Since the most current numbers show that nearly 56% of small businesses say that they will spend less than 3% of revenue on marketing, deciding where and how that money is spent is crucial. Though the national average of percent of revenue spent on marketing activities is 10.2%, small businesses tend to have less overall revenue, resources and marketing expertise, making their budgets smaller. With limited resources and budgets, many small businesses look to outsourcing key marketing functions to agencies that have experience, but SMB’s need to be sure their money is placed where it will be most effective.

The Digital Marketing Strategy: Research Summary Report by Ascend2 reports that 62% of companies outsource all or part of their digital marketing efforts. The study goes on to find that mainly the most difficult and complex marketing types are the ones that small businesses are outsourcing, in order to supplement internal experience, skills and improve overall performance.

Complicated marketing types such as Social media, content marketing and search optimization (SEO) are categorized as the three most challenging types of digital marketing to execute for SMB’s. All three of these marketing disciplines are considered to be inbound marketing tactics that require the most experience, resources and knowledge to be effective. They are followed by mobile, paid search (PPC) and website management as the top six most challenging online marketing segments.

Three Things To Do Before Hiring A Digital Marketing Agency

As (57%) of companies state they will continue to increase spending on digital marketing this year, small local businesses need to be strategic about which agency they give their money to. Being in an industry that has numerous small business marketers, we have seen copious “experts and gurus” that do more harm than good for their small business clients. This experience has also allowed us to establish some key indicators that can provide you with a measure of confidence going into an agency relationship.

Cookie Cutter Options

When you are investigating working with a digital marketing firm, be leery of cookie cutter programs, pricing and service “packages” on their website. The fact is that effective digital marketing is 100% unique to every industry, client and location. Two clients that are in similar businesses but different states, can have very dramatic differences in competition, resource requirements and therefore tactics and expenses. There is no one size fits all approach to marketing and therefore you need to be sure that the agency you select is going to evaluate your specific business situation, then establish a customized strategy that fits your circumstances instead of using the same square peg for every round hole.

Understand Pricing

In many cases in business, you get what you pay for and this is often similar with digital marketing. We see far too many small business owners that have tried to cut costs and subsequent corners with their outsourced online marketing, only to end up worse off than when they started. You see, digital marketing has become extremely complex and it requires time, resources and experience.

When you deploy professional marketing services, you are not only paying for the execution of those services, but more importantly the time and experience of the agency that you have hired. Make no mistake about it, if you are paying for the services alone and at a lower cost, you are frequently sacrificing the time and experience that is required. A discount agency can only discount if one or all of these requirements are missing, otherwise they are not making money and that with result in many other issues as you move forward with them.

Test Their Walk

If a digital agency doesn’t walk their talk, there is typically going to be problems. If they are executing their own marketing similarly to what they are proposing in their website content, you can have a measure of confidence that they walk the talk.

We suggest that before opening a dialogue with a digital agency, test their walk by engaging their social accounts.

Do they respond in ways that are how you would want your brand to be seen responding to your customers and prospects?

When engaging or reaching out to an agency through their various online profiles, do they respond in a timely manner, fitting with how you expect your customers to be handled?

Do they regularly and consistently create blog, graphic and video content that is relevant, unique and engaging, as they are proposing to do for you?

Wrapping It Up

On and offline competition for the average small business is increasing at an incredible pace. The complexities of digital marketing and how it connects with in-store experiences are also becoming more important. As small businesses scale their professional marketing efforts and spending toward these efforts, standing out online will continue to become more difficult.

Outsourcing your digital marketing efforts to an experienced agency is inline with today’s trends. As stated early, the majority of small businesses are going in this direction to leverage expertise, costs and results. Therefore if you are not considering this option for your business, you may be left behind online. Just be sure that the agency you engage to handle your marketing efforts has the ability to drive net results.