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May 1, 2023
The ad industry (or whatever we’re calling ourselves these days) has evolved drastically over the past few years. It’s become confusing and overwhelming for clients to decide which type of agency best suits their needs and goals. And we get that. With our long careers working in advertising agencies and then digital marketing shops, we understand the differences. Picking a Marketing Agency can be a daunting task. Here are some insights to help small and medium sized businesses on how to choose an advertising agency.
Big downtown Toronto agencies, media buying shops and content shops prefer to only work with Tier 1 accounts like Coke and Nike (and banks – they fight over banks). They charge a pretty penny for their services, love to congratulate themselves with awards and are an unrealistic option for the average business. But if you’re willing to pay for award-winning TV ads, they might be for you.
A creative agency is just that – and while they produce beautiful creative, they might not produce actual results. Plus, creative agencies still have to work with agencies like us to execute actual tactics. They also prefer to work with big brands.
Then, there’s the smaller ‘full service’ agency that’s usually run by elderly ad men who should have retired long ago (oh yeah, and their unwilling sons are being bred to take over). They started their agency in the 80’s and mostly sell traditional advertising services like tv, radio and print because that’s what they know. But, they decided to get into the digital marketing game recently because these dinosaurs are smart and recognized the income potential for themselves. Use these agencies for traditional, but beware of their digital services! They use offshore developers, don’t understand or value UX and haven’t even heard of this thing called SEO!! All joking aside (not really), there are good full service agencies (with younger CEOs) out there. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop, a full service agency can work – just be sure they have the right in-house subject matter experts who can help you in the short and long term.
There has been an uprising of these agencies in the past few years. Experiential translates to events. These are agencies who send brand ambassadors to events and festivals. If they have “Experiential” or “Brand Experience” in their copy, they are an experiential agency. You’ve seen their installations, pop-up shops and stunts that are filmed and posted on social media with the effort to get more exposure than to who was at the actual event. Experiential shops will take your money for digital projects but usually outsource any digital client project to companies like RainMaker. We’ve done digital kiosks for trade shows for one recently.
And finally, how to pick a digital marketing agency. Everyone calls themselves a digital agency lately. Millennial owners (bank of mom and dad) with all their candy and office arcades. Some are great (we admire some of our competitors a lot). A LOT are not. Some can produce glitzy videos and some don’t see the value of good creative at all.
Our Managing Director is the person who reaches out to hand-pick the clients we want to work with. She gets to hear from Marketing Directors and CEOs all the bad experiences of ‘being burned’ by other digital marketing agencies. There are a lot of bad actors out there!
Some offer web development and some don’t. If you need help with your website, make sure you’re asking lots of questions to understand an agency’s capabilities: Do you build websites or do you just ask for logins and update SEO and content? Do you have experience with eCommerce because there is a true skill to online shopping? Have you worked with B2B (if you are B2B) because there is a difference. What is your process? Do you use a UX designer or will you design my site on a napkin? Do you warranty your work or will you disappear the day my site is pushed live? What metrics will you be measuring? Do you offer a maintenance and security package?
Make sure you understand if the web developers are in-house or if they’re offshore. This is really important for the quality and security of your site. Buy Canadian! Also if they offer web dev, where do the servers sit?
As for traffic drivers to your site, what tactics do they offer and what strategy do they recommend for you? Is it custom or templated? Do they effectively drive leads to the website? Do their leads convert (are they qualified leads)? Do they understand how to get social media engagement (if they show you posts that have zero likes, comments and shares don’t use them)? Do they do SEO (if a digital shop doesn’t know how to SEO, do NOT use them). Do they understand what performance marketing is for B2B? What metrics do they report (if they report on impressions, run screaming)!
Hopefully this helps you narrow down who to start to talk to. Happy hunting for that long-term partner who makes you happy and challenges you to grow (it’s a lot like looking to get married). Make sure it’s ‘the one’!
If you need to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency – choose us! We’re a modern full-service digital marketing shop who can act as a full-service agency. Contact us to schedule a chat with our Managing Director (not a salesperson) on how we can help your business grow.