5-10 years ago, the trendy way to refer to yourself as a marketing agency was "full service." The term "full service" often made an agency look larger than they were. Often, more than half of the services offered by a full service agency was farmed out to subcontractors.
For a some agencies, The beauty of a calling themselves full service was that it encompassed all that new digital "stuff" that they didn't quite understand, never used, but would find someone who did if a client ever asked for it.
Back to present day and the new trendy term is "full service digital marketing" agency. It seems, everyone in the marketing world has gone digital.
Well, not really.
The same agencies that didn't get digital then still don't understand it, but again, they can find someone to do the work if a client asks for it.
So what is the problem with everyone calling themselves "digital?" Simple. Anyone that calls themselves a digital agency and subs out their digital work is depriving their clients of real digital strategy. In today's marketing world, just about any successful marketing plan needs to have smart, creative and efficient digital integration. The team forming the overall strategy needs to understand that digital tools and tactics that they will be suggesting to their client as part of the campaign even if someone else is doing the production.
Since everyone and their brother calls themselves digital, it is important that you do your homework when evaluating marketing agencies. Here are a few simple suggestions I have that may help you separate the true digital agencies from the impostors:
Ask for case studies.
In particular, you will want case studies of projects that had similar goals to what you are looking to do. If they cannot produce a recent project that displays their digital strategy, stop there. Your brand is too important to be someone's training wheels.
Ask them to define digital success.
If they start off by mentioning how many likes or follows they can get you, run away! A tell-tale sign of an impostor agency is one that does not understand digital strategy and immediately focuses on social vanity metrics (likes, follows, friends, etc).
Ask to meet the team that is going to be doing your digital work.
In many cases, this team will be the digital voice of your brand. You deserve to know if that mouthpiece is an intern or subcontractor and if they strike you as the right, responsible people to be putting your brand message to the masses.
Ask them how many Google AdWords certified team members they have.
You should never let someone spend your search engine marketing dollars if they don't know what they are doing. It is very easy for an agency to waste a client's AdWords budget by simply not understanding the tools and strategy behind SEM.
Do some social snooping.
Any good digital agency will have more than a few team members with very active social accounts. At minimum, the agency itself should be active. Look at how often they post or tweet. What are they sharing? Do they seem to have an industry following? Also, check out the agency's Klout score. Yes, Klout is not the "end all" when it comes to judging one's social influence, but if you are looking to hire an agency to craft your digital strategy and they have a Klout score of 22, you have a problem. I have seen more "digital" agencies with Klout scores below 50 than above, which always makes me shake my head. It really is your duty to your brand to check this stuff out.
Check out their blog.
Do they have a blog? What are they writing about? Do they post often? Are they talking about digital marketing or their favorite pet? How many social shares do their posts get? Have they written any ebooks or white papers? Do they hold webinars? They should be marketing their content as well as they say they will be marketing yours. Industry education and leadership are signs of a good digital agency and you can usually find this on an agency blog.
There you have it. If you take these six pieces of advice, you are doing your part to safeguard from handing your brand over to unqualified marketers.
Image Credit: pasukaru76