What to Look for in a Digital Marketing Partner

Many business owners spend less time investigating their digital marketing consultants than they do equipment and furnishings. In fact, one OutboundEngine survey revealed 58% of teams spend less than five hours a week on their general marketing strategy, a sign that many companies don’t adequately vet their digital consultants.

Digital marketing partner meeting

I’ve seen countless instances of businesses missing clear signs that their consultant wasn’t as reliable or brilliant as promised. Rather than trusting any digital agency unquestioningly, executives should learn the ins and outs of the digital ecosystem themselves to lessen their risk.

It takes time for leaders to build digital marketing knowledge, but it’s an investment that can save organizations millions and help foster future growth. And those are two prospects most small business owners can get behind.

Words to the Wise

A few tell-tale indicators will indicate how competent your digital strategists are. Complex, data-laden documents aren’t always significant, but having them on hand allows leaders to empirically size up the effectiveness of a potential partner. Be cautious, though, if the strategist only shares performance insights and analytics when asked.

Take care, too, when sharing passwords outside your company. Handing over control of passwords is a recipe for disaster and can result in bitter agencies or employees holding organizations’ accounts hostage. Forty percent of respondents in a Symantec study had stolen confidential information and planned to use it later, proof that discretion is absolutely necessary.

Make sure your digital or in-house strategists show certificates or continued education in the digital space. My employees get recertified every quarter using learning platforms from Google, LinkedIn, HubSpot, and Facebook. Each platform details the technology and processes, allowing users to integrate themselves into the digital marketing space as seamlessly as possible.

I recommend business owners also obtain some 101-level education on the digital platforms they have included in their marketing plan. With that baseline understanding of digital marketing, you can better source and interview potential digital marketing firms and consultants.

Discussing digital marketing strategy

What You Need to Ask

To get a better sense of whether you’ve found the right digital partner, ask the following questions.

1. What credentials do you hold?

Even if digital marketers assure you they can do everything, don’t take their word for it. Ask them to present their qualifications, including evidence of completed certifications, badges, attendance at conferences, and other experiences. For instance, if they say they know Facebook, ask for proof; see whether they are a partner agency of the platform. Facebook partner agencies are able to beta test and get the scoop on upcoming platform algorithm changes and learn best practices for working within the platform. Google also offers a partner program for agencies that qualify.

At the same time, consider how digital marketers present themselves. If they propose a website redesign, do a thorough search of their own website. Does it feel modern? Look great on mobile? How is the user experience? You’ll quickly get a pulse on whether they practice what they preach.

2. What should I know about your company background?

Amazing digital marketers will have more than a good story to tell. They’ll talk about success measurements, their case studies with other companies, and what goals they were able to accomplish for those campaigns. If you’re in a niche industry, you may want to focus only on digital experts who have worked with organizations like yours.

When evaluating prospective partners’ answers, see how much they ask about your company. Digital marketing is a two-way street, so pay attention to whether they’re curious about how they can help you define your buyer personas and contribute to growth.

3. What would working with you look like?

Beyond receiving weekly updates and success metrics, you deserve to understand what the relationship will feel like. Prepare to talk about deliverables and clearly define campaign expectations. Then establish the key performance indicators you expect your digital marketing agency to track using special codes and other measurement means.

You will also want to get your digital marketing agreement in writing. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it should state that your company owns all the creative assets, the website, the content, and social sites. This cuts down on worries related to sabotage and gives you legal footing to stand on should the partnership end non-amicably. If a potential partner can’t provide any of these assurances, look elsewhere.

4. What is your level of sales involvement?

Digital agencies should eagerly sink into the sales process. Otherwise, they will have a difficult time putting together an active and successful program.

Find out your digital marketers’ previous approach to incorporating the sales process into client-facing situations. Ask how they get clients’ salespeople to buy into digital campaigns. Salespeople frequently do not understand digital, so having a digital expert advocate on your behalf can take a weight off your shoulders.

Why wait another moment to boost your digital skill sets? So many learning opportunities are out there waiting for you to take advantage of them. Your knowledge and comfort level about digital marketing in general will help you partner with the right person or company to bring you the results you are looking for.


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