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8 techniques to choose the right marketing agencies to pitch to you

This article supports the Smart Insights agency selection template. The template helps businesses with the next step in the process, which is using a scorecard to help you choose the best agency when several are pitching to you. This workbook details a range of selection criteria which you’ll glean during either desk research, due diligence stage and/or at face to face meetings with an agency (either ‘chemistry’ meetings or pitch presentations).

In the first part of this article I suggest how you can pull together a short list of potential agency partners.  In a follow-up article I will look at approaches to running the actual selection or pitch process. I say ‘or’ because you don’t necessarily need to run a full-blown pitch process (which can be very time consuming for both you and the agencies involved) for smaller projects or where an agency has come highly recommended, you’ve got good chemistry upon meeting and they clearly understand your brief.

Selecting your short list

If you are looking for a new (or your first) agency it can be a daunting prospect. There are around 20,000 or so agencies of different sizes and service offerings in the UK, from enormous agencies with an international client base and integrated services through to a two person startup specialising in wordpress builds – and everything in between. I couldn’t get a definitive figure for the UK but that 20,000+ figure kept cropping up in discussion and whilst it sounds a lot (actually it is a lot) the USA has around 120,000 agencies to choose from.

Of course success, isn’t just about getting a workable short list from those thousands of agencies, that’s just the start of the selection process. There’s a lot riding on getting the right partner that will share your vision (and possibly shape it) and provide the most effective marketing that helps you grow your business.

You may not be looking for a lifelong partnership but you should be looking for a long tenure (with the chance for both brand and financial returns to flourish) so there is definitely an element of dating going on here. Short of placing a lonely hearts ad (Growing brand with GSOH WLTM outgoing, creative effective Agency.. ‘) where do you look?

Sourcing your Agency List

There are a number of ways to get down to a workable consideration list who you can then (a) send a request for information to and then (b) supply a brief to short list from that stage. I don’t recommend sending the actual brief to more than three or four agencies.

1. Peer recommendations

Ask colleagues (in other parts of your business if in a large corporate) or ex-colleagues who may be using an agency or industry contacts who they have used previously or are using now and they would be happy to recommend.

2. Asking on LinkedIn groups for recommendations

Others will be happy to share their thoughts if you explain briefly the type of agency service you are looking for, any brief parameters (e.g ‘ideally in Leicester area’, ‘can provide marketing strategy as well as design services etc’).

You might want to state that you are not accepting direct approaches from agencies at this stage, you’ll evaluate any recommendations via the group discussion thread etc.

3. League Tables

Examples of league tables include the eConsultancy’s Top 100 digital agencies

Note : these tables will typically include the larger agencies as they are ranked by turnover.

4. Awards

Awards provide league tables of a sort in that it is often a combination of independent industry experts and / or the industry itself that selects great work e.g Big Chip  or The Revolution Awards (Revawards).

5. Industry / Trade association websites

If you have a look on industry association websites, they often have a membership directory, searchable by agency type.

6. Google

There’s always Google to fill the gaps of the above approaches or as the starting point for a long list. You can be specific about geography (if that’s important to you), types of services you’re seeking and you can then use a clipping service like Evernote to save a long list of possible agency websites to review in more detail at a later date. And with Evernote you can add initial impressions and notes to each saved website / page.

7. Intermediaries (a.k.a agency search and selection / pitch consultants)

The first seven points above are ‘DIY’ in approach but you could short circuit some of or all of those and use one of the Intermediaries in the market.

Intermediaries will generally not just offer an agency search service but may also look at agency benchmarking, account / relationship coaching etc.

It’s usually the agencies who pay a fee to be registered with the Intermediary, either a flat fee or a completion if they are successfully selected by the client.

Some example intermediaries are given here:

Find Good

FindGood have three ‘rules’ for clients who want to use their agency selection process – ones I agree with (see later) :’ no more than 3 marketing agencies per pitch; budget transparency and realistic deadlines.

IPA

The IPA is a membership body and not an intermediary as such but they have a nice search tool (by geography and creative examples etc) and an agency being a member of the IPA is an endorsement of a professional approach in itself. Note, though, that it will be a limited field of choice in that these are the larger agencies in the UK and won’t suit smaller brands and businesses.

AAR

The AAR work across all types of agency and list some of the UK’s biggest brands as clients.

Creativebrief

Agency Spotter

And there’s also Agencyspotter, predominantly States based at the present but I believe they are planning wider European/UK services at some stage and look to already have 900+ UK agencies on the site.

They have a nice LinkedIn feature: if you login to the site with your Linkedin profile you can see how you might be connected to the agency you are looking at (so you can see what your connections already think of the agency).

8. Call for expressions of interest (RFPs)

You could put out a notice via your local /regional digital trade body outlining briefly what kind of service you are looking for and how prospective agencies can get in touch for more information.

You could also do the same on your Twitter account, with a link back to a landing page on your website detailing the overall pitch parameters and timescales etc. Note though that an open call could yield large numbers of enquiries and you’ll have to evaluate them all.

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How Do I Start A Digital Marketing Agency?

Why is a Digital Marketing Agency a Good Business to Start?

A digital marketing agency can be a great business to start. Due to the increasing number of businesses that are moving their operations online, there is a demand for more effective digital marketing services. Search engines have become more intelligent. There has been a significant increase in competition for customers. The sites that follow proper guidelines are considered to be the best. There has also been a shift away from bad copy and spam.

Due to the rise of digital marketing, more businesses are now looking into using platforms such as Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn to attract customers. Unfortunately, many digital marketers are still not achieving the results they want. This is why it is important that they are constantly looking for new ways to improve their performance. Hence, an agency can help businesses grow rapidly.

Steps to Start a Digital Marketing Agency

Here are some simple steps that can be used to start a digital marketing agency −

Identify Your Niche

Getting a deeper understanding of market trends and the latest needs of your customers will allow you to create effective marketing strategies. This is the first step in establishing a successful digital marketing agency.

Work on Your Digital Marketing Skills

The first step in establishing a successful digital marketing agency is to develop the necessary self-confidence and technical skills. This can be done in three areas: digital marketing, business management, and self-esteem. In order to start a successful digital marketing agency, you need to know everything about it. Besides being able to understand how it works, you also need to know how to run effective campaigns and how to improve the sales of your clients.

Register Business

Although you may start out as a solopreneur, you will need to establish a business identity to start scaling up. You can register a variety of types of companies, such as a proprietorship, a corporation, or an LLC. An accountant can also help you manage your finances and ensure that your taxes are filed on time.

Decide Your Strategy

Before you start thinking about how you want to establish yourself in the digital space, it’s important that you first think about your niche. There are many factors that go into making a successful start-up, such as the type of marketing strategy that you want to implement, your target market, and your local area. It’s also important to remember that you should start small and build a strong foundation.

Build Online Presence

Your agency’s website is one of the first steps in establishing a successful online presence. It should be designed to represent your brand and provide potential clients with all the necessary information to make an informed decision when it comes to hiring you.

Audit the Competition

It is very important that you map the competition in your target domains. Conduct an analysis of their offerings and their strategies to find out what their customers are saying about them. Doing so will allow you to build deeper connections within the industry.

Build Your Team

One of the most important factors that you should consider when it comes to implementing digital marketing strategies is building a core team that has the necessary expertise to carry out the tasks. This can be done by hiring an SEO expert, for instance, or a social media manager.

Build Your Portfolio

You should aim to build a portfolio and get positive feedback from customers to encourage more people to sign up with you. Doing so will allow you to provide the best possible service and attract more potential customers.

One of the most important factors that you should consider when it comes to securing a new client is having a good portfolio and a good review from past customers. This will take some time to get established, but it’s worth it.

Stay Relevant

One of the most important factors that businesses need to consider when it comes to digital marketing is the continuous evolution of their skills and the latest methodologies and trends. This will allow them to provide their clients with the best possible services. Employees should also attend training and seminars to improve their skills and meet other like-minded individuals.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Digital Marketing Agency?

The costs associated with running a business can vary depending on various factors, such as your client base, the scale of your operations, and the region in which you work. A back-of-the-envelope calculation can help you estimate the expenses that you might have to spend. Some of the standard expenses that you might consider include hosting websites, employee costs, and software for creating content and marketing.

Conclusion

A digital marketing agency can be a great opportunity for people who are passionate about their work. It allows them to provide services from their homes, and it can also scale without the need for much capital. However, before you start working in this field, it’s important that you have the necessary skills and knowledge.

Even though you may not have the necessary background to operate a digital marketing agency, you can still manage one. It requires a lot of patience and commitment to build strong client relationships and develop a compelling online presence.

What Is The Financial Cost Of A Digital Marketing Agency?

Cost of Digital Marketing Agencies with Structure

Before employing a digital marketing agency, you should always be fully aware of the invoicing and expense structure. There are various distinct billing models used by digital marketing companies, including hourly, retainers, and value-based invoicing.

Hourly Billing

Hourly billing is the best type of structure for a new and developing digital marketing company. Because they might not be aware of the potential length of a project, organizations with less expertise benefit from hourly billing. In particular, if they end up with a client that makes several revision and edit requests, charging by the hour will prevent them from unintentionally undercharging themselves.

The typical blended fee for a marketing service agency in the current market ranges from $150 to $200 per hour. That is more like $250 an hour in the larger markets like New York or California.

Retainers

Retainers are a different pricing strategy. A retainer is the best arrangement for a firm if you want to collaborate with the agency for an extended period of time or have multiple projects you’d like them to work on. You won’t be billed separately or by the hour with this method of billing, so you can request as many tasks as you need.

Fortunately, a monthly retainer is preferred by the majority of digital marketing agencies over a per-project arrangement. Also, this can assist your company in better balancing its marketing budget and cash flow management. The normal monthly retainer contract fee in the United States is currently between $5,000 and $20,000.

Per-Project Recurring

Some agreements, such as those involving SEO, are lengthy. Frequently, recurring billing will be used for these longer-term projects. In essence, this enables an annual pricing structure that is flexible or discounted.

Performance-based

An agency that bases its fees on a performance-based model is typically well-established and has a solid reputation. You can notice a higher price tag because they have a good reputation and a lot of history to back up their superior performance. The good news is that you can be somewhat confident in the caliber of the service they provide.

Value-based

A value-based pricing model means that the agency will bill you in accordance with the value they can provide to your business, or more specifically, the value their work can have on your bottom line. This is typically another strategy adopted by more seasoned digital marketing companies. Similar to performance-based charging, this pricing strategy can serve as a reliable predictor of the caliber of the agency’s contents that you will receive.

Types of Digital Marketing Agencies

It might be challenging to choose a digital marketing agency if you are new with the market. While some businesses provide a wide range of services, others are experts in a particular industry or service. Which option is best for your business will depend on your budget, your digital marketing goals and objectives, and how involved you want to be in your marketing.

Digital Marketing Agency with Complete Service

A full-service digital marketing firm is larger than most other sorts of businesses and often provides a wide range of digital marketing services. Because they have experience working on specific projects that businesses need to be done, including lead nurturing campaigns or website redesigns, firms frequently engage with full-service digital marketing agencies. These groups can give them more strength for less money than it would cost to staff up new marketing sections.

Marketing Agency Inbound PPC (Digital ad) Agency PPC and Online Ad Agency Agency for Social Media

When they require assistance creating and managing a social media presence, businesses turn to social media agencies. Advertising can be set up on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram by social media agencies, who can also manage and develop social content. They will also provide services for responding to and responding to interactions with customers on social media platforms. They might also provide influencer outreach for joint marketing efforts or affiliate marketing.

Agency for Web Design

A web design agency is made up of talented designers who create unique, search-engine-optimized websites or web pages for businesses. Whether it’s a brand-new website, a website overhaul, or a smaller job, web designers will take care of the page’s appearance, feel, and functionality. Web development, web hosting, image creation and storage, user experience and user interface (UX/UI) design, and research are among the common services provided by website agencies.

Conclusion

How To Hire A Marketing Company

2. Seek references for marketing firms and consider industry expertise.

Check out any potential marketing partner’s references, and see what similar businesses say about them. Pay close attention to marketing companies whose services seem relevant to your needs.

David Wyatt, head of communications and business strategy at Mighty Coconut, said you should always talk to recent references. “Marketing can be a very volatile industry, and clients need to know how agency teams are [performing] in recent months,” Wyatt said.

Additionally, if a marketing company caters specifically to your industry (or, better yet, small businesses in your industry), it might be worth a closer look.

“Industry-specific marketing is best for small businesses,” said Kathryn Carter Heck, search engine marketing analyst for Coalmarch. “For example, Coalmarch is a marketing company specific to the pest control industry. Because we serve a specific client, we provide an incomparable understanding of seasonality and how people shop for what our clients sell.”

3. Make a shortlist of marketing company candidates.

Once you’ve identified several marketing companies that fit your goals and have experience serving similar businesses in your industry, make a shortlist of candidates to review. From here, establish direct contact with the agencies, and tell them you’re considering hiring them. 

4. Ask for work samples from marketing companies on your shortlist.

Ask each candidate on your shortlist for samples of work relevant to your needs. For example, if you want to build an effective business website, ask to see previous clients’ websites. If you want them to manage social media for your business, ask to view other clients’ accounts.

“Not all marketing companies are created equally. If you are a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, so clients should know what sort of capabilities and capacity they need before they begin their search,” Wyatt said.

Samples of previous campaigns and other work help demonstrate the range of skills a marketing company brings to the table.

5. Review the marketing company’s marketing.

Another excellent way to glean how well a marketing company could work for your small business is to examine its marketing efforts.

Review their website and social media channels to get a sense of their content, graphics and branding. If their digital properties look professional and effective, chances are they can do the same for your business. If not, question whether they really have the expertise or skills you need.

“Generally, you should avoid hiring a marketing company that doesn’t have strong marketing for their own agency,” Heck said. “If they don’t put time into their own marketing, how can you expect them to grow your company through their marketing efforts?”

6. Consider online customer reviews about potential marketing companies.

If you’re considering a marketing company, check whether they have online customer reviews or testimonials that back up their expertise. A reputable marketing company has many reviews and won’t try to obscure them. Moving forward with that marketing agency may be risky if you can’t find any reviews.

“One major red flag to avoid when it comes to hiring a marketing company or agency is no reviews or portfolio available,” said David McHugh, former CMO of Crediful. “You should stay away from agencies that have no testimonials or reviews from former clients. This is either a sign that the marketing agency is brand new or their former clients have had bad experiences, both of which are signs that the agency won’t be right for you.”

Tip

If your business gets a negative customer review, answer quickly with a personalized, thoughtful and empathetic response to demonstrate your genuine commitment to your customers.

7. Request a detailed service agreement before hiring a marketing company.

Marketing can be a sprawling aspect of running a business; ensure you understand everything you’re paying for. To avoid misunderstandings, request a detailed service agreement or business proposal from a prospective marketing company. Ask them to break down all the services they’ll provide with line-item costs. Most marketing companies worth hiring will do this for you. If they’re not, ask for a clear explanation about why they can’t.

8. Sign a short-term contract with a marketing company and reassess regularly.

Some marketing strategies result in a fast ROI, while other tactics take longer to be effective. To manage these variables, sign a short contract of about 90 days and reassess your progress toward your identified goals quarterly. If you believe the marketing company is making reasonable progress, consider renewing the contract. If not, you’re free to move on.

Many marketing agencies are willing to work with small businesses to meet their needs. If a marketing company is aggressive in trying to get you to sign a long-term contract (i.e., a year or longer), ask for their rationale. Depending on your requested services, there may be a strategic reason for a lengthy contract term. 

However, if a company can’t or won’t explain the practical need behind a long-term contract, that could be a red flag that it’s trying to lock you into a service agreement for its own benefit.

Did You Know?

 Set achievable business goals for your marketing campaigns and assess your marketing firm’s success in reaching agreed-upon KPIs.

Finding the best marketing company for your business

Whether you need a boost to your social media marketing or your SEO best practices, marketing companies or services can help your business expand its marketing strategy. As you search for marketing partners to assist your company, prioritize your business’s marketing goals. This way, the marketing company you hire can meet your needs and take your business to the next level. 

Shayna Waltower contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

How To Remove Input Background On Select In Css

The default styling for HTML form elements can often be somewhat dull and uninspiring. One element that is often in need of a design overhaul is the select input, which is used to present users with a list of options to choose from. In this article, we will show you how to remove the default background of the select input using CSS.

By doing so, you will be able to customize the appearance of your select inputs and make them more visually appealing and in line with the overall design of your website or application.

Various Inputs fields in CSS

Let us first understand the basic knowledge that, we need to have before moving on to solving this problem. The first thing we need to know is, what are inputs in a web page? Any intractable section of the website through which the user can enter and submit data is called input field in a website.

There are different types of inputs that are provided in HTML. For example, text area, radio, select options, etc. Each of these inputs are styled differently by default. On many occasions we are required to use a custom styling to give impact to our website and make it stand out from others.

Some common examples for input fields being used in websites are given below.

The second thing we need to know is about “states” of these inputs. Whenever we are interacting with the input field to enter some data, the input field is said to be in “active” state, but if the input field is left untouched, it is said to be in “non-active” state. Another terminology that can be used to describe them is “focused” and “unfocused” state. By default, all inputs are in unfocused state.

But that only works for input types that are entered by the user. More often than not, websites contain drop-down lists that has some pre-existing list of options you can chose from and the user choses one or more from the given list.

As all other form of inputs, it is also an input field and has a default styling associated to it. We can create the custom drop-down list using the select tag from html. It is majorly used in forms to collect data from the users. An example of a drop-down list using the select tag is given below.

Example

In the above example, we provided the select tag a name and an id. The name attribute is for refer it after its submission by user, while the id attribute is used to access the data that will be sent after submission. To provide the options that are available for the user to choose we use the option tag. We can also use several other attributes to make the list more accessible and distinct.

Example

In the following example we can use the –webkit-appearance : none to completely remove the background.

.form-control:focus, .form-control:active { background: transparent; } #movies, #movies:focus, #movies:active { background: none; -webkit-appearance: none; } <input name=”YourName” type=”text”

placeholder=”Can you please tell me your name :)” required <input name=”YourEmail” type=”email”

placeholder=”Your email please :)”

As we can already notice that the visual output of the example above is different and does not have that default grayish toned background color in it. Another unintuitive approach would be to use a div as a container for the select box. After that set a width restriction and hide the overflow, and let the select box’s width be somewhat smaller than the container div. That way the default styled arrow will disappear from the webpage.

Please note that instead of targeting a single tag like we did in this article, most developers make use of ids and classes to make a general style so that we do not have to repeat the code in case a similar situation occurs.

Conclusion

This article discussed the solution for the problem of removing input background in CSS. In the process of doing so, we learnt about inputs, their types, default styling of inputs, and their states. We also learnt how we can target special states of elements using the pseudo class selectors.

Social Media Marketing: Should You Hire An Agency Or Keep It In

The first is to hire a professional agency to handle the campaign. The second is to do it in-house, where one or more employees are responsible for performing tasks. Below, I’ll outline the pros and cons of each option.

Social Media Agency: Advantages

For instance, most businesses will typically use Facebook and Twitter, but an agency might recommend and know how to extract value from sites like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram, depending on your industry or product.

Since they’re an outside party, a social media agency can make an objective assessment of your business and implement a strategy that gives you the greatest chance of success. In many cases, they can also ensure the quickest results because they know what works and what doesn’t. Due to the learning curve associated with social media marketing, partnering with an agency can prevent typical newbie mistakes. Rather than spending time experimenting with different possibilities, a concrete plan can be put into action right away so you can get a quicker return on investment.

As your campaign progresses, an agency can also use analytics and other tools to optimize various aspects of the campaign. For instance, they may use software like HootSuite, SproutSocial, or Google Analytics to monitor each social media channel. Knowing which software to use and how to use it takes time to master. Luckily, the skill set of an agency will help unearth a wealth of information over time, which will translate into more followers, more shares, and ultimately, increased sales.

Another issue is that outsiders don’t always have a full understanding of your industry. Since the content created for a campaign is based around niche-specific information, it can be difficult for an outsider to gain the trust of an audience. Although an agency can spend time researching and learning about an industry, it’s unlikely to match the knowledge of a company representative who has been in the industry for years.

In addition, you may find yourself at a loss when you and your agency part ways. If your business is completely reliant upon a partner, and never learns the fundamentals of campaign management, it can make things challenging down the road.

In House: Advantages

By using team members from within your company, you’re much more likely to have specific industry knowledge and insight. This can be valuable when it comes to creating content in which your audience is interested. Choosing the in-house approach is also an effective way to lay down solid social media foundations and maintain a level of stability.

You can also expect to save a considerable amount of money with this option. According to Mashable, “Handling all social media efforts in-house is often the most affordable route for small business owners. Per hour, an agency’s time or a consultant’s time is going to be much more expensive than a full or part-time employee.” When you don’t have a big marketing budget, using the talents of in-house employees can allow you to achieve results without breaking the bank.

Having team members who understand how to run a social media campaign can have definite long-term benefits. Although there will be a learning curve—and you won’t experience results overnight—your company will eventually gain the knowledge and experience to thrive in the social media space. You won’t be at the mercy of a single agency, and there will be added sustainability.

In terms of drawbacks, you may not have adequate human resources to effectively run a proper social media marketing campaign. If employees already have their hands full with other tasks, it may simply be asking too much to spend hours each week on social media. In some cases, this can spread team members too thin, leaving other areas of your business to suffer.

It may also be a matter of limited abilities and/or enthusiasm. Sometimes, employees just aren’t interested in this type of marketing and don’t want to take the time to learn how it works. Without everyone on board and collaborating with one another, a social media campaign can do more harm than good.

There’s also the issue of the length of time it takes to see tangible results. Before you gain a serious following and build a name for yourself, you’re likely to experience some growing pains. Rather than getting a large amount of exposure in weeks, it could take months or even years. This can be demoralizing to some companies who are hoping to see results right away.

Finally, it’s possible to make the same mistakes with an in-house approach. Since team members might not know about all the resources for analyzing data, they can end up using the same technique even when it’s ineffective. There is also the problem that in-house employees lack the objectivity of an agency. They may convince themselves that something is working when it really isn’t, just to appease management.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when choosing your approach to social media marketing, there are several factors to take into account. Some businesses opt for hiring an agency for every single detail of a campaign, while others prefer to do everything themselves. Whatever your preference, there are pros and cons to each method.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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