The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Right Digital Marketing Agency

Your business is growing. You want to take over the world. You want to be the next big thing. But how do you get there?

Marketing is one area where most small business owners struggle. It is time consuming, complicated and you have more important things to do. So, you decide to outsource the work to a marketing agency.

Hiring a marketing agency can be a daunting process. There are a load of agencies out there, all of varying price and quality. You need to be sure your hard-earned cash goes to an agency that makes a difference.

So let’s take a look at how to hire the right agency for you? You need to know three things:

  • What marketing agencies can do for your company
  • What you need before you hire an agency
  • How to hire an agency that suits your company

So let’s help you find the perfect agency for you.

What do Marketing Agencies do?

Before you hire an agency, you need to have a realistic understanding of their workings.

A marketing agency is there to increase your return-on-investment (ROI) and brand awareness. Some things that an agency will do will immediately turn a profit; other tactics are a much longer-term investment. For example, you could expect a PPC expert to begin bringing in money within a month, and have the account optimised within a few months. However, SEO and social media will not turn a direct profit for a while.

An excellent digital marketing agency will help put a process in place that helps bring leads into your sales funnel. They should bring strategies that support the business as a whole, not just focusing on numbers that make them look good — for example; a good campaign would be running social media competitions that build email lists or running adverts that drive sales. A bad campaign would be running a competition that is entered by those who would never buy your product.

However, agencies are not solely responsible for sales. When it comes to customers converting, there are a huge number of problems that are outside an agency’s control.

The Benefits of Hiring A Marketing Agency

Hiring a marketing agency can be hugely beneficial. There are several points to consider, such as:


The best benefit of hiring a marketing agency is the experience that comes with them. Marketing agencies will have worked with a variety of clients and will have hired staff with a variety of backgrounds.

All these factors mean that the agency will have tried many different strategies and will have experience in making them work. While ever business is different, the agency will know how to tailor a strategy to your business and tweak it to get the best results.

Cost Effective

Hiring an agency is a lot cheaper than hiring and training a marketing team to get the same amount of knowledge.

Agencies will have talented, experienced staff which can be very expensive if hiring full time. When you also factor in desks, national insurance and other overhead costs, a marketing agency is much cheaper.

Access to Different Skillsets

Agencies will hire many specialists, so you will have access to a vast range of skills to help your company grow. An agency may have any of the following on their books:

  • Social media specialists
  • Copywriter
  • PPC experts
  • Searceh engine optimisation specialists
  • Web designers
  • Web developers
  • UX researchers
  • Graphic designers
  • Photographers
  • Videographers
  • Email marketing experts
  • Conversion rate optimisers
  • And more

There are so many areas to marketing so it’s good to have access to as many fields as possible. Having such a wide range of marketing avenues will help increase your brand awareness and ROI over time.


Consistency is critical. If you show up on social media every day, email once a week without fail, optimise your SEO every day then you will see results. If you drop in and out of your marketing channels, you won’t get the results you need.

With an agency, their sole focus is marketing. They will set out a consistent time every week to work on your marketing. This means you can ensure you always have constant contact with your customers and target audience.


As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different skill sets that are at your beck and call.

One of the best things about an agency is most of the staff will be experts in one area. This is useful because they will know their particular area inside out and can focus their time training that one skill.

Up-to-date knowledge

The world is continually changing. When you are a busy business owner, keeping up with the latest marketing trend is probably at the back of your mind.

It’s in an agency’s best interest to keep up to date with all the latest technology. They will ensure all their staff are well trained in all the latest software, algorithm changes and websites. This means your marketing will always be up-to-date.


Hiring a top marketing agency comes with a level of quality. Well written articles, beautiful graphic design and top-notch advice should be standard.

Fresh Pair of Eyes

Sometimes you can be too caught up in your business. You know your industry inside out, and all the trends that come with it.

An Agency can bring in fresh ideas and trends from other industries to push you above your competition.


An agency will have all the latest marketing software at their disposal. From SEMrush to Heatmaps, A/B testing software to more advanced analytics, agencies will have it all.

Before You Hire An Agency

Know you know the benefits of hiring an agency, it’s time to start picking your agency. But before you dive into the hiring process, there are a few things you need to prepare.

Have a Rough Understanding of Marketing As A Whole

The worst thing you can say to an agency is “I have no idea what marketing is”. The good ones will run because they want to work with people who can talk on their level. The bad ones will take advantage of your lack of knowledge.

The best place to start is our A-Z of digital marketing. It gives an overview of the essential parts of marketing. The next place to go is our Marketing for Beginners page. This can help you find your path  through the process of successfully learning and outsourcing your marketing.

Work out where the bottlenecks are.

Working out bottlenecks in your marketing process is simple. First, you need to map out your marketing funnel.

Your marketing funnel should go through these steps:

Awareness – Customer becomes aware of a problem.

“I have a wedding to go to, but I don’t have a dress in this year’s fashion.”

Research – Customer begins to research their options

“I need to find what this year’s style is and find the most stylish companies.”

Consideration – Customer begins to weigh up options

“This dress from company A is cheaper, but company B has more 5 star reviews.”

Intent – Customer adds the dress to cart to buy

“I’ve chosen my dress from Company B, and I have added it to my cart.

Evaluation – Customer goes through the checkout process, and evaluates shipping and overall cost.

“Shipping for Company B is cheap but this cart is a little hard to navigate.”

Purchase – customer completes the purchase

“Shopping is done! I can’t wait for my dress!”

Loyalty – Customer joins email lists and social media. They possibly become a repeat customer.

“I’ve signed up to the email list and tagged my photos on their Instagram account. I hope I win the best photo competition.”

Knowing where issues and bottlenecks in your process are can help you improve your marketing and your relationship with your agency.

For example, If you say “I want more website visitors”, then the agency will drive more traffic, but it might not be quality traffic.

However, be more specific with your prospective agencies.

“I want more customers to find my website during their research stage as this will increase the chance of them becoming a customer. I want to help customers who are researching to come to my website. I will need content created around the research part of my funnel. How can you help make this happen and what other recommendations do you have?”

Suddenly, you are clear in the direction you need, and it’s more helpful to your overall strategy. Plus, it’s a goof

Define Your Goals

Now you have defined what you need, you should have a clear goal in mind and know which Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to track.

You should define your goals and your KPIs before you start looking for an agency, as this will become an essential part of your interview process later on. However, you can be flexible on these goals. Ask the advice of the agency and see if these goals are achievable or not.

Your goal for your marketing agency could be:

  • Increase web traffic by 10% YoY
  • Increase social media followers by 15%
  • Increase organic traffic by 25%

You shouldn’t give an agency a financial goal, such as increased sales by 25%. There are far too many factors that go into a sale that are out of the control of the agency – Product design, prices, shipping cost, poor basket, website downtime, inactive salespeople, market share. If you want the agency to raise sales, ensure you hire a CRO specialist on top of other marketing channel experts.

Prepare Your Brief

You’ll need a little bit of information about your company before you approach agencies. You may want to prepare:

  • Your companies Elevator Pitch
  • Your companies 1 year and 5 year goal
  • A Brief summery of your industry
  • A Brief summery of your current marketing channels
  • What marketing channels you would want to implement

Having this ready before you approach an agency will make your interview process a lot easier.

How To Find the Perfect Marketing Agency

When looking for your perfect marketing agency, you need to start by doing your homework. Research around at the best agencies. Just because they are top of the search rankings, doesn’t mean they will be the best.

Now, remember the sales funnel we talked about earlier?

  1. Awareness
  2. Research
  3. Consideration
  4. Evaluation
  5. Purchase
  6. Loyalty

Well, now you are aware of the problem you need, you can now enter research stage.

Research Stage

Whatever you do, don’t just go for an agency because your friend is with them. But you can add them to your list.

Create a spreadsheet of all the agencies you can find. Put a column for name, pros and cons, website address, phone number, contact email and a column for each service you need. Put a Y or N in the column if they do each service.

Add every agency you find the list. We will narrow them down later.

There are plenty of ways to find a great agency:

  • Check Google for agencies in your area
  • Ask friends, colleagues and family for agency recommendations
  • Ask on LinkedIn, either publicly or through InMail
  • Use Linkedin Search to find agency owners
  • Ask in Linkedin groups for you industry and area e.g. Essex Business
  • Look for league tables
  • Attend networking events for marketing professionals to see out agencies
  • Check Business directories such as Yell, Yelp and Google Maps

One you have your list, it’s time to narrow down your results


Now it’s time to narrow down your results. Take a look at the Agency’s websites. Look at their clients. Are their any conflict of interests? Are they familiar with your type of business?

Take a look through their website and portfolio. If the agency doesn’t have a portfolio but have been around for over a year, take it as a possible red flag. Do you like their style? Do they sound helpful or a bit snooty?

Check to see if the agency make use of all agency freebies. If they offer free brainstorm sessions with no obligation, take advantage of that. This way, you can see them in full swing, and see if you like them. If they have eBooks, download them and have a flick through.

Be brutal. Go with your gut. If you aren’t sure, or something doesn’t feel right, take them off your list.

Once you have a short list, you can then start to book meetings.

Interviewing agencies

Treat interviewing agencies like interviewing a new staff member. Have a brief phone interview, to see if you like the sound of them. Then get them into the office, or go to theirs. Have a full interview like process. Remember, this is business, you don’t have to hire them if they don’t fit the bill. You aren’t wasting their time.

Also, just like an interview, the interviewee Is interviewing you. An Agency wants to see if you fit the bill too. They will be scoping you out to see if you will be a dream client or a nightmare one.

There are many things you might want to check out or ask them, such as

  • What industries have they worked in before?
  • Do they have any experience with your industry?
  • Are they consultants or do they perform marketing tasks too?
  • Do they outsource any work? If they do, is it nationally or internationally?
  • Are they up to date with the latest trends?
  • What tools do they use?
  • Can they show examples of reports they send to clients?
  • What specialists do they have in-house?
  • How do they work? Are they lean or agile?
  • Can they provide proof of concept?
  • What are the minimum contract lengths?
  • What’s the company culture like? Serious? Fun?

Once you have a few who have passed the in person interview you should:

  • Ring up clients who are on their website for references? Are they meeting expectations?
  • Ask if you can meet the agency team. See if they are the types of people you want working on your brand.
  • Ask them to perform a simple task, such as writing a blog post or email for your brand.
  • Ask the agency to send a proposal for how they will work with your brand.

Additional Tips

There are a few additional tips which you should keep in mind.

If possible, stay local

It’s much easier to deal with a local agency than one across the country from you. If you need to meet up or call them in for an emergency meeting, it’s much easier to coordinate. A local agency will stop by to see you more often. Also, in some cases, having that local business camaraderie can help keep them passionate about your business.

Find the best value — not price.

Good marketing agencies aren’t cheap. Cheap agencies are often oversubscribed and understaffed, which often leads to dissatisfied clients. That’s not to say there aren’t good, cheap agencies. But there are also bad expensive ones. Ultimately, you need to find the right agency that’s enthusiastic and can prove results.

This might be slightly more than you were willing to spend, but you can make sure they earn their money. Like we said earlier, the goal is to give a good return on investment. They should be earning their money back and more.

The Right Contract Length

Don’t feel pressured into a long contract. Some marketing agencies want to lock you into long contracts and demand you pay upfront. If you aren’t sure, ask them to give you a three-month trial contract.

However, marketing can take time. Some SEO results can take up to three months to take effect. Agencies aren’t magic, and they can’t get results overnight, no matter what they guarantee. So, with a shorter contract, ensure that all promised work is at least delivered and there is an example of improvement.

So there we have it, all the information you need to hire a marketing agency for your business. Soon you’ll be taking over the world in no time at all. If you have any questions about hiring a marketing agency, feel free to get in touch. We will be happy to help.