Hiring an online marketing agency to help expand your brand's reach online can be one of the best decisions you make in 2016 -- provided you onboard the right agency.
What does that mean? It means that, as with any relationship, this one needs to establish full confidence and trust for a successful outcome.
With so many options out there, below are several important considerations before you start the search.
1. Have clearly identified goals in place.
Nobody understands your business and your customers better than you. So, have specific goals identified prior to your search for an online marketing agency.
Simply saying, “I want to hire you to make my business better” won’t cut it. Sure, there are agencies that will take you on without a clear goal or plan, but I can promise you that that never works out as expected.
Instead, knowing exactly what you want to accomplish will help the agency map out an achievable plan to reach your goals.
Do you want to drive online sales? Are you looking to increase your social media audience, so you have a large captive following to market to on a regular basis? Do you want to run a branding campaign to help make your brand a household name?
You need to know what you want to accomplish ahead of time. Any agency willing to take you on when you can't specify your goal is after your money and could care less about your brand’s success.
2. Make sure the agency understands how to measure ROI and overall campaign success.
Your agency has to have a firm grasp on your numbers -- if its staffers don't know down to the penny how much it costs to generate every lead and sale, your campaign will be a failure. Specifically:
- How much is it costing to generate a lead from each traffic source?
- What traffic sources are producing the lowest conversion cost?
- What landing pages are converting at the highest rate?
These are just a few of the questions your agency should be able to answer at any given time.
You need to also understand which metrics are completely meaningless. If an agency is boasting because a piece of content received 500,000 impressions but can’t tell you what kind of return that translated to, what good is that?
A half-million sets of eyes on content branded with your company name sounds great, but if it doesn’t translate into revenue, it’s a completely useless metric.
I would suggest working with an agency that is focused on the one metric that truly matters: ROI.
3. Recognize that your spending ability will greatly impact your results.
Every business is going to have a different budget it can work with. Larger budgets will allow for a more aggressive (and profitable) campaign, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make steady progress with a smaller starting budget.
Look for an agency that is honest with you upfront and "tells it like it is." If a startup comes to my agency with a small budget, we will discuss its goals and figure out the best plan of attack for the budget it is working with. Sometimes that truth isn’t what the startup's principals want to hear, but it’s best that they understand that the building process is going to be slow due to fiscal constraints.
Naturally, a diverse online marketing strategy will produce faster results, but not every brand has the budget in the beginning to generate website traffic, leads and sales from multiple channels -- meaning, social media, email, pay-per-click, SEO and display ads.
Understand that your spending ability directly impacts your campaign results, and be wary of any agency that promises the world for a few hundred dollars a month. Consumer attention online is a valuable commodity -- and it's one that’s constantly increasing in competitiveness and cost.
4. Realize that this is a long-term relationship, so trust is important.
Don't expect your sales and revenue to shoot through the roof immediately after you hire an agency. But do look for an agency that will be completely transparent with you and explain the time frame you should expect before seeing noticeable results.
Remember, you are hiring a company to handle your online growth because that's its specialty -- you aren’t hiring these people to simply tell you what you want to hear. Partner with an agency that you trust and feel 100 percent comfortable working with, because this is a long-term relationship.
I speak to all our clients personally before we onboard them, specifically to discuss our long-term relationship approach. If someone is expecting to hire us for a couple of months and then part ways, that’s a client we'll pass on every time.
You should do the same: Trust that your agency has your brand’s best interest in mind.