How to select the best digital marketing company for your needs

Digital marketing companies are sprouting all over the place. They are being started by everyone from teenagers to retired ad execs with a lot of time on hand. And of course battle hardened digital veterans as well.

However it is becoming ever more difficult for clients to distinguish between these agencies. They all have really weird names (many of which were probably dreamed up in a haze of smoke) and some out-of-the-box sales pitch which they feel shows their unique thinking. Ultimately they only confuse the prospective clients.

So what are the factors that should actually matter when picking an digital marketing agency. Here are a few to consider:

1. Longevity - Avoid here today, gone tomorrow, operators

This industry is notorious for companies starting one day and disappearing the very next. We have been in business for over 14 years and have seen countless upstarts come and go. Some have even lured a few of our clients away with impossible promises, only to disappear into smoke later.

It might sound clichéd and old fashioned but companies that have survived for years in this tough market are here to stay and have something unique in them that's allowed them to weather the storms. Longevity is usually a good indicator of whether they will be here the next year and onwards.

2. Good all round capabilities

Too many digital companies have only one core competency such as SEO or SEM and try and cover for the other areas through partnership or outsourcing. In such cases you might get good results on that one service but will get screwed in the other areas.

Good digital firms have solid all round expertise and experience. Of course it's impossible for every firm to be good at everything. However look for firms that have the broadest possible skill set. This should include technical abilities along with creative ones.

Always check with them, which part of the digital mix they will be doing in-house and which they will outsource or partner for. Make sure that not too much of the work is outsourced.

3. Management team that talks in real terms

Whether it is digital or not, marketing is marketing. You need an agency with both feet planted firmly on the ground. They should talk in real terms about expected results, possible challenges, problem areas and likelihood of success and failure.

They should be upfront about the risks and rewards of each channel they are using and should have a common sense approach to digital strategy.

There are too many con artists out there blowing smoke up client's backsides. Beware of such snake oil salesmen.

4. Realistic costs

What's 'realistic' is hard to define because it depends on a lot of factors. But I have noted that most clients have a very good feel of what the budget should be. Multiple quotes (but not too many) also helps set a median.

There are usually two types of digital agencies to avoid. The first we can call 'fishers'. They quote ridiculously high prices and wait for the big fish to reel in. They thrive on clients who either don't know better or don't care. The second is the 'do anything to get business' types who will quote so low that it will be impossible to service the client over the long term. They will cut corners or eventually leave the client in a lurch.

The best cost I feel is the one that pinches the client a little but is also not so high to make it a major pain for the client to justify within the company.

5. A solid sensible plan

Based on the brief you can ask digital agencies to come up with an initial plan. A good plan should have why, what, when and where in real terms.

The plan should have a top down approach from overall goals and strategy down to the day to day tactics and deliverables. Look at the key metrics that will be measured and if they make sense to you.

You cannot expect an initial plan to have too many specifics but look for an overall common sense approach.

In conclusion, with so much choice and so many companies fighting for the digital pie its hard for companies to make the right choice. But as in all things, a bit of common sense and good old fashioned due diligence does help you make the right choice.

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