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The economy’s rapid expansion into the online world has made digital marketing an essential part of the marketing mix. Digital marketing is a collection of all marketing initiatives that use the internet or an electronic gadget.
At present, Canada has over 30 million internet users—it’s one of the biggest online markets in the world. Canada’s digital audiences are projected to increase to 32 million users by 2022, making up almost 85% of the country’s population.
This tremendous growth in the online audience reinforces the need and evolution of digital marketing.
- 1 SO, WHAT IS DIGITAL MARKETING?
- 2 BENEFITS OF DIGITAL MARKETING
- 3 DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS FOR 2019
- 4 CASE STUDIES
- 5 Legal Services – Establishing Differentiation in a Competitive, Undifferentiated Market
- 5.1 Building trust and credibility when public perception of the industry’s not positive.
- 5.2 In-depth research on consumer behaviour led to USP.
- 5.3 Creating a go-to brand.
- 5.4 The strategy was approved on the spot.
- 5.5 Revolutionized how people think about legal services.
- 5.6 A strategic digital marketing campaign to generate website traffic and leads.
- 5.7 What can we do for you?
- 6 Branding and Positioning in the Crowded US Consumer Electronics Space
- 6.1 The rise and fall of start-ups.
- 6.2 Sum Products — standing out as a start-up.
- 6.3 We created a unique positioning strategy for the defined audiences.
- 6.4 The key message: your life + infinite possibilities.
- 6.5 Cutting through the noise.
- 6.6 The campaign resulted in a 100% increase in website traffic.
- 7 DIGITAL MARKETING SCOPE OF WORK
- 8 25 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HIRING A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY
- 8.1 What are you looking for?
- 8.2 Learn the Topline of Digital Marketing
- 8.3 Budgeting
- 8.4 Do your research
- 8.5 Physician, Heal Thyself!
- 8.6 Case Studies
- 8.7 What Are Other People Saying?
- 8.8 Agency Social Media Profiles
- 8.9 To Blog Or Not To Blog?
- 8.10 Your List
- 8.11 Getting Ready
- 8.12 Remember Who’s Hiring Whom
- 8.13 Who Are They Working With?
- 8.14 Do They Outsource Work?
- 8.15 Setting Expectations
- 8.16 Everyone’s Favorite Word: Free
- 8.17 Meet Your New Partners
- 8.18 Prices and Contracts
- 8.19 Don’t Just Settle
- 8.20 Agency Processes and You
- 8.21 Your Corporate Privacy
- 8.22 More Learning: Agency Tools
- 8.23 Consider Agency Rankings
- 8.24 Where Do You Find Those Lists?
- 8.25 When All’s Said And Done
- 9 HOW TO CREATE A DIGITAL MARKETING PLAN
- 10 TOP 10 DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCIES IN VANCOUVER
SO, WHAT IS DIGITAL MARKETING?
Digital marketing includes specific efforts to impact your brand’s online presence, including search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing, digital display advertising, games, e-commerce marketing and much more. The internet has become the medium of choice, with digital media as a part of everyday life for most consumers. It’s the primary source of news consumption, networking, research and references, shopping and plenty of other tasks.
BENEFITS OF DIGITAL MARKETING
Digital marketing is the next era in marketing trends; it involves strategic planning and provides direct access to consumers. Digital marketing has several benefits:
Most consumers begin their buying journey online. In online marketing, consumers can be filtered based on search histories, interests, hobbies, demographics, and purchase habits, thus allowing you to reach your target audience directly. The internet not only provides access to a massive number of consumers at the same time but also lets you offer them personalized content matching consumer interests/needs.
With traditional marketing, it’s not always possible to get a quantitative analysis of results. However, with digital marketing tactics such as search engine marketing, you receive a report which includes real-time analytics and detailed audience demographic information. It removes the hassle of figuring out what’s working or not working. The report provides valuable insight into the performance of your campaigns such as email open rates and clicks, and there’s always room to pivot the direction for as needed based on the campaign’s success.
Traditional marketing methods are generally expensive, often reaching up to six-figure investments. It’s nearly impossible for companies with a small budget to compete with large organizations. However, digital marketing is an extremely cost-effective avenue, with companies getting better results for their marketing spend. Digital marketing tactics have a low cost of entry into avenues such as online digital advertisements, pay-per-click, social media ads. Although search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media engagement tactics take time to show results, digital ads and social media ads produce quick results.
Digital marketing provides room for smaller organizations to remain competitive in a crowded market, still giving them a voice to stand out from the pack.
Most of your customers are online, and now you can reach them directly. By using relevant keywords, you can reach more qualified buyers online through search engine optimization. Digital marketing can also help you reach consumers using mobiles, tablets, or desktops.
The best part about digital marketing is that customers are just a few clicks away. Through targeted content, you can narrow down on your ideal buyer, and they don’t have to pick up the phone or go to the store to make a purchase. You get a higher return on your investment, as consumers get all the information they need without investing the time or effort that’s usually involved in the traditional purchase decision process. The digital purchase process usually quick and seamless.
DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS FOR 2019
Artificial intelligence will change the world of marketing—it analyzes consumer behaviour and search patterns, and utilizes social media to help businesses understand how people make purchase decisions. Companies that adopt AI in 2019 will get an edge over competitors, save costs, and accelerate growth. From content marketing to chatbots, AI has its presence in various avenues that assist brand development.
An AI-based technology, chatbots talk to customers and site visitors in real-time, day or night, using instant messaging. Chatbots are responsive, respond promptly, accurately recall customers’ entire buying history, and are always patient so it’s no surprise that many customers prefer interacting with them.
Chatbots provide outstanding customer service, meet customers’ expectations and automate repetitive tasks, allowing companies to focus on higher priorities. At present, 1.4 billion people interact with chatbots—by 2022, businesses will save over $8 billion each year using chatbots.
Programmatic advertising is changing the world of advertising. Programmatic advertising is the use of AI to automate ad buying to help target specific audiences. It involves real-time bidding or auctions and is efficient and fast. This leads to high conversions and low customer acquisition costs. Almost 90% of online display ads will be programmatic by 2020.
Key content marketing trends for 2019 will be:
- A more strategic approach to content marketing: with many businesses now having a holistic content marketing strategy, supporting audience engagement and leads/sales generation.
- Focus on content quality based on a more in-depth understanding of personas.
- New roles and structure to support content marketing activities as investment increases.
- Improved measurement of content marketing effectiveness.
Influencer marketing involves using key people in a given field to get your brand’s message out. Instead of marketing directly to a group of consumers, you pay the influencer to reach his audience. It’s similar to word-of-mouth, and your brand’s message is shared through a credible source trusted by the mass. People generally trust consumer opinions over corporate statements, so getting your brand’s message out through a credible influencer is optimal.
Paid and Earned Media
Advertising and PR complete the picture of digital channels. The big winners for 2018 were native advertising and video advertising — which we can expect to continue to be relevant in 2019 — given that video advertising overtook display advertising for the first time.
- Facebook | Static or declining use in most age groups, except for the 55+ age group, which is now the largest number of users
- Instagram | Increased usage across all age groups with the largest, Adults 25 -34, followed by Adults 18-24.
- Snapchat | The largest increase and biggest user group is again Adults 25-34, showing that Snapchat isn’t just for teens. There are also increases in users in older age groups which are not far behind the younger age groups in adoption levels.
- It’s expected that Instagram ad spending will continue to increase in line with increased usage and better advertising options on the platform. Recent data shows that Facebook ad spending grew 40% VYA (2018); the ad spend on Instagram soared 177% during the same period.
There’s currently an increased use of Facebook Messenger, which is an opportunity. Facebook reports on the importance of Messenger: 1.3 billion people used Messenger every month; 8 billion messages were exchanged between people and businesses every month; 78% of people with smartphones used messaging every month. As well as targeted sponsored ads, use of Messenger for conversations is a significant trend.
Legal Services – Establishing Differentiation in a Competitive, Undifferentiated Market
Consumer and Market Research Formulation, Positioning Strategy, Branding Strategy, Legal Services Brand Identity, Repositioning, Brand Architecture, Service Structuring, Product Development, Advertisement.
Building trust and credibility when public perception of the industry’s not positive.
Lawyers have quite the reputation — public opinion involves a low level of trust and perceives lawyers as lacking empathy, with a primary focus on charging high fees. My Loud Speaker disrupted the legal services category with unique branding and positioning campaign.
When the client, Hammerberg Lawyers, first walked into My Loud Speaker offices, they were only looking for a campaign to promote their legal practice in light of the new ICBC cap for minor injuries. However, when My Loud Speaker’s creative team worked on the messaging strategy, they realized that the brand architecture and the structure of Hammerberg Lawyers’ services created a significant roadblock for effective consumer communication.
In-depth research on consumer behaviour led to USP.
According to consumer research, if the current brand were to be rebranded and positioned with a USP that differs from the conventional and over-communicated benefits of hiring a lawyer, it would be an advantage for the client over the existing competition.
Our strategy team analyzed the consumer motivations and factors influencing purchase decision; we identified differentiation points using strategically planned consumer and neuro research, which showed us that hiring a lawyer caused cognitive dissonance among consumers. Although the cognitive dissonance still led consumers to well-known brands, coupled with the lack of trust for the legal industry, consumers were still uncertain whether they made the right decision.
Creating a go-to brand.
Research and analysis conducted by the agency, along with a separate study conducted by our strategy team in consumer behaviour, market perception and competitor analysis, revealed that there was an opportunity to be explored if the brand was restructured based on two service divisions: corporate and contingency based.
Our recommendation was to create a new brand, with the right positioning and tone of voice, to turn this behavioural insight into a breakthrough positioning opportunity, thereby disrupting the legal services industry and standing out from the pack.
The strategy was approved on the spot.
My Loud Speaker created comprehensive strategic and tactical roadmaps for splitting the service and brand, which was a 12-month action plan and required a multi-million dollar investment. The roadmaps were presented together with a 200-page strategy document and research findings — the client approved the strategy on the spot.
The only (but expected) challenge we faced was a demonstration of the necessity for and potential of such a big project to our client. Following approval, we walked the client through every step to relieve the stress of change — after all, they had to shift how they worked and thought about their business completely. We also explained all the next steps and the challenges these changes may create for the client; the comprehensive strategy and roadmaps prepared by the agency were highly instrumental in illustrating the potential.
Revolutionized how people think about legal services.
That’s how Helpforme was born: a personal, positive, and facilitative personal legal services brand positioned to change consumers’ associations and how people think about legal services.
My Loud Speaker developed the new brand name based on extensive behavioural research. We designed the corporate identity, brand maps, brand character, and also provided the client with marketing and business consultancy and internal training to make the transition as smooth as intended.
In less than three months, My Loud Speaker created all the brand, marketing communications, and new product development strategies. We also implemented the plan and created the branding elements within that period through agile planning and by using breakthrough design-thinking models for effective (and efficient) creative resource utilization.
A strategic digital marketing campaign to generate website traffic and leads.
My Loud Speaker worked as business partners for Helpforme; through a strategic digital campaign, our digital team drove traffic Helpforme’s new website and generated leads. My Loud Speaker developed, implemented, and managed the entire SEM campaign. The business objective of the digital campaign was straightforward: to generate 85 leads by the end of the campaign with a specified Cost Per Acquisition. The campaign, which launched in October 2018, had impressive results in just one month:
- Nearly 3,500 website visitors (more than 98% were new visitors)
- Average daily visitors +/- 180
- 73 qualified leads
- Mid-way through November, 58 leads were generated
- Cost Per Acquisition met the campaign’s specified target
What can we do for you?
My Loud Speaker acts as a shadow marketing department for clients to actively identify any potential challenges they may face and works proactively towards preventing them. In addition to that, clients have 24/7 access to the account managers and our creative team which helps both My Loud Speaker and the client identify and implement solutions to any challenges that may arise. Our clients know that My Loud Speaker works in their best interest.
This case is one of many examples of the work that we do. My Loud Speaker creates sound strategies, marketing communication campaigns, brand positioning, and rebranding (among other services) based on extensive research and market knowledge, depending on the needs of each client.
Branding and Positioning in the Crowded US Consumer Electronics Space
Brand Awareness, Product Positioning in Consumer Goods/Consumer Electronics Market, Start-up Marketing, Digital Marketing, Media Planning, and Advertising.
The rise and fall of start-ups.
Start-ups rise and fall all the time because they don’t have a clear direction. While there may be a vision, it’s important to have marketing management strategies in place to ensure that the company grows quickly and works efficiently. It’s also essential to keep the company’s long-term growth and success in mind and plan accordingly.
Sum Products — standing out as a start-up.
In Silicon Valley’s crowded space of tech start-ups and consumer electronics, My Loud Speaker had to launch a campaign to set one brand apart. Sum Products released its latest innovation, +sum DIAL, a wireless charger with a beautiful design and 360-degree rotation — the only wireless charger of its kind in the market. However, the consumer electronics market is flooded with cool gadgets and products from various tech start-ups. How did My Loud Speaker distinguish Sum Products among the competition?
My Loud Speaker truly knows, understands, and works in collaboration with start-ups. We not only handle branding, marketing communications, and positioning strategies but work as business partners invested in the client’s long-term growth and success.
We created a unique positioning strategy for the defined audiences.
Based on initial research, My Loud Speaker determined that the best way to stand out among a crowd of tech and consumer electronics start-ups is to aim bigger and be better in terms of branding and marketing communications. My Loud Speaker identified two consumer segments as potential buyers of the product:
- Lifestyle consumers who value design, aesthetics, and premium products
- Early adopters of technology
We broke down the target audiences further using demographic and psychographic segmentation, and recommended a brand awareness campaign to establish Sum Products as a major player in the consumer goods market, and increase its product visibility. My Loud Speaker developed a positioning strategy that branded Sum Products as a premium brand with sophisticated products, not meant for the everyday consumer.
The key message: your life + infinite possibilities.
My Loud Speaker suggested a traditional and digital advertising campaign to the client, one that was a strong mix of mainstream new media placements — it was approved, planned, and successfully implemented in less than two months. Why is this special?
Cutting through the noise.
With large, well-known brands, such as Sony and Apple, were launching their wireless chargers, Sum Products really had to compete with its modest ad budget. As a new brand, gaining awareness in the mainstream market isn’t easy, but our media plan, which utilized some of the most popular new media outlets, gave Sum Products tremendous brand exposure.
With a comprehensive media and communications plan, and a digital marketing strategy, My Loud Speaker ran a strong campaign during the busiest shopping season — December 2018 — and cut through the noise. From running ad spots on some of the most consumed US new media, such as Hulu and podcasts including Dirty John, 9to5Mac, and WNYC’s The New Yorker Radio Hour, My Loud Speaker developed and implemented a robust media plan.
The campaign resulted in a 100% increase in website traffic.
We also ran a social media campaign as well as a digital marketing campaign to increase brand visibility and attract more consumers to Sum Products’ website. The assets for the ad spots and social media were also developed by our creative team very quickly, showing yet again that My Loud Speaker can deliver a high-quality campaign in a brief period through efficient resource allocation. In the first week, the Sum Products website reported a 100% increase in traffic. Also in the first week, 91 major media outlets picked up the story. Looking forward, MLS will manage the Sum Products brand and the launch of its future products for key US markets.
DIGITAL MARKETING SCOPE OF WORK
The best digital marketing agencies have a clear strategy in place that supports their client’s goals. Digital marketing has provided a new way to tap into potential customers, promote brand awareness, and increase sales. Depending on the goals of the client, marketers can support a larger campaign through digital marketing tactics.
Here’s some information on of the most common digital marketing tactics and the channels involved in each one.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of receiving website traffic to your site through free, organic, editorial search results. It optimizes your website to “rank” it higher in search engine results, thereby increasing the visibility of your site and its traffic.
The channels that benefit from SEO include:
Content marketing denotes the creation and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract and retain a specific audience and to drive them to action. It helps to increase sales and attracts quality customers relevant to your brand. The channels that can be used in your content marketing strategy include the following:
- Blog posts
- Ebooks and whitepapers
- Online brochures and lookbooks
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing involves the use of social media platforms to promote your product, service, or organization. It can be used to increase brand awareness, drive sales, increase website traffic, and generate leads for your business. These are some of the channels used in social media marketing:
Pay-per-click or PPC is a type of internet advertising in which the advertiser pays a publisher every time the brand’s ad is clicked. Clicks are a way to measure interest in a particular product, brand, or service. Channels where you can use PPC include:
- LinkedIn Sponsored Messages
- Google AdWords allows you to pay for top ranks on Google’s search engine results
- Facebook Ads
- Promoted Tweets on Twitter
This is a type of performance-based advertising where the affiliate receives a commission for promoting a business’ products or services on their website. It’s performance-based marketing in which in the business rewards/awards the affiliate for every customer he/she brings in.
Affiliate marketing channels include:
- YouTube Partner Program Video Ads
- Sharing affiliate links on your social media accounts
- Affiliate links on your website/blog
Native advertising refers to advertisements or sponsored content that that blend with the editorial content on a website and match the look, feel, and tone of unpaid content. BuzzFeed sponsored articles are a good example of native advertising, but many people also consider social media advertising to be “native” such as Facebook and Instagram advertising.
Marketing automation refers to software that serves to automate your basic marketing operations. Many repetitive tasks that would otherwise be done manually can be automated, such as:
- Email newsletters
- Social media post scheduling
- Contact list updating
- Lead-nurturing workflows
- Campaign tracking and reporting
Email marketing refers to the use of emails to promote your product, service, or organization. Companies also use email marketing to communicate with their audiences and keep them updated on the latest news. Email marketing can also drive traffic to the business’ website. An email marketing campaign may include the following:
- Follow-up emails to website visitors who downloaded something
- Customer welcome emails
- Holiday promotions to loyalty program members
- Tips or similar series emails to nurture customers
Much like traditional PR, online PR is the practice of securing earned media coverage on digital publications, blogs, and other content-based websites. The channels used for online PR are:
- Outreach to secure media placements/editorial coverage on digital news sites
- Connecting with reporters and media outlets via social media
- Engaging with online reviews of your company
- Engaging with comments on your website or blog
Inbound marketing is the process of attracting, engaging, and retaining visitors on your website. Every digital marketing tactic listed above can be used in an inbound marketing strategy.
25 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HIRING A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY
What are you looking for?
You likely know that you need to have a digital presence, but why? Do you want to build brand awareness, or develop an e-commerce site? Are you looking for social media management, or a (relatively) simple website design? Do you already have a website, but are looking for a better customer journey? Your needs will determine the right kind of digital marketing agency to approach.
While most digital marketing agencies can do all of the above, some are, simply, better than others in certain areas. We recommend looking for those “rock-star” agencies that can do it all, and beautifully.
How long do you envision working with them? A website redesign is a one-off project, with a discrete start and end date. If you’re looking for on-going social media management, that’s a longer-term commitment. You’ll be working with these folks for a while; fit is important.
Learn the Topline of Digital Marketing
Not everything, of course — that’s what you’re hiring an agency for — their expertise. However, you need to know what’s available in the digital marketing sphere 1) to determine your own business needs and goals, and 2) to be able to know what to ask the digital marketing agencies you’re considering. There’s so much information available on the web to teach yourself, and you undoubtedly know others who work in the IT realm who can help you understand the basics. That way you’ll know both your business needs and what an agency can offer to help you with.
This is tricky because you’re entering a Wild West of pricing. Costs for a digital marketing agency depend on 1) what you’re seeking to do, and 2) the varied costs of various digital agencies. Prices can range from under $10,000 to $100,000 or more. Obviously, if you’re doing something simple (a graphic redesign of your website) or complex (setting up an e-commerce capability), the prices you hear will rise accordingly.
Again, this is a time when it’s good to discuss with any formal or informal business advisors you might have: peers in the industry with whom you have a good and trusted relationship, friends, possibly your accountant if you have one. There’s no standardized pricing here: a small-to-medium sized agency may charge lower rates than a very large one, used to dealing with bigger budgets.
Still, you’re the only one who knows how much you can afford. Pick a price range you can manage (remember, this is investment spending) and keep it in the back of your mind when you’re meeting with digital agencies.
Do your research
This may sound simplistic, but … go to the web! Any digital agency will — or should have — a robust website showcasing themselves and their work. What services do they offer? Who are their clients? Do they have any “success” case studies? (They should.) Any sound digital marketing agency will have a LinkedIn profile, too. And of course, there will be all the basic housekeeping information: their staff profiles (the key players, at least), their location, and their contact information.
A lot of it comes down to your personal “net takeaway” — how do you feel about them? Is their website attractive and welcoming? What sort of personality do you feel the agency has? Add or exclude them from your list as you see and feel accordingly.
Physician, Heal Thyself!
In short, a digital marketing agency should have a great website. If they don’t take pains with their website, what does that say about what they provide their clients? (That said, some agencies are so busy with maximizing their clients’ digital work that they neglect their own. A little sympathetic latitude may be called for here.)
Regardless, some things must be there: attractive and engaging web pages, starting from the landing page itself, sophisticated design, intuitive and easy navigation, the basic information you need where you expect to find it.
Case studies of what they’ve done for their client is important — that could be you, after all — but an unattractive/difficult to navigate website doesn’t bode well for their work. Again, it comes down to personal feeling: did you enjoy the experience of their website? Did it engage and inspire you?
Almost every digital agency (and certainly, most of the traditional advertising agencies) have a “success story/testimonial” page(s) on their website. They can either outline a client’s challenge, and how they overcame it, and/or personal testimonials from their clients. These are important. These are real people, who’ve paid good money to work with the agency and had a positive outcome as a result of it.
You can also see if the agency is a good fit with your size of business, small-medium, or large. Pay particular attention to any case studies that are similar in nature to your business, either by size or by what you’re seeking in services.
Ultimately, it’s the experience you’re going to have that counts. Case studies, or success stories or testimonials are significant, but not a deal-breaker. What’s important is how the prospective agency treats you, your particular needs, and helps you achieve your business goals.
What Are Other People Saying?
This refers to former/current client testimonials, which we’ve already discussed, but far more importantly, independent digital media platforms, such as Google or Yelp reviews. If you can find such reviews — and there aren’t all that many — they’re extremely valuable because they’re unbiased reviews on independent platforms.
Although many people do this after an agency has presented to them, you might want to check out their testimonials. You can either find them yourself or ask the agency for their clients’ contact information. There’s nothing better than a voice-to-voice interaction: if anything sounds iffy or negative, you can probe for details. Almost always, though, you’ll get nothing but a positive reference: it is, after all, why the agency chose them.
Agency Social Media Profiles
An agency’s social media presence is particularly important if you’re seeking social media management. Of course, any agency that professes to be particularly strong in social media should have an outstanding presence there themselves. However, for the greater majority:
Having a corporate LinkedIn page is price-of-entry: every agency should have one, period. It’s as essential a tool as it is to a job-seeker. The agency’s LI profile should be like a corporate resume, providing a snapshot of services offered and details about the company structure and staff. You can also use LinkedIn to research the people you’ve noted from their About Us section on their website. Find out more about their skills and past experience.
Having a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram fall into the nice-to-have category. It’s great to see the more human side of the agency, and the information these platforms provide can often be informative. They may have posted information about new business wins, success stories — and they might even have responded to negative posts, which is an interesting way to get a sense of their corporate personality and how they deal with difficult situations.
That said, the agency is probably pretty busy managing social media posts and platforms for their clients. In a brief, local survey, we found that many agencies hadn’t added content for the past two years!
That’s not a bad thing — managing LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are a full-time job in itself. It could well be a sign that the agency is too busy focusing on client work instead. So this one’s a toss-up.
To Blog Or Not To Blog?
If the digital marketing agencies you’re looking at have blogs, these can be a good indicator of the quality of their work. They’ll likely be writing on digital topics, and you’ll get a sense of personality from them. Do they sound like they know their work? Are they authoritative? Do they back up facts and stats with research? What’s the tone of their “voice”: friendly, aloof; casual, formal? Are the blog posts recent? Are they dealing with new issues in digital marketing, and thereby keeping up to date?
Blogs are particularly important if you’re seeking content generation — that is, an editorial about your company. Someone at the agency has to write it, and you’ll get a good sense of the quality of their work. If you’re seeking SEO — Search Engine Optimization — cast a judicious eye at their own SEO and keywords.
By this time, you’re probably narrowing down your long list to a short one. The more you’ve explored, the more you’ve learned about what digital marketing agencies can do to help grow your business. And you’ve also likely got a sense of who you might like to work with based on their size, client base, and past experience.
It’s best to contact, then set up meetings with a number of agencies (not more than four, say) and meet with them all within a two-week window. Some will want to do a phone interview with you first, to see if your company and their agency are a good fit for one another. This is pretty standard practice. If you then agree to meet in person, you’ll likely be in for a presentation about the agency, and possibly about your own business category. (Maybe even your business, or business model).
Meeting with the agencies within a narrow window of time is like conducting job interviews: you get a good sense of comparison among the candidates. You’ll be able to assess strengths and weaknesses, their sense of budget versus your own, and possibly most important of all — fit, between you/your team and the people you meet.
Establish your Top Ten list of questions, based on your business goals, your budget, and what you’ve learned about digital marketing agencies. The agency will undoubtedly have some sort of agenda prepared, but it’s important not to lose sight of your own questions. The biggest, overarching questions are simple ones: What can you do to help me reach my business goals? How can you prove it?
For the latter question, they’ll likely illustrate what they’ve done for clients with similar business goals, which is, at this stage, a fair reply. Until you’re actually working with them, defined goals won’t be set. And if someone does guarantee something like a 100% increase in web traffic, be wary right away. No digital marketing agency of good repute will make a definitive claim such as that without fully exploring your business and developing plans with defined and achievable metrics.
And remember, you’re coming to them precisely because they offer expert counsel. It’s all right to say I don’t know or to ask them to explain something you don’t understand. That’s their job: to walk you through the complex digital marketplace arm-in-arm.
Remember Who’s Hiring Whom
A good agency is like a business partner or a dependable employee. It’s assumed that they’ll be more than capable, they’ll be leaders on your digital journey. But you’re in the hiring seat here, so you need to make sure that besides value for money, there’s a good fit between you, the agency, and the individuals who’ll be working on your business. Be a demanding yet fair client, and you’ll be one of the agency’s favorites. Agencies like clients who ask smart questions: they’ll respect you for it.
Who Are They Working With?
If you’re talking to agencies with big clients (a department store, a phone company, a government department) they’ll be used to working with a large organization — with correspondingly big budgets and big demands. You could — in the worst case — drop to the bottom of the priority list if there’s a time crunch within the agency. Most agencies are adept at juggling their client roster, and won’t take on a small client if they can’t provide excellent client service. Some agencies, however, could … and it’s important to figure out where you fit in the landscape of their clients. Remember, if they take you on as a client, you have every right to expect the same calibre of service they provide to their largest client.
Some agencies have carved out niches for themselves in a certain category, or size of business — that is, they may specialize in SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises). Unless you’re a large, established firm, an agency with a strong SME client roster could be a good fit for you. They understand limited budgets and the knowledge level of their clients. As well, if an agency under consideration specializes in SMEs their local knowledge should be outstanding. Naturally, you need to ask them about their current client list to avoid any conflicts of interest with your company/category.
Do They Outsource Work?
Outsourcing work is very common in the marketing and advertising industries — freelancers are hired in some of the biggest agencies in the biggest cities. Agencies often don’t mention that unless asked specifically… so it’s important to ask. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing work, but it means that you’ll have someone working on your business who you may not have met. Why go to all the trouble of meeting your new team, then?
That said, if you trust your agency’s judgement, you can trust it to extend to the people they hire. It’s a very common practice — so common, in fact, that most agencies maintain a stable of freelancers they know and can rely upon to deliver work to their standard.
Still, it’s good to know, and a fair question to ask.
Just as you would with one of your own employees, scope-of-work expectations need to be clear and mutually agreeable from the outset of your relationship with a digital marketing agency. You need to be as clear and as transparent as possible while outlining your business objectives and goals; the agency needs to be just as clear in stating what they can deliver.
A good agency will always want to exceed your expectations; a lesser agency will agree with whatever you say, which is not what you’re paying for. You’ve hired an agency as expert counsel, and no good expert will guarantee results in the multi-factored digital world. One example would be guaranteeing X number of visitors to your website as a result of a social media campaign. A precise number isn’t feasible, while an approximate goal or objective is.
Be clear and candid with your agency, and tell them you expect the same in return. That way your relationship will be fair and honest — and with no surprises on either side.
Find Out How They Do What They DoYou have every right to ask your agency how they do their jobs. While they may not give you every single detail — this is complex work, after all — a good digital marketing agency is usually happy to share their working methods. Usually, they’re proud to detail the kind of rigorous thinking and planning that goes into a digital marketing campaign. As well, they’ve probably done some deep research digging into your company’s category, and want you to know about it — and how they’ve really turned out a unique approach for you.
Almost always, a strategic considerations presentation will precede any work that a digital marketing agency performs. After all, they need your approval to go down that recommended strategic road and get to the next step of executing the plan. They’ll tell you how they arrived at their strategy and considerations, why they chose the route they chose, and explain how it can be executed.
Being a good agency means including the client in the work; being a good client means working with the agency when they need you.
Everyone’s Favorite Word: Free
It’s an accepted good-agency practice to offer a free overview of your existing web initiatives, if you have them. Digital marketing agencies rely heavily on analytical tools that can easily be deployed on your website to examine your number of visitors, how many times they’ve visited, which pages they’ve bounced off, which pages they’ve lingered on. They can also audit your content, examining it for SEO.
It’s good information for you: some free tips will likely be included, if not self-evident in the audit. And it’s good preparatory information for a digital marketing agency. They can see the scope of work at hand (the overview), and theorize about the strategies that would be required to improve your digital marketing efforts. As well, they’ll be able to give you a much more accurate estimate of what their services will cost.
Meet Your New Partners
If it isn’t offered, it’s certainly something to ask for: before you sign with a certain agency, make sure you meet with all the people who’ll be working on your business. Emails and phone calls are well and good, but they can’t replace being in the same room with the people working on behalf of your company. Any agency worth its salt will make sure this step happens, but if for some reason it doesn’t, insist upon it.
Prices and Contracts
Never lose sight of what you set out in Step 1 What are you looking for?, and Step 3 Budgeting. The question that remains is whether what you want and what you can afford meet realistically.
This is where clear and candid discussion with a digital marketing agency is critical to your business objectives, your expectations, and your experience with the agency should you proceed with them. Some agencies offer both standard plans and custom plans. For instance, they may bundle website redesign and SEO for a flat rate. The more sophisticated digital marketing agencies usually don’t standardize: they tailor their services to each and every customer.
Most agencies work on a flat-fee project basis, with clear guidelines of scope of work and expected outcomes. (Again, these are best guess/estimated outcomes, not a flat, defined number). This works out well for both parties: clients get to remain relatively loose in their connection with the agency, paying fee-for-service; the agency has the latitude to finish the project earlier than a defined contract time might specify — or later, if the need arises. In short, it’s project completion-based, not timeline-based.
Don’t Just Settle
Negotiate the deal you’re striking with a digital marketing agency. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all digital marketing plan (from reputable agencies) and you may be faced with some options that you’d like to have but simply can’t afford. That’s where negotiation comes in — and a test of how the agency listens to you and respects your budget. As well, you may want to be more involved in the project, say, or have a greater transparency between client and agency: these are all qualitative things to be negotiated.
Remember to always keep your budget in mind: those are tight parameters you can’t shift. You may be able to negotiate amortized payments with an agency, paying for the total through a monthly retainer.
Negotiating can sometimes be daunting, but press ahead — it’ll show you as the professional you are.
Agency Processes and You
All digital marketing agencies have work processes, and you have every right to be a part of them. This can include how you work with your contact person (usually, an assigned account manager), an approximated timeline for results, and the agency’s reporting of project status, work hours, and best ways to stay in contact.
Face-to-face meetings, too, are up for discussion: when and why those meetings should occur might be spelled out — or left on a TBD basis while the work proceeds. Whatever the mode of contact you have with your agency, they should be almost-immediately available, by phone, text, email or (within a reasonable time) a F2F meeting.
Your Corporate Privacy
Protect your corporate details and information with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Over time, your agency will be privy to confidential information about your company — your financials, and your business objectives and goals. If/when you stop collaborating, you wouldn’t want competitors to know your innermost organizational details. An NDA protects you after your project is complete and you and your agency have parted ways.
More Learning: Agency Tools
Digital marketing agencies use myriad technical tools to mine data, and track performance of the work they do for you. You don’t need to be an expert to know about digital analytics and other tools, but having overview knowledge would help.
This could be particularly useful information before you begin meeting with agencies: it’ll help you determine the differences between each agency, and how up-to-date they are in their technology. You may also want to look at sample data reports, or the reports on performance they show their clients. It should be clear and easy to understand — and at the end of the day, reports are the one tangible product an agency delivers to you.
Some agencies may demonstrate proof-of-performance to you with online reports, accessible by a web link. Ask to see one of those, too. Some reports can be extremely complex, and you’ll need someone at the agency to walk you through them. Knowing what the agency’s end-product looks and reads like should be part of your decision-making process.
No matter what tools they use, digital marketing agencies must prove that they have up-to-the-minute data collection, how they use it to report to you, and the reports themselves, which need to be clear and make sense. Good and reputable data, clearly presented, is what a digital marketing agency should provide.
Consider Agency Rankings
(With a grain of salt.) Agency rankings can be useful, because to make it to the top of the list (think Google here) agencies know the steps involved in getting there. That’s where you want to be to, so if they appear on a list of “best digital marketing agencies”, it shows they know their stuff. That said, there are all the other factors we’ve discussed: successful case studies, their familiarity with your company’s category, price and fit. Being in a Top Ten list is great, but certainly not the only way you should rank your list of candidates.
Where Do You Find Those Lists?
Google is a good place to start, and don’t just limit yourself to “digital marketing agencies”. A lot of “marketing agencies” and “advertising agencies” deliver extremely good digital marketing, and a whole lot more. For instance, you might need to develop collateral materials (letterhead, envelopes, business cards, etc.) that match your new website graphic design. Some digital marketing agencies either can’t produce such things, or outsource them. You may be better served by searching for a full-service marketing agency, with a strong skew towards digital work. That way, you can keep all the work under one roof, and achieve economies of scale with art direction and graphic design.
While you can work with an agency in a different city — and these days, it’s entirely possible to do so, competently — it can preclude face-to-face meetings, which we recommend as an essential part of the client-agency relationship. As well, if your business is a local one, a local agency knows the marketplace best. Unless you really feel the best agency is located in another city, stay local.
When All’s Said And Done
Follow this simple checklist:
- Determine your business goals and objectives
- Determine your available budget (and remember that this investment spending could be amortized through agency negotiation)
- Talk to your peers, family and friends who may have used a digital agency: hear about their experiences
- Come up with a list of candidate-agencies
- Have a face-to-face meeting with them: see how prepared they are, and if they’ve done any homework on your particular business category
- Find out how they work, and what tools they work with
- Ascertain your personal fit with the individuals you meet, and the agency as a whole
- Before you sign, expect to see some sort of detailed proposal to meet your marketing objectives
- Find out how they report back to you, and how often, and in what method
- Negotiate a price that works with your budget both immediately, and over time
- And if you trust them (as you probably will, if you sign with them) follow their expert counsel. After all, it’s the reason you came to them in the first place
Vancouver’s My Loud Speaker Marketing is a full-service marketing agency. With just more than a dozen best-in-class individuals, they deliver customized, personal digital marketing plans that deliver far more than their clients expect. See how easy it can be to meet your goals, with a dedicated team working for you.
HOW TO CREATE A DIGITAL MARKETING PLAN
When creating a digital marketing plan, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The following steps provide a framework to launch a digital marketing plan.
Narrow down your target market
Knowing your target market sets the foundation for your campaign. It’s important to know who you’re addressing and be clear about the action you expect from them. Define your target market based on demographic information such as age, location, gender, and income, and/or psychographic information such as user behavior, hobbies, and attitudes.
Set your goals
What do you hope to accomplish through your campaign? Set your goals, be it increase sales or build awareness for your product or service. The entire campaign revolves around your objective. At the end of the campaign, you can evaluate to see if you’ve accomplished those goals.
Evaluate your current channels and tools
What are you doing in terms of digital marketing right now? Evaluate your paid, earned, and owned media. Do you have a comprehensive campaign? Are you investing in digital advertising, search engine optimization, public relations, or influencer relations? Make a list of what you’re doing and the things you’re not.
Determine your digital marketing tools
Decide your digital marketing mix. Based on what you’re already doing, choose to invest or explore channels that give you a comprehensive campaign. If you’re already doing social media advertisements, include influencer outreach as part of your PR campaign. If you’re working on digital strategy, make sure you prioritize search engine optimization and Google Display Ads.
Monitor and evaluate
Is your campaign working? Monitor the analytics (Google Analytics is a good source) and evaluate the results. You can also frequently track the progress of your campaign with digital advertising and make adjustments accordingly during the campaign, rather than waiting until it’s completed (and sometimes, too late to do anything about). In any case, evaluating the numbers such as website traffic, bounce rate, and click-through rate will help your future campaigns as well.
TOP 10 DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCIES IN VANCOUVER
Founded in 2011, Popcorn is a marketing agency based out of Vancouver and Toronto offering a complete range of services including digital strategy development, community management, public relations, content creation, event planning, digital media design, and more. The agency’s passion is to connect people with brands they love. Popcorn specializes in lifestyles and retail brands, food, beverage, hospitality, technology, and government clients.
|Location:||225 W. 8th Ave. #200, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1N3|
2. Marloo Creative Studio
Marloo is a full-service creative marketing & advertising agency providing most of the clients’ essential marketing needs. Marloo provides solutions in strategy consultation, branding, print and website development. The agency strives to provide quality customer service and creating a beautiful society. Marloo is based in Toronto, Vancouver, and Dubai.
|Location:||142 – 757 West Hastings Street, Suite# 508 Vancouver, BC V6C 1A1|
3. Stigan Media Inc.
Founded in 2009, Stigan Media is a Web Design and Marketing Agency in Vancouver. The agency’s vast experience and knowledge in online marketing enable them to take the guesswork out of online advertising and provide clients with options and solutions that are both easy and affordable to implement. With industry knowledge, innovative goal-oriented mindset, as well as creativity and drive, Stigan optimizes digital strategies for all types of businesses.
Services offered include web and logo design, and search engine optimization.
|Location:||55 Water St #513, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 1A1|
4. Jive PR + Digital
Jive PR + Digital is an award-winning agency providing public relations and digital marketing services. The company has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Los Angeles and ensures its clients have a voice along both coasts.
|Location:||138 E 7th Ave #100, Vancouver, BC V5T 1M6|
5. My Loud Speaker Marketing
My Loud Speaker is a marketing agency based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The agency specializes in branding, public relations, and advertising—its mission is to help clients achieve their full potential. Some of its clients are Gateway Property Management, DMCL and GKS Law Firm.
|Location:||395 Railway St #206, Vancouver, BC V6A 1A4|
6. Major Tom
Major Tom is a full-service digital agency that works to help its clients thrive in a complex market. The agency has offices in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver and provides branding, digital marketing, and website design services, among others.
|Location:||548 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2L3|
7. York & Chapel
York and Chapel is a full-service digital branding agency started 15 years ago with offices in Connecticut, San Francisco, Vancouver, as well as New York. The agency provides web design, content marketing, and UX/UI design services, among others, and focuses primarily on technology clients.
|Location:||3981 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 1Y7|
8. Edkent Media
Edkent Media is a results-driven digital marketing agency located in Toronto, Canada. Edkent Media provides digital marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, and website design services to its clients.
|Location:||701 W Georgia St #1500, Vancouver, BC V7Y 1C6|
9. Jelly Marketing
Founded in 2012, Jelly Digital Marketing and PR is a digital advertising agency that specializes in public relations, social media, content marketing, and search engine optimization. Key clients include La-Z-Boy Furniture, Sussex Insurance, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Giants Hockey WHL, Ten Thousand Villages, Choices Markets, and CEFA.
|Location:||9067 Church St, Langley, BC V1M 0E8|
10. Forge and Smith
Forge and Smith is a digital agency that provides digital strategy, branding, web design, web development and UX/UI design services. Key clients include Olympics Canada, United Way, Knowledge Network, and Discovery Channel.
|Location:||101 – 620 Royal Ave. New Westminster, BC V3M 1J2|