Digital marketing is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business these days. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or whether you’re a small business or a multinational enterprise spanning the globe, a strong digital marketing presence is on par with having a business license.
It’s that fundamental.
Digital and email marketing in general aren’t things that can be delegated to half-baked team members and low paid interns.
Even the most knowledgeable and established in-house marketing teams don’t always have the time and resources to tackle a growing list of digital demands.
Agencies help businesses by becoming the go-to stakeholders for specific digital channels. That is, their sole job is to create, manage and execute on comprehensive strategies that’ll eventually augment a company’s entire marketing and sales results.
For our purposes of this article, we’ll focus specifically on the benefits of hiring an email marketing agency. But keep in mind that a lot of these same factors can be applied to any kind of digital agency.
Benefits of hiring a digital marketing agency
A lot of businesses understand the value of email marketing, but don’t have a clue on how to unlock that value. Or they’re selling themselves terribly short of the potential this channel has for their brand.
Email is a necessary component to building out any sort of customer relationship, whether it’s in reference to a B2C or B2B company.
A person’s email is their keystone to the digital world.
It’s the first thing websites ask for when someone signs up for a service or product and it’s the hub of communications for nearly everything online.
An email agency can take this fundamental channel and turn it into overdrive by figuring out an overarching strategy and putting their expertise and resources to help a company achieve its most important goals.
Here are a few ways that an email agency can provide value to your business.
Providing measurable results
Billions of dollars are routinely spent on an annual basis to get those precious consumer eyes focused on your product or service and not your competitors.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to throw your hard earned dollars into the digital abyss and hope for the best. Any agency worth hiring has ingrained into their offerings: the consistent presentation of important email metrics and financial KPIS.
You’re going to get measurable results.
One of the most important aspects of email marketing is the innate quantitative nature of the channel. It means that everything is measurable to a certain degree. Not only do agencies craft stellar creative work that converts, they also track and present results that convey the success of a marketing initiative.
Investing thousands to tens of thousands of dollars on a project or monthly agency retainer might initially be hard to commit to, that is until you see how your outsourced expenditures are netting your company tenfold in returns.
This constant review of measurable data tells you what’s working and what’s not.
And for those hard to reach places where actionable data is scarce, such as offline conversions or word of mouth (don’t worry our best people are working on quantifying this too); an agency’s work also helps to build a consistent and strong brand identity when it comes to qualitative results as well.
Scaling your business
Business administration and human resources are a huge aspect of any established or growing business. Hiring and training new staff is a commitment, that doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to.
Hiring a good email marketing agency on the other hand is like a plug and play experience.
They have a team of specialists in a number of domains that range from creative designers and writers to data analysts, project managers and so on. With agencies you’re able to leverage their expertise and wide range of skill sets to quickly scale your marketing channels, while you can spend more time focusing on core business initiatives.
A great agency is an extension of your internal marketing team.
Small to mid market businesses can focus on other important aspects of growing the business. Enterprise businesses can augment their email channel with an expert-led team.
You can shift away from the day-to-day nitty gritty and feel comfortable that you have experts in the driver’s seat.
Intelligent agency-business partnerships should usually have one of their team members as the point of contact with an agency. Either an executive or accountable in-house marketing advisor relays high level business initiatives and reviews the work from the agency.
It’s a continual process of partnership.
Project management and daily operations
Great agencies not only deliver great work, but are accountable and attentive to your needs.
Agencies help you overcome complexity creep. They focus on getting things done, not worrying about how things are going to get done.
Accountability means that you can call up your account manager and chat about the email send schedule for the month. It means not having to worry about whether or not you’re able to pull the latest analytics report for review.
On the attentive side, you have a team who’s strategizing and creating without you having to say a word. If your latest automated email series could be better optimized, for instance, your agency has already started conceptualizing a new way to optimize it.
A strong project management ethos is built into the best email marketing agencies. It’s the canvas and container where everything else stems from.
Basics of hiring a digital marketing agency
If you’re thinking about hiring an email marketing agency, chances are that you realize that there is a need for the service. At this point, it’s crucial for both yourself and the agency to understand the specific pain points and business issues you’ll be trying to solve with this solution.
Your focus should center on identifying these initiatives in a clear manner. On the other hand, if you already know the exact services you need, feel free to make a list for the agency to review.
Perhaps you either have minimal or no triggered email series properly setup and that’s causing missed revenue opportunities. Maybe your issues are broader in scope and your company doesn’t have the bandwidth for a dedicated in-house email marketing team, but desperately needs management for the channel.
All of these issues should be taken into consideration and explained to the agencies you’re thinking about hiring.
In the discovery stage, the right agency will get to know you, your business and the best solutions for your unique marketing challenges.
But first, it starts with knowing what you want and need.
Setting SMART Goals
You’ve probably heard about S.M.A.R.T goals some time in your professional life. The concept is a universal tool that can be used in a number of disciplines. It’s also something you’ll want to take into account to set expectations for what you want to achieve with email marketing and how you’re going to achieve it.
Here’s a quick refresher on the acronym:
In the context of email marketing, a specific goal means that you are explicitly looking to tackle an exact issue, whether that’s increasing subscriber growth or increasing conversions that lead to purchases. Instead of saying you want to grow revenue or create a dynamic channel, you instead specifically address the core goal at hand that’ll lead to these eventual high-level ideals.
A measurable goal takes that initial specific idea and then puts a numeric value to it. It determines what percentage you want to grow your subscriber base by, or comes up with a quantitative goal for how many more conversions you want. Maybe it’s a specific number, increased percentage, or range of growth you’d like to hit on a month over month basis.
Actionable goals are set up so that whatever you do directly affects the goal at hand. For example, if you say that you’re going to create an email overlay with a discount code to encourage subscriber signups, you’re implementing an actionable goal. Likewise, if you start sending targeted and personalized campaigns to an engaged subscriber base to sell your newest promotions, you’re actively on course to make more sales.
Make realistic goals that are attainable on a time bound schedule. Aim high with ambition or play it safe for steady growth, either way you need to be realistic about what you can achieve in a certain timeframe. There’s no exact science to how long it takes for your digital marketing efforts to pay off, but it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Long running campaigns and promotional initiatives will take at minimum a few weeks to months before you can start seeing how successful your efforts are.
Key questions to ask yourself and agency
First try and understand what issues you’re having and conceptualize how you can solve those issues with SMART goals by hiring an agency.
Are you trying to increase customer engagement, resurrect the company’s unused email channel, or set in motion long running lifecycle campaigns? Find out if a specialized agency has the know-how and experience for what you’re looking to achieve.
Think about how the agency will mix with your current company team. Are they going to be working together with the sales team or work with a dedicated in-house marketer? A good deal of companies work with multiple agencies, consultancies and freelancers. Think about how you want to integrate an email agency with the rest of your business strategy.
What type of technology platforms are they going to need to get plugged in and tuned into?
How important is project management oversight?
Think about the channels of communication. Do you put a lot of value in weekly strategy calls and on-demand email support?
Do you need a one-off project, or is ongoing management and active marketing solutions better suited for your long term needs?
Practical considerations when working with an agency
Agencies either work on a project basis or on retainer. The latter option is usually the most beneficial for both parties. As email marketing is an ongoing investment in the business and channels take time to grow and stay optimized.
There are certain questions to ask and things you should figure out before officially hiring an email marketing agency.
- What does the initial plan of action (usually 90 days) look like?
- What types of services and deliverables are included in your service package?
- Who will be managing the account and how will we receive the deliverables?
- How will we manage lines of communication and project management?
- Can you customize a special service package for what our company needs?
- What experience do you have in our specific industry?
- What are the terms of the contractual agreement for working together?
This is a great place to start. An agency that is on top of things, will most likely mention some of these questions before you even have to ask during the consultation process.
Now on to the most important question that’s always lurking on both sides.
What’s your budget?
How much is this investment going to cost?
Assess your budget
Buy cheap, buy twice. Great work doesn’t come at bargain prices.
If you’re serious about implementing a solution that has the potential to skyrocket the top and bottom line, grow the business and make your digital marketing channels more profitable; then you need to set a realistic budget.
Internally, you need to utilize some kind of methodology to determine this budget and adjust accordingly once you’ve heard what the agency has to tell you about its cost structure for your unique needs.
An intelligent agency is also vetting you as a client. They’re thinking about the best services you’ll need to accomplish your marketing goals and whether or not they can provide you with the right solutions.
That entails coming up with figures for things like monthly deliverables, team members to enlist to put on your account and so on. All of this goes into the budget for a project or ongoing monthly retainer.
Both parties can begin to get an idea of how much things are going to cost usually after an initial consultation on the phone.
What ultimately follows is a statement of work, proposal and master agreement to sign once everything is sorted out and agreed upon.
Understanding your needs gives agencies the ability to get a concise idea about your business objectives and budget.
Respecting the agency-client relationship
Clients have a vision of the ideal agencies they want to work with and vice versa, agencies have ideal clients they want to work with.
Time, resources, and knowledge are valuable on both sides.
Digital agencies love when you come prepared or at least have an inkling of what you need and want to grow your business.
Early consultations for proposals between agencies and businesses, the ones that come after filling out a contact form, are not places to get free work or strategize. You are not going to get a sample of what your emails are going to look like, or a mock schedule or detailed rollout plan.
There are more than enough opportunities to vet an agency’s skill and competence without asking for free work. Ask for design samples from other brands, read reviews and question what type of work they’ve done and what the results were garnered for other businesses in the past.
Building trust is essential between an agency and yourself as a potential client.
You wouldn’t provide hours of service for free or let your customers walk off with your merchandise off the shelf, prior to signing an agreement or getting payment.
Agencies can always give you detailed and actionable advice for your email program in a consulting agreement, where the fee structure can accommodate a lower budget.
It’s essential at the start of a relationship to get the brass tacks hammered down, budgets set, contracts signed, payments remedied and a plan is place. Then the real fun begins.
A final word on business-agency partnerships
The right agency is truly an extension of your marketing team, not just an outsourced service. Hire an agency that aligns with your company’s core values, and that fits in with and respects your mission, and long term vision. This plants the seed for a healthy and long-term relationship.
Get to know your agency team. Talk with them, get a feel for what they and their agency is about. A business consultation is also in a sense, an informal interview. Chances are that you’ll be communicating with your agency team at least a few times a month, or maybe more.
Always remember that their success depends on your success.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey forward as you embark on new vistas of growth and development that takes your vision to just the right place it needs to be.