Business today is still largely a personal experience between representatives of organizations that can achieve mutual benefit through a working relationship. Despite the omni-presence of productivity tools, such as eMail, online meeting platforms, and instant messenger, we typically prefer to do business with people we know, like, and trust. We are betting some amount of our “career capital” on each of our business partner choices. Here are some things to consider when selecting a digital marketing agency (or any other partner organization for that matter).
Post this on your site (Embed Code):
Services: It goes with out saying that the partner must have the right service offerings to support your current needs. That being said, it is important to understand how the organization plans to adapt and evolve their current offerings in this amazingly dynamic and fast-paced industry. What they provide today will likely be dated and out moded very soon. Look for an agency partner that has as a part of its organizational operating model strategic planning sessions intended to keep the offerings current in order to continue to be able to meet your needs.
References: A no-brainer…but so often overlooked. Some may say that reference checks are a waste of time because only good references will be provided. Not so! It can be very insightful to understand the depth of the partnership and quality of comments that the reference has to share.
Capacity & Timeline Alignment: Often taken for granted but ask probing questions about the potential partner’s ability to successfully support your organization’s needs in light of other client commitments they may have. Equally as important to understand is their ability to meet your timelines and milestones. When can they start? What is the ramp-up time and process? Can they commit to achieving your objectives by when you need them to be achieved?
Price: One of the most misunderstood aspects of a partner engagement is the price. There is the price and then there is the real price. The lowest proposed price may not actually be the lowest cost if the partner cannot achieve your goals on time and the engagement stretches out. What additional cost do you have if you don’t achieve your goals on time? What impact does that have on your business? What is the impact on you revenue and profit? The old saying, “you get what you pay for” still holds true today.
Culture Fit: Perhaps the most undervalued aspect of a partner engagement is culture fit. How well does their company culture fit with yours?
Key Personnel: Be sure to find out who will be working on your account. Do the people have synergies with your staff?
…and watch out for the….
Bait & Switch: Often times agencies have a “pitch team” that is comprised of their “A players.” They may be the “sizzle” but may not be the “steak.” Be sure to get an assurance that those who you think are going to be on your account are actually on your account.
Client Mix: Make sure your potential partner agency doesn’t have too much of its business tied to one client. If that client goes away, your agency might be out of business. Some businesses may prefer an agency that specializes in their industry and works to some degree significantly with other organizations in the same space. This model can work but tends to lend itself to cookie cutter strategies and lower levels of creativity. An agency partner that supports clients in a variety of verticals can bring innovative and new approaches to your account.
Competitors: Do you care if your agency works with competitors or is it a good thing that they have knowledge in your industry?
Scalability: Can the partner scale up if needed?
Industry Partnerships: Can they bring other expertise to table if and when needed?
Strategic Framework: Does your agency have internal programs that are designed to foster out of the box thinking about your account and proactively bring forward innovative concepts?
Client Retention Rate: As an industry average 80%+ year-over-year client retention rate is a very good benchmark. 90%+ is nearly unheard of. No agency can claim 100% retention rate. If they do, they either have very few clients and are new in the business or are not being truthful.
Employee Retention Rate: A services company is only as good as its people – what kind of programs does the agency have in place to recruit (retain) and grow the best people? What type of benefits do they offer? Do they invest in training programs for their employees? Do the employees have advancement opportunities?
There are many digital marketing agencies in business today. Be sure to select one that you believe is the right fit for your company, not only based on price and service offerings but on overall fit and alignment with your organization’s near- and long-term goals.