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How to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency: The Final Round

We talked about why it's important for companies to do in-depth due diligence before hiring a digital marketing agency as well as 11 good questions to ask during the initial vetting process - questions provided courtesy of an informal survey conducted by MarketingVOX of digital agencies.

Here is the final round of questions.

Bryon Morrison, president of Ipsh, which is part of Omnicom's The Marketing Arm, suggests opening with a variation that has stumped numerous job candidates:

1. Are you an Apple or PC? "This one falls in line with, 'If you were a tree what kind would you be?'" In other words you learn a great deal about their sense of design, technical biases, he says.

2. How much of a campaign budget should go to digital? "The correct answer is that it depends on the campaign objectives and audience, but you'll learn if they feel the world revolves around digital," says Morrison.

3. If you found yourself having to unilaterally make a decision on behalf of your client, would you execute work that builds the brand or makes the sale? It's an especially relevant question for digital agencies, because you will learn what their orientation is toward direct, e-commerce, data-driven marketing or if they lean toward immersive, flash-driven experiences, Morrison says.

4. How do you handle specialty work like mobile, social, eCRM, media, viral, digital OOH and other emerging channels? According to Morrison, this answer should give you a sense of whether the company takes an open or closed development approach and whether it believes in in best-of-breed partnerships or channel management.

Inhouse or Not?

Companies should, in fact, spend a lot of time delving into exactly what disciplines are available at the agency - especially the specialty ones, says Charlie Kondek, director of New Media Relations at MS&L Digital.  "The truth is, not all marketing agencies offer the full breadth of skills and capabilities a client needs. Often, an agency is capable of web development but not managing owned media. Or, they are capable of web development and managing owned media but not earning media."

Fact is, he said, few agencies are fully capable of getting the best results in the three major areas of media: paid media, owned media and earned media. So it's not a deal-breaker. "The norm is to handle several agencies to handle all these areas. Then the challenge becomes getting the agencies to work together and achieve maximum results for the client."

Kevin Arthur, executive vice president of Firstborn suggests asking:

5. Has any of your digital work been leveraged for use in any medium such as print or broadcast?

6. What is your philosophy on matching the appropriate technology to a campaign idea?

7. How have you used technology in a way that hasn't been done before?

8. Do you think small project teams have the ability to produce large scale digital assignments and if so how?

9. Is there a particular design aesthetic your agency is known for and if not what is your approach to translating brands in the digital space?

10. How have you spread awareness organically via social channels (or otherwise) as opposed to any paid media initiatives and how has that saved money for your clients?

Best Foot Forward

After asking them to navigate that obstacle course, it may be best to let the agency close with its best pitch. To that end Nowell Upham, a SVP at The Marketing Arm suggests asking:

11. What has been your biggest viral marketing success story?

12. What's your best example of integrating online and offline marketing?

And finally:

13. How many of your online promotions have hit the million-person participation mark?


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