This is it! This is the resource to help you get the answers to your questions about when to hire a marketing agency (or not), why it’s a good idea (or not) and how to hold them accountable.
At NiceJob, we support agencies with our expertise in online reputation marketing to benefit their clients. This puts us in a unique position to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.
Working with a digital marketing agency for your small business frees up your time so you can focus on what you do best. But—and it’s a big but—it’s important that business owners know what they need from a marketing agency and how to measure success to get value from their investment.
Consistent frequency in marketing campaigns is important.
Whether it’s a weekly blog post, a social media posting or a monthly newsletter, finding time to accomplish these tasks is difficult and it can sometimes take weeks to even plan a successful marketing campaign.
Hiring a digital marketing agency helps with the following:
"Small business owners of home-service companies are up at 5 a.m. and don’t get home to their families until 9 p.m. or even later. The last thing they have time for is writing a blog or Facebook post. Agencies can schedule marketing items in advance to ensure maximum lead generation and receive monthly reports about what’s going on with SEO, leads and anything else." - Jeff Smith, Hooked Marketing
Hiring a small business digital marketing agency helps you update your marketing strategy with dedicated experts, leverage payroll efficiently and empowers you to spend your time effectively.
But the benefits of working with a marketing agency are contingent on a mutual understanding of your needs & deliverables and their impact on your business.
The first question that we always hear from our customers is, “When should I hire a digital marketing agency?” But first you have to ask yourself why do you need an agency?
These are the questions you should ask yourself before hiring a marketing agency:
If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, then you’ve got your answer and can now begin evaluating your options.
Of course, each of those needs come with a ton of different solutions and not all of them require an agency to do. So the “when” question can then be answered based on how much time & money you have.
For example, when deciding when to hire a marketing agency, gauge to what extent a) your website or marketing sales are stagnant or declining; b) marketing work is falling through the cracks; and c) your time/budget restrictions could allow you to fix any problems.
If the problems can be fixed and even reversed in a profitable way with a marketing agency, then you know the time to hire a marketing agency is now.
A good digital marketing agency should be able to help walk you through this process if you ask them the right questions.
When you’re evaluating a prospective marketing agency, whether that be for a website, paid advertising, search-engine optimization (SEO) or branding/content, there are important questions to get clear answers to.
These questions can be broken down into three categories:
Here are the important questions from each category to ask in your first meetings with a vendor when evaluating whether or not to work with them:
Logistical questions are great to start with because they allow the marketing agency to explain their workflow and recipe for success. They also allow you to objectively compare an agency’s answers against other agencies’ answers to determine which marketing agency is best for you.
"A short-term contract means a marketing agency will be reliant on their results to keep you as a customer. Plus having a responsive point-of-contact will help you get questions or urgent concerns answered fast. Regular meetings or transparent reporting will help you to see if the goals you set with your marketing agency are being met." - Joe Kirwan, DigiTool
The next step in the evaluation is to determine what level of expertise an agency has. It’s important to hear from each agency about what makes them the best solution for you.
"Clear communication from an agency is imperative. Look for an agency that will build trust with you. Agencies are most effective when clients are engaged, asking questions and soliciting opinions on other areas of work. That way, you ensure that your agency thinks in multi-channel strategies and keeps all data in mind when making business decisions. The more an agency can help you achieve a high ROI, the better you'll feel about working with them. That takes clear communication." - Jamar Ramos, Crunchy Links
Our last criterion for evaluation is cost structure.
If you’re hiring an agency, be prepared to work with them for at least six months or a year. It often can take this long to achieve significant results from SEO or advertising campaigns.
When you’re considering an agency, calculate how much it will cost you in that time frame and what return-on-investment (ROI) you can expect. More than anything, the most important aspect of how to work with an agency is holding them accountable to the results that they promised.
So the first question regarding cost structure should always be:
After you know how much it will cost you and for how long, you can then begin to calculate what your ROI could be. Any evaluation of results should focus on these things:
If you’re looking for the most cost-effective solution, using marketing software yourself is probably it, and it’s a solution that can be adopted at any stage of your business growth.
There are tons of software platforms out there to help you automate your marketing, your website, to get more reviews and just about everything else related to your business.
Most of the time, the cost of buying software is less expensive than hiring someone to use it for you. Some of these software platforms take time to learn, while others are super simple and intuitive. Either way, you’ll usually have to spend some time learning. If you’re not technologically savvy or don’t have the time to actively manage software (usually at least once a week, if not more), then you’ll probably want to hire an agency or freelancer to do it for you.
Always ask any potential agency or freelancer what software they use to power their services, because 99 times out of 100, they’re using one of the software platforms that you looked at too.
If they don’t want to tell you, consider that a red flag because any good service provider should be honest about what they do and how they do it. Good agencies leverage software to help them provide their services more efficiently and thus more cost-effectively to you.
If it’s a software platform that you think you’d like to learn in the future, or a platform that you think could power your processes at scale once you’ve grown to that level, it could be a huge benefit to you to work with that agency. You could learn from them and build on what they started once you’re ready.
Here are some software companies that we know and trust so you have the option to DIY at a better price than hiring someone:
Hike SEO: Hike SEO enables you to audit your website for search-engine performance and optimize & track competitors, keywords, backlinks and more.
Optmyzer: Optmyzer enhances your Google advertisements, Quality Score, landing pages and more to help improve your cost-per-lead metric and increase conversion volumes on pay-per-click (PPC) platforms like Google Ads.
NiceJob Convert Websites: We’d be remiss to not mention NiceJob’s own Convert websites. We build websites for small businesses on a two-week turnaround and with a guarantee to increase your website’s lead-generation rate by at least 10% in three months—or it’s free.
Before committing to any software platform, always ask for a trial and always try to connect with their customer support team.
The trial will give you a chance to evaluate how the features match your needs. When you get confused or things aren’t working the way you think they should, a good customer support team will be responsive (even better if they were proactive in contacting you), patient with your questions and hands-on in helping you resolve your issues and teaching you in the process.
As good as some software can be for specific things, humans can still do most things better, especially when it comes to complicated things like ad managers or creative things like websites. So when it comes to shopping around for an agency, a business consultant or a freelancer for specific tasks, ask a lot of questions and spend some time getting to know your marketer (that should be a holiday!).
We hope that this has provided you with some valuable information for your evaluations and that whenever you’re ready, you find an amazing partner to work with to grow your business.