It is now more important than ever for companies to choose the right digital agency to help in a rapidly changing online world. The rise of online chat and messaging bots mean marketers who thought they had a grasp on online lead generation now need to rethink their whole strategy. Outside of new online enhancements, old methods that used to bring visitors to a site no longer work like they used to.
Take content marketing for example. An online marketer five years ago could significantly differentiate their business online by investing in a healthy amount of content. Now, even if you produce high quality content, it’s getting harder and harder to find an audience due to the proliferation of businesses publishing content. Keeping up with the new and old will stress a marketing team to breaking point. The right digital agency can help ease the burden. The problem? Agencies with poor positioning make it difficult for a company to figure out which firms excel.
Some may scoff at the premise that an agency is needed at all. High functioning marketing teams can learn new technology while also perfecting their current functions. But if you own a company you need to think hard about what you ask your marketing team to do and what kind of skills are needed for the future. For example, in the past month, Drift - a conversation-driven marketing and sales tool - raised $32 million to help automate conversations online. During that same time, HubSpot acquired motion.ai to help bolster their own bot technology. Intercom announced a new bot to help sales chat with leads on their website. All of this happened within the last month. How well positioned is your marketing team to successfully roll out a chatbot?
All of these chatbots are signs of a wider trend towards automation and AI. iPullrank is a New York City-based digital agency. On their staff, they have a research analyst - Vicky Qian - who has a masters in Mathematics. Her qualifications and skill set uniquely positions them as an expert in using data and automation for their clients. As good as your marketing team is and can be, they cannot replicate the skills and experience of the staff on a high-performing digital agency.
Agencies have often struggled to differentiate their specialties and their field is getting more crowded by the year. AdAge reports that more agencies are investing in digital in 2017 than ever before while the industry is growing when measured by employees and revenue. As more agencies are created and more agencies start investing in digital, a company looking to hire a digital agency has never had more choices. But all that choice makes it hard to separate the good agencies from the bad. Finding an agency that can work on the specific service you need and at the right price is not easy. The number one issue users report when using our own agency database is how to differentiate between all of the agencies who all look competent.
The answer for a decision maker is time and patience. Rushing a decision can lead to making an investment that’s costly from a monetary and time perspective. An agency can decide your fate when it comes to how you are viewed online, so why rush this crucial business decision. Ask yourself a few questions when thinking about investing in a digital agency:
1. What services do you need help with? Do you need help with all things digital or a specific service - like rolling out a chatbot? This will help you decide if you are looking to hire an agency on a retainer or invest in a smaller, one-time project.
2. Does location matter? In general, it should not. Technology has allowed for agencies to serve businesses across the globe as long as they have an internet connection. But you may run a business where your audience is local and it’s important to work with an agency that knows that audience. Or your boss might just need a face to face meeting every so often to help justify a large investment.
3. Does industry specialization matter? You may find yourself working in an industry with tons of regulations where an agency with experience in that industry is necessary.
4. What is your budget? This is really important. Before you reach out to an agency determine what your company can spend and be upfront with the agency on your financial constraints.
After you have answers to all those questions the patience part of the equation kick into overdrive. Agencies are hesitant to market themselves based on any of the qualifications above. By choosing to lean into a specialty - like an industry - they worry they will lose out on potential prospects. By not sacrificing business that’s outside their sweet spot, agencies make it difficult for good fit prospects to find them. But all is not lost. A company looking to hire an agency should spend time reading through published agency case studies. They should check online directories and read the reviews on those directories. A company should read the blog of agencies they are considering to hire, while checking their sites for information on industry or service specialties. All of this takes time and resources, but it will lead to a better decision.
Changes to online marketing from emerging technology and the difficulty with old online marketing strategies mean a company should consider hiring an agency to help fill in gaps on their own team. While there are plenty of agencies to choose from, it’s a long and tedious process to find the perfect fit. Companies should emphasize committing to a detailed process when picking an agency. More headaches during the decision process mean fewer headaches when working with the agency.