Not long ago, I was sitting with the owner of Brau.ae who happens to be a good family friend and whom I have not seen in a while prior to moving to Dubai. As we were catching up on different things we started talking about his business and some of the pains he went through dealing with different digital marketing agencies.
His stories were not new to me; I have heard them countless times in one form or another. Though I must say the way he recounted his stories was funny and light hearted but sad in the same time. Funny because they were funny and elicited a “Duh that is how they are supposed to do it” reaction, and sad because you quickly realize that “oh wow, lots of “Experts” have no clue what they are doing and they are just harming their clients”
With this in mind, I wanted to share some of the top things any business owner in Dubai (or anywhere for that matter) should look at and consider before hiring a digital marketing agency
There are many components to digital marketing. Most people think of FB ads and Google Ads when you say digital marketing. But did you know that VR or AR could be a part of your digital marketing strategy (of course if it is applicable to your business). Don’t get stuck believing that it is only one thing or another.
Get acquainted with the different components of digital marketing, and spend some time trying to understand how these components apply to your business (and if they apply to your business to begin with). You don’t need to become an expert. The Digital Marketing domain is a fluid and ever changing domain. New Google search algorithm, FB privacy and tracking, new platforms, etc.. are always changing, so leave it to someone who is dedicated to get into the technical details. But it is your business and your livelihood at the end of the day, so you should have some knowledge. This will certainly help you in assessing the different agencies that might approach you. And you won’t be oversold or overcharged if you are able to show that you know what you are talking about.
I don’t know of any business owner who has actually done this. Not sure why. It might be too much effort.
In other cases you might be the agency’s first client. In that case make sure you give constant and professional feedback with the intention of ensuring the partnership lasting forever. You will quickly be able to judge their business and ethical caliber. Once you feel that you are in good hands, you can ease off a the feedback by making it a monthly review performance review
What you can also do is do a Google and a LinkedIn search of the Digital Marketing Agency and see what pops up.
This is a big one and in a way it impacts the next two points on the list. It is important to partner up with an agency that is able scale up/down based on your needs. Keep in mind that an agency, especially the smaller ones, do not necessarily have everything in house (and that’s fine). But the problem is that a lot of the times these Digital Marketing agencies are offering their services at such a low price that they cannot afford to hire someone before they are able to get X new clients to be able to afford a new hire.
What you end up with is an agency that is slow to respond. Constantly changing “account managers” and ultimately panic on their end when you request something that was not preplanned in advance.
Smart agencies outsource to ensure short term scalability until they are able to take on a new headcount. If you are able to find an agency that is “scalable smart” then you should seriously consider them as a digital marketing partner.
Another way of saying this: not every person who knows how to use a computer can create a program.
If you have done some graphics outsourcing, you probably went through this. You find a person with what appears to be a nice portfolio but then quickly realize that the person is unable to capture your thoughts, emotions and your concept and translate them into an image or a brand identity.
Most of these freelancers know how to handle Photoshop in terms of functionality but they are only good at copying, not really creating.
One simple way to filter through these is to ask them to show you what work they have created from scratch. You will quickly learn who to work with and who to avoid.
Lots of agencies, especially the smaller ones, pay lip service to being “your business partner” but the moment you ask to change something, they end up charging you extra for it, even if it is something that falls within the purview of their work. Unfortunately this is not something you can really ask them about beforehand as most of these Digital Marketing agencies will not admit it to ensure they land you as a client. Therefore, the moment you feel that they are unrealistically rigid, start looking for another agency.
Of course be fair, do not request a 180 degrees change an expect it for free, but say some content they created was not to your liking, then this should be fixed without charging you extra for the new content.
Let me ask you a simple question, do you think a digital marketing agency in Brazil or India will know more about Jeddah or Dubai than a local agency? Which neighborhoods to target for locals or expats or expats of a specific nationality? Are they able to create an Arabic copy of your communication?
These things matter, and they matter a lot. It is very tempting to outsource to an agency overseas, especially when they initial costs look cheaper, but you are risking a lot of potential revenue.
If they know the region well and they are overseas, then that could work. Especially now a days, lots of meetings and work is done remotely so the norm of having close, face to face meetings with an agency or a supplier is not as mandatory as before. But nevertheless, ensure they understand the regions very well.
I believe that you get what you paid for. I like to use the saying “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Please make sure you find a good digital marketing agency that is local and that treats you as a business partner and not just a client. It will make your life easier, make your brand and business shine and you will enjoy the working experience.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please don’t be shy and leave a comment or a question
Founder of Digitopia.Marketing – Your Digital Marketing Chaperon