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September 25, 2015

Top 10 Signs Your Marketing Agency Doesn’t Know Digital

Author: Valerie Baker

A lot of companies say they do web design and Internet marketing. There are some tell-tale signs that they might not be as good as their (own) marketing implies. How can you tell if the company you’re thinking of using knows the web? Use these 10 signs to make sure you don’t select a firm that will disappoint.

Top 10 Signs Your Marketing Agency Doesn’t Know Digital

1. Standard WordPress Theme

Sure, this makes sense. Hell, our own website is a WordPress theme (chosen because we have over 1000 articles!) – and we’ve also customized it like crazy. I know, WordPress is a powerful tool for quickly publishing content, it’s search friendly, and is extensible through its giant network of plugins. We’ve written before about our own use of WordPress and preference for (particularly on large scale sites) something a bit more flexible.

But one thing that irks us – and is absolutely a way to evaluate your own selection of an ad or marketing agency is – DO THEY HAVE A CUSTOMIZED SITE? More than just laziness or another case of “the shoemakers daughter-disease” – a default WordPress theme implies your company can’t do things with websites generally. Installing WordPress and a theme and adding content is easy. Using Photoshop, editing designs, and matching things with JavaScript and HTML is not as easy… And a quick way to evaluate whether or not a company will be there when the shit hits the fan with your digital needs – is whether or not they can, and have, modified their own website.

2. No one on staff can elaborate on the complexities of DNS or hosting.

Hosting is serious business. Although it’s probably the most mysterious and overlooked – it’s probably the most important.

Hosting is no longer simply about up time and reliability, but it also plays a monumental role in your organizations digital marketing plan. Some of the largest companies in the world, provide hosting services for companies like us or direct to large-clients. One of the largest divisions of Amazon for example, is now hosting – hosting of websites, files, applications, large-scale data, etc.

If your company doesn’t have experience with a wide array of hosts, dealing with issues, and is using a budget service (see HostGator, BlueHost) it’s a big sign that your website – if it goes down – is in the hands of a company that isn’t qualified to fix the issue. Similarly, a complete grasp of DNS by all members of their team – or at least a handful of individuals – ensures that the company can keep your email up, and will be able to do more from a search engine optimization perspective.

3. Gmail, Comcast or (GHAST!) AOL email

GmailNo joke, we still see web design “companies” and marketing and ad “agencies” who are using Gmail, Comcast or AOL as their email. Although they often times understand the marketing bump a branded email can have (ie they lack the skills, time, or desire to set it up… which begs the question – do you want a person or company like that managing or even talking with you about your digital marketing?

4. Management or Owners Don’t Have a Digital Background

This is the easiest to spot, and time and again (particularly in our region), I’ve seen ad agencies and other marketing companies fail when they don’t have a digital background*. This web stuff is both simple and complex, some of it easy – yet time consuming, some of it extremely quick but detailed and complicated.

Those that have a background in digital or IT, tend to understand this, and price themselves and model themselves accordingly. Those that don’t, tend to rush the process, minimize the value (of the work, the employees doing the work, etc.) and it leads to an unsustainable model or worse, crappy work that doesn’t get results.

*Management doesn’t HAVE to have a digital background, but so far I haven’t found anyone without this background that respects the process, and time it takes to successfully pull off a digital marketing plan, web design, or application. This extends not only to ad agencies that are branding themselves as “web development” shops – but also to web-based companies (whose website or web applications drive virtually all revenue and business).

5. They’re Still Pushing Print, Radio & Television

Really easy, if print, radio, and television is at the top of your ad agency’s marketing mix for you – they’re not going to be able to help you online. Sure, in many cases Print, Radio & Television can be great supplemental tools for your company. But, with more than 90% of all purchasing decisions being made after going to search engines… online NEEDS TO BE EVERY BUSINESS OWNERS’ TOP PRIORITY. In fact, even in our sleepy, sometimes slower-to-adopt market of southwest Florida, we see that baby-boomers and up (those 50+ years in age) spend on average more time on the Internet than they do watching TV!

Don’t be where your audience was 5 years ago, get out in front of them now… at exactly the moment they’re looking for what you have to offer.

6. Inexpensive Websites

bad-websiteIf your marketing company charges less than $5000 for a website – it’s simply too little for it to have a positive return on your investment. It sounds crazy I know, but hear me out for a minute. Like anything websites and digital marketing are a tool whereby you get out of it what you put in. However, like other things in life, there’s a certain amount of effort one must put forth – and items that need to be put in place – in order to see desired return.

In our opinion there’s simply NO WAY to take on a complete website with all of the intricacies:

  • Hosting
  • Support
  • Setup
  • Design
  • Content
  • Search Engine Optimization (research…)
  • Best-Practices
  • Setup of Analytics & Recording of Results (tracking contact forms and calls)

That go into a successful website.

I’d rather spend $10,000 on something that provides me results and a return, than $5000 that does nothing for me. And time, and again, we’ve seen clients invest thousands on a poorly designed and optimized website, only to be BLOWN away by what we can provide with a slightly more expensive website.

7. No Reviews Online (for them and their clients)

Reviews aren’t just important for restaurants and hotels. Reviews are spreading and play a critical role in online marketing – for all businesses. If your ad agency doesn’t have a google my business page with a review or 2 they simply have NO IDEA WHAT THEY’RE DOING WITH DIGITAL MARKETING.

8. They Have no Idea What Local SEO Is

Similar to the above, local seo is now the bedrock of the digital marketing landscape. In our region 91% of businesses are local, with less than 20 employees. With more than 90% of local purchase decisions being made after researching online through search engines, this is a vital part of any small business’ marketing mix. If you’re not showing up in search engines locally you’re missing 90% of the business out there…

9. They’ve Never Heard of Responsive, or Bootstrap

On the web, everything plays a role in your marketing. Just like hosting – where a website on a faster server gets higher rankings and provides a better visitor experience – your website should be responsive (see “mobile-friendly”).

One quick way to evaluate if the company you’re talking to or the ad agency knows what they’re doing is whether or not they’ve heard of – or use – the bootstrap framework. Every agency that builds websites should be intimately familiar with this time saving and mobile-friendly-godsend. If the marketing company stutters when you mention this – or they can’t elaborate on mobile and responsive sites and how they’ve accounted for this in their process – run-away screaming. Screaming.

10. Social Media

Just like radio, print, and tv – if social media is generally at the top of the list of “the same shit we provide for all of our clients” at the agency you’re considering here’s what you do…

Put their proposal down gently on the glass table in front of you. Move your right hand slowly to your left breast pocket and take out the clean white leather glove that you’ve been saving just for this occasion. “Zach told me this would happen,” you mumble to yourself quietly.

Notice the look of horror as the sales person or executive across from you begins to understand what you’re about to do. Revel in the size of their pupils as you slap them directly across their face with said glove. Don’t slap hard, slap gently. No matter how forceful it will be just as demeaning. And if any sense of guilt should creep out from their face, through the glove, and down your arms to your brain, just remember…

They were going to steal your money and convert it from small green slips of paper that you worked hard to amass, to useless typing by interns from some local university’s marketing and communications program…

(11. Handshake Picture – Nope.)


Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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