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Top Value Propositions and Differentiating Factors of the Best Digital Marketing Agencies

Overview

Identifying the right digital marketing agency to partner with first requires that you have a clear sense of what you’re looking for. Knowing what’s important to your company is a necessary first step to identifying the agency that will be able to fill those needs. Do you want an agency with a global reputation, or one that has the absolute best local talent? One that will push boundaries, or one that will hold your hand throughout the process?

The way digital marketing agencies differentiate themselves is a great way to get an introductory sense of who they are and what they value most. Below are some of the key value propositions of the top digital marketing agencies.

Top marketing agencies work in interdisciplinary teams

Digital marketing is an interdisciplinary business. There’s simply no chance of meaningful, long term success if you rely on a single channel or approach to generate results. Taking an omnichannel approach to your business operation and digital marketing campaigns is the only way to fulfill the needs of the consumer. For this reason, top marketing agencies work in interdisciplinary teams populated by employees with wide-ranging online marketing expertise. There’s value, of course, in having generalists on your team, but specialists with high levels of technical skill in one or two key areas are necessary to manage the finer details. Marketing agencies often differentiate themselves based on the breadth and depth of knowledge of the employees assigned to each digital marketing campaign.

Blue Water, a digital agency with offices in Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco sums up their approach as follows: “It’s simple… we work in small interdisciplinary teams, with clients as our partners, and users as our focus.”

Leading marketing agencies are experimental

Digital marketing is a field that rewards the bold. Continued experimentation is required in order for brands to see continued success. That’s because things change quickly in the digital media landscape, and those that don’t innovate are quickly left behind to flounder. Top digital marketing companies are able to keep their clients in a position of constantly looking toward the future, prepared for changes to come, and keeping out ahead of the competition when it comes to their online presence. These agencies pride themselves of their commitment to experimentation and progress, adopting a pioneering spirit as a core tenet of their operating philosophy.

Two such agencies are Column Five Media and Kounterattack. Kounterattack describes their approach as follows: “Our partnerships foster innovation through an ongoing discovery of actionable insights. We use an iterative approach to address emerging challenges and opportunities so that our clients stay ahead of the competition.”

The best marketing agencies are data-driven

We are living in the age of big data, which means there’s no longer any excuse for making decisions based on gut feeling alone. Of course intuition and emotional intelligence are key to effective marketing, but they can’t be the whole picture. The best marketing agencies use data to benefit their client campaigns by revealing actionable insights about what works and what doesn’t. The most respected agencies in the digital era have made heavy investment in analytics teams and automation that provide the data that informs and shapes the direction of their campaigns.

Trustworthy marketing agencies are focused on results

The best marketing agencies know that when brands make a substantial investment in their online presence, they need to see results that will justify the expenditure. These agencies build campaigns that speak to the client’s bottom line and align directly to a set of goals established early on in the engagement. Trustworthy agencies spend a substantial amount of time upfront learning about the client’s challenges, objectives, and goals. These are used to inform a digital marketing strategy that acts as the blueprint for the campaign. Be wary of agencies that are unwilling to discuss expected campaign outcomes. Be equally suspicious of those who make promises that sound too good to be true, for they almost certainly are.

The most effective marketing agencies do custom work

It’s easy enough to replicate the same marketing tactics for client after client, but what takes true expertise and skill is creating custom campaigns each and every time. This is what separates the amateurs from the true professionals. A top digital marketing company will create custom marketing and advertising strategies for their clients that are informed by each client’s unique set of needs. They innovate and iterate based on observed user behavior, never hesitating to change course if that’s what’s required.

Great marketing agencies develop rewarding company cultures

Talent is the key to success in any agency environment, and digital marketing agencies know this better than anyone. The employees of a digital agency are its lifeblood, and these agencies spend a ton of time and energy developing company cultures that will attract and maintain the best of the best. Talented producers and marketers have their pick of jobs, especially in cities like New York, London, and San Francisco, where a high number of agencies are clustered. This means that agencies have to build company cultures that are engaging and rewarding in order to recruit the best employees. Digital marketing companies frequently call out their culture as a differentiating factor. It’s a way to promote the quality of their talent and demonstrate that they have a passionate, dynamic workforce.

San Francisco-based, Beyond, calls attention to their talent on their website, nothing they’re a team imbued with “infectious creativity.”

Service offerings of top marketing agencies

Full-service digital marketing agencies should be able to handle all your company’s digital marketing needs from start to finish. Some of them may offer design services, like graphic design and web design, in addition to the marketing services listed below:

●     Digital marketing strategy - Developing a blueprint for a marketing campaign or campaigns based on in-depth research, analytics, and historical campaign analysis.

●     Search engine optimization - Also known as SEO -- the process of helping a website appear in organic search results through a series of onsite technical edits and in-depth content marketing.

●     Social media marketing - Engaging with a community of fans and advocates through active social media participation and community management.

●     Email marketing - Increasing engagement and encouraging sales and conversions through a series of targeted, custom, personalized email campaigns.

●     Paid media and online advertising - Increasing brand awareness and recognition through paid digital advertisements, including display, search engine marketing, and social media.

●     Content marketing - Developing a custom content strategy to effectively reach a brand’s target audience. Creating high quality content according to the strategy and promoting it across applicable marketing channels.

●     Website design - A brand’s website is the main hub that connects all of its marketing initiatives. Many digital marketing agencies offer custom web design in addition to marketing service.

How the best digital marketing agencies market themselves

It should come as no surprise that digital marketing agencies generally practice what they preach when it comes to marketing. In fact, in order to assess whether an agency will be an effective partner, it’s wise to check out how they market themselves. If they don’t do good work on their own behalf, what’s to say they’ll do so on yours?

For most top digital marketing agencies, common tactics include:

Content marketing - Creation of high quality content relevant to the company’s industry. Content can include blog posts, white papers, demo reels, webinars, and much, much more.

Thought leadership - Demonstrating expertise in an area or industry through a range of different content created by the agency or employees of the agency.

Client testimonials - A form of word-of-mouth marketing that’s managed by the brand, client testimonials feature the positive experiences of satisfied client. Hearing about the rewarding experience of another client builds trust in prospects and helps bring them through the door in the first place. References will further seal the deal once challengers are narrowed.

Case studies - Examples of previous work. Nearly all marketing agencies use their websites as marketing tools to highlight their best work. Case studies act as proof of what the agency is really capable of and help showcase the results they can achieve.

Social media marketing - Used to share content and engage with the broader digital community.

Search engine optimization (SEO) - A strong presence in organic search results for digital marketing-related keywords.

Takeaways:

In order to find the best digital marketing agency for your brand to partner with, it’s critical to gain an understanding of their values. The best way to do this is to look at how they position and differentiate themselves and figure out how their priorities stack up against your own.

Key differentiating factors of the best marketing agencies in the business are as follows:

●     Interdisciplinary approach - Does the agency have the breadth of talent required to execute a manage a full-scale omnichannel campaign?

●     Committed to experimentation - Is the agency open to experimentation and trying new things? How quick are they to adapt campaigns to new insights, trends, and opportunities?

●     Data-driven - Does the agency rely on data to inform their decisions and recommendations? Is there a team of people at the agency dedicated to analytics? How will data be shared between the agency and your team?

●     Focused on results - Will your campaigns be constructed to align to the goals you’ve laid out? What metrics will the agency use to measure their success, and how do these contribute to your bottom line?

●     Custom work - Does the agency duplicate prior campaigns and force solutions on clients because it’s easier than creating something from scratch? Or do they do high quality custom work tailored to the unique needs of each client?

●     Strong company culture - What types of people work at the agency? What does the agency do to attract and retain the best possible talent?

Top Qualities of the Best Digital Marketing Agencies

Focus on Strategy

All top digital marketing agencies know the value and importance of a digital marketing strategy. A strategy is necessary to guide the direction of marketing campaigns and ensure they are aligned to the brand’s goals and objectives. The agency will build a strategy based on the information gleaned from the client during the discovery phase of the project. This will acquaint them with the client’s unique challenges, target audiences, and previous marketing successes and failures. All of this information is used to inform a strategy that unites the agency and client teams and charts a path for the execution of the client’s marketing campaigns.

Customized Solutions

Every brand is unique and that means that the marketing strategies your agency partner comes up with should be tailored to your business. Top digital marketing agencies emphasize the custom nature of their marketing plans and don’t blindly replicate what’s been done before for other clients. While it’s natural to expect that the agency will apply learnings and strategies that worked for other clients to subsequent campaigns, they should never offer cookie-cutter solutions. Look for a digital marketing agency that recommends ideas and tactics because they believe they’ll help meet the specific objectives of your brand.

Case Studies

A major element of choosing a new agency partner is reviewing the work they’ve done before. Top digital marketing agencies will have case studies on hand that demonstrate their ability to get results for their clients. If they have clients in a range of industries, they should be able to show you the results they’ve achieved for businesses that are similar in nature to yours. Don’t be afraid to ask to see case studies, and to ask the agency to detail the process and approach they used in order to achieve results for the client. 

Results-oriented

Digital marketing is all about moving the needle for your business. That’s why it’s so important to work with a digital marketing agency that focuses on getting results. A good agency partner will be upfront about setting goals and outlining key milestones for your campaigns. They’ll be transparent in detailing what results you can expect to see from the work you’re investing in. Of course they won’t be able to predict traffic or conversions with 100% accuracy, but they should be comfortable setting targets. This kind of transparency is key to making sure the agency is motivated to achieve results and the client is comfortable knowing what to expect from their investment.

Reporting and Accountability

You should never be kept in the dark about the progress of your campaigns. Top digital agencies make accountability and reporting a core tenet of their business practice. Before signing a contract, ask the agency who on their end will manage your account and be sure you have an understanding of how communications between your business and theirs will operate. The agency should be happy to set a regular reporting schedule and should set standards for responding to calls and emails that will ensure they’re kept accountable to results and client communication.