Why All Digital Marketing Agencies Are Not Created Equal (And 4 Qualities You Should Look For)
Does the term “digital marketing” go in one ear and out the other because you don’t know what it really means, and it seems like everyone provides these services these days?
Have you had a bad experience with a digital marketing provider before?
Are you not seeing the results you want from the digital marketing you’re doing?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you.
I’ll admit it; 9 Clouds is a digital marketing agency. But we do things differently from a lot of other businesses in our industry, which can be misleading and just plain predatory. These agencies are one of the reasons our industry “don’t get no respect.” Most of the people we talk with about working together have been burned by a bad digital marketing experience in the past.
We work a lot in the automotive industry but also provide digital marketing services in the healthcare, livestock production, and RV industries (in addition to others), and we’ve found these negative experiences to ring true no matter what industry you’re in.
That infuriates me.
These unfortunate scenarios are what inspired me to write this post about the top four qualities you should look for when picking a digital marketing agency (whether 9 Clouds or not). In this post, I’ll talk about:
- Why we recommend the specific digital marketing services we do
- Why we execute these services the way we do (and why your digital marketing agency should too)
- How we make sure our clients get what they pay for
- What results you should ask for from your digital marketing agency
1. Foundational Digital Marketing (“Low-Hanging Fruit”)
I bet I say the term “low-hanging fruit” about once a day.
There are tons of digital marketing services an agency can provide. At 9 Clouds, the services we provide are what I call the “low-hanging fruit” of digital marketing — the services that have the ability to deliver the most consistent return on investment (ROI).
If you aren’t doing these digital marketing services, well, you’re missing out:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Online advertising, which includes search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) and social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) advertising
- Email marketing
- Lead tracking, which includes data management and reporting
We’ve offered other digital marketing services throughout the years, but we have found these four to be the services that deliver the best, most consistent results for our clients.
There are definitely additional digital marketing services that are more trendy (what we call “bright shiny”), but if they haven’t proven to perform well, be very thoughtful about executing them. Nobody has an unlimited budget. You should spend yours where it will deliver the most value.
When considering an agency, make sure you understand why it recommends certain services. Don’t fall into the “bright shiny” trap.
Just because you keep hearing about a social media channel, for example, doesn’t mean it’s right for your marketing. Is the audience you’re trying to target using it? Does the agency have case studies with proven results justifying the service?
Make sure you take advantage of the low-hanging fruit before you try to climb the tree.
2. Custom Digital Marketing Services (No “Cookie-Cutter” Vendors)
Every business is different, and no two marketing strategies are alike.
Too many vendors in our world are what we call “cookie-cutter” vendors: they deliver the exact same strategy to every customer. The more they can simply clone what they’ve done for someone else, the less skilled workforce they need to have, and the more money they make.
Always ask a vendor about who else it works with. If it’s a cookie-cutter vendor that works with everyone, it’s likely working with one of your competitors, so your strategy won’t be unique or perform as well as it could in your market. That’s why, at 9 Clouds, we have a non-compete clause based on our clients’ marketing radius and industry.
Be leery of vendors that base their pricing on your ad spend. What incentive does that vendor have to provide you custom, accurate ad spend budget recommendation based on your goals, location and targeting? None. It has incentive to provide you the highest ad spend budget recommendation it thinks it can get away with. At 9 Clouds, we don’t base our pricing off ad spend, and we don’t take any commission on it.
These shady vendors are why we haven’t published a “packages and pricing” page on our website. Every marketing package we put together is customized to address the needs and goals of our clients, and we review and adjust it as needed throughout our relationship.
You know your business better than anyone. You should work with an agency that wants to help amplify your message to the digital channels that will best serve your business — not just do the same things it does for everyone it works with.
Don’t settle for “cookie cutter” just because it’s cheaper. You’ll get what you pay for: the provider will see you as a transaction, not as a partner. Work instead with an agency that wants to be an extension of your marketing team.
3. Dedicated Teamwork (From a Team You Actually Meet With)
Custom digital marketing services that perform their best come from a dedicated team.
Ask the digital marketing provider you’re considering if it does any offshoring or hires freelancers to deliver its services. If so, the team you meet with is likely not the team actually doing the work for your business.
At 9 Clouds, it’s important to us that the team in your meetings is the team that does the work. When you work with 9 Clouds, you get one account manager and a consistent team of creatives who learn the unique aspects of your business and market. They are the ones who:
- Attend all your monthly meetings.
- Provide strategic recommendations based on what they learn throughout your relationship.
- Apply it to the work they’re doing for your business.
We have no middleman. You always talk to the people executing the strategy and doing the work.
Communication is a far-too-underrated skill in the digital marketing industry. Work with someone whom you can not only get ahold of, but also trust to keep you informed about your account. At 9 Clouds, your dedicated account manager sends (at least) weekly updates and is available to answer your calls directly during business hours.
Taking care of employees is probably even more underrated than communication in the marketing space. How can your dedicated team members take care of your needs and do their best work for you if they’re not being taken care of? Make sure the agency you hire has not only a good creative reputation, but also a good employer reputation.
Our team members are our business. We take care of our team members so they take care of you. Marketing agencies are notorious for overworking their employees. Our employees are paid for 40 hours a week, so we do our darnedest to make sure that’s what they work.
Here’s a quote from one of our clients speaking to the benefits of a dedicated, consistent team:
“In the entire eight years I’ve worked with them, I’ve had two project managers. The relationships I have had with both of those ladies has been tremendous. I trust them. They are an extended part of our team. So really, when it comes to moving the needle, it’s not me getting it done; it is the team getting it done.”– Julia Yoder, Marketing Manager, Brookings Health System
4. Focus on Data and Transparency (A Must-Have)
Marketers cannot be afraid of data. Just the execution of a task is not good enough. The results of that task are ultimately what matters.
Your digital marketing needs to perform in the way you intend it. If it doesn’t, you need to learn from that experience to make your future marketing better. There is no silver bullet in marketing, so you must always be analyzing and optimizing.
These days, we can manipulate data to say whatever we want it to. That’s why it’s critical for you to work with a digital marketing provider that gives you access to the accounts from which it’s pulling data and is very clear about what it’s doing on your behalf (and why). If your provider is transparent, you can collaborate on the data and leverage it to continue to build the best marketing possible.
The best marketing also involves executing and testing marketing tactics in different ways. Look for a digital marketing partner that includes testing as part of its day-to-day operation. If they aren’t challenging themselves, they’re not going to provide you the most optimal digital marketing strategy. At 9 Clouds, we’re always A/B testing our work to see what performs best and to apply it to future campaigns.
Even though data and transparency are the last in the list of qualities of good digital marketing providers, I believe them to be the most critical. Don’t work with an agency that doesn’t show you your results and tell you how it’s perpetually working to deliver them at quality.
Looking for guidance on what good results are in the automotive or healthcare industries? Our benchmarks reports walks through each digital marketing service we recommend and provides industry benchmarks as well as how 9 Clouds compares.
We’re tired of bad digital marketing, and we know you are too. Seek out digital marketing services that:
- Have proven ROI.
- Provide custom digital marketing services.
- Are dedicated to your business.
- Are data-driven and transparent.
There are lots of people who do digital marketing. Use these tips to ask good questions and confirm that who you decide to work with will help you meet your goals and work with you well.
A rising tide raises all boats. The higher standard to which digital marketing services providers are held, the better everyone will be. So don’t settle!
Interested in learning if 9 Clouds can help you reach your marketing goals? Schedule a complimentary, custom marketing assessment with our team to see what low-hanging fruit you’re missing out on right now. Whether you decide to work with us or not, you’ll leave with actionable tips to make your digital marketing better.