Whether you are a new entrepreneur or a seasoned one, the process of starting a new business can be very exciting and very overwhelming in the same time. You got to take care of the legal set up, banking set up, suppliers, staff, lease, warehouse, goods, etc. The last thing you want to do is add more To-Do’s to your To-Do list.
A common To-Do I see lots of business owners add regularly on their To-Do list is finding a new Digital Marketing Agency. This is a frustrating process that can leave some business vulnerable. Some businesses rely very heavily on their digital activities to communicate and generate leads for their survival. And the process and frustration of finding and then vetting a new agency and then ensuring a smooth transition can cost business a lot of time (and money).
Each business has its own requirement and reasons for changing a Digital Marketing Agency, so it is very unrealistic to list them all, but after speaking with many business owners in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, I saw a pattern.
Before we get to the questions you can ask to filter out the bad apples, please keep in mind that the barrier to entry into the Digital Marketing Agency world appears as extremely low. Lots of Digital Marketers think this profession is about FB ads, or IG posts. They watch a couple of YouTube videos and boom! A digital marketing disaster is born. This naturally leads to an explosion of people trying to pitch their services to your business and the only differentiator they bank on is offering very cheap fees. I think we all know the saying “You Pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. And sadly that is exactly what you get.
Once you go through the 5 simple questions you should ask the agency that you are considering, you will notice that these are more on the subjective side. The reason for this is simple: Results can be faked and you may be given a million and one external reasons as to why your results may or may not be the same. Whereas something related to their behavior for example is more to do with the agency’s internal behavior and values. This will make it known to them that you value subjective aspects of the relationship and that they will be on thin ice if they do not behave as a professional agency. You will also have the chance to bring their failed promises in play when you have it documented.
Here are the 5 questions you should ask any agency that you are considering for your digital marketing needs.
This is a straight forward question but sometimes it throws some smaller agencies off. The smaller disorganized ones will worry that showing you a small team will make you lose interest in taking them on as a digital marketing agency. Most of these smaller disorganized agencies will be run by one or two members who are worried about showing you that they will have to hire outside help to running your digital marketing activities.
What they fail to understand is that the function of an agency is take on the leg work from the business owner and do it themselves (whether by hiring someone, or outsourcing.. it does not matter).
This is for you’re as a client to know who you will be dealing with and how many people are supposedly on hand to look after your business. Will you have a dedicated account manager or shared one (of course you have to be a big enough client to expect a dedicated account manager). Will you deal with one person for all your needs? Or will you have to reach out to different “heads” of the different services they are charging you for?
I have not seen many agencies that operate in a way where the client is reaching out to the different heads of the different services they are getting. But it does happen especially if you are outsourcing to the smaller agencies in India.
This question is actually best asked in two parts. You first lead with “Obviously you have active clients, and are always looking for new clients, right?” The answer to this is always a confident and energetic “Yes”. So then you follow up with the second part, which is “If you got 5 more clients tomorrow, or you lose 5 clients tomorrow, how will you scale-up or down without any service interruptions to my business?”
Now, don’t expect to get a detailed answer. But the way they answer you will show you lots of things. How confident they are? If this is something they have thought of or considered? Is it something that has happened to them in the past? Do their answers appear to be following a framework of some sort, or are they just answering with very vague answers.
The internet is full of free tools that are designed to give you valuable data, but because they are free, they come with limitations. Some of these cheaper digital marketing agencies rely a lot on these free tools. This means that the speed at which they are operating in is limited to how much data they can get for free per day.
This is one of the reasons why some “digital marketing agencies” fail at formulating a tailor made plan for your business, and also fail at being very responsive.
This in my opinion is a big one.
I wrote about this one in a different blog post and will probably write more about this in the future as this is by far the biggest issue that business owners have with digital marketing agencies.
If you take all the points I mentioned before (structure, scaling up, tools used), you will find that these points will either yield a flexible digital marketing agency, or a rigid one.
Rigidity comes in the form of a longer lead time for the implementation of change that is being requested. It sometimes comes in the form of extra fees for something that should be already a part of the scope of the roles and responsibilities of the agency. For example, Agency A is doing SEO for your business, but there is an issue with the website that is preventing google bots from reading all your pages. A lot of these “affordable” agencies will turn around and charge you to fix it even though it should be part of their SEO work.
Please note that I am not asking you, the business owner, to request 180 degrees change and expect it to be done for free. But things like the SEO example above or re-doing some of the content if you feel they are poor, then those should be done for free.
In conclusion, the last thing any business owner and entrepreneur wants is to waste time switching between agencies. It is a waste of time and resources that you want to avoid. If you are looking to take on a digital marketing agency for the first time, or if you are looking to change one digital marketing agency for another, make sure you ask the above 5 questions to get a good feel of whom you are partnering up with.
Haithem Zaidan, MA Digital Marketing
Founder of Digitopia.Marketing – Your Digital Marketing Chaperon