What to Look for When Hiring an External Marketing Agency

external marketing agency

Fantastic, you’ve decided that you want to grow your business and you now sit in either two parties: you’ve had some experience working with a marketing professional whether they’ve been internal or external, or alternatively, you’ve never worked with someone in marketing before. 

Either way, digital marketing is constantly changing at a hell of a rate, and what used to work no longer does. However, there are a few fundamentals that’ll always be true when you’re looking to hire an external marketing agency.

 

In this article, we’ll cover the following digital marketing services:
  • Website
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • LinkedIn
  • Brochures
  • Videography (photography – sort of)
  • Project management

 

You might not be interested in all the key services listed, but every marketing activity you have is (or should be) interconnected with each other. Every decision you make will have a knock-on effect on another service, and that is where problems (or opportunities) can arise. 

 

What are the pitfalls?

One example is if you’ve got an internal marketing professional working with a freelancer as well as an external marketing agency. That’s a lot of people having to communicate with each other alongside a bunch of different processes and systems going on. Operationally, there’s a higher risk of miscommunication, and you might discover that you’ve created a lot more work for yourself than you need.

Reversely, if you’re a busy business owner, you might only want to speak to one person who has the full responsibility of executing all of your marketing. Otherwise, you could find yourself in the same position of constantly doubling up work and having ideas lost into the ether.

There are many pitfalls and traps you can fall into when it comes to digital marketing, and this is when I hear the new clients say they’ve “been burnt in the past”. 

This article isn’t to point fingers at anyone because there could be a multitude of reasons why working with a marketing agency hasn’t worked. At the end of the day, it’s just business, but one bad experience shouldn’t be a reason to give up on marketing agencies, freelancers or marketing itself altogether. 

“Marketing Agency” might fall under the same umbrella, but we’re all different and solve different problems. If you’ve chosen an agency to work with that isn’t compatible with your growth plan, you’ll find it’s costing you more in the long run and holding you back from hitting your goals.

At the end of the day, resources are finite and precious in startups and SMEs, so if you had a list of questions that you could use to help you maximise them and select the right people to work with, wouldn’t you take it?

Let’s break down some of the key questions you should be thinking about for each service, and find out the differences you can expect in levels of service as well as what’s going to be right for you.

 

Website

You know you need a new website. Great.

You have a budget in mind. Great.

If you’re a high growth business, then you know the website needs to convert sales as its main objective. Great.

These are all great places to start, but there are more questions to consider. Websites are much more complex than they used to be 10 or even 20 years ago and the website you “throw up” will affect your business’s bottom line. 

So, what are the questions you need to think about?

  • Do you have a business plan and branding strategy?
  • Do you have branding guidelines?
  • How is your website going to work for you in the future and on a daily basis?
  • How are you going to build your website?
  • How does your audience interact with your website?
  • Who’s in control of your website?

 

Do you have a business plan and branding strategy?

Your website is your most valuable marketing asset so you need to treat it in the right way. It needs to be backed up by a solid business plan that helps you grow your business in a systematic and sustainable way as well as representing your brand in the best way possible. Think attention to detail with brand guidelines, slick navigation and eye-catching design.  

 

Do you have branding guidelines?

Whatever’s included in your brand guidelines will dictate how much of your website looks like. Whether you’re uploading a blog article, or designing a new page for your site, everything from font and colour to user experience needs to be watertight and seamless.  

 

How is your website going to work for you in the future on a daily basis?

When your website goes live, what’s going to make people visit it? To start with, you’ll need a solid strategy in place to direct traffic to your website. To make people stick around, the information on your site will need to be relevant to your target audience, and they should be able to navigate from one page to the next with ease. But what about the future? Keeping your site secure and up to date is essential to make it work with your long term plans for growth.  

 

How are you going to build your website?

Building a website, or choosing who to outsource development to isn’t easy if you don’t know where to start, and there’s more to consider than you might think. Luckily, we’ve put together a helpful guide on how to remove the drama from your business’s website development, which you can read here.

 

How does your audience interact with your website?

User experience is everything when it comes to whether your audience is going to convert to paying customers, which is why you need to pay attention to what they’re doing when they click onto your site. Are they navigating through from your homepage to the services page before visiting your contact page, or are they clicking off after a few seconds? This information is crucial to understand whether your site is serving its purpose.  

 

Who’s in control of your website?

We come across a lot of businesses that don’t fully understand who has ultimate control over their site until it’s too late. If you want to keep your website under your own control (which we highly recommend), check out our article on how to get your website back from your developer, which highlights many of the pitfalls that our clients have fallen into before coming to us.  

 

Social Media

It’s really easy to think; “Ah, I’ll just get a social media specialist, and they’ll just do it.” Absolutely, that’s what they’re there for, but with 293,000 status updates posted on Facebook alone per minute, and 32 billion of their active users sharing and interacting every day, it’s very easy for your message to get lost within the noise.

These are the questions you need to ask yourself about social media?

  • How are you going to feed the social media beast?
  • How can you grow your social media audience?
  • How are you going to create your brand image and voice on social media?

 

How are you going to feed the social media beast?

The downside of social media is that you’re going to need to always be planning ahead what content you want to go out which needs a tight ship in terms of internal organisation. In short, you need to put the right processes and systems in place to produce content. These include up-to-date content plans, scheduling tools and a stream of fresh content including articles, videos, events, testimonials, and so on.

 

How can you grow a social media audience?

The way you grow your audience on social media depends on the techniques you choose (organic vs paid) as well as what platforms you’re using. On LinkedIn, a good place to start is inviting people in your target audience to connect to grow your network- that way, your target will see the content you’re publishing through your profile. On other channels, paid advertising is particularly effective to use alongside your organic content plan. 

 

How are you going to create your brand image and voice on social media?

Your brand image and voice on social media needs to reflect your brand identity and the guidelines you’ve set out for your website to keep things feeling seamless for your audience funnelling through from a post on your newsfeed to a page on your site. But social media is also a great place to keep things more light-hearted. Posts need to resonate and have enough personality to tell your audience a story of exactly who you are. Want to find out how to get your social media marketing in motion? Check out our ultimate guide to social media marketing.

 

SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the name of the game for getting your website found by users who are looking to buy your products and services through search engines. 

It sounds so simple but, when companies like Google have over 200 factors determining how they rank your website above another, every little detail and action counts- especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry such as fitness, where thousands of pounds is pumped into getting a website to hit the top spots for a niche in the industry. You’re never going to beat them overnight, so any SEO campaign you employ is going to have to be part of the long game.

For every business, we would recommend some kind of SEO campaign underpinning their other marketing activities, but there are some aspects to consider when deciding whether it’s right for you or not.

  • Who’s going to write the articles? 
  • How technical do the articles need to be?
  • What software is your website built with?
  • What software do you have access to so you can monitor and measure your campaign?
  • How are you going to do your keyword research?
  • How are you going to test the validity of your keyword research?
  • How are you going to feed the SEO beast?
  • When is SEO not right for me?

 

Who’s going to write the articles?

Deciding who’s responsible for writing your articles, whether you want to keep it in-house or outsource to an external marketing agency, is important because, to get any traction with your SEO, there needs to be a regular supply of new, quality content with the appropriate keywords. The person allocated to this task needs to be a natural wordsmith with a nose for writing great content.    

 

How technical do the articles need to be?

Your articles need to be as technical as your audience would expect them to be. If you’re writing for a website with an incredibly knowledgeable audience, you’ll need to be clued up. If you’re outsourcing and require content with in-depth knowledge, it’s best to opt for a technical writer with the right specialism. However, if your website needs more general content, you’ll have a wider choice of who to outsource it to. Click here to find out what you can do to make your stories stand out to your audience. 

 

What software is your website built with?

Around 40% of all websites are built on WordPress- which is pretty huge. Why? Well for one, Google tends to rank WordPress sites higher than those built on other platforms. There’s also a bunch of easy plugins (like Yoast) that you can use to make your content hit those all-important SEO markers and heighten the user experience. Overall, WordPress is super accessible to implement your SEO and content strategy on, whether you’re a seasoned developer or total novice. Whatever platform you’re on, if you’re hiring an external marketing agency to do your SEO for you, make sure they have experience of executing successful SEO campaigns using your website’s software.

 

How are you going to do your keyword research and track results?

There’s literally no point in putting your resources into building an SEO strategy if you don’t have the tools to put in the research, compare with your competitors and track the results. If you’re outsourcing this task, look for an external marketing agency that’s using in-depth SEO software like SEMRush, which goes into granular detail on all the aspects you need to set you apart from your competition.  

 

How are you going to test the validity of your keyword research?

It’s easy enough to come up with a list of keywords that you think your audience will be searching for- but what evidence do you have to back it up? The right keyword research tools provide this all-important evidence, including search volumes, search trends and how difficult it is to rank with them. This means you can justify your research and produce in-depth keyword research that will get you results. If you’re outsourcing to an external marketing agency, ask them what tools they use and how they measure the validity of their keywords. 

 

How are you going to feed the SEO beast?

I hear it all the time. “I know I need to write more articles but [insert excuse]” Usually the excuses are: “I’m too busy”, “I don’t know what to write about”, or “My writing isn’t great”.

These answers aren’t negatives, they are simply qualifiers to what you need for your business. There’s a multitude of solutions to producing content when you lack the time or it doesn’t come naturally to you. Writing tools like Grammarly are a good option to improve your writing style and grammar if you’re doing it yourself, or better yet, outsourcing the task to save time is a great way to guarantee a steady stream of quality content. Other platforms such as Answerthepublic.com will help you find subjects to talk about in your articles.

 

When is SEO not right for me?

If you’ve got a business that’s struggling on its arse and you need to get cash into the bank very quickly, SEO is not right for you. The game is too long, and getting in sales is your immediate problem. From this, you might be thinking, “Why the hell do I need to do SEO in the first place, then?”. Because ‘getting in the sales’ as fast as you can is an inefficient approach to growing your business and isn’t sustainable. If your business could be generating sales while you sleep, would you take it? Yes, we all would, and that’s why you see hundreds of SEO specialists across the UK.

 

LinkedIn

With 600 users worldwide, LinkedIn is the powerhouse when it comes to online networking and since March 2020, even more people have flocked to use its services as many traditional networking events were forced to go online.

There’s much more to LinkedIn than posting content promoting your services or getting entangled in a “lively discussion” with other keyboard warriors. It’s a great opportunity for any B2B to be reaching out, networking and expanding the black book.

I meet so many business owners who have relied so heavily on their black book to grow their business but who are then so averse to growing it using LinkedIn. While it’s got a bad reputation from sales mass messaging the sh!t out of it, there are better approaches you can adopt. We’ve written an in-depth article about it here.

These are the questions you need to ask yourself before starting a LinkedIn campaign:

  • What is it that you want out of LinkedIn?
  • Who are your most profitable customers?
  • What is the biggest pain point of your customer?
  • What are the most common questions your customers ask you?
  • How are you going to grow your company page?
  • How are you going to convert leads when they come through your LinkedIn?

 

What is it that you want out of LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a multifaceted platform. To be successful on it, you need a clear idea of why you’re there in the first place. If growing a relevant audience is your main aim, you’re in the right place- but to do this you’ll need to consider supplementary tools like Sales Navigator so you can find the relevant people to connect with- and it doesn’t stop there. Once these people are in your network, how are you going to move them through the sales funnel? Without clear direction on what you’re doing, there’s going to be a whole bunch of opportunities missed.    

 

Who are your most profitable customers?

When you’re growing your network, you need to have a deep understanding of exactly who your customers are and be able to segment them into groups. Your most profitable customers will be the people you need to prioritise in targeting to make any real progress, so your segmentation process will need to account for this.  

 

What is the biggest pain point of your customer?

When you know what your customers’ pain points (problems) are, selling becomes a whole lot easier. This is because your solution should solve their pain by design. From our point of view as an external marketing agency, our client’s pain points are usually along the lines of that they don’t have the right resources or knowledge to do their own marketing successfully. The way we relieve that is through training them in the essential tools and skills or taking it off their hands for them. If you understand what your customers need help with, you can use a LinkedIn lead generation strategy to quickly qualify leads and demonstrate you understand their needs.

 

What are the most common questions your customers ask you?

Networking using LinkedIn is one of the best methods of understanding exactly what’s going on within your customers’ industry and alerting you to any changes you need to be aware of to continue being successful. But it’s not just you asking the questions; your connections will also be asking you questions- if a question is being asked time and again, it’s something you need to think about incorporating into your marketing. For example, if customers are asking how something works, write an article about the process or create an explainer video that you can publish on your site and share across social media.  

 

How are you going to grow your company page?

Networking on LinkedIn is usually done through personal profiles, but this can mean that company pages are left lagging. Your company page represents your brand, so effort needs to be put into growing it. Having a dedicated social media producer is one way to ensure it’s kept up to date, fresh, and engaging to compliment your lead generation efforts. 

 

How are you going to convert leads when they come through your LinkedIn?

So you’ve built up a network of relevant connections? Great. But what’s the process that comes after building your network? As well as engaging with them in the inbox and on your social media posts, you’ll also need to begin thinking about moving that engagement elsewhere. If you can funnel them through to your site through posts- that’s a great start. But to generate ongoing interest and engagement, getting permission to use the emails of qualified connections for email marketing is key, something that can easily be achieved through consistent networking. All marketing activities are interconnected, so having the skills of an external marketing agency on hand to build a network and then transform them into a qualified list of emails is key to being able to connect the dots successfully. 

 

Videography

Global attention spans are getting shorter- and no wonder- we’re juggling more than ever in our day to day lives, and there’s only so much focus we can dedicate to each task. In 2000, the average person enjoyed an attention span of 12 seconds, which has now dipped to 8 seconds.

This means that the types of content we like to consume is also changing, which explains the massive popularity of video-sharing platforms like TikTok.

In general, the popularity of video marketing is on the rise, and it’s proving a particularly powerful way to communicate, with research showing that people retain 95% of a message conveyed in video as opposed to 10% when it’s in written format- but video isn’t always the easiest option without the expertise and right resources.

These are the questions, you need to think about before embarking on videography:

  • What is the objective of the video?
  • What’s the purpose of your videos?
  • What is the collective of videos you’re going to create?
  • Where are your videos going to be placed?

 

What do you want your videos to achieve?

Understanding what you want to achieve with your video will help you decide what format it needs to take. There are a few things video can help you achieve, including promoting your offering to increase brand awareness, increasing engagement on social media, expanding your reach, and your audience. 

 

What is the objective of the video?

There’s a whole bunch of different types of video used in video marketing, and the quickest way to decide on what form yours should take is to determine the objective behind it. Trying to explain your product or service to your audience? An explainer video is the route to go down. Trying to raise brand awareness about your brand? An advert format will do the job. But there’s other things to think about, too, including whether you want a person talking to the camera or moving graphics and animations to make your point. If you’re using an external marketing agency to help you create your vision, ask to see examples of their past work.

 

Where are your videos going to be placed?

Like written content, video can be used across an array of platforms. It’s a great way to improve the ‘stickiness’ of your website- which is a measure of how long a site keeps its audience engaged for. It’s also effective as part of social media strategies (paid and organic) as moving images encourage people to stop scrolling and take note. You can even implement it as part of your email marketing strategy. There are not many limits to how you can use it, but it needs to be created with where it’s going to be placed in mind so it caters to the specific audience and elevates the message that you’re trying to convey.   

 

What is the collective of videos you’re going to create?

As I mentioned, your videos need to cater to the platform they’re posting on, the relevant audience, and the outcome you want them to achieve. This will influence the type of video you’ll need, whether it’s real footage, animation, or a mix of the two. Because video is more accessible than ever (pretty much anyone with a smartphone can create video marketing content), a cost-effective place to start is creating a collective of videos for social media where video doesn’t necessarily have to be extremely polished to be effective (depending on what you’re trying to achieve). Creating videos for your site is a different story- and ‘casual’ smartphone footage is best avoided. 

 

Print (Brochures)

Do you think brochures actually work? Sure, they used to be a staple of cost-effective and accessible marketing for SMEs in the past, but digital marketing fundamentally changed all that. 

It’s now extremely difficult to create physical marketing assets that produce an ROI and if you do choose to go down that route, it’s at risk of going out of date quickly- whereas, with digital, you can easily change the information you’re putting out to keep it fresh and relevant.

If print is something that appeals to you, think about some of the following:

  • How much is it going to cost?
  • Who are your prospects and how are the brochures going to get to them?
  • How are you going to know where your prospects are in the sales funnel?

 

How much is it going to cost?

As well as thinking about the initial costs of producing the content and then making it into a physical asset, you’ll need to factor in the costs of replacing it when it’s no longer in date. Print brochures can become outdated extremely quickly- for example, if you’re a supplier who was impacted by the pandemic and produced a print brochure right before it hit, much of the information in there would have probably needed revising to stay relevant. 

 

Who are your prospects and how are the brochures going to get to them?

If you feel that the demand for print is there and you’re set on creating this kind of material, you’ll need to decide who you’re going to send it to. Sending out a ton of brochures to cool leads is going to result in a lot of paper waste, so it could be a better strategy to send them to those who’ve requested them or to ask hot leads if they want to receive one. Alternatively, print still works for specific industries, for example, if you’re a window cleaner, plumber, builder etc, you can achieve great results by sending a personalised postcard to the neighbours of a project/house you’re working on. With this approach, you’re being personal, you’re showing your trustworthiness and you’re giving them an example of your work. 

 

How are you going to know where your prospects are in the sales funnel?

The great thing about digital marketing is that it’s so quick and easy to figure out exactly where your prospects are in the customer journey- most of the information you need is available with the touch of a button. Physical assets are where this gets tricky- once you’ve sent a print brochure to a prospect, how do you know if/when they’ve read it? How do you know if they spent more time on a specific page of interest? The answer is that there’s no way of knowing (unless you choose to follow up in-person to ask), which leads to opportunities to close sales missed and less understanding of who you’re trying to sell to. 

 

PPC

Earning traffic through organic marketing is all well and good as part of your long-term strategy- but supplementing it with paid techniques that immediately get your brand in front of your target audience is one of the best ways to boost awareness and sales in a short space of time. 

PPC, otherwise known as pay-per-click is a form of marketing in which you essentially ‘buy’ traffic, with a predetermined fee being paid each time an ad is clicked on. You’ll see these kinds of ads on a range of social media platforms as well as at the top of search engines when you search for something.

PPC is a particularly good option for eCommerce businesses selling products, but they need to reach the right people and be attention-grabbing enough to generate the ROI you need to justify the cost of clicks.

Here are a few questions you should consider if you’re thinking about doing a PPC campaign:

  • What are you looking to achieve from your PPC? 
  • Who do you want to reach?
  • What counts as a cost-effective PPC campaign? 

 

What are you looking to achieve from your PPC?

The first thing to determine is exactly what you want to achieve out of your PPC campaign- do you want better overall brand awareness? More leads? More signups? Or a quick boost to your sales? Whatever it is, your campaign needs to work at incentivising people to click on the ad and take action. 

 

Have you thought about how your PPC could be helping your SEO strategy?

PPC may be a great option for producing quick results, but it’s important to remember that to create a watertight marketing strategy, it needs to be sustainable- simply launching a PPC campaign because you want quick results is all well and good, but it’s not going to bring the long-term growth you’re looking for. For example, if you’re producing lots of content for SEO purposes, PPC could give it the boost it needs by getting it featured at the top of page one search results. 

 

Who do you want to reach?

Audience is everything when it comes to marketing, and PPC is no different. PPC gives you the ability to expand your reach beyond your current audience and segment the groups who you want to see your ads by demographic attributes including age, interests, income, location and gender. This means you can get really specific with who sees your ads- if you have an in-depth understanding of who you should be targeting, you’ll get more clicks and more sales as a result of these categories. 

 

Project Management

Project management, you say? But isn’t this article about hiring an external marketing agency? Well yes- you might have heard the following job titles, which are all different names for marketing project management: scrum master, marketing manager, marketing coordinator, marketing director, and so on.

Without someone doing the job of project managing your marketing as a whole, your campaign and ideas will fall apart, no matter how many awesome ideas are behind it. This is because all of your marketing activities are reliant on one another and need to work strategically and cohesively. 

If you’re not sure what the hell we’re on about, we wrote an article on what kind of process a digital marketing manager follows, we’ve written an article on it here.

Here are a few questions you’ll need to think about:

  • What do you need managing?
  • What are your overall business objectives?
  • Do you just need management, or are there elements of training and delivery?
  • How are you going to keep track of progress?

 

What do you need managing?

There’s probably a lot of aspects involved in your marketing. It’s not just a case of “oh, I do social media, email, PPC, and content marketing”, it also includes all of the processes behind executing each of these successfully, no matter how small they are- most MDs simply don’t have the time and resources to give this the attention it needs. But when these processes work seamlessly, it maximises the results of your marketing. As a result, you (or your external marketing agency) need to be aware of every single step that’s involved and have a process in place that actions these steps, tracks progress, and holds the relevant people accountable.

 

What are your overall business objectives?

Whatever your marketing strategy is, it needs to be aligned with your business objectives because marketing success = growth for your business. Your objectives should be one of the first things that you consider before taking any action in terms of your marketing. To make your objectives achievable, they also need to be SMART, which means they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. 

 

Do you just need management, or are there elements of training and delivery?

There are lots of marketing agencies that offer project management, but for SMEs, aspects like a lack of time, knowledge, money and resources may be at play- so you’ll need to determine what kind of service will be most beneficial for your business alongside management. For example, if you want someone to manage your marketing for you, but can’t pay for the full delivery of every aspect, you may need to receive the right training/coaching so that you have the tools and knowledge to take care of some parts of your marketing yourself. At KUB, we offer these flexible packages so you can choose an option that suits you.      

 

How are you going to keep track of progress?

Project management ties every part of your marketing together, but can easily get out of hand without the right systems in place to track everything from process to results. Project management approaches like Scrum can make processes much more efficient and targeted. Combine this with tracking the right KPIs, and you’ll be well on your way to maximising the results of your marketing and achieving your overall objectives.

 

Finding the right external marketing agency for your business

I hope this article has helped you figure out which marketing techniques will benefit your business the most, as well as how an external marketing agency can help and what questions to ask before hiring one. 

Like I said before, every agency is different, so it’s important to take the time to figure out what your key areas for success are before making a final decision on who you want to work with and what strategy to run with. As an extra top tip, ask the agency what their values and mission are. If they match yours, then you’re already on for a good start.

If you’re still not sure where to start, having a marketing review with your prospective agency can highlight which areas you need to focus on and help you understand different agencies’ approaches. 

 

At KUB, we offer complimentary 30-minute marketing reviews to any SME business thinking about outsourcing their marketing. Find out what to expect here or simply book your appointment now.   

 

KUB has successfully worked with upwards of 500 businesses over the last 19 years across a wide range of sectors to help them grow and achieve their goals. Having worked with so many companies it is clear one of the biggest challenges businesses face is finding new customers and growing sales.

KUB has evolved to being a hybrid digital marketing agency. In other words, we will do your digital marketing for you or we will show you the latest techniques to give you a competitive advantage.

By working with our clients to help them drive sales and grow their business, we found that they didn’t have the skills within their firm to use digital marketing to reach their target audience and then engage with them effectively.

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