Sunday, October 25th, 2020
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Hiring and working with a digital agency comes with a lot of considerations.
Not only will you need to think about how to appropriately vet a digital agency, but also what the working relationship will look like.
In order to ensure that you are getting the most out of your digital agency – and that you aren’t driving them crazy – consider these factors.
1) Proposal and Strategy
When you are initially engaging with a digital agency, you should expect to receive some form of value upfront before you invest in their services.
This can take different forms such as:
- Proposals – The agency you are speaking with should at the very least prepare a presentation in regard to strategy and execution.
- Test project – In some cases, it may be worth hiring the agency for a test project initially. This works better with some services such as content, but not so much with something like SEO, which takes longer.
- Audit – Agencies may provide you with a free audit, such as things to optimize with your technical SEO or how to improve your design.
Getting value upfront will help you evaluate the expertise of the agency and demonstrates that they are serious about helping you.
2) Niche Speciality
Any agency you engage with should ideally have experience working with other clients who are similar to you in terms of both your specific needs and the market you operate in.
- Market – Not all markets are the same and need different strategies. A B2B company selling machinery parts will need a completely different approach to ethical fashion brands in terms of marketing channels, messaging, and sales cycles.
- Marketing channel – Your digital agency should also have real experience with whichever marketing channel is best suited to you. Remember that you are competing for customers in each channel, so you need somebody who knows the nuances that will allow your message to stand out.
Understanding the legal side of your relationship with your agency will ensure that you don’t have any nasty surprises.
When you sign a contract with an agency, here are some things you should expect:
- No guarantees – Naturally, an agency will likely do their best to ensure that you get results. However, you will never find an agency that will guarantee a set of results in the contract. Although they may be competent, there is no way they can know for certain they’ll get you results.
- Fixed period of time – Most contracts are agreed on for a fixed period of time, e.g 3 months. This means that you won’t be able to simply cancel the agreement once you get started, unless there is a clause allowing you to do so.
- No responsibility – An agency doesn’t hold the responsibility for any damages your brand may incur through their marketing activity. This is one of the reasons why you need to be prudent when evaluating different agencies.
4) Cost Expectations
When you are hiring an agency, you are engaging in a form of outsourcing.
But despite the connotations, outsourcing doesn’t necessarily mean cost savings. If you work with the best agencies, you will have to pay adequately for their expertise.
Some agencies may promise to do the same work for less, but there is always a logical reason why one agency charges more than the other. Chances are, they have more experience and expertise.
It’s important to also keep in mind the cost difference between hiring an agency and building an in-house team. Consider how much it would cost you to hire the top talent in a particular field, versus hiring an agency who already has them.
5) Project Scope
Oftentimes, business owners engage with an agency without a clear understanding of exactly what they want.
Although this is understandable, you should speak with your agency and get a crystal clear idea of what the scope of the project is.
You will need to consider:
- Timeline – How long do you see your working relationship with your agency lasting? Is it a short contractual project to complete a content series? Or do you need an ongoing partner to work with indefinitely?
- Evolving needs – You may hire an agency to take care of your SEO, but soon realize that you actually need help producing great content. You will need to map out all the ways you will need help and account for that in your project scope.
- Budget – Longer and more complex projects cost more, so you will need to have a realistic grasp of how far your budget will stretch.
6) Results Expectations
Getting results for your business is the ultimate goal when hiring an agency, but it’s important to have a realistic perspective on what success looks like.
- Testing phase – At the start of any relationship with a new agency, there will be a period of adjustment and testing before both of you find the right cadence. This could be a matter of months, depending on what the focus is.
- Failure management – Even the best digital agencies don’t have any magic powers. Although they may do their best, there are sometimes factors outside their control. For instance, the competition in your market may be very tough. You should accept that there is always a risk of failure when engaging with an agency.
- Quantified results – With product services like design or programming, the end result is easier to agree on. With marketing, however, there are a lot more variables that can be hard to predict upfront. For instance, a PPC agency can’t tell you exactly how many leads they can get you without running the appropriate tests.
7) Hiring Multiple Agencies
Something you may be thinking about is whether you should hire multiple agencies or just one that can handle everything.
Working with different agencies has perks including:
- In theory, you will be able to find super-specialized agencies for each of your marketing needs. This should provide better results
- You can leverage and gain insights from different perspectives
- You diversify the risk of relying on one team
But there are some limitations too.
- It can create a lot more work having to manage multiple agencies. If managed badly, performance can suffer
- Not all the agencies may be as good as each other
- It may be difficult to get agencies to collaborate together on a holistic marketing strategy
Hiring multiple agencies can be useful if there is something very specific that you need to solve. For instance, if you are in a niche market and need content creators who have deep knowledge of your market.
8) Personal Workload
When you engage with a digital agency, you are leveraging an external team that can help you achieve your goals.
However, this doesn’t mean that they are going to take over your business and do all the work for you. Particularly when engaging with a digital marketing agency, you will still have some responsibilities:
- You will need to ensure that your landing pages are well optimized so that you can convert the increased traffic into customers
- There will be tasks that you have to do at the onset of the relationship such as providing access to software, creating customer profiles and so on
- Depending on the type of work you have hired for, you may need to complete specific tasks such as taking high quality product photos or interviewing your team for content ideas
Micromanagement is typically never a good thing, but you are more likely to pull it off successfully if you are working with a small in-house team.
Working with a digital agency is another story.
Your digital agency will have their own set of processes and ways of working which you won’t easily be able to oversee and become involved in.
Remember that an agency operates in a different manner to your employees and they aren’t simply there to do as you tell them.
There are also logistical barriers even if you wanted to micromanage an agency. You may only have direct communication with an account manager and not the other members of the team, for instance.
And not only will the agency not be in the same location as you, but there is a chance that they could be in a completely different timezone.
10) Business Fundamentals
Here’s the deal.
If you have a bad business, it wouldn’t matter if you hire the best digital marketing agency in the world. They would simply be sending traffic into a blackhole.
You need to deeply understand whether your current challenges are a result of your marketing strategy or a weak business in itself. Before talking to a digital marketing agency, think deeply about the following:
Have you validated your product?
If you barely have any customers, hiring a digital agency probably isn’t the best idea. Find out if there is a strong demand for your product first.
Is there a large addressable market?
Digital agencies will help you build out scalable marketing channels. And to see the best results, you need to have a product and a market that can scale. Selling personalized homemade cookies in your local area probably isn’t the right fit for a digital agency.
Do you have any proof of marketing potential?
In addition to proving that you have a product that sells, you need some inclination that digital marketing channels will work for you. For instance, are their competitors in your space that are doing well online?
11) Agencies Have Multiple Clients
Digital agencies structure their business so that they can work with multiple clients. And like any other business, they are usually trying to grow, which means taking on new clients.
What you need to keep in mind here is that any given digital agency will never put 100% of their resources and focus onto your particular goals.
You will be assigned an account manager, and depending on the work involved you may have direct contact with the team members who are executing on the marketing strategy.
But you will likely not have access to the senior team, unless you are one of their biggest and most important clients.
It’s also important to keep in mind that even the account manager and marketing people you work with will likely be working on other projects too. It is unlikely you will work with agency members who are 100% focused on your project.
12) Agencies Have Their Own Processes
When you start engaging with a digital agency, you will quickly come to find out that you are essentially integrating with another company.
This means that there has to be a good symbiosis between the different parts of your company and theirs.
- Team – As agencies are mostly about human relationships and not software, you will need to see if your team actually gets on well with their team. Even if it’s a right fit in terms of skills and track record, sometimes different personalities don’t see eye to eye.
- Culture – You will need to examine the culture and values that your agency partner embodies and see if it meshes well with yours. You may for instance prioritize a more slow and steady approach, but they may focus on results by any means.
- Processes – You may expect an agency partner that is always on stand by and ready to engage, whereas they may structure themselves more around long periods of deep work. They may be more methodical in how they work, where you may focus more on fundamental execution. You will need to ensure that your processes and styles of working sync up too.
Having the appropriate expectations will set you up for success and a more harmonious relationship with any digital agency you work with.
The main takeaway here is to understand what an agency can and can’t do for your business.
As talented and experienced as they may be, they can only work with what you give them.
You will need to ensure that your own house is in order first so that when you do work with an agency they can help you scale up what’s already working.
The post 12 Expectations to Consider When Engaging a Digital Agency appeared first on Neil Patel.
While looking through your business objectives, you suddenly feel your organization needs to shake things up a bit. Unfortunately, your in-house team doesn’t have the required expertise to push through change.
So what do you do?
Hire a consultant, hands down.
A consultant can provide your company with specialized knowledge to help solve specific problems, allowing you to gain a competitive advantage.
In a nutshell, they can give you expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations that can help ensure a more objective-based approach to grow your business and maximize sales – all at the same time.
Plus, an outsider’s perspective can likely improve strategizing and troubleshoot problems effectively too.
Our team at Neil Patel Digital has compiled the ultimate guide below to help you understand the nuances of working with a consultant for the best results.
Let’s start by reviewing how you can find the best consultant for your company.
How to Find a Good Consultant – Getting the Interviewing Process Right
Let’s face it: None of us know everything about growing and managing a business.
The scope is big, and covering every part of the syllabus isn’t possible.
Hence, it makes perfect sense to seek the counsel of experts who are right for you and your business.
And no, no one is going to judge you because you can’t solve your problems, whether it’s reducing expenses or creating an audience for new market entry.
When hiring a consultant, make sure you follow these five simple and important guidelines:
Person of the Highest Character
A good consultant must have an unimpeachable character and be a thorough professional who is willing to put the best interests of your company ahead of their own.
For instance, they must be willing to tell clients things they need to hear but may not want to – even if it means losing business. Ever ready to put their best foot forward, the expert should deeply care about helping their clients achieve their business objectives.
Experience and Expertise
The only way that a good consultant can meet challenges and identify opportunities is when they have years of experience and expertise to create effective strategies.
The consultant doesn’t need to know your company or industry niche, but they should have the relevant knowledge to understand what to do next to enhance campaign efficiency and deliver results.
Additionally, they should have applicable certifications and technical knowledge. So if you want to launch paid campaigns, find out whether the prospective consultant has the niche-specific qualification.
For instance, a Facebook ad consultant should know how to use Facebook Pixel, Facebook Ad Manager, and Power Editor. On the other hand, an AdWords consultant should be Google AdWords-certified and know how to improve ad Quality Score.
Creative Problem-Solving Skills
If there is one thing your consultant should be, it‘s an outstanding problem solver.
After all, the whole point of hiring a consultant is to solve specific pain points, along with taking advantage of opportunities.
Most of this is highly dependent on the mentality and excellent analytical skills to create and synthesize campaigns or business processes. Consultants have to be quick and effective learners and have the capability to solve problems through an imaginative and creative thought process.
Spot-On Interpersonal Skills
You need to trust your consultant if you want a successful collaboration, especially since revealing intimate details of your business is a necessity here.
Think of it as a relationship similar to that between a doctor and patient.
In the absence of complete candor, the consultant’s efforts may not be very effective, and hence, won’t help solve problems.
So make sure you choose a candidate who you feel you can develop a professional relationship of comfort and trust with.
Effective Communication Skills
Strong communication skills – oral as well as written – is mandatory for a good consultant.
An articulate thinking process and writing eloquently can also have a positive effect on your company’s target audience.
Communication is a two-way street, though.
No matter how great a consultant is, they won’t be able to help you until they fully understand the challenges you face, so make sure you’re clear about your pain points, vision, and challenges.
Remember, having the right consultant can create tremendous value. But if you get it wrong, it can also destroy value.
What to Expect When Working with a Consultant
Once you’ve chosen a consultant, there are certain expectations on both sides that you should know to ensure consultancy success.
One thing that you can expect from a responsible consultant is availability and responsiveness.
Make sure all the credentials are verified and that the necessary HR paperwork and background checks are properly performed. Once everyone is on the same page, formal documentation should be signed and delivered to the involved parties.
During onboarding, make sure you maintain open dialogue to make the process smooth and fuss-free.
Everyone involved in the project or task should be clear about what is expected from them and why they’ve been hired.
You can give the consultant your company‘s mission and vision statements, along with other key documents to help them see the bigger picture.
Don’t be afraid to give the consultant measurable goals. You can work with them to set SMART goals that not only clarify all your expectations but also set parameters to measure the overall progress and performance.
Holding Discovery Sessions and Meetings
It’s almost impossible for a consultant to create any strategy for your company without having an in-depth understanding of your business objectives.
Hence, you have to be prepared to answer a lot of questions from your consultant. In fact, make sure that the consultant does clear their doubts as otherwise, the campaigns will likely fail. This includes:
- Questions about your current benchmarks, segment objectives, and overall goals.
- Questions about customer expectations and strategizing accordingly.
- Questions about KPIs and metrics for performance measurements.
- Question about tactics and various marketing channels for boosting customer engagement.
Once the consultant understands your current situation, they‘ll work out a game plan to tell you your final destination and think of ways to help you get there.
Reviewing the Final Game Plan
At this stage, the consultant will present their tailor-made ideas and strategies to suit your business needs in front of you and your employees.
This, of course, will depend on the project and the consultancy provided by them. For instance, a digital strategy consultant should cover various aspects related to advertising, such as media, public relations, digital marketing, and print advertising.
You can also propose reviews by looking at the presentation and examples from the previous clientele of the consultant.
Here’s what you can do:
- Ask for performance data for evaluation.
- Discuss campaign elements, especially priority points.
- Spot knowledge gaps and weak points in strategy, and ask for alternatives.
Strategy Implementation and Result Monitoring
Once you give the final go-ahead to the plan, the consultant will then launch the business campaign or start implementation.
After execution, the consultant should collect and analyze data to give you insights about the campaigns. You can allow suggestions made by them to enhance campaign effectiveness or adjust budgets accordingly.
You may not see immediate results, but you can still use the gained insights for crafting better campaigns.
How to Measure Success
Measuring the ROI of a consultant can be a challenging prospect. More so, because they help in several areas – many of which are measured in long-term growth.
In fact, according to the Predictive Index Consultant Report, nearly 27% of companies don’t want to hire consultants because measuring ROI is too difficult.
The first thing that you should do is approach the consultant-owner relationship with an actionable viewpoint by doing the following:
- Set specific, measurable goals from the very beginning.
- Figure out ways to measure the intangible benefits of their work.
Additionally, you can use certain metrics, such as:
- Open rate
- Click rate
- Bounce rate
- Response rate
- Lead and conversions
- Return on ad spend (ROAS)
- Brand engagement on website by finding out the number of unique visitors, return visitors, and total time spent on the website
Make sure that you select the right KPIs that allow you to analyze your business campaigns effectively. Otherwise, you won’t be able to measure the success of the consultant’s strategy.
For measuring intangible benefits, gauge the difference in your team’s confidence before and after hiring the consultant. You can also carry out an internal survey or reference feedback.
Where to Find Consultants
We’ve already established that you need to define the problem you’re facing before hiring outside experts.
Once you’ve done that, you can get on the task of finding the right consultant for your business.
Usually, the best way to find good consultants is to use word of mouth. Talk to your past clients and ask them for references. Ask them about the problems the consultant helped solve, objectives they helped achieve, and whether they would hire them again.
The other way is to post project details on platforms like Reddit, Guru, Upwork, Freelancer.com. You can also select a freelancer profile from these marketplaces.
Another excellent way is to scan the respective consultant on LinkedIn profiles and blog posts. You can learn a lot about their personality, work ethics, and value that you may not identify while interviewing them. Twitter is also another platform to consider.
However, if you want to work with seasoned consultants – something that we highly recommend – you can do a basic Google search. Visit the websites of these companies and fill in their inquiry forms to schedule a discovery call.
Make sure you pay a lot of attention to the consultant’s personality and consulting style. It’s necessary for them to fit in with your corporate culture and gel with your team – just as any new employee should.
Do they listen to you properly? Do they have high emotional intelligence? All these are important questions you should consider before hiring.
Make sure that you do your homework on the prospect, whether a person or firm, to determine their suitability to solve your exact situation.
The worst thing you can do is force a square peg into a circular hole, which will only lead to time, energy, and money wastage. In other words, you’ll end up in the same place you started.
What Kinds of Budgets and Prices to Expect
A good consultant will always ask the budget before chalking up campaign frameworks or strategies.
Some consultants work with clients having a monthly budget of $400 for ads, while some only go for businesses with budgets greater than $3000 per month.
So you have to decide the kind of money you are ready to spend and then find candidates who have previously worked with similar budgets.
As for pricing, every consultant charges their own fee depending on their expertise, experience, and goodwill. Typically, there are three pricing models:
- Daily rate
- Project fee
- Retainer fee
Hence, you can either offer them a “set rate,“ provide an upfront retainer fee for the work the consultant will do over a specific period, or finalize an hourly rate.
Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate – even consultants expect it.
The Different Types of Consultants
A consultant often specializes in specific fields where clients need in-depth expertise. This makes them better equipped to solve particular situations by using expert tools and a greater target audience understanding to avert any crisis.
Consultants generally fall into five categories. These are:
Strategy and Management Consultants
These consultants have a market-specific understanding and know the best practices of your industry niche. As a result, they can offer the following:
- Enlarge your market footprint
- Reorganize businesses for greater efficiency and cost savings
- Expand your product offerings
- Helps make informed decisions regarding equipment purchase or company buyouts
Human Resources Consultants
These consultants work specifically on employee needs.
Whether it’s recruiting top talent, determining compensation to align with company goals, or improving employee retention, an HR consultant can streamline everything using their leadership and communication skills.
IT is one area that is experiencing tremendous consulting growth.
With the rapidly increasing relevance of technology and tech support, companies have started hiring consultants to facilitate better integration and improve their computer or phone systems, upgrade servers, and ensure efficient storage space.
These consultants are also known as ICT or digital consultants that help clients with the development and application of information technology within their organization.
These are individuals or agencies that can help clients improve operations efficiency and performance.
Activities in this segment vary from advisory services to hands-on implementation support for primary functions (sales, production, marketing, etc.) and secondary functions (finance, supply chain, HR, legal, etc.). They can help to improve quality, minimize steps or mistakes, increase margins, and decrease costs.
Sales and Marketing Consultants
As one would expect, sales and marketing consultants primarily focus on the marketing and advertising aspects of organizations. They perform the following tasks:
- Work on positioning statements
- Create effective marketing plans
- Develop a brand from scratch
- Launching advertising campaigns
- Initiating sales process and suggesting improvements
- Establishing social media strategies
- Designing sales training and coaching material
Financial Advisory Consultant
These are consultants who operate in the financial advisory segment. Their main job revolves around working on questions that address financial capabilities as well as analytical capabilities within an organization.
Furthermore, every consultant can have varied profiles, ranging from M&A to risk management to real estate consultancy to tax.
Agencies vs. Consultants – What Is the Difference?
Agency and consultancy: Two words, but they are worlds apart in approach.
The main differences between these two terms ultimately boil down to the following:
Agencies – whether big or small – are almost always larger than consulting firms. As a result, they have a wider range of creative talent, team members, and skillsets. You are also assured of more resources with them.
Despite the smaller size of consultancies, there is a built-in rhythm that makes them more agile when adapting to rapidly changing business landscapes. They often have specialists in specific fields that can solve pain points – provided it fits their suite of knowledge.
Also, agencies commonly implement more activities, such as advertising, digital or media plan, web designing, and so on. On the other hand, consultancies are more focused at the strategic level, which involves building brands for long-term health and commoditizing strategy execution.
Varying Budgets and Mandate Size
Any reasonable professional will always consider the overall cost to make sure it fits their budget.
This is precisely why you should decide between an agency and consultancy after determining your business size, budget, as well as the breadth of your mandate.
For instance, if you run a small operation that requires a quick turnaround time, heading consultancies will be right up your alley. But if you have more wiggle room, resources, and time, you can opt for an agency.
We would highly recommend getting roadmaps with key deliverable dates and timelines from respective partners after you finish aligning your budget and timelines. This will help you understand the overall projected costs more effectively.
Brand Vision and Time Factor
If you choose to work with creative agencies, you get the option to choose your partner based off on your vision and past campaigns. They give you hundreds of options to choose from after taking your idea to make things easier for you.
Also, since creative processes go through several rounds of conceptualizations, the turnaround time is a bit longer, but you are assured of high-quality campaigns.
Consulting firms allow clients more latitude to push their vision and opt for a more hands-on experience of collecting data and designing campaigns.
Since consultants usually try to immerse themselves wholly in their client’s team, the turnaround time is typically faster as well. That said, the size of a consultancy can increase time, in case they have a huge reserve of past work.
Agencies are popular for creating some of the most engaging, inspiring, and emotional (you can insert more positive adjectives here) brand campaigns.
While the process is definitely a little longer than working with the consultant, they do specialize in distinct areas that facilitate better strategy execution.
Consultants, on the contrary, dig deeper to solve your problems. You‘re assured of more direct and quicker solutions thanks to their hands-on approach.