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How do you choose the best online marketing companies for SMEs?

What are the most important things to take into account when hiring a high-quality digital marketing company for SMEs?

Top voted answer
Erik Bigalk

Erik Bigalk, Founder and CEO at

Top 20% Marketing

Logic suggests choosing your digital marketing agency on the basis of performance, market presence, reviews and peer recognition. To research and interview and see if they have the capacity and industry experience relevant to your business. Yes, that all makes good reasoning...

Yet, in the end, what you need is someone or a team of skilled, passionate professionals who really 'get' the essence of you and your business in order to project your brand and key message to your target markets in effective ways. So, beyond achievements, impressive past and current clients, market presence, stats and testimonials, the thing you really ought to look for is whether you feel that there is alignment. That the team which will work on your campaigns and client account actually has vision and creativity, understands what you are trying to do and have passion and pride for their work. This is what will really take any campaign and marketing strategy to the next level. 

Anyone, well most decent agencies, can accomplish developing and implementing a marketing campaign, but if you really want to have your brand, key messages and the essence of your business communicated to your target audiences effectively - then nothing beats true alignment and passion. 

I have been in marketing close to two decades, have run my own firm for a decade, and in looking back over the many clients we have worked with and run campaigns for, the ones that have really been outstanding have been where we have been more than just client and agency, but deeply engaged in the success of the business, passionate and full of ideas because of it...  Yes, picking an agency that has kicked some goals, perhaps won some industry awards and has a strong list of past and current clients is a good basis - but most certainly, if there is no passion, care, deep understanding and alignment that will have them go the extra distance - then the outcomes will certainly be stunted. Essentially, you gotta like them, they need to like you and your business - people do business with people and their job is to engage people with your brand...  it really makes it a no-brainer what to look for and how to choose the right agency for 2019 for your business. Right?

 If you want a checklist of nitty-gritty questions to ask your potential digital agency team - reach out on Happy researching and choosing!

Yee Trinh

Yee Trinh, Cofounder at

Agreed. It's easy to get lost in reviews, awards, past clients. Online marketing companies that have a lovely portfolio of clients and case studies are not always going to replicate the results for your business. They need to be able to showcase that they've been able to produce results previously. However, as you alluded to - not all of your clients experienced the same amount of success and the differentiating factor was alignment, passion and vision for your clients' businesses.

Warren Cottis

Warren Cottis, Director at 360 Email Marketing

I reverse engineer the selection by weeding out the Spruikers first.
If they don't insist on first reviewing my website, funnels and various lead magnets for overall performance using historical metrics... then forget them.
Next review their website and where they rank in Google.
Then ask them what are their suggestions.
If they reply no cash / no comment then forget them
By progressively turning the spotlight back onto the Digital Marketing Agencies using a review checklist you can cut through the BS and Jargon.
If you want a checklist to find the best online marketing companies I can prepare one :-)

Maria Harutyunyan

Maria Harutyunyan, SEO Editor at

I agree with Eric. While it’s natural to choose a digital marketing agency for SMEs based on price, awards and reputation, I think one of the most important factors in selecting a digital marketing agency for small businesses is their willingness to listen and collaborate towards a shared goal.

SME marketing agencies need to be not just interested but invested in your brand, products, how you do things, customers and competitors. This is because no two businesses are alike, and a good digital agency will find the time to know you and tailor their approach to each client. This is the building block towards a long-term partnership. Sure, you can hire a “rah-rah” marketing agency, launch a big campaign with decent results and then flicker after. At the end of the day, it’s about working towards a mutual goal and vision.
You can also assess the talent they have. This may or may not be easy to spot after several discussions. Awards and recognition may give you some insight but not the full picture. I’d also say that talent has something to do with the agency’s culture. A digital marketing agency that is open to feedback and eagerly learning can mean that their graphic designers, copywriter and marketing experts are free to express their creativity and test out new tools and tricks. Also, try and get a word-of-mouth opinion on the agency, study their portfolio and talk to ex-clients, if possible, to see what the agency has achieved in your industry, quality of work, and values.
Thirdly, suss out if they are taking their own advice in marketing. This is easy to tell by googling relevant search terms to see where their website rank, look at their website, social media profiles and content they put out to market their own agency.
Price is important but it shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all factor in hiring a digital marketing agency. Finding the right cultural fit, shared vision, expertise and value for money should trump just dollars and cents.

Beau Ushay

Beau Ushay, Owned Media & Marketing Specialist at

Top 10% Marketing

Don't underestimate the importance of culture - skills are important, but you have to get along with the people who will be putting in the work to transform your business.

Also, look at how they adapt to change. The digital landscape shifts *constantly*, so adaptability is the most important trait. You don't want to go with someone who is locked into one discipline or way of working and won't consider alternatives. 

Just like with trades, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail..

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