How do you choose the right digital marketing agency here in Singapore?
That is probably one of the trickiest and hardest question to answer. One that can keep you awake at night as you haplessly watch your company overtaken by digital-savvy rivals!
There are literally hundreds of digital marketing agencies here in Singapore. Plus a whole lot more around the world who are happy to serve you from wherever they’re based.
Notice that I used the word “right” as opposed to “best,” “cheapest,” “largest,” or “most established.”
The reason behind this is simple: you need to evaluate each agency against a whole multitude of factors.
Using a broad stroke (eg “cheapest”) to choose your digital marketing agency isn’t recommended—doing so may expose you to several blind spots, resulting in a sub-optimal engagement.
To help you along, I’ve compiled a list of questions that you should ask yourself BEFORE signing on the dotted line.
Do They have the Right Digital Marketing Expertise?
Not all agencies are suitable for all clients.
Depending on your unique situation, you need to choose an agency that possess the right mix of expertise, knowledge and skill-sets to meet your needs.
While there are agencies with multiple domains of expertise, chances are that their core areas of digital marketing strengths lie in one, two or three of the following specialisations:
- Content Marketing/ Content Strategy (not just Copywriting)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – Google Ads or Social Media Ads
- Email Marketing
- Marketing Automation
- Website Design and Development
- Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Chatbots
This often depends on your current internal levels of digital marketing expertise.
If you or your team members are already strong in certain areas, it makes sense to pick an agency with complementary expertise. This way, you can ensure that you optimize your marketing budgets for the right talents.
Which brings us to the next related question.
Do You Need Full-Suite or Specialised Digital Marketing Services?
From my experience, I’ve seen that larger companies and government agencies often desire to work with larger agencies that offer a broad-suite of digital marketing services.
These organisations often throw out a Request For Proposal (RFP), Invitation To Quote (ITQ) or a Tender for a larger contract covering a one to two year period.
Increasingly, however, both large and small organisations are beginning to choose boutique agencies with specific razor-focused skill-sets. The goal is to outsource non-core areas of work to blend your own internal expertise.
Alternatively, you may consider a phased approach to your digital marketing projects. With this approach, you may work with different agencies for different stages of development:
- Crafting of a digital marketing strategy
- Building (or revamping) your website or landing pages
- Launching of an SEO effort
- Launching of social media marketing campaigns
- Optimizing of your digital marketing funnel for conversions
- Amplifying digital marketing results through advertising
As I’ve earlier mentioned, most agencies have a vertical domain with in-depth experience and expertise. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re limited to being a one-trick pony. These days, it is common for smaller agencies with deep specialty knowledge to collaborate, offering clients a “best-of-breed” approach in digital marketing.
How Much Should You Pay for Digital Marketing Services?
The digital marketing agency market offers a wide range of prices, depending on who you ask and what services you procure.
They can range from as low as $1,500 to $2,000 per month (purely content or basic SEO) to as high as tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per month (full-suite digital marketing including media costs across multiple countries).
As a rule-of-thumb, however, prices depends on the following:
- The type of digital marketing services needed.
- The price of procuring talent. Companies that offshore the bulk of their work to developing countries can offer lower prices.
- The effects of competitor pricing pressure.
- The strength and experience of the agency.
- The need for performance targets. The more you require the agency to back their proposal with goals and KPIs, the higher their costs will be.
- The heritage and track record of the agency. More expensive agencies are often around for a longer period of time and may have a more distinguished list of clients.
Do They Have the Right Industry Expertise?
Next, you need to ask yourself if you require a digital marketing agency with specific knowledge and experience in dealing with clients from your industry.
The advantage of working with incumbents is that they’d be familiar with how things in your industry work. Having done content marketing with a couple of educational clients, for instance, for example, I’m mindful of the topics and keywords that potential students often use in searching for the right schools to enroll in.
For certain sectors in the B2B market, however, finding an agency with the right track record may be akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.
Insisting on agencies with directly relevant experience may also limit you to agencies with a “tried-and-tested” process of digital marketing—this could limit your creativity in executing your campaign.
Is the Agency Data-Driven?
Any digital marketing agency which you choose to work with MUST have an intermediate to advanced level of knowledge in data analytics.
This may vary from agency to agency and platform to platform, but it should minimally include an understanding of the following:
- How to optimize your digital marketing campaign for awareness, consideration, conversion or loyalty
- How to build and track your digital marketing funnel
- How to read and interpret the analytics across multiple platforms: social media, SEO, website analytics, email analytics, lead nurturing and scoring, and so on
- How to calculate your digital marketing ROI
Do They Know the Latest Digital Marketing Trends and Techniques?
The best digital marketers in the planet are geeks and nerds. They are constantly learning and applying new techniques to optimize their client’s campaigns. They are never satisfied with the status quo.
With the rapid (and breathless) pace in which technology moves—especially social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter—you need an agency that has its finger on the pulse of the ceaseless algorithmic changes in the different platforms.
A good way to evaluate if the agency knows what it is talking about is to visit its blog. Subscribe to its newsfeed. Read what the agency publishes and match that against what you’re reading about in the market.
Do They Have Relevant Case Studies and Testimonials?
These days, any digital agency worth its salt would document what it did for its clients and measure the results of prior marketing efforts.
This can be as simple as before and after statistics, client testimonials, case studies, to the computation of cost per results performance.
Beyond having its own case studies and best practices, the digital marketing agency should also be aware of international best practices and examples.
They should have some knowledge of what leading companies around the world have applied, what worked and what didn’t. This is important for green field industries where local examples are lacking.
Who are the Persons Working on Your Account?
Often, what makes or breaks a digital marketing campaign lies in the hands of the person directly managing your account. While larger agencies may have a bigger team of staff helming your project, the attention of their bosses may also be more diluted relative to smaller boutique agencies.
Here is a simple checklist you can use to evaluate the suitability of the manpower in an agency:
- Experience of the team members, especially founders
- Track record of the team members
- Enthusiasm and energy levels
- Responsiveness and customer orientation
- Communication skills
- 3rd party endorsements and accolades
Can You “Click” with the Agency? (ie Chemistry)
This may be so basic, yet it is so vitally important in any client-agency relationship.
Call it chemistry, electricity, intuition, or sixth sense—what finally matters in the selection of a digital marketing agency are the vibes which they give you as a client.
Now I can’t possibly list down all the “soft” factors that determine if an agency is right for you. However, I’d imagine that the following would be worth thinking about:
- Do they know what they’re talking about?
- Can they demonstrate what they mean?
- Are they trustworthy and transparent in their dealings?
- Are they open and honest in their conversation?
- How do they deal with negative performance?
Choosing a digital marketing agency these days is like hiring a new employee.
Due to the fast-paced nature of the digital and social world, agencies and clients need to work closely together to meet the challenges of relentless competition, changes in customer needs and wants, and the breakneck speed of technology developments.
Hopefully, the above guidelines can help you to choose the right digital marketing agency for your needs.
What about Cooler Insights you may ask. Are we the right digital marketing agency for your company or brand?
Well, let me be clear about one thing. Cooler Insights isn’t for everybody.
While we do have a wide range of clients of different sizes—from MNCs and large public listed companies to SMEs and start-ups—we find that we work best with companies in high-value industries willing to pilot new ways of reaching, engaging and converting customers.
Our best clients also understand the philosophy of content, SEO and social media marketing. They’re willing to play the long-game, and go beyond quick and temporal fixes. They could be B2B firms or B2C companies.