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Table Of Contents

      1. What does your business need?
      2. Infrastructure
      3. Know your target audience
      4. Research and evaluate
      5. Communication and transparency
      6. Set your budget
      7. Expected Costs
      8. How to choose a marketing budget
      9. Billing and contracts
      10. Conclusion

Choosing the right digital marketing agency is no easy task.

It’s stressful, it’s time-consuming, and the stakes are high for your business!

After all, an agency will be more than just an outsourced hire.

It’s a partnership.

One that, if done right, can become the crucial marketing arm of your business, propelling your profits to new heights.

Done wrong, it can end up a massive waste of your dollars and your time.

That’s why choosing “a digital marketing agency” is only a small part of the process.

More importantly, you’ll need to choose the RIGHT agency for your business!

This article sets out to help you choose the perfect digital marketing agency for your needs while helping you avoid all the common hassles, unexpected roadblocks, and unwelcome surprises that can pop up during the process.

 

What does your business need?

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Before setting out to choose a digital marketing agency, you’ll want to make sure you have a firm grasp of what your business needs.

The first step is to define the exact end goal of your marketing.

Is your end goal to…

  • Generate leads?
  • Convert directly to sales?
  • Raise brand awareness?
  • Launch new products?
  • Promote your current products?
  • Break into a new market?
  • Grow your social media following?
  • Boost your website traffic and search rankings?
  • Trigger potential customers to pick up the phone and dial you?
  • All the above?

A skilled digital marketing agency will be able to help you “laser in” on the best marketing channels for your particular brand, products, and budget.

In combination with all of the above…

What do you want the specifics of that outcome to look like?

Do you want to focus on volume of potential customers for a lower ad-spend, or more tightly targeted and qualified leads at a higher dollar cost?

What are your revenue goals?

If you have a specific yearly and monthly revenue target in mind, that will have a downstream ripple effect on the rest of your decision-making.

And finally:

What about the intangibles?

The most common stumbling blocks in choosing a digital marketing agency stem from uncertainty and lack of direction.

Perhaps you’re not sure how to market your product, or you haven’t dialed in your direction yet. Or, maybe you don’t trust an outside agency to handle your marketing – they won’t “get it” the way you do!

All of the above are important roadblocks to address with a skilled marketing agency.

If they know their stuff, they’ll be able to guide you step-by-step through any of these “intangible” objections you have.

For example – at Ricochet, we specialize in lead generation and customer retention for small businesses.

We work with potential clients to discover the amount of leads they need per month to keep their pipelines full, and then show how our Market Master System will help them achieve that number.

 

Infrastructure

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You must have the right systems in place to not only make your first rounds of marketing a success but also to scale your operation smoothly.

Here are some important questions to consider:

As your business continues to grow, do you have the means to take on more business and leads?

For instance – if you run a service-based business, do you have enough manpower in your operation to fulfill your contracts?

Or, if you run a product-based business, will you be able to fulfill orders as demand increases?

The last thing you want is to leave profits on the table when you find your business overflowing with leads but with no ability to satisfy demand.

Second – can you easily add help when needed?

This is the million-dollar conundrum for many businesses.

“Easily” adding help can be very difficult these days, especially in the service industry or skilled trades.

However, investing your time and resources in solidifying your ability to fill roles as needed will be crucial to running a successful marketing system.

This can include having standard operating procedures and systems in place to onboard and train new employees smoothly as your operation grows in size or having reliable contractors that you can fall back on when demand for your business increases.

If you build a house without a sturdy foundation, it’s bound to fall over.

Same goes for having your internal infrastructure in place before building out your lead generation and sales systems.

Target audience

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Now comes the most crucial question of all:

Who are you marketing and selling to?

I know you’ve probably heard this a million times (or been beaten over the head with it by other marketers in the past), but:

Knowing your target audience is the #1 determiner of whether your brand will be a rousing, smash-hit success… or a total flop.

When you hire a digital marketing agency, 80% of the initial work will involve thorough research and study of your target market before any words are set on paper.

So the closer you are to your target market, and the deeper your understanding of the product and the people who buy it, the more “ammunition” you (and your marketing agency) will have to work with.

This, right here, is the majority of the marketing battle.

If you’re not completely “tuned in” to your target audience yet, a skilled marketing agency will be able to help you with this as part of your onboarding.

This is one of our specialties here at Ricochet.

We learn from YOU – who your ideal customers and clients are, where they are, why they need what you offer, and how they can get it.

This process is key to gaining clarity… and crafting an irresistible sales message and offer that attracts ideal customers for your business like bees to honey!

Research and evaluate

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Let’s start with some low-hanging fruit:

Check their online reviews. The most common place to do this is on their Google Business Profile.

Do they have reviews? Are they mostly or all 5 stars? If so, this is a great start.

If they have a few less-than-5-star reviews, read those and note any details mentioned as to why, and see if there is a pattern in the explanations. Then ask the agency about those negative points.

For instance, maybe there are comments on poor communication, poor service, perceived dishonesty, etc.

If there is a pattern of a certain undesirable trait, be aware that it may still be a problem!

We all know that sometimes a reviewer may not be in the right, so try not to judge with an iron fist.

But it’s important to bring these points up and to give the agency an opportunity to explain how they remedied (or didn’t remedy) the issue.

Now for some deeper probing!

Here is a checklist of questions that will uncover key information you’ll want to know:

  • What does this agency offer, precisely?
  • What are their specialties?
  • What are they best at?
  • What are they NOT known for (or don’t offer)?

Marketing is a giant melting pot of many different specialties and skill sets.

Any given agency you meet will focus on one (or several) of these specialties.

It’s a BIG ecosystem out there, so it’s important to know what’s on offer.

This can include services such as:

  • Web design
  • SEO
  • PPC ads
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Sales pages
  • Direct mail
  • Facebook / Instagram ads
  • X / Twitter ads
  • Google ads
  • And much more.

These marketing channels all serve a different purpose based on your end goals, and depending on your industry, target market, and audience.

Each has advantages and disadvantages depending on context.

Once you have a clear picture of what kind of services they excel at, and which ones they don’t, you’ll be able to make an educated decision.

Have they gotten results for other companies?

Don’t hesitate to ask them for case studies of businesses similar to yours that they’ve helped, plus exact metrics and results if possible.

If they have a track record of helping businesses exactly like yours, and in your situation, that’s a “green light” that this agency might be the one you’re looking for.

Do they offer multiple levels of service?

If the agency seems like a good fit for your needs, be sure to ask them if they offer multiple levels of service.

You might only need help in one aspect of your marketing system right now.

But let’s say business starts booming, and you want to capitalize on the opportunity and start scaling.

What will the agency’s service look like if and when you need more from them?

Are they capable of handling your entire customer acquisition and retention system?

Can they scale their service to match the size of your business? To what degree?

Which leads directly to…

Who is on their team performing the work on a regular basis?

Marketing agencies are structured in many different fashions.

Many are comprised of a few owner/partner experts and have either employees or contractor specialists (or a mix of both) that perform the fulfillment of such duties as:

  • Copywriting
  • Ad writing
  • Ad production
  • Social media posts
  • Review monitoring
  • Email structuring and copywriting
  • Direct mail
  • Etc.

There is no single “right” way that an agency needs to be structured, so long as they have the right people with the right skills and knowledge to perform the duties you will pay them to perform at a high level.

But it’s a smart move to ask them how they are structured, who is in charge of the work on your account, and who the main point of contact will be.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention:

At Ricochet, we pride ourselves on having an all-star mix of marketing experts with a proven track record of excellent work at the highest levels of business.

I don’t mess around when it comes to managing our clients’ marketing systems!

Communication and transparency

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Above all, a good agency will always be open, honest, and transparent with you.

Here are a few key points to look out for:

Does the agency operate out of your owned profiles/accounts on all marketing platforms? (E.G., Facebook Ads manager). Or, do they make their own for you and refuse to grant access?

You should always own your accounts across all platforms and grant proper permissions to the agency you outsource marketing to.

Because it’s your money buying the ad space, and they are ultimately your ads, you need to own the accounts.

Be wary of companies that don’t operate in this manner!

Do they regularly report on metrics and results? Can they track and show them in a way that is easily understood?

Things that get tracked get improved.

If an agency can’t (or won’t) report on a regular basis as to how your systems are doing, then they are leaving you hanging.

They need to report to you the most important stats (Results, ROI) on a regular basis and make them easily accessible to you.

Are they more concerned with vanity metrics (such as likes, clicks, and impressions) rather than metrics that indicate tangible results (leads, conversions, and sales?)

Companies that stress “Likes”, “Impressions”, and “Click-through rates” instead of “What’s your ROI? What did you sell from the leads this month?” do not have your best interest at heart.

Yes, these stats serve a purpose, but at the end of the day, your marketing exists to bring people to the cash register for you to make it ring.

Will they regularly communicate with you, keeping you updated and proactively notified of everything in your campaigns – good and bad?

It’s my opinion that open, honest, and regular communication is the bedrock of a good client and agency relationship.

It should be the responsibility of the marketing service provider to keep you aware of progress and to be proactive in reporting good news and bad news – and how the latter will be fixed when it occurs.

Do they schedule consistent standing meetings or check-ins with you?

A good Cincinnati digital marketing agency will offer to schedule regular occurring meetings at an agreed-upon frequency to keep the doors of communication open.

These can be simple 10 minute calls to provide updates or to answer any outstanding questions. It’s too easy for a digital marketing company to sign you on, take your money, set up your accounts, and forget about you for long periods of time.

It shouldn’t be on you to consistently ask them for communication.

Do they collaborate easily, and respond well to feedback and suggestions? Do they proactively provide ideas and expertise of their own, instead of just taking orders?

Choosing a digital marketing agency that’s easy to work with, collaborate with, and consistently guide your strategy is paramount.

If they are unpleasant to deal with or don’t take your marketing seriously, that’s a bad sign.

Set your budget

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Before you hire an agency, make sure you know the exact budget you’re willing to spend!

Depending on the agency you choose, and depending on the type of marketing channels your business will employ (emails, Facebook ads, etc.), the cost of marketing services can vary wildly.

Be sure to note if they offer full packages (say, they offer the same standardized package to every brand they work with), or if they offer “a la carte” services (customized to your exact needs).

There is no wrong answer, only what’s best for your situation.

And remember – ad spend is typically added on top of the agency’s management fees! So make sure to factor this into your budget.

Expected costs

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You can expect starting ad spend to be in a minimum range of $500 to $1000 per month, per platform. Agency fees can range from another $1,500 to $5,000 per month depending on the scope of the agreed-upon work.

Put it all together, and you can accomplish big feats in your marketing with a budget of $2,000 to $5,000 per month.

These numbers may sound high, especially for a small business.

But if done right, your marketing will make back multiple dollars per every dollar of advertising budget you spend.

For this reason, it’s best to view marketing as a necessary (and profitable, when done correctly) investment, and not as just another line item on the budget.

How to choose a marketing budget

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If choosing a marketing budget (or having a tough time viewing it as an investment instead of a budget item) gives you the willies, don’t worry.

Here is some simple “marketing math” that you can use:

Simply take the average price you charge on your most profitable product or service and divide it by the minimum monthly ad budget we recommend.

For this example, let’s use Google ads at $1,000/mo.

Let’s say you’re a deck builder.

Your most profitable service is designing and building new decks for residential homeowners.

For your new deck builds, perhaps your average invoice price is $15,000.

You advertise on Google, receive multiple leads per month from this effort, and spend that $1,000 ad budget in the process.

That means if you sell just ONE deck job from the leads that come from your paid ads effort, your ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) is a whopping 15x!

You just put $1 in the machine… and it spits $15 back out at you!

And even if you’re spending more per month on ads (which means more leads), perhaps around $3,000/mo., your return is still 5x on a $15,000 gig. Not too shabby!

Ultimately, this is the true purpose of advertising – to multiply your capital.

It’s always important to be mindful of your expenses as a good business owner, but it also pays to know that your investment in your marketing can pay huge dividends when done right.

Billing and contracts

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Finally, let’s talk about billing and contracts.

This can go without saying – but make sure to read the fine print!

Before jumping into any contract, make sure you are absolutely, 100% crystal clear as to the terms and conditions that come with it.

Be sure to note that it has terms of the engagement spelled out. Is there anything that sticks out to you that doesn’t seem right?

Is it difficult to cancel should you wish to part ways?

For payment – will the agency be billing you on a month-to-month basis?

And, is there any “minimum contract” in place for the length of the deal  (usually six months, one year, two years, etc.)?

Many agencies operate on month-to-month deals that require a minimum amount of months “locked in” beforehand (typically 3 to 6 months), after which the contract shifts to a month-to-month structure.

Keep in mind that no matter what agency you work with, it will take time for both parties to learn what it’s like to work with each other. It’s also important to allow enough time for the platforms you’re advertising on to gain enough data to optimize towards your goals.

Results aren’t likely to come overnight from a newly implemented marketing system. So even if there are limited results off the bat, resist the urge to pull the plug after those first 30-60 days!

Unless you truly dislike working with the agency you chose or they aren’t serving you in the manner they promised, it’s best to see it through the initial phase and then make decisions about continuing or moving on.

Ideally, this decision was a good one from the get-go – so give the process time to breathe and avoid “agency hopping” every 90 days!

Conclusion

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The bottom line is that picking the right agency for your needs has to feel right in your gut.

So speak to a few different companies and get a feel for who they are, how they do business, and how you think you might get along with them.

Picking the right Cincinnati digital marketing agency can take your profits to the moon – and picking the wrong agency can lead to a never-ending hamster wheel of disappointment.

Not to mention the mountains of money lost from sales that never materialized, or were dead on arrival, because of not having had a system in place to bring in the right buyers.

With the right marketing agency on your side, that doesn’t have to be your reality.

The right agency can take your business by the hand and lead you past the smoking wreckage of all the disastrous marketing decisions and commonplace sales blunders that the average business (and your competition!) stumbles into day after day.

And after all is said and done…

You’ll be able to rest easy and use that newfound energy to focus on growing your business and to keep on putting cold, hard cash in your pocket.

That’s exactly what we do here at Ricochet.

When you partner with us, you’ll get a rock-solid and trustworthy collaborator who puts your bottom line first and guides you every step of the way.

With our Market Master System, we’ll build you a high-converting website and manage your Google Business Profile, Google Ads, Facebook/Instagram ads, and your email marketing for you from start to finish!

With the right strategies, we’ll be an unstoppable force that keeps your pipeline full and those phones ringing.

If this system sounds like what you need for your business, contact us online or by phone to get started!