As the resident sales guy for a major digital agency, I speak with a lot of people. It’s my job after all to filter through all of the contacts produced from our various lead funnels to determine who might be a good fit to partner with. I have to uncover their needs and match that with our solutions and teams to ensure we can be effective. Most of my interactions begin with a company making a decision to seek help. Sometimes they are fully aware of how behind they are. Other times they are just trying to educate themselves about what else is possible. Either way, they know they could be doing things better. That’s where I come in. I have to evaluate them just as much as they evaluate us.
The contacts I speak with know they need assistance, but they often don’t know much more than that. They have already audited their internal system and found it inadequate. (If you are curious about the adequacy of your own marketing system, you should take a look at my previous article explaining what you should be looking for. You can find that article here.) They tend to be informed enough to know that there is plenty they don’t know. But that can be a bit unsettling. It’s fine to ask for help, but that’s much easier accomplished when you know what you need help with. What we know for sure is that someone in a position of power decided that it is time for the business to grow. So where do you go from there? This article (as well as the next one) will help answer that question.
Begin with a Clear Understanding of Your Internal Capabilities
Now I apologize if this might seem obvious to some of you, but let me assure you that the majority of the people I speak with haven’t put as much thought into this as I’d recommend. Before you ask for someone’s help with a job, it’s important to understand what exactly you need help with. Rarely does a potential new client ask for help in everything we do. Our team is large, and our skills are vast, and the potential client’s budget is often limited. My job is to determine what services we can provide that will produce to greatest impact. So in order to define that, I’ll need to know what internal capabilities you are bringing to the table. Do you produce good content? Do you have an internal designed or developer? What does your marketing team look like? Is it just you, or do you have helpers? If you can clearly define your internal capabilities, I’ll much more easily be able to start designating who will occupying the different “seats of this bus,” so to speak. (Click here for some direction in how to evaluate your marketing team.)
Continue by Defining Your Baseline
Part of knowing where you want to go requires first understanding where you are currently. If you have nothing in place, the baseline is zero. The challenge to be done is clear because it requires a ground-up build. But from my experience, I’ve found that it’s fairly rare for a potential client to actually be at zero. Don’t get me wrong, it happens, but most of the people I speak with are already doing some of the things they need to be doing. Maybe their website has been recently redesigned with a modern conversion-centric layout. Maybe the sales team is already using a digital CRM and logging activity and pipeline. Perhaps they are already utilizing toolsets like HubSpot, but they just can’t to improve the results they get from their efforts. I’ve seen it all. My job is to help them have a clear understanding of where they are, so I can determine where we can take them.
There is no set list of the most important metrics to track. Everyone decides on their own KPIs. For some guidance on what metrics to choose for your organization, you can read this article for some ideas. Or, if you prefer, you can simply use some of the metrics we track listed below. So if you are going to be evaluating a marketing agency, I suggest beginning that process by first trying to answer these questions yourself.
- What is your average number of monthly website viewers?
- How any of those viewers are converted into marketing qualified leads (MQLs)?
- How many of those monthly leads are qualified for sales (SQLs)?
- How many customers do you produce from those monthly SQLs?
- What is the lifetime value of an average customer?
If you can begin your discussions with an agency by having these metrics defined, you will be set up to efficiently move forward. The next step will be defining where you want to go.
Complete Your Prep by Establishing Clear Goals
First and foremost, every action you take in business should be done with intention. Succeeding in the digital space is no different. Begin with an observation. Then you can craft a theory. And from there, you put that theory into action and test it. But before this can be put into practice, it’s vital to have established intelligent goals for key metrics that will allow you to judge whether or not you are creating the desired impact. What are you trying to do with your efforts? What is all this truly about? Usually the answer is the bottom line. A business wants to grow their sales, and they believe that a modern sales and marketing system can help them do that. But simply looking for “growth” isn’t a defined goal and won’t provide you with a clear understanding of success or failure. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, this year is about acting with intention. That means we need to dial in further to produce a truly “smart” goal. (To see some examples of smart goals put into practice, take a look at this article from HubSpot.)
If you can follow these steps prior to reaching out to various marketing agencies, I guarantee that you will enter that process with a much clearer understanding of the job to be done. That will help speed up your evaluation and allow the different agencies being considered to more easily qualify themselves in or out of contention based on your needs and their capabilities. The next part of your process will center around what to keep in mind when evaluating the agencies themselves. For that advice, stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog.