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The Best (and Worst) Question to Ask When Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency

You’re in the process of selecting a digital marketing agency and depending on where you are in that process, you’ve probably already completed the following tasks:

  • Narrowed your list of contenders
  • Thoroughly scoped out their portfolios
  • Scoured their websites for clues about everything from overall competence to company culture
  • Spoken to several of their past or current clients

Now — after all the research and the vetting, after some initial back-and-forth communication — it’s time for a phone call, face-to-face meeting or video chat with your top contender. If this is the case, then you’re no doubt preparing a list of insightful and challenging questions to help determine if the agency is a good fit.

So while now may seem like the perfect time to talk about the most important question you can ask during that interview, let’s start with the least important question to ask your prospective digital marketing agency. It’s a question far too many companies waste time and brain cells on — one that actually increases your risk of being disappointed down the road.

“Do You Have Any Specific Experience in My Industry?”

This is a tough question for many reasons and here’s a hypothetical scenario to help explain why.

Imagine for a moment that you are a giant client (say Budweiser, for example) who is seeking a new agency. Are you going to ask the contenders if they have any experience working for a beer company? Of course not. You’ve selected your finalists because they are outstanding companies, not because their roster of past clients includes beermakers. Plus, why would Budweiser want to limit its options to agencies that have worked with other beermakers? The answer is: they wouldn’t.

‘Industry Experience’ Overrated in Search for Digital Marketing Agency1-Question (1)

Some agencies achieve success by specializing in one industry or vertical market. But when agencies limit their focus to a particular area of interest, it generally means they believe they’ve discovered a formula that applies to all companies within that industry. This means it is exceedingly likely that they will fall back on what they’ve done before.

Warning: This heightens your risk of being served a boilerplate solution – and in the world of digital marketing, boilerplate is synonymous with mediocrity.

Asking the tired “industry experience” question puts the focus on what makes you similar to other businesses in your industry. When, in fact, to develop a successful marketing program the emphasis must be on celebrating what makes your business different. Special. Unique.

That’s why Marketing 101 places high priority on identifying your “unique selling proposition,” and why the need to be unique is emphasized at every step of the inbound marketing process.

So here’s a much better question to ask. For the purpose of discussion, let’s call it: The Most Important Question You Can Ask When Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency.

“How Will You Help Me Highlight My Uniqueness to Beat My Competition?”  

It’s All About the Process2-Strategy (1)

Behind every great agency there is a process tailored to help you discover, nurture and celebrate your uniqueness — to guide you in leveraging and showcasing that uniqueness to stand out from your competition.

So rather than fixate on whether an agency possesses or lacks experience with a particular type of company, you’ll develop a far more helpful understanding of what they bring to the table by grilling them about their process.

  • Ask about their ability to devise a custom program of digital marketing strategies tailored to each client’s individual needs and goals.
  • Ask what methods they’ll use to become an expert on your business and your industry.
  • Ask how their process enables them to achieve winning outcomes for clients regardless of industry.

The best agencies will have developed and fine-tuned a process that has proven successful for a broad range of interesting clients. In fact, don’t be surprised if they become so enthusiastic when talking about their process that it may be hard to shut them up.

They may not be experts about your business or your industry at the outset of this process, but they will be experts at conducting an initial and ongoing discovery process that is focused on inquiring, listening and fully understanding your business, your industry and your goals.

They will also be experts on using the unique information you’ve provided to begin talking about tactics and strategies for:

  • Improving search engine rankings for your most important keywords
  • Creating top-quality content that draws visitors to your company
  • Distributing your message to target audiences and tracking the results
  • Using data-driven analytics to continually adapt to new insights and optimize results
  • And, ultimately, generating new leads

The best digital marketing agencies are experts at becoming experts3-Experts (1)

They’ve invested in professional writers to sharpen and amplify your message. Their team will include SEO, social media and digital marketing specialists who understand how to put in place the ideal mix of strategies tailored specifically to your company. They are constantly educating themselves about the newest, most effective tools and tricks of the trade.

The ever-evolving art and science of digital marketing depends upon understanding and celebrating what is unique about each client and creating a custom mix of tactics designed to capitalize upon that uniqueness.

While it is certainly true that various industries differ from each other in significant ways, many businesses share two common characteristics: They want to increase sales of their product or service, and they rely on growing quality website traffic to generate new leads.

This means that, while a given company may operate in a niche industry, its goals are arguably somewhat universal – and actually quite familiar to top-notch digital marketing agencies whose mission is to help companies achieve such goals.

Here at Vital, we spend all day, every day working hard to help a diverse mix of clients achieve winning results. Contact us today to learn more about our highly creative, individualized, data-driven approach to brand strategy, website development and inbound marketing.


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