Updated: Aug 30
In a world where conducting and advertising your business has become increasingly online, many small business entrepreneurs quickly notice that they need support when it comes to digital marketing strategies.
Social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization, SEM, public relations, and more - are now all key to getting your unique business voice out there, but they all take careful planning and valuable time to do successfully.
For many entrepreneurs, the best thing to do is hire an online marketing agency that specializes in creating an online presence for businesses. And yet, there is a caveat: not every digital marketing company is built the same, and finding the right fit for your specific business can be daunting.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what makes a good online marketing agency, what you need to consider before working with one, and where to find the best option for your business:
What Are Your Marketing Goals?
When looking at agency options for marketing, you’ll quickly find that different digital marketing agencies will specialize in different things. Most agencies focus on one or two areas of online marketing, or if they do offer more it’s usually with a preference for projects within their niche. For example, you might find a digital marketing company that specializes only in influencer marketing or content marketing.
Prior to approaching any digital agencies, it’s important to think about what you want to achieve by using their digital marketing services. The easiest way to do this is to break down your goals. For example, you may want to:
Boost traffic to your website
Get more qualified leads
Improve your social following
Create better digital advertising
Putting down the deliverables you expect from your digital marketing campaigns early on in the process is key to helping you communicate to the agency what you want to get out of their work.
What Are The Trademarks Of Great Online Marketing Agencies?
With your goals in mind, we can move on to what the makings are of a great online marketing agency versus just an ok one.
Bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive, but it will help you narrow down who you ultimately want to work with.
A portfolio of past work that covers your niche
Leading online marketing agencies will have a list of prior clients and partnerships and include a showcase of the work they have completed for them.
Take a look at what the agency has done in the past, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about the results they achieved. If they specialize in social media management, for example, don't be afraid to check out their own social media presence or the social media channels of their top clients.
You’ll need to remember that not all marketing efforts can be easily displayed in a portfolio, however. Things like search engine optimization might not be as easy to showcase, but having a list of the agency’s clients should help you narrow down the options available to you.
A solid team
The next thing to pay attention to is the team that the online marketing agency has to offer. Experienced team members can make or break an agency, and since you’ll be working closely with them on marketing your business offer it’s great if you like them too!
Paying attention to the team they have will also help you to decide which creative services you’ll be going with. Let’s say that you were interested in logo design as an addition to your digital strategy package from your chosen agency. If they don’t have a qualified graphic designer in-house, this might be more difficult or expensive to achieve.
Great testimonials and industry reputation
Even in today’s online world, people are more likely to trust the word of other people over any other digital marketing activity. That means that you should definitely use things like testimonials and reviews to inform your choice of a digital marketing company. This kind of social proof will give you a more intimate insight into what your experience will be like should you choose to use their digital marketing services.
If you’re unable to find any prior reviews, the agency may be newly-founded or not have any testimonials yet. This might be more incentivizing when it comes to a smaller marketing budget, but remember that they might not yet have the industry experience that you need to really get ahead online.
A good website design
A website is like a virtual shop display window: the best ones will entice you to go inside, take a look around and buy something to take home. It also tells you a lot about the store inside, and what you can expect to find. This means the online presence of your business will be essential to your online advertising efforts.
The top online marketing agencies know this, and so they are sure to have a website that is well-designed and fulfills all the principles associated with a great website.
When looking at websites for online marketing agencies, ask yourself:
Is the website fast, easy to navigate, and the information streamlined?
Does it feature testimonials?
Is the pricing clearly explained?
Is there a straightforward contact method?
Is the user experience good?
From there, it’s about following your gut feeling. Go with the option that you like the most since that likely will be the best culture fit too. Remember that the marketing team you choose will work almost like an extension of your own business - it’s important that they work in a way that flows naturally with yours.
They promise achievable targets
When it comes to marketing agencies, you’ll likely find more than a few that will promise you the moon and more. They’ll tell you they can bring in thousands of leads overnight, get your site to rank at #1 on Google in under a week, or another unrealistic target. Basically, they’ll tell you anything to close the deal.
This does not mean they are good marketers, however, or that they are able to deliver those results.
When it comes to digital marketing, the reality is that it’s often a case of testing, adapting, and improving. Reliable online marketing agencies will only pitch you on what they can deliver without fail. They’ll be honest with you and tell you that it might take some time for SEO results to really fall into place, that some email campaigns will perform better than others. What matters most is that they iterate on the digital marketing campaigns that are working.
Remember, actions speak more loudly than words. If what they are promising sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take some time to make sure that what they tell you during pitches is in line with the standards of the industry.
When it comes to the question of hiring online marketing agencies instead of hiring internally, there is one question that always comes up: availability.
Working with an external agency brings about fear in many small business owners, even if they are professional services with prior reviews. Marketing is a highly collaborative process, and working with a non-responder can be a major headache and impact your long-term growth.
Communication is a key part of this process, and a good online marketing agency will put it as their top priority. They make contacting them easy, stress-free and they make getting a response fast to boot.
How To Work With Online Marketing Agencies
As mentioned above, marketing your business digitally will still require a lot of input from you as a business owner. There are a few things you should keep in mind to get the most out of your experience with an online marketing agency, especially if they'll be handling a broad range of digital channels.
Do your due diligence. Make sure you have an idea of what to ask, what the standards are, and what you want to achieve. It also pays to brief your team and let them know what to expect if they’ll need to collaborate with the agency.
Set a scope and timeline. Most marketing processes go through a few stages including research, planning, execution, and review. You should review these with the agency and set a timeline that can be realistically kept to.
Plan to be hands-on. As a business owner, your offering is largely your vision and your active input will be needed to make sure all the efforts of the agency are moving in the right direction.
How To Find The Right Digital Marketing Agency For Your Business
If you're a small or growing business located in Sarasota, FL, or the greater US, UK, and Canada and want a full-service digital marketing agency, look no further than The Hive Marketing Collective.
We're a female-owned digital marketing agency that prides itself on the personal touch. The Hive Marketing Collective develops digital marketing solutions that are creative, intuitive, and completely custom to your business and your goals.
As a digital marketing agency, our growth strategies and range of services are designed to position your company as an industry leader by increasing your brand’s recognition and exposure. We use sophisticated analytics to create a wide range of highly optimized content that showcases what you do best and drives consumers directly to you.
Put your marketing campaigns in the hands of a full-service digital marketing agency that goes the extra mile to build buzz around your business. Trust us, it's the bees-knees.
Online Marketing Agency FAQ
What is an online marketing agency?
An online marketing agency is a marketing business focused on digital mediums including email marketing, social media marketing, web marketing, and more.
How do I start online marketing?
Your very first step should be to do research. You need to determine what the purposes are of the different online marketing strategies, find out how they work and why. From there you can start building online presences and taking action.
What do you need for online marketing?
You'll need a few things to make sure your online marketing efforts are successful. An online marketing agency can streamline these needs, but you should know that you'll need to know web design, SEO/SEM, social media, email, and other approaches to marketing.