Digital marketing isn’t a new term. It’s been around for years. But even so, you’d be surprised at how many companies we’ve met and talked to that don’t understand what it takes to examine and choose a quality digital eCommerce marketing agency. We don’t want you to be one of those companies lost in the dark when it comes to choosing the right agency for your business—and you don’t have to be. We’ve come up with everything you need to know, from specific qualities to look for to the right questions to ask, and organized everything nicely into a three blog post series to make the selection process a little easier on you.

Subject Matter Expertise

First and foremost, a digital marketing agency should be able to perform and get results for your specific industry. If a certain agency doesn’t know how to navigate through your vertical, then they’re obviously not the right fit for your business. An agency can’t create quality results unless they have a thorough understanding of your industry. They need to understand the challenges your customers face, common questions your customers want to be answered and your competition. This is why subject matter expertise is so critical and the first quality on our list of things to look for. Creating ads, content, and finding the right influencers that really resonates with a target audience is already a difficult task, but throw in the technical components of your industry and it can be a near impossible task for marketers with little to no experience in your industry. Without a thorough knowledge of your industry, an agency isn’t going to be able to generate a constant stream of revenue. You’re not paying an agency to learn what your business does; that should be done on its own time. So, how do you gauge a digital marketing agency’s subject matter expertise? You ask them questions. The following are good ones to ask:
  • Do you have experience working in my industry?
  • How do your specialists get up to speed on my industry?
  • Do you ever have to outsource for certain industries?
Another way to assess a potential agency’s subject matter expertise is following them on social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is good places to start. Review the content they post and the responses they make to comments on their posts or any online discussions they take part in to determine whether they have knowledge in your industry and to find out if they’re a respected agency. If the agencies you have in mind will allow it, also ask to speak to some of their clients and see some case studies. Being able to talk to any clients is a great way to accurately find out the agency’s subject matter expertise for those clients’ respective industries. Ask how clients feel overall about the agency’s performance, why they first chose them and how they are or aren’t meeting their expectations. Talking to any client, even if it’s just one, can only help you in making your decision. As you can see, subject matter expertise is a must-have quality of a good digital marketing agency.

Practice What They Preach

Second, you’ll want to make sure that when you choose a digital ecommerce agency that they practice what they preach. Go through the following steps to find out if an agency does that or if there’s a better fit out there for your business.

1. Take a Look at Their Blog

An agency’s blog is the first place to look. They’re telling you that you have to provide unique, useful content to your target audience—but do they? Do they regularly post content to their blog? Is their blog organized and structured in a way that’s pleasing to a reader’s eye? Besides just looking at the structure of their blog and skimming over the titles, see how consistent they are with posting. Sporadic posting is bad for any organization—but it’s really bad for a digital marketing agency. Also go in and read several of their posts. As you’re reading, see what kind of images they use (if any) and if they’re good and if the topics are useful to you as a reader or if they mainly talk about themselves. A promotional agency is not the kind of agency you want.

2. Thoroughly Review Their Website

Once you review their blog, look over their entire website. Do they provide a clear understanding of what they do and their process? Do they have additional resources to prove they know what they are doing and want to help you? Like case studies, blog posts, and resources. Today’s consumers are different and need to be reached through different types of digital marketing. If the agency isn’t reaching out to their own target marketing through different needs, will they be able to help you? Also, consider how they’ve optimized their site. Were you able to find their site through the search engine easily? Is their website user-friendly? If you’re able to easily get to and navigate through their site, find resources and answers to your questions, and the pages’ content and images look good, then that’s a good sign. If not, then that agency isn’t who you want running your content, SEO, and other digital initiatives.

3. Check Out Their Social Activity, Again

Now it’s time to do some minimal cyberstalking—and in this case, it’s totally acceptable and encouraged. Possessing a good social presence and having social etiquette is important. Do they consistently promote their content through major social channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Do they also share other sources’ content? Any company that only shares their content isn’t being as useful to their audience as they could be. Sharing content from other sources shows confidence in their own brand and their ability to be collaborative. Also look to see if they’re interacting with their audience. When people comment on their Facebook posts or send them a tweet, do they respond? Good agencies listen and engage with their audience. When an agency doesn’t, you can’t be 100 percent positive they’ll listen to you.

4. Ask Questions

After you’ve taken some time to research an agency it’s time to go straight to the source. Whether you’re communicating face-to-face, over the phone or through email correspondence, make it a point to ask an agency some of the ensuing questions:
  • What does your agency do to generate new business?
  • What are some of your best-performing blog posts, SEO optimizations, or paid ads you can show me?
  • What are some of the publications you’ve written for or been mentioned in? Can you show me any of those?
  • What’s your strategy process like?
After getting a good understanding of the agency you’ll want to ask for case studies and client references.

Case Studies

More often than not, you’ll have to request case studies from an agency. Like us, many agencies have numerous client case studies, but they don’t publish any of those case studies in full on their website. This is due to agreements most agencies make with their current clients, stating that they can’t publicly share their data, but they can share it privately. A client case study offers real-life examples of how valuable an agency’s digital marketing services are and how their efforts helped their client reach their goals. Case studies establish credibility and evidence of their success through facts and figures. They tell a story—a narrative taking you through the beginning, middle and end of a client’s success story. When you ask to see some of an agency’s case studies, ask for ones where they solved a company’s problem that relates to the one you’re facing. Also, as you’re reviewing, look for specific things in their case studies such as subject matter expertise and quality services.

Client References

After asking to see case studies, ask if they’re able to give you 2-3 clients who would be willing to spend a few minutes talking with you about their experience with the agency. It’s a good idea to get clients who are somewhat related to your vertical, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Most agencies expect potential clients to make this request as further proof that they can achieve the results you want and fulfill the other promises they’ve made. Once you’re given the names and contact information, be sure to give the client references a call or email. Here are some questions to consider asking when you talk to them:
  • How has your overall experience been?
  • Has this agency delivered on their promises during the sales process?
  • How’s the quality of the content, SEO, and other work they created for you?
  • Are they good with communication and reporting? Why or why not?
  • Do they listen to your wants? Needs? Goals?
  • Are you treated like a client or a partner?
  • Do they work like they’re a part of your internal marketing team?
  • Is their thinking outside of the box?
  • Do you believe they always have your best interests in mind?
  • Would you recommend them to a colleague, family member or friend? Would you recommend them to me?
The digital marketing agency you want to partner with should be able to fulfill both of these requests for you, and you should see nothing but solid, convincing data and hear nothing but good things from their references. Be sure to check out part 2 of how to choose the right digital marketing agency. ]]>

Kirsten is a graduate of Brigham Young University, earning her print journalism degree in April 2012. Before coming to Stryde, she was a sports reporter and then the sports editor for BYU’s newspaper, as well as a remote sports editor for Deseret Connect. Although she’s from Missouri, she’s a die-hard Kansas basketball fan. When she’s not watching KU play or pumping out content for Stryde, she’s most likely watching movies or Netflix in her workout clothes whilst drinking a Pepsi and eating popcorn.