Digital Marketing Agency. Intro

Choosing the right digital marketing agency has become particularly important in a time where the mounting pressure to deliver results is upon brands

The digital era has contributed to accelerate this, with increased opportunities online for challenging brands to take a share of the market without the need for large marketing resources, but instead looking at alternative ways to cut through and achieve often even better results whether the objective was to engage with their audience, or drive sales and revenue.

Think of brands like Tesla who do not even have marketing budgets, but rely on clever tactics and the appeal of doing things differently to move sentiment and gain advocates and favourable word of mouth.

For Tesla, like other successful brands, the key is to create a really well-defined personality and brand identity that aligns with their audience values. So in a time where it is not all about the size of the marketing budgets anymore, how do you succeed?

The answer is simple, choosing the right partners, the ones that will be with you along the journey and will share the same values, mission and vision. And one of those partners will be the media agency. But choosing the right digital marketing agency is not that simple.

Perhaps it was easier a few years ago when the selection of digital channels available to marketers was considerably limited compared to what is at our disposal nowadays; it is not long ago when the option was really between search (including paid and organic), display and affiliates.

Today with the booming of social media platform the opportunities to reach our target audiences are countless. Whilst we can and still do run campaigns in search, display and affiliates it is equally important that we play in the same space where our audiences are: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.

1. Local

Even though communication has now reached a point where there are no barriers in the way and speed with which we can exchange information with tools such as Slack and Skype, for example, face-to-face time and closeness still have great value to add to such important relationships like the one between client and agency.

The possibility to spend time together where ideas and exchange of feedback can flow in real time, adds on to need of being agile, proactive and responsive to changes and arise of opportunities in the digital landscape. Being local can really help to bring the team together and facilitate the agency truly becoming an extension of the client’s marketing team.

It is what we summarise with the mantra of ‘One Team, One Dream’. In our experience we found that eliminating the physical barriers of an office and bringing the team together with the agency being able to work from the client’s office has immensely helped to glue resources, helped to align the vision and objectives, but also propelled the synergies between client and agency with a two ways transfer of knowledge.

2. Alignment of values and vision

This is something that perhaps most of us take for granted, but in fact it might not be. It is of paramount importance that both the agency and the client share the same vision, and work towards the same objectives in full transparency.

We’ve seen it in many occasions where the two parties were not aligned and this created an unnecessary and unproductive tension that inevitably led to poor results, and ultimately the relationship breaking.

Having the same goal in mind can become a real catalyst and help to keep the focus and energise the team too, in particular in those times that might be a little bit more challenging.

Having the same goal in mind can become a real catalyst and help to keep the focus and energise the team too, in particular in those times that might be a little bit more challenging.

3. Transparency

Again something that should always be expected and at the foundation of the relationship between the agency and the client, however this is often not the case.

The reality is that in an environment that is ever more aggressive for most agencies to stay afloat and be competitive, they need to resort to finding alternative ways to be acceptably profitable and keep the business running.

This is a direct consequence of several forces acting at the same time: the exponential growth of costs that agencies incur in (such as office costs, fixed costs or overheads in general), the pressure from clients to drive the cost down and / or get greater value for the services received (this might be in the form of more aggressive commercial deals, expectation for better rates or added value for example), the increased competition from other agencies or even consultancy firms acting in the media and digital space (like Accenture, PWC, EY, just to name few), the decrease in loyalty towards partner agencies which causes uncertainty, and more.

Whatever the reasons might be these changes have led agencies to either find additional revenue streams (for example applying unreasonable markups to media buying made via programmatic) or create cost efficiencies cutting corners or employing less experienced resource.

This is obviously a big challenge for brands to invest into working with an agency since the lack of transparency can really compromise not only the results of the media investment but also affecting the quality of the work delivered, compromise the brands perception and engagement with its audience.

4. Value

Value for money. That is it. Like any other good or service, working with an agency shouldn’t be driven by the nominal dollar value, hence shouldn’t be a race to the bottom game.

Ultimately the old age ‘you get what you pay for’ is extremely relevant for agencies, whereas the cheapest solution will rarely grant to deliver the expected outcome.

Likewise, the highest price tag might not necessarily mean a guarantee of getting the best quality of work money can buy. In fact looking under the surface when choosing an agency you should consider what are the factors that determine that price, ask yourself what are you paying for?

If the answer is a compromise on resource or service level, ask yourself again is that going to help you to meet your objectives? Is it even realistic to set expectations around objectives you know the agency might struggle to deliver against? Or on the other hand, the price that you are going to be paying is inflated and overpriced by costs that add low to zero value to your objectives?

Ask yourself if what you are paying is for swanky office space in prime locations, agency lunches and drinks in top restaurants and bars.

5. The right size agency

It is important to choose the right size agency for many reasons, but the most important is to ensure that you do not end up being a small fish in a big pond.

There is nothing worst than to feel that you are not getting the attention you deserve and the service level you pay for just because the agency has other clients that due to their bigger size (measured by ad spend or fees) are deemed to be more important and as such come first.

Choosing the right digital agency will be the one that makes you feel you are always looked after and important to them. They appreciate working and partnering with your brand and value your business.

If your business is not valued as it should then you should really consider to move it somewhere else: there is no lack of alternatives and the fact they might be smaller in size doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to deliver great work and excel.

Don’t underestimate the small agency, because they need to overcome challenges bigger agencies don’t face they can often punch above their weight!

6. Flexible and agile to suit the brand’s needs

Being nimble and agile is an essential requirement in today’s digital marketing for agencies and brands that aspire to be successful.

Long past are the days where it was possible to make long term planning (12 months plus), in today’s word it all happens in real time and only those that can truly take advantage of the opportunities has they unfold have the chance.

Consumers and people in general, are in control and determine if and how to engage with content pushed by brands; they choose where and when too, and that means which mean they will use to engage (i.e. which device), and when they decide to engage.

What this really means for brands and agencies is that analysis of data in real time is pivotal to understand the sentiment and seize the opportunity, from that define the strategic approach for that window of opportunity and then deploy that into campaign execution.

Test different scenarios, analyse the results and use the learnings and insights to refine the approach and execution accordingly.

All this wouldn’t be possible, or at the least very difficult if the client/agency operational framework was limited by long processes and slow ways of working dictated by a cumbersome structure, allowing to only be reactive at best.

7. Things to avoid

Cutting corners – avoid agencies that will resort to cutting corners because they sold themselves too cheap with low-cost commercials to beat the competition or deliver better perceived value; whatever the reason might be cutting corners will never help to drive quality work and good results or accomplish targets and objectives.

Inexperienced resource – avoid agencies that will employ resources on your account that are too junior. The most likely outcome will be that they will need to spend their time on your campaigns to learn the job, whilst you will see little value. They will probably spend endless hours manually pulling reports. What is sure you cannot expect it’s them being able to drive your marketing strategy and proactively lead your digital advertising campaigns. Not their fault, for sure, but perhaps not the reason why you have decided to hire an agency. They will probably spend endless hours manually pulling reports. What is sure you cannot expect it’s them being able to drive your marketing strategy and proactively lead your digital advertising campaigns. Not their fault, for sure, but perhaps not the reason why you have decided to hire an agency.

Too busy with more important clients/accounts – steer away from agencies that don’t have enough time for you, or for which you are not at the top of their list. Instead look for an agency that matches your ambitions and is keen to work with you and commit to your goal like it was their own.

Too expensive – opposite to agencies that are too cheap to be true, you should also avoid those that are too expensive for what they deliver. You should be looking for value for money and pay the right price for the services provided, rather than being charged high bills for the numerous expenses agencies incur in but that add zero value to you and your bottom line, such as fancy lunches, parties and entertainment in general, travel costs, luxurious offices, etc. In addition beware of the real time and work that is effectively spent on your campaigns, or are you paying for low efficiency of the staff on your account? You should be looking for value for money and pay the right price for the services provided, rather than being charged high bills for the numerous expenses agencies incur in but that add zero value to you and your bottom line, such as fancy lunches, parties and entertainment in general, travel costs, luxurious offices, etc. In addition beware of the real time and work that is effectively spent on your campaigns, or are you paying for low efficiency of the staff on your account?

8. Have fun

Finally, your agency of choice should also be fun to work with.

The chemistry between client and agency team is really important, and considering that big objectives and targets can only be achieved if all parties are working in unison you’d better get on with each other, enjoy the relationship and try to have some fun too.

It is likely that you will be spending a considerable amount of time together so you might as well enjoy it. Consider team bonding sessions, these don’t have to be in any way or shape big events where you need to splash the cash, but can also be small offsite sessions to facilitate the team glueing together and establish key relationship that will greatly help working together some point down the line. It is a necessary small investment that we can guarantee will pay off when the project will be likely to face

It is a necessary small investment that we can guarantee will pay off when the project will be likely to face challenges or that unison of intent that we mentioned above.

They are also great occasions to celebrate wins too; it is important to acknowledge group achievements, these will help to sustain and boost the team’s motivation and act as a springboard to launch towards new and greater objectives and targets in the immediate and distant future.

Summary / Conclusions

Ultimately success is not determined by luck but instead accomplished with resilience, hard work and learnings from failure too.

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