By now you might be more than convinced your business is ready to move to the next level. You’ve identified your business growth goals and recognize that you need a solid digital marketing strategy to help get you where you want to go.
However, you may have also recognized that you don’t have the manpower, the energy, the resources, the know-how, or frankly, the desire to run digital marketing in-house. That means it’s time to hire someone. But who? You can watch our thoughts on that in this video.
If you do decide that an agency will be the best fit, your next task is daunting. How do you find, interview, evaluate, hire, and manage a marketing group whose expertise is outside of your interests and knowledge base? Answer: hire them the same way you would any other vendor or employee; then, hold them accountable.
Make a Job Description
Just as when you hire an employee to join your team, you will want to complete a list of needs, requirements, and skills desired in order to accomplish the goals you’ve established. While you don’t need to necessarily type up a formal document, it is helpful to go through the exercise as though you were going to be hiring an individual to fill a position on your team. Essentially, you are going to be adding a partner in the form of an outsourced marketing department.
Seek Viable Candidates
Once you know what you need, it’s time to start looking for candidates who might be able to fulfill those requirements. More than that, though, you are looking for someone or some company who will be able to partner with you as you work to grow your business. Your selection is essentially taking the role of your marketing department, so you want to ensure they are not only competent but skilled in a variety of areas such as graphic design, SEO, social media, content or inbound marketing, digital strategy, reputation management, social advertising, online networking, community engagement, and much more. (See primary skill sets needed for an effective digital marketer on this blog.)
Judge Them by Their Covers
When you’re hiring an employee, you probably review their resume, as well as their supplemental materials for accuracy, breadth, and experience. You’ll want to review companies with the same type of criteria. Start by visiting their website and their social media profiles. You are going to hire them to do yours, so shouldn’t you see their “proof” in their own digital footprint?
- Do they produce clean, error-free, high-quality graphics and content?
- How often are they publishing?
- Are they engaging with a community or simply talking about themselves by themselves?
- Did they show up on the first page or two of Google/ highly ranked on social platforms?
- Do they show you work samples online or share references or testimonials?
If you struggle with finding these basic elements, chances are it’s not worth taking the time to talk with them in person. If marketing employees can’t be excited by their own brand, why will they care about yours?
Interview Three of the Best
After narrowing the field, pick 2-4 (3 is a good middle point) groups to set appointments with (either via video or in person). Phone calls are also a viable option, however, it’s always good to see who you are working with & how they handle client meetings.
During these meetings, companies should be comfortable enough with your brand, having done preliminary research, to talk to you about opportunities they see or flaws in your current marketing. They should be able to speak to their experience in helping businesses like yours (though not necessarily in the same field–it can benefit you to be an exclusive industry on their client list). They should listen to what you have to say and seek to understand your concerns. Finally, when you leave the meeting, they should set expectations on the next steps, timelines, services they will quote, and any reference materials you may need.
Dig a Little Deeper
After you’ve concluded your three initial meetings, it’s time to do a little more independent research. Take the materials they’ve given you, and call their references, check their sample work, and investigate more of their content, any materials they gave you in the meeting, and some of the best practices they may have discussed with you. From here, you should be able to narrow the field to two companies. It’s time to set a follow-up call or meeting.
Have a Final Discussion
During these final talks, you will want to negotiate any terms of the proposal (contract length, billing options, services provided, etc. However, you should also use this time to meet with more of the team (or at least learn more about them). It’s ideal if you learn about their structure (which will tell you a lot about what you can expect from communication with them), their policies, the staff longevity and specialties, and their overall company culture.
While these items may not feel like issues you need to prioritize, you do need to feel comfortable with the people you are engaging as partners. The most important aspect of finding a good digital marketing agency is fit. And, while that does reference ability, if you don’t mesh with the employees of the company, it won’t work in the long run. Fit should always trump price because, while budget is certainly important, a true partner will be able to provide you with expected ROI and will go above and beyond to work with you to achieve your goals.
Sign the (Digital) Dotted Line
Congratulations! You’ve found your partner. After all the details and fine print have been ironed out, it’s time to move forward. One misstep businesses sometimes make is hesitating at this point in the process. If you’ve gone through all of the steps, this is not where you want to delay progress.
Although it feels like you’re making a major decision by signing the contract, remind yourself that you’ve already made the decision throughout this process and this is just the final step in that decision. Because digital marketing is not an overnight success or magic bullet (but what really is?), you want to be able to get moving as quickly as possible, now that you have done your part by finding the right marketing group. So, sign the contract & put them to work!
But wait…you’re not quite done. The final (ongoing) step is:
Stay Engaged Through Evaluations
Just as with employees, you need to be able to have set check-ins with your marketing group to measure success, adjust goal expectations, tweak strategy, implement campaigns, and optimize efforts.
Without talking to the people who are working to represent you online, how will you know if you are on track to meet your goals? You won’t. Make sure you are working with a group who doesn’t shy away from questions, one who meets with you on at least a monthly basis to go over numbers, and one who truly emulates passion for helping your business succeed.