How to hire a digital marketing company

Who should you work with on your website? What about your social media presence? Your search engine presence? How can you tell if the company or person you’re interviewing will be right for you?

Yes, I do run a digital marketing agency. But even I know that we’re not the right fit for everyone. For most companies and nonprofits, hiring a digital marketing agency or individual is something that happens so rarely, they don’t really know how to do it well.

Here are some guidelines for hiring a digital marketing company or individual to work on your website, social media, email newsletter, SEO or any other online marketing tools and tactics.

1. Do you really need help?

First, ask yourself if you really need help with your digital marketing, or if you even need to be on the platform you’re considering.

This may sound blasphemous coming from the owner of a digital marketing agency, but not everyone needs a website. A shocker, I know! Yes, an overwhelming percentage of organizations out there could benefit from a website, but I have met two individuals in my 15 years in business who would have been wasting their money. So it’s not unheard of.

For you, regardless of what tool or tactic you’re considering hiring out, be sure it serves a specific purpose. You don’t need to be on Facebook just to be on Facebook. Your presence anywhere online should be used to accomplish your organization’s actual goals.

2. Look for red flags.

Second, let’s talk about some red flags that may signal you’re talking to the wrong person or agency.

If they’re using too many technical terms, it doesn’t mean they’re smart. It means they’re bad at communicating! And the key to any good relationship is good communication.

Again, your digital marketing needs to tie back to your business goals. So if they don’t ask you about your business goals and just launch into the technical aspects of the platform, or even the fun aspects, it’s not a good thing. If they never ask you to define success, what are the chances they’ll guess correctly?

If they can’t talk intelligently about multiple digital marketing platforms, it’s a bad sign. They don’t have to specialize in all of them, but if you’re a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail. A good digital marketing company knows when you need another tool, even if they don’t sell that tool.

This one is a big pet peeve of mine. If they start out by telling you all the reasons you should be using them and they haven’t even asked about your organization or situation, run away!

What are the chances you’ll stay with this company forever? It could happen, but they’re not great. If you don’t have the ability to leave them later and take everything they’ve developed with you, that’s a bad sign.

3. Money isn’t all that matters.

Third, I find that many people fall back on price when comparing multiple options. That’s definitely okay, but often they’re not truly comparing apples to apples.

Ask the agency you’re speaking with if your final payment could differ from the initial estimate. Find out what the dollar amount is likely to be over five years. Make sure they tell you not just what you’ll pay them, but what you’ll need to pay any other third parties for what you’re planning to do.

And for retainers, make sure you know exactly what’s included in that. Do you have to update your website software yourself or will they do it? Can they add spreadsheets of subscribers to your email newsletter for you, or do you have to? Will social media management include audience building campaigns?

4. Start looking.

Finally, you’ll need to actually look for a company to work with. If you want a company that can help you with how and where you show up in search engines, use a search engine to find them. Otherwise, you might ask people at other organizations who they have used and recommend, or you can check with your local chamber of commerce.

If you ask on social media and someone recommends themselves, take that recommendation with a grain of salt!

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