At the minimum, the agency might tighten a few screws in your digital marketing game—spruce up your website, tighten up the audience targeting on your social media ads, etc.
At the maximum, the agency might take the reins of your entire digital presence, launching or revising every digital point of contact a customer might have for your business. This could include, but certainly isn’t limited to:
- Web design.
- Digital collateral design.
- Software or app development.
- Search engine optimization (SEO).
- Content marketing.
- Social media marketing.
- Influencer marketing.
- Viral marketing.
- Web funnels.
- Email marketing and automation.
- Data collection and analytics.
- Customer feedback.
In the most dramatic of circumstances, entrepreneurs may come to an agency with little more than an idea, and the agency can build and execute upon an entire digital marketing services roadmap to bring that idea to fruition.
What Is the Difference Between a Digital Marketing Services Agency and a Traditional Marketing Agency?
Agencies providing digital marketing services differ quite a bit from the traditional marketing agencies dramatized in Mad Men, some of which still exist and still vie for business with digital marketing services agencies.
On one level, the job of both is the same—build awareness of and consumer trust in a brand, driving sales. Traditional marketing agencies, however, specialized in pre-digital marketing formats. These include, but are not limited to:
- Magazine and newspaper ads.
- TV and radio ads.
- Outdoor street-traffic advertisements like billboards, bus wraps, and bench ads.
- Direct mail (via snail mail and the post office).
While they still exist, traditional marketing agencies that have not transitioned over to digital services have fallen out of favor. Traditional marketing channels have some distinct disadvantages compared to digital alternatives. Traditional marketing channels are:
- Hard to accurately quantify in terms of their effectiveness.
- Expensive, even for a test run.
- Hard to personalize, outside of localized branding for the city or town.
- Invasive, inserting itself unwanted into the daily lives of the target audience.
Digital marketing, in contrast, has several built-in advantages that have assisted the rise of digital as the gold standard of brand building. Digital marketing channels are:
- Easy to personalize to the target audience.
- Easy to accurately quantify in terms of their effectiveness.
- Cheap both to test and to execute.
- Non-invasive, adding value to the user’s experience and making it easy for proactive potential customers to find the brand.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Agency for Digital Marketing Services
Contracting digital marketing services with an agency can be pricey, entailing ongoing commitments with possible lag time before results manifest. Is every agency created equally? Definitely not. The specifics of your project may lend itself better to one marketing agency, while a different entrepreneur may be a better fit for a different agency.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a digital marketing services agency:
One-Stop-Shop or Specialists?
Some agencies’ digital marketing services might focus on a specific vector of digital marketing — web design, app building, social media marketing, viral marketing, etc. A brand that has a strong overall digital marketing strategy in place may just need some fine-tuning from a specialist to unstick the strategy.
On the other hand, agencies like Digital Authority Partners build teams of experts to provide a holistic digital marketing service under one roof. Companies starting from scratch in their digital marketing journey should definitely consider a one-stop shop.
Even companies looking to tighten up one specific vector might want to consider a generalist agency. Digital marketing assets tend to interlock, with changes to one affecting all the others. Many agencies find it essential to hire a digital marketing service provider who can handle the whole pie, not just a piece of it.
Strategy, Execution, or Both?
Digital marketing campaigns roughly break down to a planning phase and an execution phase. Agencies that act as consultants may focus on the strategy, either outsourcing or subcontracting the execution or leaving the execution to you.
Other firms can execute a strategy, but lack the creativity or the expertise to do anything other than follow instructions.
Digital Authority Partners belongs to a class of agencies with the experience and qualifications to both design the strategy and deploy an in-house team to execute it.
Short-Term or Long Haul?
Some agencies pitch digital marketing services al la carte like collateral design, website design, email marketing campaign design – a kind of “one-and-done” service. Naturally, this is appealing to many companies and organizations. Why commit to an ongoing expense when you can pay an affordable (or not-so-affordable) one-time fee?
In most cases, however, digital marketing strategies need to play out over the long term. SEO takes a while to kick off. Websites need maintenance. Social media and paid search marketing returns analytics right away, but the analytics usually suggest changes and refinements that must be implemented long-term. A change in ad creative might entail a redesign in marketing collateral to unify the branding. Digital marketing is a long story where you need someone able to put together all the puzzle pieces..
Even if they envision a one-off job, organizations should look for an agency that aligns with their values, resonates with their message, and with whom they can forge a long-term business relationship.
Who Sets the Direction?
When picking an agency for digital marketing services, organizations should consider who sets the direction in the interaction. Does the agency only respond to input from the client, or do they bring ideas to the table? Can they pick up the ball and run with it, charting the best strategy for the client organization based on experience and informed opinion?
Some organizations have a clear idea of the direction they need to take in their digital marketing. Many, however, don’t have the first clue. They aren’t digital marketing experts, which is why they are hiring an agency!
Organizations in this situation should make sure the agency they choose brings ideas to the table and can set a direction and align with your brand purpose and message. The agency should also have back-up strategies to pivot to in case Plan A doens’t pan out as expected.
Data-Driven or Hunch-Driven?
One of the best reasons to focus on digital marketing channels is the ability to quickly and inexpensively gather actionable data and adjust your strategy in response. Despite this perk, some agencies still have a traditional-agency habit of going with their gut and doubling down on a losing strategy.
Almost every organization is better served by an analytical agency that is data-driven in its approach and can coherently explain its approach to data analytics.
Fast and Available?
Even the best digital marketing services agency, with the most sterling track record, may underperform if they aren’t available to give the project the attention it deserves. Organizations should look beyond track record alone and vote with their eyes and ears.
Does the agency pick up the phone and return emails? Do they have the bandwidth to take on a project, as well as the motivation to deliver on a project of that size and scope? When can they start, and over what timeline do they plan to deliver results.
Skin In The Game?
Some digital agencies guarantee nothing and hold clients at arm’s length, laying out a strategy but promising little in the way of results. Organizations shopping for a digital marketing services agency should look at the agency’s willingness to put skin in the game.
Markers of skin in the game include systems of pay for performance, rather than flat up-front fees or a percentage of the ad-buy, money-back guarantees, a willingness to invest money and resources into the project, and a willingness to attach the agency’s name and reputation to the success (or failure) of the project.
A digital marketing services agency needn’t offer all of these to be reputable or a good value. However, skin in the game can be a guarantor of an agency’s motivation to succeed.
What Digital Marketing Services Do Agencies Provide?
Some agencies specialize in one digital marketing service or channel, while others specialize in multiple channels or a holistic approach to digital marketing services.
Remember, though, any digital point of contact where your customers might encounter your brand counts as digital branding and falls under the purview of digital marketing, so it all must be taken into account.
Some of the channels of digital marketing for an agency might employ experts include:
Digital marketing strategy services are a kind of consultative service that maps out a strategy for the organization’s digital marketing campaign or campaigns. Some agencies may be nothing more than consultants, proposing strategies that outsourcers, subcontractors, or the organization’s in-house team can then implement.
A digital marketing strategy may include outlays for any and all of the digital marketing vectors listed below. Strategy is important because the different digital marketing vectors interrelate. Changes in one often necessitate changes in another. Moreover, a single digital customer journey may cross multiple digital touchpoints—social media, website, email, etc. It won’t work if those touchpoints aren’t calibrated to work in harmony with each other.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO, broadly speaking, is the subtle art of improving a website’s rankings in the index of a search engine, so the site gets returned on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) when internet users perform a search. Most SEO is focused on Google, the biggest fish in the search engine pond.
Almost no internet searches make it past the first SERP, so it pays to be a top-ranked page in a niche. SEO is one of the highest-return digital marketing vectors over the long term–if you have a website that converts traffic to customers, and if the page gets returned to Page 1 SERPs for search terms entered by warm potential customers. There’s no point in ranking on Page 1 for a keyword that is irrelevant to your business, for which no potential customer will be searching.
SEO touches on many other vectors of digital marketing, including web design and content marketing. However, the biggest components of SEO include 1) optimizing your page for search-engine authority markers, and 2) directing links to your page (known as “backlinks”) from other high-authority domains.
Content marketing is related to SEO, because sites with lots of content tend to rank better. Content marketing also often entails an effort to rank first on SERPs for targeted user search terms.
For example, some warm prospects may be searching “Best Probate Lawyer in Chicago.” Good SEO could put a probate lawyer’s homepage on the Page 1 SERP. However, other warm prospects might be searching “How Long Does Probate Last?” They may be looking for information more than a service provider, but if the probate lawyer has published an authoritative blog with the same title as the search term, finding the blog at the top of a SERP could be the prospect’s first brush with the lawyer’s brand.
Content marketing is based on the principle that many customers will look at multiple pieces of the brand’s contact before ever reaching out to the brand, in search of both information and signs of authority and competence.
Social Media Marketing
Almost every member of key buying demographics uses social media. Inserting brand messaging into peoples’ social feeds can be one of the most effective ways to introduce people to your brand. This could be in the form of viral content or paid marketing campaigns.
Social media marketing campaigns have the advantage of being easy to target to users who match your established buyer personas. They can be a great way to collect leads and an excellent entree into an automated web funnel or buyer’s journey.
Social media ads can be fine-tuned, split-tested, and automated. At their best, they generate more sales than the campaign costs, and as such can be scaled indefinitely. They are like a slot machine where you always win more than you bet.
Viral marketing is the art of creating pieces of content—often video content—that gets shared organically by internet users, building word-of-mouth around the brand.
Examples include the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercials for Old Spice, which were so funny that they caught the public imagination. Millions of people shared the videos on social media—a big deal, since to achieve the same coverage by paid social media ads would have cost a fortune by comparison.
Influencers are people with many engaged followers on social media. Influencers in almost any genre can help bring awareness to a brand by mentioning it or sharing branded content on their social media channels. This can be especially effective if the influencer’s brand is congruent with the brand behind the influencer marketing campaign.
Email marketing involves the sending of strategic emails to warm leads or past customers.
Laws apply to what kind of email contact constitutes illegal spam, so email marketing must target users who have willingly “opted in” to an email list (usually in exchange for some free value-giving piece of content, like an e-book or webinar). The campaigns must also be conducted in accordance with laws like the CANSPAM Act, which stipulates, among other things, that there must be an easy way to opt out of the email list.
Whole businesses can be built around email marketing. Organizations could nurture leads with value-giving content, pitch products, upsell, cross-sell, or all of the above.
Most digital marketing vectors involve some form of design. One of the best reasons to go with an agency providing end-to-end digital marketing services is to unify design elements across digital channels. That way, every time a potential customer encounters a brand online, the prospect sees the same colors, same images, same logo, same slogans in the same font, etc.
Design of marketing collateral applies to the website, web fliers, social media and banner ads, e-books, e-brochures, video thumbnails, and anything else a user might see that could be loaded with brand messaging.
Digital marketing may include the design of a digital software product. An agency that employs expert digital software developers can truly bring a business into being from nothing more than an idea. If all you have is an idea for a product or service, look for an agency that develops software products like Cloud services and mobile apps.
More so than “websites,” digital marketers see things in terms of “web funnels”—arrangements of websites that walk visitors through a buyer’s journey, from discovery to consideration to decision.
At its best, a web funnel can automate the entire lead-nurturing and sales process. A prospect might discover the brand thanks to social media marketing, SEO, etc. Each page is designed to guide the prospect to the next page, answering questions, addressing pain points, overcoming objections, and demonstrating social proof until the customer is hot and ready to buy–without any input from a company representative. Web funnels can also upsell or cross sell after a purchase is made.
Good digital marketing strategies include robust analytics, which serve as a window into the performance of a campaign and a chance to identify opportunities for improvement.
Analytics within a web funnel or customer journey might tabulate the number of people who engage with a social media ad, the number of visitors to a website, the most-visited page within the website, time spent on the page, abandoned shopping carts, closed sales, and revenue generated per advertising dollar.
If a digital marketing campaign is not yielding results, analytics can often expose the specific problem area so the stakeholders can take corrective action.
Digital Reputation Management
Many users weigh online reviews equally with recommendations from friends or family members. Agencies that provide reputation management as a digital marketing services may implement systems to automate the collection of testimonials and “5-star” reviews on popular review aggregator platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp.
Testimonials may also play a key role in an automated sales funnel, providing necessary social proof to overcome customer objections and build trust without human intervention.
Analytics can’t tell you everything. Sometimes collecting user feedback is the only way to identify problems in the buyer’s journey. Agencies providing end-to-end digital marketing services may solicit user feedback, especially users of an app, digital software product, or website.
How Do You Know If You Are Working with a Good Digital Marketing Services Agency?
Successful digital marketing can more than justify the expense–and it is an expense. A “good deal” on digital marketing is not a good deal at all if the campaign fails to generate results as a result of improper execution or faulty strategy.
For an organization interested in expanding its digital impact, picking the right agency for their digital marketing services may be the most important step in a successful digital marketing campaign. Here’s how to know if you are working with a good digital marketing services agency.
Perhaps the most important quality of an agency providing digital marketing services is that they be responsive, both before and after the contract gets signed. Do they answer the phone, return calls and emails? Do they listen to your needs and pain points and propose relevant solutions? Responsiveness is a key indicator of whether or not you will be a priority client, as well as whether or not the agency has the bandwidth to take on your project.
While specialists can produce impressive results within their chosen digital marketing vector, most organizations will do better with a full-service agency that consults, strategizes, and executes marketing strategies along every digital marketing vector you need.
This is because changes to one digital asset—a new logo, for example—often necessitate a change across all other digital assets.
Some agencies have a deep in-house bench, but may subcontract a few of the tasks. The point is to be able to hand over the reins and let the agency drive the ship.
Digital marketing can be involved and even technical, but it isn’t nuclear physics. Be wary of agencies that take a “You wouldn’t understand” or “Just let me do my job” attitude.
Effective agencies will break down what their digital marketing services are doing in layman’s terms to justify their choices. The strategy should be clear enough for you to apply your common sense and make an educated guess as to whether or not the strategy is valid.
Good digital marketers aren’t afraid that you will use what they teach you to “DIY” and fire them. They should be so on their game that after you come to understand the breadth of what they intend to do, you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it but them.
Don’t settle for a digital marketing firm that can’t produce evidence of past results. One of the advantages of digital marketing is that it is easy to see when a campaign is working. If an agency can’t point to quantifiable results of their digital marketing services, it is most likely because they don’t have any. Make sure you understand what they are showing you, as well! Remember—teachers.
Results allow you to predict your return on investment (ROI) for the digital marketing campaign. This is why digital marketing, even when expensive, is often a justifiable expense. After all, if you could invest $5 and earn back $10—heck, if you could invest $8 and make back $10—is any investment too big?
The internet makes reputation easier than ever to assess. Look for reviews of the agency on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. Check consumer watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau for signs of consumer complaints.
Remember, your digital marketing services agency works for you, not vice versa. Your chosen agency should listen to your concerns regarding their digital marketing services and address them to your satisfaction. If your brand has a mission, purpose, or core values, the agency should listen to them and design campaigns that align with them.
Good agencies can rely on experience and past results of their digital marketing services to formulate a strategy, but no real-world campaign ever plays out exactly as planned. Good agencies must be nimble and responsive to new input, willing to pivot to a backup strategy or adjust assumptions if the data tells them that Plan A, Plan B, or even Plan C of their digital marketing services are not working. The agency’s job is to deliver results for the client, not placate the ego of the designer or the strategist.
Effective agencies implement robust analytics around their digital marketing services at every possible point of failure along the digital marketing strategy. If a component of the plan isn’t working, analytics can trace the failure down to the specific choke point and possibly even suggest solutions. Look for an agency that knows how to implement data analytics around all of their digital marketing services, as well as a firm that understands the limitations of those analytics.
If all you have in your tool belt is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. This isn’t an effective approach to digital marketing. Good agencies are flexible and willing to suggest alternative strategies of their digital marketing services that align with the goals of the client organization. Not every solution is right for every problem. Successful digital marketing firms interrogate their assumptions and strive to propose not the easiest solution, not the most expedient solution, but the best solution.