Did you start the campaign? I did the job I... Did you start the campaign! You're God *&#% right I did!

Why do business owners and executives feel the need to hire digital agencies to implement their Social, Search or Programmatic marketing campaigns? Especially when Google, Facebook, and other platforms make it so easy to target audiences and craft coherent messages? While you don’t need a full-time agency to handle some digital marketing campaigns because you can do it on your own, The truth is, for most, it is best to work with one to improve business outcomes. 

Use a digital agency to make sure your online brand doesn’t look like Lloyd Christmas.

Llyod Christmas
One in a million

Can you tell the difference between a professionally styled haircut and someone who grabs a Wahl trimmer and a handheld mirror to save $20? Or think about the countless Blue Apron ingredients wasted because the professional chief who created the dinner plan is slightly better at julienning vegetables than your beloved spouse and their uncoordinated fingers? What do both of those things have in common? Expertise, appropriately applied. It takes time to understand the resources, options, and combinations required to hone a digital campaign. Merely knowing how to use a tool rarely makes someone an artist wielding it. Use a digital agency to make sure your online brand doesn’t look like Lloyd Christmas.

The University of YouTube has both saved and cost me time and money over the years. “Sure, honey, I can install the water softener. I’ll look up how online.” Six hours and three trips to Lowes later, we call the plumber to get it done right. No matter how amazing we are at some things, few of us are awesome at everything. Does your Facebook page thrive because of your expertise? Fantastic. Keep that for yourself. Let a professional handle the programmatic, cross-device buys.  Are you killing it with emails? Great. Consider an expert for your video or search strategies. Sure, you could do everything yourself. The question is, should you? No.

Since we’re agreed an agency makes sense in many cases, here are three truths to understand before you choose the right agency to reach your goals. (Note: I am not affiliated with any digital agency and make no public recommendations)

Bigger is not always better

For years, a local “Best Of” survey of newspaper readers selected Olive Garden as the best Italian restaurant, Taco Bell as the best Mexican and MacDonald’s as the best steakhouse*. While that’s neither good nor bad, it does explain the appeal of low cost, mass-produced goods and services. Similarly, a large, template driven digital agency is an attractive option. They offer dashboards, dozens of easy to understand services and are usually a one-stop shop. The trade-off is the amount of personalized attention your campaigns receive.

Even the best one-stop shops usually employ different people with different skill sets to perform different tasks. That potentially means several cooks in your marketing kitchen. Before you hire, ask who will oversee and coordinate your digital campaign efforts? Is it the same person each time or are account managers rotated? Does that level of service require a larger investment?

The truth is, regardless of size, much of what any agency does is automated (Programmatic, PPC, etc.). A large agency may very well be the perfect answer. One stop shops are convenient, usually reliable and generally reputable. Just be sure to reach out to smaller local shops to compare. A more personalized, neighborhood-based partnership is extremely rewarding. Now, regardless of size…

Transparency is crucial

Look into the future together

Digital agencies should be treated like a student in an advanced calculus class, they must show their work. A strong agency will develop specific, measurable campaign objectives before the campaign starts, deliver relevant reports based solely on your unique business goals during the campaign. and itemize every nickel, explaining how it was spent in easy to understand terms. Don’t settle for generic, templated reports. They are generally used for simple metrics like clicks or impressions. Try to dig deeper than that. Even the smallest of businesses have objectives beyond that scope.

A strong agency will develop specific, measurable campaign objectives before the campaign starts.

The transparency door, as Dr. Spengler says, swings both ways**. Any agency you hire should have at least “Read Only” access to the analytics tools used on your site or social media pages. This allows them to set up tracking accurately, adjust on the fly as needed, and produce meaningful reporting metrics for your campaign. The truth is, the best agency/client relationships are partnerships. Just make sure to understand the privacy policies and ask for an NDA if you’re still nervous.

Be specific about your business goals

Due to the ever-evolving digital landscape, many owners and GMs are hesitant to craft detailed digital goals to meet business objectives. Regardless of the investment level, your agency should offer to help with this crucial step. Talk out what measurable metrics will make the campaign a success. A solid agency will give you reasonable timelines and expectations. If you’re not sure where to begin, a popular starting framework is based on the “See, Think Do Model” developed by Avanash Kaushik. Simply put, your goals should answer the questions: “What do I want my potential customers to see, then think and finally do?” As they progress along through that process, each step is a potential metric for you and your agency to measure. The truth is, no matter who you work with, an agency will succeed only with clear instructions on what they should do.

What are some of the truths you’ve learned while working with a digital agency? Do you agree you can do many things on your own? Leave a comment below and be entered in our monthly giveaway.

*I made the last one up.
** If you get that reference without having to click the link, you’re awesome!

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