15 Smart Questions to Help You Hire the Best Digital Marketing Company
You’re in the midst of a critical decision — it’s time to choose the best digital marketing company for your needs. There are plenty of standard questions out there to evaluate marketing agencies. However, they don’t always give you a realistic picture of what you’ll get if you hire the company.
We’ve created 15 questions to supplement your vetting process from a different angle. Some may appear standard on the surface, but we’ll provide tips on what to look for in their answer. It might not be what you think. Others are a bit unexpected, giving you a more in-depth look into their capabilities.
Add these questions to your list and you’ll have the insights needed to choose your marketing partner with confidence.
#1 How will you communicate my differentiators so I stand out from the competition?
The best digital marketing company will have a solid answer for how they identify your unique selling proposition, brand and target audience. If you’re starting a new company, they should have an established process for helping you name your business. You don’t want to get lost in a sea of sameness within your industry.
Look for excitement and interest in how your company is different. They should have ideas for highlighting your uniqueness throughout the marketing strategy. This enthusiasm is a good sign that the agency hasn’t adopted a stale formula that’s efficient for them, but doesn’t get results.
#2 Explain your process for learning about a new client and/or industry.
Even if an agency has experience in your industry, they should still have a structured process for gathering information about your company. If the prospective agency is unclear about how they onboard a new client, using vague terms like “we have a kick-off meeting,” it’s not a good sign.
Look for templates, agendas, and other proof that the agency takes this learning period seriously and will not make assumptions about your expectations and goals.
#3 Explain your process for understanding our customers, their needs and motivations.
If an agency doesn’t take the time to fully understand your target customers, your brand’s messaging won’t inspire them to take action. You may have lots of content, but no results. This is a necessary building block of the marketing strategy.
The best digital marketing company will work with you to develop buyer personas, which are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer. These summaries define their goals, motivations, demographics and other useful information to guide the voice, tone, and content of your marketing strategy. Skipping over this step is a huge red flag.
#4 How soon can I expect to see results?
Digital marketing takes time. A return on investment will often take three to six months. Look for answers like, “We employ a balance of long-term strategies and quick win opportunities.” They should be realistic about the timelines and be clear about what’s possible. Pacific54 provides detailed reports with key performance indicators so you can see progress from month-to-month, setting expectations as you go.
Steer clear of “black hat” techniques. Ask if any of the methods they’ve proposed could result in a Google penalty down the road. An example would be purchasing links from other websites that point to yours.
#5 What aspect of digital marketing is more important than all the others?
This is meant to be a tricky question. Now more than ever, digital marketing is a holistic endeavor. It also must be customized — one set of strategies doesn’t work across all industries. Be wary of the agency that says “Video is everything!” or “SEO is dead!” Trends come and go, but the interconnectedness of a solid digital strategy will remain the same.
The best digital marketing company will educate you on the major elements of their strategy, why they chose them, and how they work together to reach and engage your target audience. Look for the agency that views your online presence as a whole. At Pacific54, we recognize that every single aspect can have an impact on conversions if used together well.
#6 What makes a piece of content successful?
This is a question not often asked in the context of vetting digital marketing agencies, but it helps you understand their expertise in a real way. A successful piece of content means that it ranks well, is shared, and converts the customer to a purchase.
Your prospective agency should talk about choosing a topic that’s relevant, original and helpful to a specific audience. They may touch on incorporating SEO best practices such as compelling headlines, page title with your keyword, clear meta descriptions (the sentence on search engine results), helpful internal and external links, strong call-to-action buttons, social sharing buttons, among other strategies. All of these are good indicators of their knowledge.
#7 Tell us about the most important trends in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) right now.
This question is also an excellent way to gauge your potential agency’s mastery of the digital marketing industry. According to Forbes.com, these are the 12 SEO biggest trends in 2018. Read up on these areas and use them as a guide to see if your potential agency is up-to-date.
- Voice Search
- Link-Worthy, Useful Content
- Secure Links (SSL)
- Searcher Intent
- Subdomain versus Subdirectory
- Video SEO
- Google Search Snippets
- Long-Form Content
- Importance of Social Media
- Site Speed
- Mobile Priority
- Proliferation of Smart Devices
Google is the king of search. Ask the agency how they keep up with all of Google’s services and products.
#8 How does your agency stay on top of marketing trends and changes?
The digital marketing industry is continually evolving with the advent of new technologies and changes in consumer behavior. It’s critical that your chosen agency has systems to keep up with continuing education and research.
How can you be sure? In addition to asking questions #6 and #7 above, the best digital marketing company will have active blogs and social media that educate their clients and prospects about trends and changes that could affect your marketing strategy. Take a look at their website and see how often they post and if they reference reputable sources. Do they have certifications from Google or Bing? Pacific54 is both a Google Partner and Shopify Expert.
#9 What project management system do you use internally?
This might seem like a less important question, but it tells you a lot about how streamlined and organized the agency is. A quality agency should have clear processes to ensure repeatable success.
A project management tool is vital to managing a marketing campaign well. It helps clarify the tasks required, who is working on them, and their deadlines.
Ask if your company will have access to the project management tool or if it generates reports. Ask why they chose their project management tool and if you can see another client’s project in the system. Popular systems include SmartSheet, Asana, Slack, Zoho, and Teamwork, which is the app used by Pacific54.
#10 How do you structure payment?
Every agency has different pricing models, so you’ll need to evaluate if the proposed plan is beneficial to you in the long run. You’ll find agencies that offer a flat-fee, billable hour, percentage of revenue, or some combination. The best digital marketing company will be as transparent as possible, demonstrating why they chose a particular model and how it provides the best return on investment for your marketing dollars spent. Here at Pacific54, we use a management tool to track all of our clients’ time in detail.
When services are based on the value of the work, it aligns the agency’s and the client’s goals. Both parties have an incentive due to the shared risks and rewards. While this might not be possible at the beginning of the working relationship, it’s definitely a goal to work toward.
#11 What parts of your agency do you outsource and why?
If you’re seeking an agency to manage your entire marketing department, it’s important to know how much work your prospective agency does in-house and how they manage outsourcing.
Since digital marketing is a holistic process, be sure that their system of management will not create a disjointed brand or overall strategy. Find out why they decided to outsource that particular set of tasks and if you can see samples of how they communicate with their freelancers to ensure consistency.
#12 How often will we communicate?
If you highly value customer service or want to be involved in the day-to-day of your marketing campaign, this question will be critical. Ask if they use an instant messaging service like Slack, Google Hangouts or Whatsapp. Are they comfortable with texting as well as email? Customer response time is always a high priority for Pacific54 and we pride ourselves on being responsive.
During the vetting process, take note of how long they take to respond to your emails and phone calls, as that may be a better indicator than their official answer to this question. Find out how often you’ll have scheduled meetings to review progress and make adjustments to the plan. Pacific54 schedules monthly calls with all of our clients to make sure we’re meeting and exceeding expectations.
#13 Provide an example of how you used data analysis to improve a campaign.
Most agencies will say they are “data-driven.” In other words, they analyze the data provided from each platform (website, social media, email, etc.) to make better decisions about your campaign. Asking for an example will challenge them to show their expertise. This can also help you understand the full breadth of data available through the agency’s technology solutions. The best digital marketing company will compile and analyze data from several sources to keep track of how campaigns are performing.
Learning as much as you can about this area will help you make informed decisions, and be less likely to fall prey to an agency that uses jargon to cover up a less than expert approach.
#14 What key performance metrics do you use to gauge progress?
Key performance metrics (KPIs) are values used to measure and track the performance of marketing campaigns. Each aspect of your strategy should have its own set of KPIs – website, social media, paid ads, email campaigns, etc. For example, typical KPIs for an email campaign are open rates or the number of clicks in the body of the email. At Pacific54, testing and improving email subject lines are a way to impact this KPI.
The best digital marketing company should have a list of KPIs they use for their clients and why these KPIs are relevant to the company’s business goals. Ask for a sample report from an existing client to make sure the information is clear and understandable.
#15 How often do you make changes to strategies to ensure they’re working optimally?
With your analytics platforms set up and KPIs defined, the best digital marketing company should be able to spot areas in the campaign for improvement. The days of “set it and forget it” are over. To stay relevant and useful, your agency must view the process as ongoing, not a one-time task.
Ask how often you’ll discuss the status of your marketing campaign and how it can be improved for a higher return on investment. If you’re only meeting quarterly, you might miss an opportunity to make real-time changes to a campaign that could have a big impact. Pacific54 continually monitors campaign KPIs to optimize as necessary.
Asking these 15 questions will help you quickly evaluate the quality and depth of the agency you’re considering. Want to add Pacific54 to your short list? Give us a call and we’d be happy to answer these questions and more.