You’ve reached the point in your business where you need a dedicated team of marketing experts. But how do you find that team and how can you evaluate them?
Ah, you know what that means: starting the age-old, time-consuming process of searching websites, emailing, calling, gathering quotes, etc. to find a marketing agency that fits your needs. There must be another way!
The Marketing Agency Search
At Hot Dog Marketing, we see many clients come to us exhausted from the search process–dreading another pain-staking sales call and shuddering at the thought of reading through another boring proposal (our sales calls aren’t pain-staking and our proposals aren’t boring, but that’s beside the point). We decided to save you some time and do the evaluation process for you.
We conducted a secret-ops-style deep dive into evaluating ourselves and our competition. What we found out surprised us.
We identified five core tenets to evaluate in your digital marketing agency search. Read more about what we discovered below.
No surprise here that price is a major consideration when choosing a digital marketing agency–or any vendor for that matter.
At Hot Dog Marketing, we know that we aren’t the most or the least expensive digital marketing agency out there. We don’t strive to be one or the other. Instead, we focus on producing results and providing multiple entry points on price.
We were blown away when some of the competition told us “Here is our price, take it or leave it,” without even asking about our needs, goals, timeline, or size of our organization. A business with five employees has different needs and budget concerns than a business with 500 employees. Instead of offering a “one-size-fits-all” approach, we use a model that allows us to serve businesses at all stages of growth.
Most marketing agencies work on hourly retainers. Unfortunately, this creates a situation where you really don’t want them to do too much work, or it will end up costing you an arm and a leg. At Hot Dog, we choose fixed fee services. This way, you get the results you want without worrying about the agency nickel-and-diming you.
Digital marketing needs can vary widely depending on your organization’s industry. A brick-and-mortar hair salon with a single location will need a completely different strategy and suite of services than a location-independent software company. For this reason alone, some marketing agencies simply won’t offer the services you need.
During our research, we came across a few marketing agencies that offer just one or two services (typically social media management). While it may be fine to go with one of these companies when you’re in the early stages of your business, their narrow focus prevents them from offering the necessary strategy you’ll need when your business grows.
While other agencies pigeon-hole themselves into a small service offering, Hot Dog Marketing is a full-stack digital marketing agency. We’ve provided companies with marketing strategy, custom-built websites, social media management, content marketing, video, and so much more. Having a full suite of services allows us to serve companies at a variety of life stages.
You Won’t Believe It: In our research, we ran into several competitors who didn’t even list what their services are on their website or in communication before they started talking about monthly retainer prices *eyeroll*.
Here’s a list of some of the services that Hot Dog offers:
- Marketing Strategy
- Persona Development
- Market Research
- Marketing Planning
- Brand Development and Design
- Website Design and Development
- Digital Marketing and Advertising
At Hot Dog Marketing, one of our favorite things is creating marketing strategies for clients. Most other digital marketing agencies don’t offer strategy (or they say they do, but it’s a one-size-fits-all approach) because it can be difficult to find competent, experienced people to conduct this level of service. But, we love digging deep into a client’s business and market to discover true nuggets of gold that can connect with their audience and get them incredible results.
In our marketing agency research, we only came across a few other digital marketing agencies that also offer true strategy. These are the companies that will help your organization get real, lasting outcomes with your marketing dollars. Some companies that we talked to seemed like they just wanted to take our money and didn’t care if we saw any return on investment.
At Hot Dog Marketing, when clients start their marketing with strategy, we have a solid foundation to build on. Then, we identify the best approach to develop the rest of their marketing plan. This ensures that all of their marketing is as effective as possible and that we can grow and scale their marketing efforts where we see the best return.
The other side of the strategy coin is effectively using search engine optimization or SEO. Some people think this simply means ranking #1 in Google Search as fast as possible. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Some of our competitors pitched this “rank fast” concept as a worthwhile tactic, but in reality, it does more harm than good. When using shady SEO tactics, search engines will often end up penalizing your website, making it difficult for users to find you for long into the future.
At Hot Dog Marketing, we use honest, reliable SEO methods that produce positive long-term results. Instead of “bottle rocket” results (that go up quick, look nice for a minute, and fizzle out fast), our practices produce “snowball” results that gain volume and momentum as time goes on.
If you are evaluating a few digital marketing agencies and haven’t already looked at their reviews, I have to ask, “Why not?”
Obviously, they should have a solid reputation, but read enough reviews to see if you can identify some recurring pain points other clients have had. Do they produce great work but are slow on communication? Do they do video really well but don’t know about digital advertising?
Besides the obvious review sites like Google and the Better Business Bureau, check out industry review sites like Clutch.co.
Additionally, check out their website for a portfolio or case studies. When we looked at some of our competitors, there were some excellent case studies out there. But, there were also some agencies that didn’t show any of their final work, which had us a bit worried…
Since reputation management is typically a service that digital marketing agencies offer, you might only be able to find the best five-star reviews. But there could be more to the story. When you’ve narrowed your selection down to a few agencies, see if you can find some of their previous clients and ask what it was like working with them. Also, you can ask local Facebook groups for business owners if any of them have worked with any of those agencies before and what their experience was like.
Business is all about relationships and marketing is a major part of your business. That means you should have a marketing partner that you actually like.
Hey, this agency-client partnership could actually be fun!
When talking with a digital marketing agency, are they cold and all-business or do they make the process pleasant and enjoyable?
In our research, we came across some really genuine people. However, we also encountered sales reps who sounded like they’d rather be getting a root canal than talking to us on the phone. And others that called back from what sounded like the middle of a wind tunnel.
Don’t get me wrong, there were many friendly, encouraging people, but some immediately made it seem like we were just going to be another number to them. We didn’t get the impression that they cared about who we are and what we do.
No matter what the agency sounds like on the other side of the phone (or email), it should be clear that they care about your business and understand what you’re looking for in a digital marketing partner. You should feel comfortable and trust that they have your best interests at the forefront. Of course, getting results is important, but if you feel like the agency only cares about fulfilling a service, then ultimately, you’ll just be dealing with yet another vendor. And vendors are frustrating to deal with. An agency that is on your side will be fun to work with, especially when you’re achieving goals together.
Make It Fun
At Hot Dog Marketing, we can’t help it–we’re a fun bunch of people. Everyone from our directors to our copywriters is friendly, helpful, and committed to your success. Just ask any of our clients;) The reason why we’re fun to work with is we put in the time to get to know your business, so it feels like we’re a part of your team, not a vendor.
If these five tenets are important to you in your digital marketing agency search, then I think Hot Dog Marketing is going to be a perfect fit to help you reach your marketing goals. Drop us a line and let’s make it happen!
Tom Snyder is a business-minded writer creating compelling content that helps business owners understand the digital side of their business and engage with their audience. Constantly intrigued by learning new things, he is fascinated with tech, business, and sci-fi. In his spare time, you can find Tom building his own business (coffee roasting) or making music.