How to choose the right digital agency

INTRODUCTION: One of the most important factors in your digital initiatives’ success, or failure, is the agency you choose. A lot of agencies are competing for our business. Ensuring you have hired the right one is essential to your brand’s success on both the HCP and consumers’ sides.

Many CPG brands are bringing their digital marketing and media buying in-house to reduce costs and ensure that the digital strategies are aligned with key brand insights. Pharma companies, for the most part, still rely on outside digital agencies for their online work. Like anything, some agencies are better than others. Here are some of the things I learned in working with digital agencies at pharma.

1ne: How big are they? Many clients ask me why this matters, and my answer is always the same. I have found that smaller agencies tend to be more responsive to clients’ needs and only one point person for the account. Bigger agencies have to go through “channels” before submitting proposals or even simple communications, which can slow work down.

2wo: Do they understand YOUR audience? Agencies that come in with a “you should do this or that” without a complete understanding of your target audience and why they would be interested in your brand usually have a playbook they use for all clients. Prospective agencies should be asking you questions and listening, not pitching.

3hree: How are they limiting fraud for your online ad dollars? This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. What will they do to ensure your ads reach the right people and not click bots?

4our: Chemistry. When you “click” with someone, you feel it. Are you and the agency people on the same plane, or are you on a jet while they’re on a boat?

5ive: What do they use to measure success? The time is past for vanity metrics like “social media likes” and “website visitors”. They should be focusing on metrics like bounce rates, time on site, pages viewed, and content read.

6ix: Are they expensive? One of the requests I get from clients is to review agency proposals for media and website design. I have seen costs from low to high and usually ask permission to work with the agency directly to help identify where the money is spent. Make no mistake, bigger agencies need to cover their overhead, and it shows in proposals.

7even: How well with they integrate with your brand team? Another area that a lot of agencies need to develop. When I worked on the launch of Cialis, our digital agencies were always available via IM. This was a huge benefit for us.

8ight: Do they understand how online health seekers use the Internet? Prescription drug marketing is a lot different than selling CPG. Do they understand the need for a consistent message across the web, and how do they plan to ensure that online becomes a critical part of your strategy?

9ine: What is their process for developing branded content online? Who creates the content, and what is their experience? How is creative developed?

10en: Finally, can they seamlessly integrate with your brand team? They should be part of your team and not be seen as “just a vendor”.

You would think that most agencies know all these things, but I have seen new DTC managers who have been taken advantage of by aggressive agencies who see the client collect a lot of revenue. If you have a good agency, you should be sharing it with your colleagues and promoting them within your company so that when a new brand is ready to launch, selecting an agency is 90% done.