Let’s face it: finding a great digital marketing agency can be hard work. Even if you think you found the perfect partner, sometimes the cooperation just doesn’t deliver what you were looking for. So how do you make sure your digital agency is the right fit for your company and that the cooperation brings you the results you are looking for? 

Start by clarifying your company’s needs

This sounds obvious but there are still many marketers out there who will hire any partner for digital marketing just because it is a must, without thinking too much about it. 

Consider these when you clarify your company’s needs:

  • What type of business are you in? B2C, B2B, e-commerce, SaaS, something else?
  • Do you need a strategic partner, or help with specific one-off tasks?
  • What are you trying to achieve with digital marketing? Create awareness, generate marketing leads, generate leads for sales, direct sales, something else?
  • What kind of digital marketing will you need? SEM, Display, Social media, something else?
  • Do you need SEO?
  • Do you need an agency that can also produce content for you? Blogs, videos, guides or brochures, and the like?
  • Do you need an agency that can work on developing your website?

What kind of agency can meet your company’s needs?

There are many different kinds of digital marketing agencies out there and it is not a given that all of them can offer you a full range of services. Some companies are specialized in only a few different areas. If you need a partner that is an extension of your in-house marketing team, you need to make sure they can cover the skills that are missing from your team.

For B2B companies, it is crucial to work with an agency that understands B2B business. Even though B2C and B2B digital marketing can have a lot in common, B2B customer journeys are often exceptionally long and complex and require a lot more strategic thinking than targeting people with a simple B2C product.

Something else you also want to consider when you’re on the lookout for a digital marketing agency is whether you want to be a client among others for a big agency or a key client for a small agency. In most cases, it makes a big difference in how you will experience the quality of the service.

Starting the cooperation

Now that you have found your agency, let’s get to work! Or rather, let’s not. There are a few things you want to put down in the contract first to ensure that the terms of the cooperation are defined explicitly and both parties completely understand their role in different areas.

The key things to define in the contract are:

  • KPIs that will guide the agency’s work and be your mutual performance indicators
  • Ownership of ad accounts
  • Responsibilities and ownership of different tasks
  • Team
  • Termination period

Here’s why these are important.

KPIs

Defining the KPIs in the service contract is a baseline for how you measure the success of your cooperation. You want to make sure the KPIs are tangible and linked to your company revenue in one way or another. Such KPIs could be for example marketing or sales qualified leads and/or direct sales, if that is an option for your company. 

If your goal is to create awareness with your marketing efforts, the KPIs can be different. In those cases, different forms of engagement with your content could be one of the main KPIs. 

But if any company starts talking about website traffic, bounce rates and time spent on the website as KPIs, it is not an agency you want to do serious business with. These kinds of operational metrics don’t really matter in the big picture if the quality of your website traffic is great.

Here’s an example: if it is your actual potential customers who are visiting your website and they find what they are looking for quickly, they will spend less time on the website and the bounce rate will inevitably be high. This is especially the case for complex B2B products and services, where customer journeys can be very long and potential clients come back to interact with you several times.

Ownership of ad accounts

You wouldn’t think that ownership of ad accounts would be a problem but unfortunately with some agencies it is. It is still fairly common for agencies to claim the ownership of any ad account they establish for the client. So when the cooperation ends, the client will not get access to the ad accounts they have been paying for and lose all their data. Crazy, right! But this is a common problem.

To prevent anything like this from happening, it is important to define the ownership of any ad account and tool in the service contract, whether they are established by your partnering agency or not. This will save you and your potential new partner a lot of time and effort in the future.

Responsibilities and division of tasks

This is one of the most common stumbling blocks I have run into in agency cooperation. Many marketers take certain services for granted or are perhaps used to a service level that is different from what they might later encounter when starting cooperation with a new agency. It may come as a surprise that some digital marketing agencies only offer some services as consulting services. 

A general example of this is SEO services: some agencies can only offer you a list of SEO recommendations but will not do the actual implementation of those recommendations. In this case, it is up to you how you will handle the implementation in-house.

In order to avoid any confusion, I always recommend adding an appendix of the RACI-model to the contract. The RACI-model clearly establishes the responsibilities for each task so there will be no doubt on who will be doing what. RACI stands for:

  • Responsible – Who is responsible for the execution of the activity?
  • Accountable – Who is accountable for the activity/process and signs off the work?
  • Consulted – Who are the subject matter experts to be consulted?
  • Informed – Who are the people who need to be updated on the progress/subject?

And it could look as simple as this:

Team

It can sometimes happen that you end up working with a different kind of team than what you initially agreed to when the project was sold to you. This can affect the quality of work. Especially if your company requires high quality strategic help with digital marketing, you would want the most suitable people on your case. 

In order to avoid any disappointments in this sense, it is good to define the team that works with your company in the service contract. Of course the contract shouldn’t assign specific people to work with you because people might change jobs and roles and so on, but you can at least define the roles, skills and seniority levels to ensure that you have the needed expertise available to you.

Termination period

Some agencies require as long as a one-year termination period. A lot can happen in a year in any business. Digital marketing is a great tool for growing and scaling your business instantly and in the long run but only if it’s done right, so imagine what that could mean for your business in a twelve-month period.

You want to make sure that just in case something doesn’t work out with your partnering agency, you can easily terminate the contract. I believe that any good agency that knows what they are doing and keeps their customers happy doesn’t need a long termination period. A one month notice should be reasonable for both parties.

Checklist for hiring a new digital marketing agency

Here’s your most important to do’s for hiring a digital marketing agency:

  • Define your needs clearly and express them to your agency candidates
  • Define KPIs to guide the agency’s work and express these to your candidates as well
  • Establish the ownership of ad accounts and tools to be used on your service contract
  • Establish a clear division of work and responsibilities between your team and your agency
  • Define the team and skills you need from your partnering agency
  • Agree on a reasonable termination period

Trust me when I say that making this extra effort beforehand pays off. Having a clear picture of your company’s needs will already narrow down your search for a new agency quite a bit. Defining tangible revenue-related KPIs will then separate the grains from the chaff and most likely leave you with a handful of options. Finally, making a detailed contract will save you a lot of trouble in case something doesn’t work out with your new agency.

If you’re on the lookout for a new digital marketing partner, contact us!