Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency for Small Businesses

Digital Marketing: What Is It And Do I Need A Strategy?

Everyone knows how important digital marketing is for small businesses now, but how much do you really know about what a digital marketing agency actually does for their clients?

There’s a lot of talk on the web and in the business world about digital marketing, and there seems to be a never ending supply of options to choose from. You may be wondering if you even need some of the services you see on offer, and whether hiring an outside team will affect that “personal” touch you’ve spent time and effort cultivating for your business. Let’s clear up a few things about how the process works and how to get started with a digital strategy.

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What Services Do Digital Marketing Agencies Provide?

  1. Website Design: This includes everything from building your website from scratch to tweaking what you already have so it’s more effective. A good web team will optimize your sites for mobile devices like phones and tablets and steward your online presence to keep your image consistent across the web. They can even help you build a brand identity to project the image you want, one that resonates with customers. Having a well-tailored web presence helps your business look professional and sends the message that you are serious about quality.
  2. Email Marketing: You know what this is because you’ve received countless of these emails in your own inbox. Newsletters, promotions, trusted educational materials and entertaining content are just some of the ways you can build trust with your clients and keep your business in their minds. A good email marketing strategy will send just the right amount of quality correspondences and keep people wanting more. A poor one will wind up in the junk folder or end with someone hitting “unsubscribe”. Done right, this can provide a high ROI and drive engagement and sales.
  3. Social Media: A well-tended Facebook page, a compelling Instagram account, a recognizable Twitter persona—all of these are essential ways businesses connect with their customers today. And the social media landscape is changing quickly—apps like SnapChat and TikTok, once just novelties for the young and hip, are becoming increasingly important in the new digital marketing landscape. A good social strategy will give your business great exposure and help you win your clients’ trust. It’s about meeting customers where they spend their downtime—that is, marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing—and having a pro in your corner can make it so much more effective.
  4. Paid Social: Gone are the days when you could promote your business organically on social media and have all your posts be seen and boosted by your loyal followers. The new name of the game is paid social media marketing, and it’s essential to both finding new clients and keeping existing followers in the fold. The good news is you can now get your posts and ads to totally new audiences, targeting and tailoring each one to certain age groups, demographics, geographic locations, interests and more. Knowing how and where to spend your money for paid social will be paramount to your success on these platforms.
  5. SEO: Search engine optimization optimizes content for search engines to get your webpage seen by people searching on the web. Google and other search engines use complicated algorithms to lead people to results, so optimizing your website requires some expertise. Things like keyword research and targeting, incorporating high-quality, relevant content as well as getting other websites to link to your page can effectively drive search results your way. Lesser-known factors like how fast your site loads and whether its optimized for mobile can help or hurt your search rankings, too. As with so many things in the digital world, the rules on this are constantly changing, so professional assistance with SEO can be worth every penny spent.
  6. SEM/PPC: Search Engine Marketing/Pay Per Click includes paid ads on Google, Bing and other search engines that people see when they search for specific keywords or questions. The benefit of these is that they put your ad in front of people right when they’re looking for the product or service you’re selling, hopefully directing traffic to your site instead of a competitor’s. The potential downside is that the pay per click model means you pay whenever someone clicks through, so if your ad isn’t targeted right, you’ll pay for a lot of misguided clicks that don’t result in sales. Working with someone who understands SEM will help avoid that and get you a great ROI from your search advertising budget.
  7. Blogging/Written Content: Having informative, well-researched content on your page and in newsletters builds trust and can let people know you’re on the leading edge of new developments in your field. It can also drive search results your way and help you find new clients to grow your business. Many business owners like (or feel compelled) to do this themselves, but producing regular content can be time consuming and take away from your chosen line of work. Outsourcing some or all of this to an agency partner can take the pressure off and free you up to do more of what you enjoy.
  8. Multimedia Content Creation: Visual and audio are the kings of the internet, and creating multimedia content lets you use that to your advantage. A polished piece on your company or a funny video that goes viral can be a gamechanger. An informative infographic, how-to video or podcast that’s relevant to your customers’ interests can drive retention and keep you trending in search. People engage with these and enjoy themselves while doing so. They can make your business look knowledgeable, vibrant, hip, relatable—whatever you desire. And they fit nicely into a cross-platform digital strategy that includes mobile, too.

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Can I Do Some of This Stuff Myself?

Sure you can! And a good agency will work with you to show you how to be your best at it. But there are things you can’t always do on your own. Things you may need expert help with.

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The Technical Nuts and Bolts Stuff

SEO, getting your business seen on social, mobile advertising, not to mention tech stuff like UX to maximize retention, website maintenance, updates, merchant software, analytics on traffic and engagement–the technical side of digital marketing can get hairy if you’re not an expert. Ask yourself:

  • Do you know how many email newsletters to send out a month?
  • How to boost your website’s rank in search?
  • What time to post to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to get the most engagement?
  • How about what to put in each post to make it more likely to be seen by followers?
  • Will you be even able to tell what’s working for you and what’s not?

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Content that Excites

Videos draw views and blog posts draw likes and comments, but producing well-researched, good-looking content requires time, tools and know-how. Putting these tasks in the hands of pros can be cheaper and yield a better product, and their knowledge of what’s trending means you won’t waste time on content no one wants.

So try your hand at some posts and YouTube videos and have fun with them if you feel comfortable. A good agency can guide you and help lighten your load as business grows. And that’s the goal, isn’t it? Growing the business your way, making products, providing services…and making time to enjoy yourself along the way.

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Finding A Digital Marketing Agency That Fits Your Needs

Some things to consider when you talk to an agency:

  1. Do they understand your market? Talk about whether they have experience in your area and if they’ve worked with businesses of a similar size. Are they more about broad or local reach? Remember, too, that local is different in an internet-connected world—sometimes local can mean like-minded buyers across the street, the nation or the globe!
  2. How well they “get” your client base. Do they understand the demographics, social media habits, and preferences of your customers? It helps to ask if they have clients in similar fields as you. Some agencies will run you through a creative brief and buyer persona workbook to learn more about you and your client base at the outset, too.
  3. Your expectations. How much do you want them to do for you? Talk about what services you do and don’t think you need. Maybe you just need a little website assistance or help setting up a digital newsletter at first. Don’t know? A good agency will lay out all the options.

Here are a few things businesses ask for help with:

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  1. Budget. Don’t be afraid to talk money. Be clear about what you can afford, and articulate what you’re willing to pay for. It’s important that you know what you’ll be getting for your money and clearly communicate what kind of growth you need to see for it to be worth it. Your agency should talk about ROI before you even bring it up.
  2. Analytics and metrics. Can they show you what kind of results their efforts are producing? Discuss things like value for spend, how much lead generation you’re hoping for, how they monitor for engagement. Results Matter. You want to be able to see what you’re paying for and know they’re on top of it all.
  3. How well they’ll work with YOU. You want an agency that’s clear about what they’ll need from you. That knows how to talk to you and your team. Good at communications. Good at adapting to your needs as they change. Do you like them? This is important because it can also affect how your clients like what they’re doing for you, too. Go with your instinct on this one.

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Additional Questions To Ask In Your Discovery Session

  1. Can you provide me with a customized digital marketing plan before we begin?
  2. Have you worked with other businesses like mine? In my area?
  3. What types of content marketing would be appropriate for my business?
  4. What Social Media strategies will you use to market my business?
  5. What kind of reporting do you provide?
  6. Can I add/change services as my needs change?

The secret to good digital marketing is that it shouldn’t feel like “selling” at all. It’s an integrated marketing approach that brings new clients into the fold, makes current clients feel like friends who know and trust you, and frames your small business as a trusted partner with the know-how to serve your customers’ needs. 

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Trying out a new digital marketing strategy for your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re looking for guidance on first steps, set up a chat session with our team. We offer a free discovery call so you can talk about your goals, learn what we do and see how we can help. Just call or fill out the form on the Contact Us page so we can get in touch.

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By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.

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7 Steps to Having a Digital Marketing Plan Workbook

Get actionable tips for how to build your digital marketing strategy so you can grow your brand and your revenue.