A guide to choosing an online marketing company

By Fred Schebesta

All marketing managers are beginning to embrace online marketing as a core element to their marketing activities. When choosing an online marketing agency to work with, there are many pitfalls that can be easily avoided. This whitepaper goes through the main elements in your selection process:

What are the 5 key steps when looking for in a full service online marketing agency?
A specialist online marketing agency vs an advertising agency
Online marketing agency vs specialist online marketing services providers

The 5 key elements to look for in a good full service online marketing agency

1. A full service offering from a full service agency

Many agencies propose to provide a full service although cannot actually provide it. A full service agency should provide the following services inhouse:

Online marketing strategy – There are many digital agencies out there that don’t have the online marketing smarts. If you’re a marketer work with a online marketing agency not just a digital agency, you will get better strategy and ideas and you wont find yourself briefing them on simple marketing concepts.

Search engine marketing
– Both search engine optimization and pay per click search marketing are key tools in your online marketing exploits and you need your agency to provide this.

Online Copywriting – An online copywriter is different to a print copywriter and you are going to need the online type here.

Website Design and Development – An inhouse production team of designers and developers. Video production is also key for producing webcasts although does not need to be inhouse

Email marketing – Email is the underpinning on any good online marketing campaign and your agency needs to be proficient in creating, sending and reporting on email campaigns.

Flash Production – Macromedia Flash is the key to making your websites look funky, agencies usually have very good flash developers but just check that they do.

Banner Advertising – If you want to raise your brand awareness banner ads are a good way to go, you are definitely going to need an agency to build these for you.

Content management system – every agency has a way to manage a websites content but make sure that their CMS is decent.

Usability and website auditing – Your going to need to review your website every now and again and your agency needs to give your website a good audit to do that.

The above services are all key from a full service online marketing agency. As a corporate business it is essential to have an agency that can provide all of these services. These are fundamental elements to your online marketing and it is imperative at a selection process to ensure you have these requirements met.

Other services depending on what the company you work for is may include:

  • Ecommerce setup and management
  • Web Hosting
  • eCRM systems integration

2. Latest trends in online marketing

Online marketing is still quite a new field of marketing and hiring an agency with the knowledge and experience of the best techniques and tactics will put you in good stead.

Right now there are some key trends occurring in online marketing:

Social networking and blogging – Social networking is going to a new level as more and more people go online. People speaking with other people online on your website is the key to building up a community.

CSS vs table layout development – Website development has evolved and good web developers use CSS to separate the content from the visual display of their website.

Big Daddy and other search engine algorithm changes – The algorithms are always changing you need your agency to be up to date with this and change your websites search engine optimization to cater for this.

Website Usability trends – Marketers have now realized that getting traffic to your website is one thing but getting someone to have a good experience with the website is now invaluable. Usability analysis is becoming the next big wave like search engine marketing is now.

These trends are always changing and the above suggestions will be old hat very soon. Although a good online marketing agency will be able to answer and demonstrate implementations of the new trends and smarts online marketers need to compete and deliver outcomes.

3. Read their thinking and view their past work

A good online marketing agency practices what it preaches and does online marketing itself. Here are key ways you can review or understand their level of thinking:

Blogs – Read the agencies blog. See if it’s up to date. See who contributes what and if you like their thinking

Portfolio – Look at some of the portfolio works of their clients. See what you like about them. Remember that each piece of work is different and each client wants a particular need met. Some pieces of work they have done may not look spectacular although may have met the budget requirements or timeline and delivered what the marketer needed.

Client list – Who are their direct clients. These are usually the ones that they have done the best work for since they get to harness all of their best skills. Many agencies work with other agencies to deliver work for clients, although this third party can either add value or drastically reduce the outcome. The best agency to agency model is where the online agency is left to do and recommend work and the offline agency provides brand and customer insight.

Search for them on Google – See where they have been published. See what other places they spring up. Sometimes there is more to a company than meets the eye e.g. you might find some of their charity work they are involved in.

4. Invite them to present to you and meet their key staff

Once you have short listed some of the agencies you like invite them in to present to you. Meet the following people and look for these qualities:

Online marketing strategist – This is the guy with the online marketing smarts, the ideas guy. He will guide you through the mess of online marketing and consult to you as to what is feasible and what the low hanging fruits are.

Technical director – This is the person that will oversee all of your technology, development and coding. They ensure that websites are built correctly and that they last. It is all well and good to design and think up pretty pictures but you need a good technological platform and specialists to ensure that it works.

Creative director – This is the person with the creative genius to make your online marketing and websites look good and get the special attention your marketing needs. Usability and site architecture also need to be the lifeblood of a good creative director.

Account Manager – Invite the Account manager that you might be working with to the meeting. You don’t want to hate who you work with day to day.

When hiring an agency you are looking for a team of specialists to work with you. This harmony of working together produces the best results for your marketing and makes it easy to deliver the marketing outcome you requir
e.

5. Match your company with the best agency

When selecting an agency it always comes down to matching. Matching your business to the other business. Key elements to ensure match include:

Size – What size of business do you need to deliver your online marketing? Big agencies are more costly but can produce more work and have better people

Requirements and specialities – An independent online agency tends to have more specialization and do more things inhouse. An advertising agencies offshoot tends to have ok people although you wont get the raw experience that a specialist will give. The offshoot generally is strong in banner advertising and flash production although weak in web development, CMS and search engine marketing.

Companies fit together – Look at the culture of the agency, look at its staff and where it is trying to go. Does that work with what you are trying to achieve. If you need to conquer new territory in your company perhaps a more adventurous agency would be good. If you want to do very vanilla web development and nothing more perhaps a more vanilla agency.

Choosing an agency is an expensive process and sometimes very difficult.

If you would like to review Freestyle Media when considering the appointment of your online marketing agency please call 02 9818 7300 or email sales@freestylemedia.com.au to arrange an appointment.

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