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How to choose a digital marketing agency for your small business

“If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.”

—Bill Gates

Granted, Bill Gates may not be the most objective source on the topic, but there’s no doubt that your business needs an online presence in today’s connected world. In 2021, the total digital advertising spend in the US was $436 billion, compared to $196 billion for offline advertising.

You know that your small business needs digital marketing. You also may have realized that trying to DIY isn’t working for you anymore. While we believe that small business owners should be intimately involved in their marketing, we also know that it pays to partner with someone who has a proven track record and can lead the charge.

Here’s what you need to know about choosing a digital marketing agency for your small business.

What is a small business digital marketing agency?

A digital marketing agency is an expert team that helps small businesses plan, create, and execute a digital marketing strategy. Agencies may be organized in a variety of fashions; some are more focused on branding and launching new businesses, while others form long-term partnerships and serve as an outsourced marketing team. The types of talent within the agency may include a mix of strategic consulting, marketing direction, copywriting, website development, visual design, social media management, PR, digital ad placement, and project management.

Why work with an agency?

6 things to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency

With so many digital marketing agencies out there, it can be difficult to choose the right provider for you. I asked my team for their advice on finding an online marketing partner. Here’s what they had to say:

#1 Adaptability

The online space is transforming at a rapid pace, and your agency needs to be highly adaptable to take advantage of new opportunities, said web development consultant Rachel Cardy.

You need a digital marketing agency that can adapt its strategies to changing market conditions and customer behaviors (as they adjust to various economic, political, and cultural changes).

#2 Relatability

Not everyone is familiar with terms like value proposition, search engine optimization, and multi-channel marketing strategy, which is why our business manager Amy Willey says that it’s important to find an agency that can explain their craft in laymen’s terms. In my opinion, being unable to drop the jargon could indicate that a marketer isn’t really sure what he’s talking about and is hiding behind buzzwords.

#3 Evidence of expertise

One of the reasons you’re likely hiring an agency is to tap into marketing expertise that you may lack. Our project manager, Hillary Lee, recommends that when choosing a digital marketing agency for your small business, you must make sure that the team has experience in the services you’re seeking. You can do this by:

  • Looking for past examples of the agency’s work
  • Checking their website for testimonials and case studies
  • Looking for a list of clients and partnerships
  • Checking for any required industry standards or accreditations
  • Checking the website’s About page for information about the team members and their experience
  • Looking for online reviews

If you can’t find the evidence yourself, ask for it. Any agency with the expertise you’re seeking will be happy to oblige.

#4 A good overall fit

Finding the right marketing agency for your small business can be a little like online dating. To take the next step, you need to feel that you’ll make a good match. Hillary said that you should have a good feeling about the agency’s personality and style. You may also want to look at common interests, that is, has the agency done work that’s similar to your specific niche? It’s not a deal-breaker if not, but it certainly could be beneficial. Look at the agency’s values and see whether or not they align with your own. Make sure you’re comfortable with the way they communicate—for a successful marketing partnership, you’ll need to work closely together. Ultimately, go with your gut. If you feel like it’s not a good fit, you’re probably right.

#5 Value for money

Shea Karssing, our content consultant, says that value for money is important, but she emphasizes that value doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. In fact, if an agency promises to make your brand go viral for a ridiculously cheap rate, run! (And if they’re making promises like going viral, it’s even more of a reason to steer clear.) Consider, instead, the value you’ll receive for services rendered. How does that align with your goals? Also look at the team members who’ll be working on your account. How much experience do they have? What are their credentials?

Many small business owners also consider hiring an in-house resource, but Shea believes that using an agency gives you more bang for your buck since it brings together the experience and expertise of multiple specialists. When comparing costs, consider what you would need to budget in order to bring all of that talent in-house.

#6 Business acumen

I think it’s vital to find an agency with good business acumen that understands how your business makes money and which metrics are important to impact. Creativity and good business sense should not be mutually exclusive! Strategy is everything in digital marketing, so your agency should be able to help you set, track, and measure goals and closely monitor the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns. The best outcomes will arise when your marketing team is intimately involved in your business, ensuring that marketing messaging aligns with the customer experience.

Find the right digital marketing agency for your needs and budget

When digital marketing is done right, you can expect a good return on investment in the long term as your brand awareness and customer base grow. Could Brighter Messaging be the right online marketing agency for you? We’re not sure yet! Let’s chat about your needs, goals, and budget to find out if we’re a good fit. We can also offer more in-depth suggestions about how to choose a digital marketing agency for your small business. Click here to request a consultation.


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