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Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Agency Isn't Easy


By De-de Mulligan


Believe it or not, I'm entering my 20th year in business. The first ten were spent in the events planning field. The next nine have been in the digital marketing arena. Times are changing, and it's time to shift my focus once again. Why? Because while the four Ps listed above are ageless, the way my team and I will be delivering our services will not be. 

Let me explain. 


2020 Digital Agency Factors 

  1. You have more agencies than ever before. 
    Someone asked me the other day how many competitors I have. I answered solemnly, "More than ever before." So for the growing small-to-medium sized business, it's hard to determine who you should call and what to believe. Over 50% of agencies believe increased competition has negatively affected them this year, according to a study by Wix. The good news? Wix recommends you hire local (within 100 miles of your company) marketing organizations so you can have face-to-face meetings that will hopefully build lasting relationships.

    We are focused on the vast NEO region, including Stow, Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, Boston Heights, Kent, Peninsula, Twinsburg, Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Warren. 


  2. Hire a firm that cares as much about your organization as you do. 
    You need an agency that can adapt quickly, analyze the crap out of the data, troubleshoot your problems, and make intelligent recommendations on future writings and postings. I worked with an organization today who was having trouble getting the blog posts I wrote posted on their website. I went into the site back end and published one blog. Guess what? The platform said it was posted, but it wasn't showing up. After a little pushing, the client opened a support ticket explaining the problem, and it was resolved. I could have said, "that isn't my problem," and moved on. When I see a problem, I try and help address it. 

  3. Find strategists. 
    Yes, you can use Fiverr, Gigster, or LinkedIn to find an inexpensive freelancer who will post whatever you want, whenever they can find the time. Yes, they'll be cheap, and maybe that person can deliver on time. But, let's face it, you don't know what you don't know -- and while their price might be good news for your bottom line -- what they deliver can be less than excellent.

    I spend at least 90 minutes a day consuming content about new platforms, algorithms, and trends. If you're going to pay someone to write your content, don't you want an agency that is strategic in their process and can share their knowledge with you? 

  4. Thinking of bringing talent in-house? Think again. 
    According to, a Digital Marketing Manager in Cleveland/Akron makes, on average $68,000 a year. When you add benefits to that the number, it jumps to $90,000. Pile on onboarding costs for the first year and you're well over $100,000 -- or roughly $8,000 a month.

    I can tell you that $8,000 a month will get you a ridiculous amount of digital content. Most of our clients don't need that much to tell their stories. Too little content affects your brand health but so does too much. It's all about producing the right amount consistently. 

  5. Find a firm that provides transparent billing. 
    I can share with you with high certainty that most agencies do not give you fixed price contracts or deliver detailed Statements of Work. They give you estimates and then when you press them for details, they give you a half-baked sheet that erodes your trust in them rather than building upon it. 

    The World Federation of Advertisers, researched clients' agency score when it came to billing. The outcome was 5.7 out of 10, where 10 was the highest trust factor. We give you "no surprise, no bullshit" billing. Most of our client engagements are fixed-price contracts.

  6. Work with an agency that understands brand health. 
    Next year, and some of this year, it's all about your brand. Who are you? What do you stand for? Why should anyone care? Features and benefits are not that much different between agency offerings. However, agencies that can tell your story by highlighting your journey, the people who made you successful, your organizational passions, and value-added statements are worth their weight in gold. 


  7. Look for authenticity. 
    I love Jay Baer, Seth Godin, and the folks at Hubspot. Why? Because they want to help people who want to get better at strategic digital marketing. They don't start out selling you things. Or boasting numbers that may or may not be accurate and there is no way to verify the information. They seek to understand your problems. They want a long term relationship with their clients. They help before they pitch. 

    My organization will do its best to deliver on our promise of clear, actionable, and consistent content. We can relate to small businesses because we are a small business. I understand the headaches of hiring, training, firing, coaching employees, and finding and keeping clients. If there is a problem, I will be the first one to tell you about it. I'm happy to share with you what I know -- no strings attached.  


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