Internet marketing is big business.  As of February 2015 Netcraft reported there are 883 million active websites and in 2014 there was $121 billion spent in online advertising.  But the question is do all of these 883 million websites need the same qualities in an Internet marketing agency?  Along with millions of websites today’s marketer has thousands of Internet marketing agencies to choose from along with a wealth of do it yourself information.  So what is a marketer to do when hiring an agency and when is the right time to hire an agency.  Well read on for my 5 tips on how to hire an Internet marketing agency.

1.  Establish your base before you specialize

Many businesses today reach out for an agency that specializes in social media or search engine optimization (SEO) before they have a rock solid foundation in their website.  This could be analogous to hiring a sales person before you have products and production capacity and this can lead to frustration.  Before you dive into hiring an agency around any specialty, you must first have a clear grasp of your overall marketing goals, how you will measure them and if you have the infrastructure to currently support those goals.  Don’t spend time driving traffic from search until you have a website that can convert this traffic.  The majority of traffic coming to your site from social media will likely be from mobile devices so don’t hire a social media specialist until your site is mobile ready.  Establish your foundation and then hire specialists to grow in the particular areas where you most need help.

2.  Hire within your budget

It might seem obvious but due to many businesses decisions to spend within a specialty area of marketing before they have established a solid base web presence, we often see businesses with poor results and wasted budget.  I’ll continue with the social media agency or SEO firm from number 1 above.  It is quite common for businesses to spend a disproportionate amount of their budget on SEO or social media without having their bases covered on who is going to manage the overarching strategy and tie everything together.  The client hires these specialties because they are in style at the moment but not necessarily what they need most at the moment.  Throwing your whole marketing budget at SEO will only cause more frustration for you.  SEO is only 1 aspect of a comprehensive web strategy.  So when establishing your budget, ensure that you have enough budget to cover all bases in your overarching strategy.  The same can be said of spending your whole budget on building a website but not allocating any dollars towards driving traffic and converting traffic.  If your fiscal budget doesn’t allow for you to hire an agency that can provide a comprehensive solution, you need to also budget your own time to make up for the areas where you are not outsourcing results.  A common example of this is businesses who want to limit expenses so they decide to create all their own content.  Then the agency they hire focuses on social media and SEO while the content lags behind and the whole campaign suffers.  Your budget needs to allow for enough resources (time and money) to cover all your bases.

3.  Be clear on results and measurements

The agency you hire should be able to walk you through this process when you first engage with them.  You want to establish clear expectations for your budget as well as a clearly defined plan to measure success.  We generally start our campaigns measuring success in three key areas of: Visibility, Loyalty and Leads.  We agree on a value for each with our clients and then we report on these metrics each month so our clients can easily see if their campaign is on track or not.  This makes ROI calculations easy to report and saves our clients from having to wonder what they received for their money.

4.  Be realistic with your agency

Nobody can guarantee results in this industry.  So it’s not realistic to ask for a guarantee.  But what is realistic is a shared responsibility around results.  You want to partner with your agency so that everyone has their focus on the same goals.  And if you followed my advice from number 3 above, these goals will be clearly communicated and tracked.

5.  Have fun and meet your goals

And finally if you want to have a successful relationship with your agency make sure you and they are both focused on having fun and meeting goals.  Not only your goals as a client but also their goals as an agency.  If we’re having fun, our clients are having fun, and we are both making money, then everyone loves coming to work on Mondays.  If one party isn’t having fun and isn’t making money, then trouble is looming.

In a nutshell create a comprehensive and realistic plan, budget appropriately, track results and have some fun.  If you do each of these along with your agency, you will be more successful in meeting your goals.  And the agency you hire, should be able to take you through this process.