Sales & Marketing Tech

4 Key Considerations to Help You Choose a Digital Marketing Agency

By | 9 min read | Published

Choose the right digital marketing agency with the help of these key considerations.

Hiring an agency to help improve your digital marketing efforts may be the right decision, but how do you make sure you’re hiring the right one?

Anyone with a computer can create a website and sell digital marketing services, so it’s crucial to understand who you’re hiring and what you’re getting for your money. To be fair, sometimes an entrepreneur with a laptop and some grit is the appropriate option for you, and that’s why we’re writing this guide.

Whether you’re thinking about hiring an agency for the first time or approaching the process again with a renewed focus on strategy, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll discuss why you might want to hire an agency, outline the key considerations for how to choose a digital marketing agency, and share some tips on how to get the most out of the relationship.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Why use a digital marketing agency?

Running a business is a full-time job, let alone when you’re also trying to successfully market that business. Hiring a digital marketing firm can help you manage that workload, think more strategically about your marketing decisions, improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing tactics, and save you money by reducing the need to grow your in-house marketing team.

However, it’s not enough to simply hire a good digital marketing agency. Different types of agencies excel at driving towards a variety of goals, so learning how to choose a digital marketing agency with the technology, strategy, and expertise that’s right for you is crucial.

What are the criteria for selecting the right digital marketing agency?

There are some basic criteria to consider when looking for an agency partner that will help start your search off on the right foot. Let’s discuss those now before we get into some deeper considerations:

  • Location: Is it important to you that the agency has personnel in your city? Face-to-face meetings can be valuable, but technology may allow for similar levels of service to be offered remotely.
  • Size: You’ll need to consider the size of the marketing agency as well. As a small business, you may find success with a smaller team, but it’s also possible that a larger agency will allow for increased offerings that better suit your needs.
  • Expertise: Do you need help in a specific area or would a “full-service” agency better suit your needs? Some agencies offer a jack of all trades approach while others focus on a specific area like social/PR, digital transformation, or paid advertising.
  • Cost: How much money do you have to spend on hiring a good digital marketing agency? Perhaps the most tangible of these criteria, how much you’re able to spend on marketing initiatives will greatly influence the type of agency you choose to hire.
Examples of basic criterial for selecting a digital marketing agency

How do I choose a digital marketing agency for my business?

Aside from the basic criteria listed above, there are certain considerations that must be taken into account as a business owner or marketing leader seeking the right digital marketing agency. Working through and gaining a solid understanding of these key elements is not only a good practice—it’s crucial to getting the most out of your relationship with your chosen agency.

Let’s dive into some of those considerations now and cover some tips to help you get started with the discovery process.

Be mindful of your business goals

Whether it’s hiring the best digital marketing agency, planning an initiative, onboarding a tool, or improving your digital marketing strategy, anything new that you tackle should be done with your business’s goals in mind.

Essentially, what are you hoping to accomplish with an agency and how does it ladder up to your goals? This is the first question you should ask yourself, and the answer will be the guiding principle for the type of agency you eventually hire. For instance,

  • If you need help with various marketing tasks due to a lack of personnel, a “full-service” agency that provides a variety of services may be the answer for you.
  • If you’re in the midst of a digital transformation, an agency focused on strategic implementation and technology may be more appropriate.
  • Or, if you need help in one specific area, an agency that has decided expertise in that discipline may be the best bet.

Ultimately, choosing a digital agency that has a strong focus on the specific thing you’re trying to improve or accomplish will have an outsized impact on your results versus hiring one that looks good on paper but doesn’t truly meet your needs.

Getting started
Gather relevant stakeholders in your organization and make a list of the things you need help with or hope to accomplish by hiring a digital agency. Compare this to the list of your overall marketing goals for the next one to three years and try to connect the dots.
Say for instance that your main goal is to increase customer engagement and awareness of your business on social media. Hiring a digital marketing service that has social experts, familiarity with social platforms, and demonstrated strategic thinking in social marketing is the way to go.

Consider your budget and resources

Another key component to determining which digital marketing agency will be most helpful to your business is the amount you’re able to spend as well as other resources like technical support and personnel you have to manage the relationship. You guessed it—it all comes down to the budget.

Knowing how much you have to spend will help determine the type of agency you’ll hire, the level of service you’re aiming for, and the length of the commitment.

For instance, hiring a full-service agency for an ongoing relationship means the cost will be carved out of your operational budget moving forward. Conversely, hiring a specialized agency for a specific project or initiative will require a larger one-time spend.

Getting started
Confer with marketing decision-makers to understand the amount of money you’re able to devote. Also take stock of the number and type of employees required to get the most out of the relationship. This will help you determine the level of service you’re prepared to purchase and also identify any gaps in personnel you may need to fill to be successful.

Don’t settle for less than full transparency

One of the most important considerations that’s often overlooked is the need for transparency. “Digital marketing agency” can mean a lot of things these days, so it’s important to understand what an organization is promising from the outset—and if they have the pedigree to back it up.

What we mean by transparency are things such as:

  • How much information is available on their website?
  • Do they make specific claims about results?
  • Do they have case stories from their own service to demonstrate those results?
  • How specific are they in their descriptions of the functions they’ll provide?
  • Are there readily available customer reviews and testimonials to reference?

Good agencies worthy of your time and energy will demonstrate their value in clear and concise ways, either through testimonials from customers, case stories from initiatives they’ve worked on, or even the way they conduct themselves in the discovery process. Ideally, they’ll be open about their capabilities, easy to communicate with, and forthcoming about any questions you have during the process.

Getting started
Before beginning conversations with agencies, write a list of questions to help guide the conversation around topics like the above. Get specific about your needs and don’t be afraid to request details that will help you make a decision. Also scour any potential candidate’s website for red flags like lack of detail about the service or vague promises.

Take agency specialization into account

As we discussed previously, there are many types of digital marketing agencies out there. Some focus on offering a full-service approach with help in a variety of areas, some specialize in certain marketing disciplines, others offer platform-specific expertise, and still others focus on strategic initiatives like full-on digital transformation.

For example, a startup with the goal of building brand awareness and an online presence from the ground up would benefit from a full-service agency that can audit their current presence and suggest a variety of improvements.

A small business that has a solid foundation already but wants to strengthen their use of social media would benefit from an agency that—you guessed it—specializes in social media.

A well-established small to midsize business with an already successful marketing engine would benefit from an experienced strategic partner to help take their efforts to the next level.

Getting started
Based on your organizational goals and budget, research good agencies that fit both parameters. This will mostly be informed by your goals as in the examples outlined above, but knowing what’s realistic budget-wise will help you avoid going down an unrealistic path with agencies that are out of reach from a cost perspective.

Getting the most out of a digital marketing agency

After working through the considerations outlined here, you’ll have a solid grasp on both what you need from an organization and how to determine if the potential agency will be able to achieve the results you’re looking for.

An agency is an excellent way to bring in outside expertise to help with planning, strategy, and execution, but you can also turn toward technology—both tools that are already in your stack and potential new ones—to further increase your effectiveness.

Capterra Tools & Tips: Software to complement your relationship with an agency

The following types of software can have an outsized impact on your marketing results, especially when coupled with thoughtful involvement from an agency. You likely already have some of these solutions in place; if you don’t, these tools are well worth exploring:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Helps businesses by storing information in a centralized location, tracking sales opportunities, managing marketing campaigns, and automating customer management workflows.
  • Marketing analytics: Sharing the insights gained from marketing analytics software with your digital marketing agency allows them to help you make strategic decisions in the most informed way possible.
  • Social media marketing and social listening: These types of software help you keep your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about your business on social media as well as complete tasks like scheduling content, monitoring engagement opportunities, and responding to customer queries.
  • Marketing automation: Automates repetitive marketing tasks so personnel can focus on bigger picture tasks and strategic thinking.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

About the Author

Gary Froniewski

Gary Froniewski

Gary Froniewski is a Content Writer at Capterra, covering all things digital marketing, with a focus on emerging trends in experiential marketing. A recipient of multiple AMD Spotlight Awards for flagship product launch campaigns, he has a wealth of experience creating compelling copy to support Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike. In his spare time he loves to enjoy food experiences, play tennis and disc golf, and explore nature in his home base of Austin, TX.

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