What to Look for in a Digital Marketing Agency

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | January 2023

Illustration of people looking with spyglasses and binoculars.

The right digital marketing agency can help you save time, improve awareness, grow your brand, increase donations and leads, and raise your profile on social media. However, when most organizations start researching agencies, they often get overwhelmed by the number of choices. So, how do you find an agency that fits your needs? 

Why Use a Digital Marketing Agency?

Digital marketing and design involve lots of moving parts. Depending on your needs and goals, you may need to do market research, create and publish content, design a website, add new functionality to an existing website, optimize your content for search engines (SEO), be active on social media, or much more. The sky's the limit! There are several benefits that an organization can gain by working with an agency.

  • An experienced agency can help you devise a digital marketing strategy. Even if you have the time and skills to do some of your own marketing, an agency is useful for creating a complete strategy with effective tactics, a checklist, and a timeline. 
  • It saves you time so you can focus on doing your job. There's also a steep learning curve to mastering marketing tactics.
  • It lets you apply the best and most timely techniques. A marketing agency saves you hours of trial and error because they have real-life experience using these techniques. Marketing agencies have specialists for every field they cover. At ArcStone, our clients like having access to a team of people with unique skill sets. Additionally, strategies quickly change, and you must stay informed on modern best practices. It's one of the jobs of a marketing agency to keep up with such changes and act accordingly. 

What Services Do Digital Marketing Agencies Provide?

Digital marketing agencies may perform a variety of tasks, such as the following.

  • Research — Identify markets and target audiences, create customer personae, conduct focus groups, polls, and other market research. They can help you identify profitable products and the best marketing strategies for your audience.
  • Website Design and Redesigns — Design websites and upgrade existing websites. This may include creating or editing content, search engine optimization, graphics, and other improvements. An agency can help you improve UX (user experience), on-page SEO, navigation, page loading speed, and other issues if you have a website.
  • Content Marketing — Create and publish articles, blog posts, videos, social media posts, and other content to an organization's website or on third-party platforms. 
  • Generate Leads — An agency may help you generate leads via paid advertising, social media, email marketing, or other methods. For example, they might set up a sales funnel with a landing page and a signup form for your email list. 
  • Paid Advertising — Manage advertising on Google, Facebook, and other platforms.

Guidelines For Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency

With so many agencies to choose from, you need to do plenty of research in the selection process. The following are some criteria to keep in mind.

Consider Your Needs

Marketing agencies come in many varieties. Some cater to smaller businesses, others work with e-commerce businesses, still, others work with large companies. Some agencies are specialized in areas such as SEO while others offer a variety of services. At ArcStone, because we primarily work with nonprofit organizations, we anticipate their needs and third-party tools that may be an effective solution. 

  • Your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Your objectives may include increasing donations, building your volunteer programs, or increasing brand awareness. As you shop for an agency, you'll want to find a company that aligns with your goals.  
  • Your needs. If you or team members have the ability and time, you may only need an agency to implement certain tasks. However, some organizations want an agency to handle everything. You should be aware of the level of support the agency offers. 
  • Your budget. You need an idea of how much an agency charges for its services. Be sure you understand their billing practices. For example, they may bill you per hour or by task. 

Research and Interview Agencies

With so many digital marketing agencies competing for your business, you can afford to be selective. Take your time and do plenty of research. 

  • Evaluate their website. Since a digital marketing agency needs to market itself, its own website is a good place to start your research. Study the site with a critical eye. Do you find it appealing? Does it have a professional look that inspires confidence? Is it easy to navigate and find what you're looking for? 
  • Look at their credentials and experience. While browsing their website, you can look for key information, such as how long they've been in business and their specializations. You may also find testimonials on their website. Look beyond their site and see if you can find independent reviews for the service on Google or elsewhere. You can also ask the agency to provide you with references. 
  • Is their approach effective and up-to-date? Fields like website development and functionality, accessibility, and SEO evolve quickly. You want to ensure the agency you work with uses the latest and most effective methods. When interviewing agencies, be sure to ask them specific questions about their strategy. You can often get a good idea of how up-to-date a company is by reviewing its content, such as its blog or videos. It's a good sign if they discuss timely topics such as Google's latest algorithms and other changes in the industry.   
  • Talk to them. You can learn a lot about an agency by how they communicate with you before you sign up with them. You can send them email, but it's best to talk on the phone. Do they take the time to answer your questions carefully? Possible red flags are an aggressive hard-sell approach or a lack of response. It's a good sign if they seem interested in finding out if you are truly the right fit. Prepare questions such as whether they are familiar with your industry, what kind of results you can expect, and whether you'll be working with a dedicated team member if you sign up.

Digital Marketing For Nonprofits

Digital marketing agencies generally focus on promoting businesses. Nonprofit organizations need to make sure they work with an agency that understands their unique needs. While there's some overlap between businesses and nonprofits (e.g. market research and SEO work similarly), there are also significant differences.

For one thing, members and prospective members of nonprofits require a much more education-centered approach than business customers. If you hire an agency accustomed to working with commercial enterprises, they might take an overly aggressive marketing strategy that isn't ideal for nonprofits. ArcStone is an agency that works extensively with businesses in a variety of industries, as well as nonprofits. If you have a digital marketing project, ArcStone would be happy to discuss it with you. For more information, contact us

Topics: Nonprofit Help