13 things to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency

Companies are increasingly working with external digital marketing agencies, as opposed to having their own inhouse marketing teams. Whilst there are pro’s and con’s of both options, some businesses favour the cost flexibility of an agency over hiring and employee. It also provides quicker results that the internal hiring process.

Regardless of whether you’ve worked with a digital marketing agency in the past, it can be difficult to find the right team to manage your digital marketing strategy. It takes a lot of trust and can take time to build a new relationship. It can feel really overwhelming as you search on google for ‘the top digital marketing agencies’ for your specific location.

In order to help you decide on the best digital partner for you, we’ve put together a list of 15 things to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency. Be sure to do your research and ask as many questions as possible before agreeing to sign a contract with your prospective digital agency. Finding a partner that’s the right fit and understands your business is just as important as cost!

Look for a reputable digital marketing agency

As there are hundreds of digital marketing agencies popping up every day, it can be quite difficult to narrow it down to a select few. When choosing a digital marketing agency, it’s important to have the following things in mind:

  1. Look for an agency with a lot of experience. How many years does the agency have combined?
  2. Who will be working on your project? Sometimes a smaller agency or freelancer is best suited to a small business, rather than a huge agency. You’ll better understand who you’re working with.
  3. Look at their past work history. Browse their client list or portfolio and look at past work experience for the team on Linkedin.
  4. Do they have any testimonials/ reviews on their website or on Google? Have a look through their reviews and see if they have positive (or negative) feedback from past clients.

Look for an agency that shares ideas

Whilst it’s important for the agency to listen to your ideas and vision for the business, it’s important for your prospective agency not to just solely agree on your suggestions (if they know that it won’t get you the results you strive for). Of course, they need to take your ideas on board, but you should be able to bounce off each other to come up with a solid plan. A plan where both parties are happy and aligned. Your digital marketing agency should be confident enough to challenge your ideas and thought process.

You also want an agency that’s creative and full of ideas! You may not have thought of certain aspects of digital marketing – it’s your agency’s job to suggest new ways of targeting your customers. Ask your potential agency for a few small ideas and thoughts during the meeting process.

your ideas matter text on window with a brick background - digital marketing agency

Are they client centred?

Whilst it’s important to have a team of digital marketing specialists who know the industry inside out, it’s equally as important for your agency to have a dedicated Account Manager. They’re there to focus on the clients needs and be the point of call for any queries and support. You want to feel connected and always know exactly who to your go-to person is that you can rely on. You shouldn’t have to wait hours, or even days waiting for a reply, regardless on the urgency of the matter.

Enquire whether an account manager will be allocated, or who your main point of contact will be.

Do they understand your business?

When it comes to choosing a digital marketing agency, one of the key things to look out for is whether or not they understand your business. We aren’t talking about knowing the ins and outs of *insert company industry here*, but their proactivity. Take note if they’ve done their research and know of key competitors or challenges in the industry. It shows that the agency is aware of the space and can support on a more specific and industry-centred level, or if they’re willing to put the effort in to understand your business. In addition to this, it’s also your job to make it clear on the initial briefing call exactly what you are looking for. Having clear goals that are outlined from the beginning will make it easier for your agency to ensure your needs and requirements are met.

people writing in their notebooks

How much are their fees?

Costs are always a touchy subject to speak about, but a very important consideration when choosing a digital marketing agency. Chances are, you may have a tight budget and not much flexibility, and are therefore looking for a more affordable digital marketing agency. A lot of agencies don’t usually indicate their fees on their website, and it’s something you’d need to enquire about directly. Upon speaking to your agency, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you clear from the initial chat how much the agency is charging for X project?
  2. Are you aware of have many rounds of amendments are included in the original cost package?
  3. Finally, has the agency sent you a breakdown of costs, outlining each line item?
  4. It’s important to get a cost understanding for the entire project, but also for the individual tasks and projects within the main project. You’ll have a better understanding of why the costs are what they are.
  5. Overall cost is important, but feeling like you get value for money is even more essential.

What are their specialist areas?

Depending on the area of digital marketing you’d like to focus on, you need to do your research to find out what the digital marketing agency specialises in first and foremost. Many agencies qualify themselves as ‘full service’, covering all channels, but are they as strong on all channels? Probably not. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in digital marketing, and that’s not a bad thing.

Are you looking to promote your business to gain more customers through PPC? Or are you wanting to improve your search rankings on Google through SEO? You’ll be able to find out more about what your prospective digital marketing agency specialises in on their website, and if you’re not sure – then ask! Enquiring about experience and past clients for specialist channels will give you an idea of their background.

google adwords written out as scrabble text. Picture of keyboard and an apple phone.

Are they committed to timelines?

Often, you’ll need work processed and completed within short timescales, whether that’s for client presentations or to show your superiors. Whilst some jobs can take longer to produce, any decent digital marketing agency will try to go above and beyond to ensure your deadline is met (but ensure you speak to them to make sure you align on expectations). Equally, you will need to work with your digital marketing agency and have your deadline in mind, and they should advise you in advance if your hard deadline is achievable based on the work carried out.

Set out deadline expectations from the get-go and get an understanding of the agency turnaround time for various tasks.

Are they a good cultural fit?

You may find an agency that ticks 90% of your boxes, but if you don’t connect with them and don’t think they’re a good cultural fit, then you run the risk of problems further down the line. Even though agencies are there to do the work that you pay them for, you want to feel comfortable with them and have a more informal relationship from time to time. This is especially true if you’re looking for an agency to work with long term. It’s imperative they’re a good cultural fit!

During the initial meeting call, what were your first impressions? Did the agency feel trustworthy and friendly, or was there a sense of coldness, or a feeling they’re mainly focused on the business/cost aspect?

Man and woman giving each other a high five - digital marketing agency

Do they provide regular performance reviews and reports?

It’s all fair and well executing new projects and using a implementing a new digital marketing channel, but if you can’t see campaign performance and have transparency of what marketing operations are in play, it’s difficult to see whether your agency is doing a good job. Ask your potential digital marketing agency about their reporting process and if they have performance reviews.

For a product-based company sending out regular email marketing campaigns, you’ll want to find out how many customers click on the links to your products and how many of those convert into sales. If you’re a service-based company and want to promote your business through Facebook ads, you’ll want to know how many leads have been generated and the quality of those leads. You can work with your agency to decide on how best you’d like the results to be presented, and how often. It’s important to look at data with a comparison to previous months and years, or before the campaign launched.

Do they have any case studies?

Examples of previous work and naming individual clients will support your decision as to whether or not you want to work with them. If a digital agency has a lot of past work showcased on their website, with fully detailed case studies and results, you’re more likely to think that they’re up to the job and essentially, practise what they preach. If an agency has no case studies or examples of work, you’ll begin to doubt their capabilities and therefore more likely to contact elsewhere.

Work portfolios aren’t always an indication of the quality of an agency, but agencies that are able to showcase previous work and tell you about it are less of a gamble. If you’re unsure, ask the prospect agency about who they’ve worked with and what industry experience they have.

two women looking at a laptop

Ask questions!

There are never any silly, or too many questions to ask. It’s imperative to find out everything you can before making a decision on your soon to be digital marketing agency. You want to choose your agency with caution and the only way to do that is through firing multiple questions. Some general questions may include:

  1. Could we work with you on a contract basis, eg. 2 days per week?
  2. Will you work on a retainer basis, or on a one-off cost?
  3. How many people will be working on my project?

How do they manage feedback and additional requests?

Generally, when an agency provides you with a cost estimate, they will include X rounds of revisions or an allocated amount of agency staff time. These are usually indicated in your quote. Once the agency has completed your project and is due to show you the work they’ve produced, you’re likely to have feedback. It’s important to understand how many changes and how much feedback you can give on a campaign or project. Setting these expectations from the start will:

1. Avoid unexpected costs for too many amendments, changes, or agency time consumed.


2. Won’t make the agency feel like they’re not meeting expectations or working more than the agreed amount of time.

lady tapping a digital screen on the wall next to a plant in an office - digital marketing agency

So, there you have it, our top 13 things to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency. Remember, if you’re looking for an agency to work with you long term, you want to make sure that they’re the right fit, so take your time and do your research. Make as many enquiries as you wish and get them on the phone. Get to know them, how they work and see if they’re a good fit culturally.

Toucan Digital is a small, yet experienced UK digital marketing agency who specialise in website design, SEO, PPC and Social Media. We’re able to help take your business, new or old to reach its true online potential. Please feel free to contact us via our online submission form here, for a free non-obligatory chat! 😊

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