KEY TAKEAWAY: A good digital agency can provide great leadership in digital marketing, but a poor agency can drain resources and your budget. Finding the right digital agency is more about their understanding of “digital” and how well they can integrate with your team to provide brand driven results.
Here are some tips for hiring the right digital agency
(1) Make sure that their key executives have been there and actually done it – I have very little use for former pharma hacks who went into the agency side without actually launching a brand online and using digital marketing to make it grow. Anyone can come in and present a great “portfolio” of eye candy, but you need to ask what have they actually done that contributed to measurable brand objectives. If they give you soft metrics like website visitors than that is a warning sign.
(2) Ensure that they have the business savvy to integrate well with your company and brand team – In other words make sure they understand the barriers that need to be overcome to really take your digital marketing to the next level. This means potentially working with your MLR teams and giving you the data you need to help spearhead new digital initiatives.
(3) Is your key contact person available to talk with you on a moments notice ? – You never know when an idea is going to take seed and grow into a full blown great digital marketing initiative. Some of the best programs I ever developed were started on instant message between me and my account people.
(4) Don’t hire a digital agency that just hired an executive to lead health digital marketing – WARNING ! A lot of big agencies are trying to hire former pharma digital marketing people so they can get a slice of the shifting pharma dollars into digital. I would stay away from an agency like this and I would also stay away from really big agencies because unless you spend a lot of money you’re not going to get their “A” people.
(5) A good agency will feed you data on digital marketing to win over company influencers – Let’s face it, your MLR team does not know that much about digital marketing and need to be brought up to speed. Good agencies will supply you with a lot of data about the current digital marketing environment so they can learn what’s happening and why.
(6) No agency should come in and say “you should do this..” or “you need to..”. Until they actually know your brand, have access to your research and understand your target customer, including barriers to conversion, anything that potential agencies pitch is rubbish.
(7) Lay out the clear parameters of success and how it will be measured – Any agency can deliver a great looking website, but if that website doesn’t meet the need of your audience who the hell cares ? You need to come to an agreement on what success looks like and more importantly, how that success will be measured.
(8) A good agency will do what you tell them; a great agency will tell you when you have a bad idea and back away from implementing it rather than risk doing something for the sake of doing something that is really bad and a bad reflection on their work.
(9) A great agency will insist on doing more research, if it’s needed, and will not cut corners on website development – This means things like qual research with your target audience as well as usability testing. The minute you start cutting corners you’re sacrificing your digital marketing efforts.
(10) Finally a great agency will let the strategy lead the budget rather than let the budget dictate the strategy – I am not suggesting an open checkbook for a vendor but what I am saying is that a great agency will put all the pieces in place and develop a strategy before asking about a budget. I dollars are discussed early in any meeting than you’re agency is already thinking profit margin and how they get your work in and out with maximum dollars.