4 Selection criteria to find the good ones + a handy scorecard
Finding an online marketing partner for your next engagement can be a daunting task. These are, based on my expertise and that of our company, the most burning questions:
- Does the agency have a framework for consistent results?
- Do they excel in all online marketing-related areas?
- Can they deliver the quality you expect?
- What is their plan to keep the results and growth going after your engagement?
On top of these questions, I have one additional remark. There is not one single company that matches all clients. It will always depend on you as a company, the people working there, and how this fits with the agency you are looking at. Therefore, look at the agency’s website, have a (video) call with them, and talk to them to see if you both match. This is a first (bonus) tip. If the agency is hard to reach or not willing to chat, they are probably not worth considering.
Before I dive into these questions, a small disclaimer. I am Kristof, the founder of Fusico. An online marketing agency based in Belgium. I don’t blame you for thinking this article could have been biased. If me being the owner of a digital marketing company makes you uncomfortable, I understand you might not want to read any further. However, for those of you who do want to read along, I have asked a variety of experts from different industries and backgrounds to proofread this article and its statements to iron out any bias I may have had.
Be sure to read until the end, I will give you a highly useful scorecard to evaluate any online marketing agency.
Driving consistent results
If you hire a marketing agency you probably expect the results you are paying for. Therefore, it is critical that you are working with a partner that has a structured approach. Without a structured approach, you might as well roll a dice and hope you get double 6. In other words, no framework means you are taking a gamble on if you will receive the results you pay for.
How do you know an agency has a solid framework? Here are a few things that are worth looking for to determine a strong partner:
- They are open about their approach, eg. on their website or during the prework
- They have results from previous clients they can not just show, but more importantly, explain
- They are curious about what results you are looking for and how they can be measured
- They have expertise in not just one specific area, but all key online marketing services (we will come back to this in the next topic)
Consistent results are based on a structured approach. It does not mean your agency has to lay out exactly how they tackle everything in detail, but they should be open about their high-level strategy and be able to drill down where needed.
Make sure the agency is transparent in its approach and can demonstrate a structured framework that focuses on results.
Offering an end-to-end service
Let’s start this topic with an example. You are looking for SEO services but need a website redesign instead. If you go to an SEO agency, they will gladly spend time building their SEO campaigns on a crooked foundation. In contrast, If you work with a full-service online marketing agency, they will be able to help you identify the low-hanging fruit. In our example, an online marketing agency with multiple areas of expertise will, after a thorough analysis, be able to identify and advise you on getting a website redesign instead of an SEO campaign.
Does that mean they need to cover every marketing-related service under the sun? No. But it is advantageous if they offer all key services that relate to online marketing. Some pointers that could be of use:
- Feel free to ask the agency about the services they provide and about their expertise
- How do they provide these services? Do they outsource them?
- If they outsource, be sure to inquire about the external contractor. Often outsourcing can lead to challenges, ask how they handle them.
- And so on…
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. In case you have already performed an internal analysis and prioritized your needs, it might even be beneficial to go with a highly specialized partner for a certain service. As they will only have to focus on their one expertise. However, for the vast amount of online marketing projects, you could benefit from a partner that has expertise in many online marketing services. Note: full-service marketing agencies with highly specialized experts can have the same capabilities but could be more expensive.
Most projects can benefit from an agency that offers expertise in all online marketing-related services, rather than just one.
Results are often directly influenced by the quality of delivery and the quality of the analysis. If quality does not influence results during the implementation of the strategy, it most certainly will influence your results in the weeks or years to come.
While it is more difficult to assess how the quality of an agency’s analysis is, it is often reflected in the deliverables. Therefore, these are some things you could do:
- Ask for an example of a deliverable
- Ask for a list of deliverables
- Analyze their approach, how structured it is. Eg. do they have a project plan? How are they prepared for meetings?
- And more…
Make sure the agency can demonstrate the quality of delivery throughout, from the first introduction call to the final deliverable of your project.
Keeping the growth going
A good digital marketing strategy or implementation is not worth much if you can only sustain the results or growth short term or as long as the agency is working with you. In my opinion, it is important to consider what plans an agency has to perform a correct handover.
- Do they have an option to deliver training?
- Will they involve you early on in the process
- Do they highlight the importance of handing over the project after the engagement?
- And so on…
These are some questions you could ask yourself to determine if the agency you are considering has any plans or capabilities to perform a knowledge transfer during the engagement.
Make sure there is a handover plan and you will leave the engagement with the necessary knowledge to keep your growth going.
Free Online Marketing Agency Scorecard
Thank you for reaching the end of my article. I hope it was useful and ensures you can make an educated decision on who will be your online marketing partner.
- As a thank you for reading this article, I will offer you the opportunity to receive a free online marketing audit, handmade by me. That way you get some tangible feedback on your current digital situation. We only need your website URL, name, and business email. What will I receive?
- Are you looking for some objective criteria to see if we (or any other agency) are a match for you? Please check out our scoring grid below that could guide you in that choice.