7 things to check before hiring a small business marketing agency

There’s a digital marketing agency now on every street corner. How can you tell the real growth agencies from the “Just collect a check” agencies? Here’s 7 things that will help you with choosing a digital marketing agency.

1. HIRE A MARKETING AGENCY THAT HAS GROWN SMALL BUSINESSES BEFORE

A lot of small businesses especially in South Carolina hire agencies that are “fancy” — agencies that might have a nice website or advertise at events, or have all the nice awards but haven’t actually done the things they claim to be able to do.

The marketing firm you work with should have experience with businesses of your size and industry.

For instance, if you run a plumbing or HVAC business, then you wouldn’t do yourself justice to hire a marketing firm that specializes in retail or restaurants.

The truth is, small businesses just don’t have that kind of money to risk.

Try to find an someone that has actually had a small business, grew it significantly, and is now starting an agency — or at least has a huge resume of other clients who have been satisfied by their work.

Get references and check reviews to see if the agency is as good as they claim to be.

2. MAKE SURE THEY ARE USING UP TO DATE TECHNOLOGY

“Up to 70% of web traffic happens on a mobile device”

– (CIODive, 2018)

These days how a website is designed and executed is more important than ever. In particular, a marketing company that builds mobile sites on a separate domain puts your mobile site in the SEO graveyard. 

If the company shows you a site that they built, check it out on your phone. The site shouldn’t look like a smaller version of the desktop website. All websites need to be responsive, or in other words, look and function well at the same web address, on any device. Google wants your site to be responsive and is less likely to show your search results on mobile if it isn’t.

3. Go with a local company first

It’s important that the company you are working with is local. Don’t hire a firm that doesn’t allow you to meet someone face to face. There are certainly good companies in other locations, but the squeaky wheel (that happens to be local) really does get the grease. As a consultant, I’m more likely to do a good job for a local client who could show up on my doorstep at any moment. Another reason why is not all agencies understand your business environment and the audience your targeting. People in South Carolina have different behaviors and “tastes” than the people in California. So it’s best to find a local marketing agency that understands this.

4. They Don't Offer A Personalized Service

Agencies have a tendency to want to give you a proposal before they have any idea of what you need. Packaged programs also fall into this category. Your business is unique — no package is going to be perfect for you. Look for an agency with an elongated “get to know you” process. Look for an agency that asks you a lot of questions before you get recommendations

5. Low prices

This is a multi-faceted red flag, because a low price can point to any number of things:

  • The agency doesn’t plan on doing much hands-on work for you. 
  • If they are accounting for hands-on work, it may be that it will be performed by a relatively unskilled person or be outsourced to a low-cost contractor – which happens a lot these days.
  • Your account may not be all that important to the agency that goes for volume over quality on their own client list.
  • You may not receive some of the services that help ensure success, such as in-depth reporting on the performance of your marketing campaigns.
  • You may end up with damage to your online profile and rankings that result from black-hat or unethical tactics.

It can’t be stressed enough: There are no magic marketing bullets. There’s just the work of developing creative strategies, paying attention to the ups and downs of campaign performance and adjusting accordingly, and mining mounds of data to find those nuggets that can put you one step ahead of your competitors. If you choose the right agency, though, you’ll get what you pay for and more. – Chris GregoryRed flags

6. They Say They can do everything

Small agencies that say they can do everything may or may not be able to, but usually at a high risk. If it’s a small agency, one employee may do many things very well, but if they leave, it can throw your business off-track. Protect yourself by looking on LinkedIn to see how much depth of expertise they have. If they have eight specialty areas and six employees, it should be a huge red flag. – Dan Golden,Be Found Online

7. poor, thin content on their own Website

When you’re researching SEO agencies online, you probably won’t find any that use bad content. That’s because SEO is ultra-competitive, and if they’re not producing strong content, then they’re not going to rank for the keywords that they want.

Still, you can hear about SEO agencies from sources other than search engines, even if it’s a friend saying “I heard there’s an SEO agency in town.”

If that’s how you found an agency, take a few minutes to check out their website before you call them. Agencies that don’t provide detailed explanations of complex concepts, like SEO, PPC, or even their pricing, are skimping out on the important details that you should know as a client.

Plus, content length and detail are ranking factors for pages, meaning that short, general content just doesn’t cut it. So what’re the odds that they’d create bad content for their site, but good content for yours?

It doesn’t matter if you’re the 50­th bakery that opened in a city or if you’re the only community playhouse — if an agency can’t produce strong content for themselves, they can’t help you either.

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