With e-commerce hitting all-time highs and growth unabating, an ongoing pandemic that has created seismic disruptions in marketing strategy, and the need for many brands to undertake urgent digital transformations, businesses are now, more than ever, at a point where they need to outsource their digital marketing needs in order to succeed.
As with any big decision, there is a fork: the right partnership can transform and elevate your brand in exciting and profitable ways while the wrong one can drain you, your team, and your budget-making those once attainable, aspirational goals seem more like unachievable fantasies.
With so many agencies to choose from, all offering services at varied price points, selecting the right partner can become a daunting task for any business owner whose time is already spread thin and stress levels often red-lining.
So–if you’re looking to outsource your business’ marketing efforts for the first time, have been unsatisfied with past agencies that you’ve worked with, or are lying awake at night wondering if you’ve made the right decision–here are five things to look for in a digital agency.
A Growth Mindset
A great agency should expand your vision of what is possible for your business. Digital marketing is always in flux, and any experienced agency will be looking to stay ahead of the curve on trends and technical updates that can elevate your brand to the next level. Look for agencies that are willing to slowly incorporate new channels, scaling when you feel confident you are on the same page and can manage the changes. Be ready to explore and test different channels and tactics that you may be unfamiliar with, and approach every marketing strategy with a steady approach to growth and a long-term vision.
At SLTC, we specialize in helping clients like Clean Beauty Lab and Erica Weiner build and scale their eCommerce business models, reach broader audiences, and increase sales. We employ tactics in tried and true platforms like paid search Facebook Ads, and email marketing, while always looking for opportunities in newer channels like TikTok and CTV advertising.
An Alignment of Values
Choosing a marketing agency is akin to choosing a business partner. They will be representing your brand and working intimately with you and your employees, so make sure that their values align with your own. Doing so will lead to easier communication and aligned metrics of success while empowering team members on both sides to approach their work with a collaborative mindset.
At SLTC, we’ve designed our tenets around what makes us unique and exceptional.
We are consumer-focused: We partner with early-stage startups who are ready to accelerate growth and established brands who are preparing for their next phase of growth.
We are mission and results-driven: We empower and grow consumer-focused brands and startups that seek to solve real needs and have a positive impact on the world.
We are tenacious: Our experience working with small brands and start-ups means we have the grit, agility, and resourcefulness to glide through hurdles and deliver for your brand.
We are partners: We bring your vision to life and drive growth in a way that you were hoping for, and more. We are partners in the truest sense - we help you grow your marketing understanding, your customer base, and key metrics.
A Personal Touch
Ideally, you want to bring on a company that will treat your growth like its own. A truly collaborative partnership will be bespoke to your brand with the ability to scale.
Our client service pillars are centered around building trust, empathy, collaboration and communication,” says Kassie Phillips, Head of Client Strategy and Services at SLTC. “When we onboard a new client, we spend the first month not just devising their strategy, but getting to know their business and their ways of working, so that we can be valuable, strategic partners to them.
Any marketing agency worth their weight will take the time to intimately understand your brand’s history, story and results, target demographic, business goals, budget, and pain points. They should review your past marketing efforts and do a competitive analysis to create a high-level, realistic strategy that is unique to your business. A ready-made strategy will never be as effective as one that is tailor-made, and having a set-and-forget mindset towards campaigns will cost you time, money, and consumer trust. Make sure the agency you choose gives a personal touch to your campaigns.
Open and Respectful Communication
When it comes to outsourcing your marketing efforts, communication is key and requires patience. Most working relationships will take some time to become a comfortable fit and may require some back and forth at the beginning, so be sure to clarify preferences and expectations to avoid assumptions and reduce miscommunications. A great agency will establish a central hub to document processes for your team to reference and will respond to requests and questions promptly. Additionally, you should feel comfortable about speaking openly and honestly - you are all there for the shared purpose of growing the brand.
“The most impactful work we have produced has been the result of long-standing relationships that have morphed and changed over time. Businesses change and grow, client teams shift and in unpredictable times like now, agencies need to be flexible and nimble,” says Sharon Lee Thony, Founder & CEO.
“In the past three years since starting this agency, I have personally been invited to a number of uncomfortable client conversations. We’ve learned that the most challenging situations have given our team the opportunity to rise to the occasion and strengthen our partnerships with our clients. It’s the folks who have been willing to have those difficult conversations with us, that have benefited the most from their honesty and transparency - and are still our clients today.”
When you reach out to your agency, you should feel confident that there will be an ear to listen, understand, and work towards solving the problem instead of feeling like you are just getting lip service. Keeping communication lines open will help to build trust, transparency, and ROI over time.
A Discerning Eye
Marketing agencies come in all sizes, offering a wide range of services within specialty markets, so make sure to look for an agency that knows the ins and outs of your industry, offers services that align with your goals, and believes they can add value to your business. For instance, if you are a DTC beauty brand, you wouldn’t want to partner with an agency that specializes in healthcare. Each industry has its own set of regulations and best practices while utilizing a unique set of skills, platforms, and services.
When looking at agencies to partner with, keep in mind that size does matter -bigger doesn’t always mean better, and oftentimes smaller agencies can provide more personalized service, increased flexibility for your budget and scope, and greater value to your business.
At SLTC, we believe that trust, transparency, and patience are three non-negotiables of a successful company/agency partnership. These three foundational principles coupled with our four tenets have resulted in long-standing, successful (and profitable) growth for our partners and ourselves.
You grow, we grow, together.
On that note, here is our parting thought -,choosing the right partnership is a two-way street. As much as you are choosing an agency, they should be choosing you–so be cautious of agencies that accept any and all clients without due diligence. With over 200 years of collective experience, we’ve found that the best outcomes occur when we truly believe in your mission and can add value to it in an authentic and creative way. You deserve a team that is fully invested in your vision, ready to navigate any challenges that may arise, and celebrate your success as a fully integrated extension of your team.