How To Choose The Best Digital Agency

5 MUST ask questions as well as a guide to help you find the best digital marketing agency to grow your business online.

I was listening to the excellent Robert Craven the other day on the Google Partners Podcast and it occurred to me that it must be a real challenge for a company or brand, to find a digital agency.

There is quite simply a plethora of agencies out there and to complicate matters still, they all focus or major in different disciplines, all claiming to be ‘the best’ or ‘leaders’ in their field. Furthermore, many will display badges of honour – winner of this or commended for that. No wonder people get so confused…

So, I have written this guide to try and help people when looking for an agency to help them grow and develop online. I have also highlighted some key questions to ask as well as some key questions that need to be asked by your potential agency.

 

Who am I?

I am Reggie James, founder of Digital Clarity. I have worked in the digital marketing space from its initial inception and launched one of the first paid search (PPC) agencies, as well as a tracking and attribution software business used by digital agencies in the UK called DC Storm.  The DC standing for Digital Clarity. This company was acquired by Rakuten in 2014.

Prior to this I worked at two search engines, helping both agencies and clients get found online, and I continue to help clients achieve this today.

 

What is a digital agency?

A digital agency is the umbrella term given to organisations that deliver services ranging from web design through to Paid Search (PPC) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The term Digital Agency may also cover a whole host of other specialisms that sit under each sub service.

 

The challenge

There is a major problem in the digital marketing space that is sadly being perpetuated by a number of agencies who were one day a PR Agency and today dress themselves up as a ‘Social Media Agency’. This happens all the time and can cause confusion and bad experiences.

Many clients that I meet may have had their fingers burnt or are reeling from some horrendous experiences where they thought they had signed up for a service with a reputable ‘Digital Agency’ only to find that the team at the agency were not all that they seemed or worse still, were learning some new skills whilst on the client’s payroll. Though shocking, this is not uncommon and quite frankly unacceptable.

Thankfully, things are changing. Experience and verification by both independent bodies and platform owners like Google are helping customers find the cream. In certain disciplines like display advertising, the use of blockchain technology is helping create a public ledger of post GDPR audited agencies and sites.

 

The importance of digital agencies

So, knowing what we know, it is also vitally important to point out the incredible value great agencies add to their clients.

It is rare to find companies that have the digital marketing prowess, collective skills and manpower that a truly good agency will have.

From creative thinking and strategy through to execution and management, well admired agencies can deliver both resource and fantastic return on investment (ROI).

 

What should a good digital agency do?

You work in an industry or sector where you have competition. No two businesses in your sector will be the same. The same is true of digital agencies.

A good digital agency will take the time and effort to get under the skin of your business. Whether you are selling to consumers or businesses direct, the need to understand the lead time and business process of your company as well as the competion and where you sit in the venn diagram of your industry are all basic first steps of good digital agency practice.

The questions you are asked by your prospective digital agency will determine whether the agency is the right fit for you.

What types of digital agencies are there?

Firstly, there are many. Here are a list of a few below.

 

The extended specialist

Web Design, these services could include:

  •       Design & Development
  •       User Experience (UX)
  •       Innovation
  •       Languages
    •    PHP
    •   Python
    •   Net

 CMS

  •   WordPress
  • SiteCore
  • Etc.

Branding

  •  Messaging
  •  Logo design and development

 

The Jack of all trades

These are referred to as full-service digital agencies and in many cases can be the larger agencies. This agency model is going through a seismic shift as many clients may be paying for a suite of services that they will never use or simply do not even need.

The full service agency model, when analysed deeper –  one can normally see a shift toward a certain service. This means the agency at one point specialised in a discipline and then augmented services or bought companies to align disciplines. Why? More than likely, to win new business or keep existing business.

 

The ‘me too’ agency

These are agencies where they may have been involved in non-digital work, but are looking to capture new work by adding the word ‘digital’ to their name, or offer services that are out of their comfort zone. This can Web design agencies who suddenly feel they are SEO specialists and start dabbling in the art and science of Search Engine Optimisation. Quite simply, this normally ends in tears.

 

Questions to ask

I covered this question in an earlier blog when i looked at choosing a PPC Agency and it’s always worth going back to compare questions.

In many cases where I have come across a client who is in a toxic situation with an agency, I have often been asked to mediate or help transition the relationship to its natural conclusion. On reflection with both the client and the agency, it is normally the questions and due diligence that has led to both parties starting off on the wrong foot.

So what questions can a client ask a prospective digital agency? Here are 5 must ask questions:

What disciplines of digital marketing do you do?

  •       Search? If so, PPC or SEO or both?
  •       Web Design and Development
  •       UX / UI
  •       Digital Transformation
  •       Social Media
  •       Etc.

If it’s more than one of the above, which areas do you specialise in?

Of your specialist disciplines, can you demonstrate your skills-sets with some examples?

  •       Case Studies
  •       Testimonials
  •       References
  •       Etc.

How will these skills help my business?

  •       Can you share projections?
  •       Your process
  •       The day-to-day running of the account
  •       Analysis and reporting
  •       Etc

How would you go about working with me?

  •       On boarding process
  •       Needs analysis
  •       Etc.

Conclusion

Once you have your answers to these questions, it will much better help you shape your opinion of both what you require as well as see if the agency is the right fit for you and your business.

Reggie James
Reggie James is a seasoned internet brand strategist who has been at the forefront of digital marketing for its inception. Reggie has worked with major search engines and commercial brands to create and build successful business models that are commonplace today. Reggie is the founder of Digital Clarity. You can follow him on twitter @reggiejames99 and instagram @reggiejames_1
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