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May 7, 2012

7 Rules for Working With an Internet Advertising Agency

Author: Valerie Baker

Thinking about “getting into bed” with an Internet Advertising Agency? Want to hire a company for web design and Internet marketing, but not sure where to start or what will be required of you?

This article will help you navigate your own responsibilities when dealing with an Internet marketing firm, and what you can expect from the service provide you end up hiring AND what they will expect of you.

1) Be Ready to Communicate Intimate Details About Your Business

We Love Bloc Party (and Intimacy)

The building of a website should ALWAYS start with a conversation about your business.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your product?
  3. What are your clients or customers like?

NOT “how many pages you want?”

In fact I would use this as one of the biggest guides for you on evaluating any developer or development company. They need to be more concerned about your business as a whole – not the website – that will come second and often times THEY should guide that process not you (let them decide what pages/sections you need).

2) Have a Budget

Web Design BudgetThis one is always a pain. As a business owner I understand your hesitation in giving this one out. You want to maintain your poker face and keep as much control (and money) as possible. However, web development and Internet marketing services are often (or should be) quoted based on time – there’s a set hourly fee for services, and one’s budget dictates how many of those hours (and services) can be applied.

I would even go so far as to have two budgets as a business owner considering becoming a “21st Century Marketer” one for development, and one for marketing services. At the very least your development company should help you separate the two. The less time you waste holding on to your budget.

If you don’t have a budget – determine one – and make it as large as you can. The Internet is often the most effective place to spend your advertising dollars. In fact many conventional ad businesses we work with (businesses investing heavily in print, radio, television) often switch most of their budget to the web after doing a small test.

Minimum Budget – Although every industry, location, and business is different if you’re considering hiring an outside agency your budget should be over $1000 for your initial website, and you should also have $1000/month budgeted for a full year to market yourself online (for paid services).

Our own ideal clients typically spend $20,000+ with us and have a $100,000+ to spend on actually marketing themselves (outside of our own services – for paid services like pay per click marketing).

3) Understand You Are “Paying For the Sale” (and understand what goes into a sale)

As hinted at in the above consideration understand that you are paying for the sale. The more time an agency is spending with you in the beginning, the more expensive the eventual proposal will be – and odds are the more expensive their own rate is (unless they’re brand new).

There are a few things as expensive – and hard to predict/manage – than the initial sale of a website and Internet marketing plan. Sometimes a sale can be made in the first meeting (couple of hours of work) sometimes it takes multiple meetings, research, and preliminary planning to make that final sale. It’s hard to predict, but every company has this built into their product pricing and hourly rate. Our largest sales took upward of 20 – 30 hours of time.

That’s a cost of $2000 – $3500 (retail rate) cost to our company before a single thing has been signed or a bit of code touched.

4) Web Design Isn’t Magic (or Instant)

I was in a meeting the other day with someone that “owns” a web development company – we work with many agencies as partners white labeling our own services. They proceeded to explain that they needed help with a project. As they explained this project would include:

  • A custom customer relationship manager (think Salesforce)
  • Payment processing (think PayPal)
  • Accounting management (think QuickBooks)

“Simple items,” the president explained, as he waited for a quick nod in agreement.

I had to move back in my seat, because simple tools these are not. Salesforce is a billion dollar business – with billions invested in developing their tools and sales processes. Quickbooks is an equally complex tool with millions of dollars in investment over the years (in only their ONLINE tool).


This was a six figure project (at least) not one that could be banged out in a week as his wording, body language, (and later budget) suggested.

This stuff takes time, talent, and education/experience to properly execute. Although there’s a grey area where a) you don’t know how long things do or should take and that leads to b) the ability for agencies to overestimate or overcharge for an inexpensive service the opposite is usually the case agencies typically underestimate/under charge and clients believe even insanely complex tools and elements are “simple.”

5) Do Your Due Diligence

This is both on your part as well as the development company you are considering. Having gone through many vendors at our company over the years I understand that the selection of key partners is absolutely vital to a business’ success. Your Internet Advertising Agency is no different. You should take as much time as possible (and the agency will allow) to get to know them and ensure that not only will you two be a great fit from a business perspective (budget, efficacy, ability to execute technical items) but also that you’ll fit socially.

6) Communicate

It’s been said that nothing is more important than communication. The development of a website and a well executed Internet marketing plan is no different – in fact, it may require MORE communication because this stuff can get technical. Make sure to over communicate – let the company know your own goals and communicate your needs/desires. And vice-versa ask them what they need, expect, and desire from a client.

7) Be Ready to Work

Even if EVERY portion of your web business is outsourced (photography, content writing, strategy, etc.) you will still need to be a part of the process, communicating (see above) your business’ goals, overall strategy, and at the very least – saying “yeh or neh” when presented with options or directions.

The more you decide to take on yourself (or at your company) the more work you’ll be responsible for – just remember that providing that work to your development agency in a timely manner will help streamline the process and save your time and money.

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Support Lead here at Atilus. Her background includes digital marketing and web development. She takes amazing care of our clients and assists with overall website updates and development.

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