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?
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. Eventually, the odds are that you’ll come to one inescapable conclusion; that there must be a better – and smarter – way!
The Marketing Agency Search
At Hot Dog Marketing, we see many clients come to us exhausted from the search process, dreading another painstaking sales call and shuddering at the thought of reading through another boring proposal. We decided to save you some time and do the evaluation process for you.
As part of our continuous efforts to improve ourselves and the services we offer our clients, our team conducted a deep dive into evaluating ourselves and our competition. In doing so, we identified five core tenets that any business owner should evaluate when searching for the right digital marketing agency. Here’s what we found:
It should come as no surprise that the cost of signing up is a major consideration when choosing a digital marketing agency – or any vendor for that matter.
At Hot Dog, 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 surprised when some of our competitors told us “This is our price, take it or leave it,” without even asking about our needs, goals, timeline, or size of our organization. It just stands to reason that a business with five employees has different needs and budget concerns than one 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 are tempted to not give them too much work, lest it end up costing you an arm and a leg. Asking your agency to do less and not more isn’t exactly conducive to successful marketing efforts. At Hot Dog, we choose fixed fee services. This way, you get the results you want without worrying about being nickel-and-dimed.
Digital marketing needs can vary widely depending on your organization’s industry. A brick-and-mortar hair salon with a single location will likely 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 particular services you need at your business’ stage of growth.
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, this narrow focus does prevent them from offering the necessary strategy you’ll need down the line when your business grows. These agencies might seem a perfect fit for you right now, but what about 2-3 years down the line?
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 complement of services allows us to serve companies at a variety of life stages.
Here’s another fairly unbelievable issue we uncovered. In our research, we ran into several competitors who didn’t list what their specific services are on their website or even in one-on-one communication before they started talking about monthly retainer prices!
At Hot Dog, we have nothing to hide, nor would we *want* to hide what we can provide. 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 comprehensive strategy. These are the companies that will help your organization get real, lasting outcomes with your marketing dollars. Of course, as often happens, a few companies that we talked to seemed like they just wanted to take our money and proceed with a hands-off, roll-of-the-dice plan, the “trust us, it’ll work” route. That doesn’t usually bode well for a business’ return on investment.
At Hot Dog Marketing, clients start their marketing with collaborative strategy sessions that involve all parties and create 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 as high in Google Search as possible, as quickly as possible. But that actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Some of our competitors pitched this “rank fast” concept as a worthwhile tactic, but in the long run, it does more harm than good. When you utilize shady SEO tactics to boost your website, search engines will often end up penalizing your site rankings, making it MORE difficult for users to find you for an extended period of time.
Hot Dog uses 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 in search of the perfect candidate and haven’t already looked at their reviews, I have to ask, “Why not?”
Obviously, a solid agency with a proven track record 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 create video really well but don’t have a clear digital advertising plan? Besides the obvious review sites like Google and the Better Business Bureau, industry review sites like Clutch.co are a great source for honest and reliable feedback from customers past and present.
Additionally, check out the agency’s website for a portfolio or case studies page. 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. How would a potential client know how well they really help a business in need of top-notch marketing?
Since reputation management is typically a service that digital marketing agencies offer, you might encounter an agency’s online footprint that only shows the best five-star reviews. But there could be more to the story if you dig a little. When you’ve narrowed your selection down to a few agencies, see if you can locate some of their previous clients and get in touch. Ask what it was like working with them and you might either be heartened – or unpleasantly surprised – at what you hear. You can also 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 enjoy working with. Heck, why not work with an agency that makes the job positive and fun?? After all, would you rather work with a team that is enthusiastic to help you and your business or one that treats you like a ‘pick a number’ customer in a busy deli? When deciding whether to work with a digital marketing agency, are they cold and perfunctory or do they make the process pleasant and enjoyable?
In our research, we came across some really genuine people. Naturally, 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 then there were others that called back from what sounded like the middle of a wind tunnel. Whether through carelessness, malaise, or even no fault of their own, the fact remains that we didn’t get the impression that some of the agencies we contacted cared much about who we are and what we do.
When it comes to considering the services of a B2B service provider, it isn’t too much to ask that they appear to 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 often impersonal and frustrating to deal with. An agency that is on your side can be a true partner and ally, especially when you’re achieving goals together.
Make It Fun
At Hot Dog Marketing, we’re just a fun bunch of hardworking folks. Everyone on our team – from our directors to our copywriters – is friendly, helpful, and committed to your success. We wouldn’t have them on our team if they weren’t! The reason we’re fun to work with is because 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 we 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.