As a small business owner, deciding if it makes more sense to hire your own team, or outsource your marketing function can present a real conundrum. On the one hand, it’s nice to have your own team available in-house, but this also comes with a lot of HR woes including potential bad hires or employee churn. When it comes to your marketing, you also want to feel confident you’re working with experienced experts who understand your need to carve out a significant place for yourself online.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to find the right fit when hiring a digital marketing agency. Here we look at the characteristics you should be looking for to find an agency that meets your needs.

What Characteristics Should Your Small Business Look for When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Digital Marketing Strategists

We start here because your marketing goals are difficult to meet without a digital marketing strategy in place. An agency offering a digital marketing strategy will assess your goals and recommend the best channels to help you meet them. They look at the big picture ensuring you are everywhere you should be using tactics that help you achieve success.

An audit considers your current approach, what you have achieved, where you can improve and where you can find better opportunities to align with your needs. Whether you need to feed more qualified leads into your sales funnel, nurture existing customers, increase basket size, collect more email addresses, or increase brand awareness your strategy ensures your tactics fit the bill.

Content/Blog Development

An agency should specialize in content development, with a content strategy designed to help meet your goals. This should include writing blog posts of course because this is the best way to set the groundwork for your online presence. However, their role is to help you develop and maintain an effective content plan based on your audience and goals. For example, have you explored the addition of video content?

Video is the most engaging form of advertisement and marketing. This is an opportunity often overlooked by small businesses that feel they don’t have the talent, personality, or equipment to produce high-quality video. An agency should help you discover opportunities you haven’t considered to elevate your online presence.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Small Business Search Engine Optimization

SEO is at the heart of your online efforts and helps drive organic traffic to your website. Organic traffic is basically free, without investing in online ads. You need an SEO strategy to improve your visibility and attract the people looking for the products and services you offer. An SEO agency can include a wide variety of strategies and tactics all sharing the same goal: To boost the visibility of your business. When done well your initial investment leads to years of free advertising allowing you to remain at the top of the heap of search rankings.

Website Development

Building a website considers SEO, keywords, content, social media, ratings, and reviews. Every aspect of your site works together to create the best possible user experience. Your website is the foundation of your online presence, so it must be designed to look good and offer valuable content all while providing an easy, engaging user experience.

Therefore, a digital marketing agency should look at every aspect of your business and all the opportunities available to create a visitor-drawing site search engines can’t ignore. They also ensure your website pages are nice and “sticky” so visitors find what they need and remain engaged with the content available.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC offers the opportunity to enhance your organic SEO efforts and reach the ideal audience. They are an affordable marketing tactic as long as you know how to prepare an effective keyword strategy. You only pay for the clicks your ads receive, but you still want to make sure every click counts. The agency should offer expertise in PPC campaigns including the development, tracking, testing, refining, and optimizing of your ads to see the best ROI for your efforts. This is complicated stuff and requires expertise to understand the right keywords to bid on and the right audience to target without breaking the budget or attracting the wrong visitors.

Social Media

Social media is key to your online presence. The right agency gets your brand and uses their social media finesse to ensure you use the right channels. They also develop a strategy to improve brand engagement using social media marketing. This extra layer increases exposure, but with the right audience.

Small Business Social Media Marketing

Email Marketing

Email marketing is not just about sending out a newsletter, updates, special offers or ads to your mailing list. It also includes building an email list and understanding the importance of segmentation. An experienced digital marketing agency introduces the segmentation of your audience ensuring your emails are relevant to the recipient. By focusing on the stages of the customer journey the agency allows you to send targeted messages that improve the number of clicks and ultimately increase sales. They also monitor campaigns and measure effectiveness to constantly improve your results.

Online Review Management

Small Business Online Review Management

Your online reputation speaks volumes about your ability to deliver on your promises. Today more than ever, your online reviews are one of the most powerful, free marketing tools at your disposal. When you build ongoing, up-to-date reviews about your brand, level of service and products, people trust you. No one can offer a better advertisement than good old word of mouth. An agency focused on improving your online review process can offer more value than you realize. They build your online reputation using simple tactics that make it easier for your customers to post positive reviews or contribute testimonials for your website. Trust in your brand translates into more sales.

User Experience

All of the above services provide a well-rounded digital marketing agency ready and able to meet all your digital marketing needs. However, you also want an agency that focuses on improving user experience. Having attractive, engaging ads and social posts aren’t enough. They have to tie into a well-designed, properly functioning website with relevant landing pages. This provides a positive user experience ensuring you don’t lose prospects at a critical time in their customer journey.


All your marketing efforts can become completely ineffective if you don’t take the time to track your results. An agency must use analytics to measure its results so it can improve user experience. This also has a major impact on accountability. When an agency is accountable for its recommendations, it can stand behind its work and look for ways to remain effective. Their job is to identify what works and what doesn’t to ensure your marketing spend is seeing the best possible ROI. Details like ongoing website traffic development, the percentage of visitors that leave your site, the geographic areas people come from and the sources that generate the most conversions help you make informed decisions that positively impact your bottom line.

Small Business Performance Tracking

Local Business Specialists

There are plenty of digital marketing agencies out there offering very similar services. But what really helps is to find an agency with experience in your area. Local marketing expertise is critical for any small business relying on local customers. An agency that understands how to leverage the free tools provided by Google My Business can make a major impact on your online presence and the traffic your website receives. However, being local also means they have a better understanding of your community, the people who live there, and the unique challenges your location might present.

Experience in Digital Marketing

This is obvious, but often overlooked when considering digital marketing agencies. You should look for an agency with testimonials and reviews that support their claims. A company that doesn’t have a list of testimonials speaking to their ability to get results has two issues:

  1. They don’t have client love which means something is lacking and
  2. They don’t know the first thing about digital marketing if they don’t understand the importance of online reviews and reputation management.

An experienced agency has proof of their achievements and the value they get for your marketing dollars. They also offer superior service as a responsive company that never loses focus of your best interests.

Tried and Proven Methods

An experienced and knowledgeable agency remains on the leading edge of digital marketing trends. This is very important because it ensures you avoid costly, fleeting marketing fads younger, less experienced marketers might recommend. Proven tactics see the best value for your marketing spend. Because digital marketing is an ongoing investment, you need to avoid becoming a guinea pig for new “opportunities.” A good agency uses results-driven methods they discover on their own dime and the successes they achieve for their clients.

The work involved to execute your marketing plan is extensive. A digital marketing agency that not just provides a strategy but also executes and coordinates the elements and methods you adopt delivers the full spectrum of services you need.

We continue to help small business owners of all kinds achieve their goals. Will you be next? Get in touch today.

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