Digital agencies…Should I use one? Do I need one? How do I choose the right one?
Are you at a point where you want to take your marketing or website to the next level but you’re unsure of whether to hire someone or use an agency? You’re not alone. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve created this guide on how to choose and then work with an agency.
So, without further ado, let’s delve in…
The Pro’s to using an Agency
Agencies offer flexibility that is unrivalled. If you want to invest more in your marketing or website, you can generally do so much faster with an agency. This is because you can skip the process of advertising and hiring new staff. It’s likely an agency will have started their activity before you are even interviewing candidates.
The above can also be easily flipped on its head. If you want to reduce spend, it’s easier to do this with an agency than with an in-house team.
The bottom-line: an agency has staff on-hand for you to scale your activity without the headache of hiring and managing staff.
Using an agency may appear expensive at first, but it is usually the most cost-effective way to scale your activity. Imagine for a second that you’re looking to increase your marketing activity. An agency is a better approach for two reasons:
- Firstly, for the cost of a typical in-house marketing manager you can usually get the services of a team of marketers from an agency. This means you have cover for holidays, various skill sets and more combined experience handling your marketing.
- Secondly, employing individuals comes at a cost with pension contributions, national insurance and other overheads. Hiring someone is more of a commitment than just a salary. Good agencies will usually offer trial periods in which performance can be judged, you get no such luck with staff.
Access to technology:
There are many tools available to help you maximise your digital marketing activity. Some of these tools can be cheap but the better ones are usually expensive. Agencies have the benefit of covering these costs by having multiple paying clients. This means you can get access to highly experienced individuals using some of the be tools in the industry to help them undertake activity for you.
Tools can give you a distinct advantage over your competitors, providing insights and knowledge that you wouldn’t get without paying a hefty fee yourself.
Knowledge, Expertise and Experience:
“Been there, done that” is not a phrase you often hear being uttered by marketing professionals. This is simply because the industry is constantly evolving, but it does hold some weight.
Agencies are filled with individuals who have a wealth of knowledge. Been under constant scrutiny and pressure to succeed means they are at the forefront of the industry and it makes them very valuable.
In addition to the above, agency workers often share learning’s across clients. The level of information sharing cannot be replicated between an in-house team. It allows them to stay ahead of the curve.
Agencies are filled with creative individuals who are looking to make their mark on the world. One of the easiest ways to hamper business growth is to utter the phrase “that’s just the way we do it” or “it’s always been like that”. Growing doesn’t come from thinking this way and every business should be looking for new ways to angle themselves.
An agency offers a fresh perspective that is not constrained by existing perceptions within a business. You’re likely to be shown angles you’ve never thought of. This is because agencies know the value of thinking differently.
Agencies are performance-driven. They must prove their worth and any reputable agency will ensure key performance indicators are in-place to show their worth to you. This makes using an agency less of a business risk because you can clearly see how they’re performing, and they want to meet their targets because it could mean you partner with them for longer than the initial contract.
You could give targets to people you hire internally and if they don’t meet them, you could part company. However, that is much harder to do than simply ending your agreement with an agency at the end of a contract term.
Do I need an Agency?
Simply put, the answer is only when you believe it is the right time for you and your business. If your business is not ready to receive more orders or enquiries, you may struggle with the potential influx of new work that a focus on marketing could bring.
Ask yourself these questions to understand whether you need an agency:
- Can you cope with an influx of new orders/sales or enquiries?
- Do you lack the time required to market your business?
- Are you ambitious about growth plans?
- Do you need to diversify where your business comes from?
- Do you need guidance on the best way to undertake marketing activity?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may well be ready to work with an agency. Try looking for small independent agencies who have experience in many areas. Specialist agencies who focus on specific types of marketing may be useful too, but they may just recommend what they do.
What to do before choosing an agency?
Before entering discussions with any agency, we recommend you answer all the following. This will make any conversations you have easier for both parties:
Know your budgets:
Establish what your marketing budget is beforehand. This may sound simple, but it is essential. An agency cannot suggest the best option for you without knowing this upfront.
A large budget gives you more options, but a small budget can be just as effective if used wisely.
Know your costs:
Identify your cost of sale or cost per lead target ahead of speaking with agencies. This is a key performance metric that they can work against. Without it, an agency may not know if what they are doing is profitable for your business. By giving them this information, they can optimise campaigns effectively and make sure your budget is spent in the right way.
Have targets in place:
Having specific targets in-place are not essential but knowing what success looks like to you is important. Giving an agency specific targets or letting them help you create specific targets allows them to really buy into helping you grow.
How do I choose a digital agency?
Don’t settle on progressing with one agency early on in your discussions. Aim to speak to multiple at the same time and you can be honest about this with them. Agencies always expect to be in competition with each other.Getting proposals and recommendations from multiple agencies gives you an unrivalled perspective.
For example, if you’re speaking to three agencies and they are recommending the exact opposite of one another, you know you need to investigate further to get a better understanding of what is right for your business.
Price is a factor:
Earlier on we highlighted the fact that knowing your costs is important. What you pay are planning on paying an agency is one of these costs. Factor this into your marketing budget.
Larger and more established agencies are typically more expensive, but this does not mean you need to use them to be successful. A lot of smaller agencies have just as much experience of larger agencies but with fewer overheads to cover. Only you can decide, but we do recommend that whilst you are shopping around, speak to a variety of large and small agencies.
Look for matching personality:
We all have our own individual differences that make us unique. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot work in similar ways to others or have a similar personality.When you are engaging in discussions with agencies, think about how the future relationship will be. More importantly, think of how you want it to be.
Find an agency that fits you. Some businesses want to work in a close and personal manner with agency staff, whereas others want a professional relationship that is highly structured.
Finally, be sure you choose an agency that will provide you with transparency. During the pitch process look at what information the agencies are willing to share with you. This could be anything from recommendations through to projections, costings and so on.
A good agency will be upfront and transparent with you from the get-go. If people are being secretive, we recommend taking this as a warning that they may not have your best interests at heart.
We hope after reading this you will have a strong understanding of how to choose an agency that has your best interests at heart and truly believes they can help your business be more successful.