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How To Choose The Right Digital Marketing Agency (Beyond The Obvious)

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In the final meeting of a project engagement, it's normal to expect an onslaught of good news and a moment to celebrate progress and success. The reality is that most companies who hire marketing agencies don't experience this. Instead, they discover that the agency overspent on resources and couldn't prove the value of their recommendations, adding summary slides and a recap that only adds fluff and confusion to the thought, "What have they been doing this whole time then?"

Typically, when you hire a service, you expect someone to solve your problem. Unfortunately, with run-of-the-mill marketing agencies, this is rarely the case. Companies will report on metrics such as impressions but rarely on revenue. They ask you to be patient, and you decide to be because all competing businesses ask the same.

At O8, our team includes marketing officers, vice presidents, and directors. We have been around the block, hiring and collaborating with diverse agencies and companies with distinct strengths and specialties. In this process, we've uncovered six agency traits correlated to the most profitable engagements. 

Our guidance is to look for them specifically next time you hire a marketing agency to start an engagement. Beyond that, remember their intention should aim to solve the most pressing problems you and your clients encounter, harnessing a unique competitive advantage that will chart your course for continued success.


The Right Digital Marketing Agency Always Looks for More Efficient of Solving Problems

The right digital marketing agency will set strategies to solve your problem and seek more cost-effective and impactful ways to solve it. They don't believe in perfect solutions but in perfect solutions for a given time.

Efficiency is not about cutting corners, rushing solutions, or using templates. Instead, it's maximizing resources with intent.

Take an O8 client who needed to generate more inbound leads. We looked into data on how their target customers referred to the service our client sold and found both parties used different terms. After changing how our client referred to their service and offerings, we attracted 15 new inbound leads in one month. When you work with an agency that refines your process, costs go down, profits go up, and the ability to bring a positive ROI raises the longer the engagement goes.

If your agency has been doing the same thing for months, they are not the right agency. They might get results, but there could be better results.

Questions to determine if the agency you are looking to hire checks this box:

  • How often do you review and update your strategies to ensure they remain effective and efficient over time?
  • Can you describe your agency's approach to testing and experimentation to discover more effective strategies over time?
  • How do you stay up-to-date with the latest digital marketing trends and best practices, and how do you incorporate this knowledge into your client campaigns?


The Right Digital Marketing Agency Doesn’t Use Standardized Processes

One-size-fits-all strategies ignore the nuances of your company. If you are lucky, they can solve or soothe your problem but might fail to deliver a competitive advantage. Competitors can copy you. This means that rather than moving forward, you're investing in staying in the same place.

The right marketing agency treats your engagement as a tabula rasa. Your goals, audience, and competitive position shape their solution to your problem. These agencies want you to stand out today, next week, and next year. This is impossible if you are at the mercy of a templated checklist.

Personalized strategies are often more expensive. They challenge agencies to do what they have yet to do. This requires disruptive thinking, time, talent, and years of experience. Yet, these strategies often see greater ROI because they are derived from something other than a templatized process but from data-driven conversations. Your competitors can copy your process but never your thinking.

Standardized processes yield results but are vulnerable to imitation and market fluctuation. They solve parts of the problem but rarely the cause.

Questions to determine if the agency you are looking to hire checks this box:

  • Do you offer a range of services or only specific packages?
  • What level of involvement do you expect from our team during the campaign planning and execution?
  • What are some examples of campaigns you have executed for businesses like ours? Your goal is to look for different answers.


The Right Digital Marketing Agency Bases Decisions on Data, Not on Assumptions

Using data-driven marketing adds an objective perspective that humans alone cannot achieve. It helps identify what strategies work, discard those that don't, and pinpoint areas for innovation based on user preferences, not assumptions.

Data is particularly beneficial in times of limited resources where our emotions can cloud our judgment. It stops us from implementing quick solutions with consequences that we can't afford to solve. A genetic-based nutrition company hired us to increase their organic traffic. Instead of starting with an SEO strategy, we ran an audit to see gaps in their website's code, structure, and content SEO. These findings guided our SEO strategy, which increased e-commerce conversion growth by 66.2% and lowered the customer acquisition rate by 40%. We could have still ideated a short-term profitable SEO strategy without this data. But it would have brought lasting benefits for GenoPalate.

Some of the companies we talk to believe data restricts creativity. It can be in the hands of agencies that want to sell the same process to every client. However, the right agency sees data as dots their team can connect to inspire solutions. A disruptive solution to a problem your audience does not have isn't a solution—it's an unhelpful idea. Data sets the ground, but creativity decides what to build on top of it.

Questions to determine if the agency you are looking to hire checks this box:

  • How do you ensure data accuracy and reliability in your marketing efforts?
  • Can you share examples of campaigns where data insights led to real-time adjustments or refinements to improve performance?
  • Do you have a dedicated data analytics team or specialists who work on data-related tasks, and how do they collaborate with the creative and marketing teams?


The Right Digital Marketing Agency is Nimble

Right-sized agencies are nimble. They can rapidly respond to shifts in consumer behavior, market conditions, and emerging trends. In doing so, they keep your marketing strategy effective. Their agility partly results from fewer layers of decision-making. Fewer people to go through means they can deliver projects faster at a reduced cost.

Being nimble better equips agencies to manage uncertainty, but it doesn't guarantee it. The right marketing agency mitigates potential damage crises could bring to your brand. They manage your emotions, adjust your strategy, and guide your messaging. If they are looking for efficient ways to disrupt your field, as they should, they can leverage trends or competitors' missteps to widen the gap between you and your competitors.

Your engagement experience will also be more personalized. Nimble companies tend to limit the number of clients they work with so they can extensively research each customer's unique business and problem. In contrast, large agencies are more likely to see you as a number. They work with hundreds of clients, so losing one is unwanted but unlikely to shake their business.

Questions to determine if the agency you are looking to hire checks this box:

  • What processes or decision-making structures does your agency have to facilitate rapid responses and agile project delivery?
  • Can you provide examples of situations where your agency had to pivot quickly in response to unexpected market shifts or changes in client needs?
  • How do you handle crises or unforeseen challenges impacting a client's brand or marketing strategy?


The Right Digital Marketing Agency Has a Technical Team and Expertise

Your business will face technical challenges at some point. Websites don't always load quickly, tracking codes can misfire, and tools need updates to avoid malfunctions. The right marketing agency can solve these problems, avoiding wounds to existing campaigns.

Technical expertise feels unnecessary until you realize you're losing revenue when something goes awry. For example, if your website meets visitors with a 404 code for days on end, Google can reduce your rankings, flushing months of SEO work and its benefits down the drain.

You might uncover problems but feel like you don't need someone to help. That's possible, but assuming you solve the right problem, you'll spend more resources than a professional. O8 consists of marketing industry veterans with a technical inclination.

We are experts in understanding and resolving SEO, PPC, marketing, design, and development-related challenges across the board. It's our specialty. But if we had to produce a movie tomorrow, we would let someone else do it. It's not our lane. Hiring a specialist might appear like a costly investment, but in the end, the balance would be exponentially in favor of outsourcing to someone who can efficiently get the job done as second nature. As a result, it begs to understanding and asking:

  • How do you ensure the security and integrity of client data and websites?
  • Can you describe your agency's technical team and their qualifications or certifications in web development, coding, and digital tools?
  • How do you stay updated with the latest advancements in web technologies, search engine algorithms, and digital marketing tools to ensure your technical solutions are current and effective?


The Right Digital Marketing Agency Gives You Complete Control Over the Work Being Done

The right marketing agency gives you a full view of what they are doing when they are doing it, and why they are doing it. They treat engagements as a collaboration, not a one-time kick-off meeting or email deliverable. At o8 agency, we do this by reporting on the exact number of hours we spend working on a specific task and what that work consists of. This helps our point of contact report on our progress and keep stakeholders buy-in, internally and externally.

Participating in the project allows you to comment on the direction of the strategy and its alignment with your needs. If you don't know what your digital marketing agency is doing, you will reach the end of the project and realize they didn't solve the problem. Paradoxically, the right agency will also push back on your attempts to control them.

Your insight is invaluable, but so is theirs. At O8, we follow the "strong opinions, lightly held" mindset. As the client, you can always make a case for your method. Decades of work taught us that the best structures are flexible, so we're happy to ditch our MO and support your approach. Other times, we might push back based on how confident we are in our approach. Both sides must be open to opinions since we work for the same good. So keep in mind: 

  • What methods does your agency employ to give clients visibility into the specific tasks and hours spent on their projects?
  • How do you ensure clients clearly understand their digital marketing initiatives' goals, objectives, and expected outcomes?
  • How do you handle disagreements or differing opinions between your agency and clients regarding marketing strategy or execution?


Hire O8—The Right Digital Marketing Strategy Agency

During every engagement stage with a marketing agency, you should sleep like a baby, knowing all your needs are covered. Transparency, commitment to profit, agility, and other traits allow for such sleep and peace of mind. If you would like to experience that in action, book a free strategy session. Working with O8 will enable you to immediately tap into a team of marketing industry veterans ready to solve all your problems. No matter what you are up against, we have the strategy, tactics, and solutions to move the needle. 


O8 is a different kind of agency, offering Fractional Marketing Services, including expert Digital Strategy, Web Design, and Marketing Automation. We understand that digital marketing gets harder each day, which is why we help marketing teams become more efficient, productive, and healthy. Here’s more information about why you might consider working with us.