administration.

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