By Rakesh Raman
Believe it or not; today with the proliferation of digital channels, the digital marketing activity has become as complex as rocket science.
And brands that aspire to go global can’t ignore marketing over the digital channels.
While most companies don’t have in-house skills to do digital marketing, they hire the services of specialized external agencies for their digital brand promotion job.
If you are using a digital agency or plan to hire one, here’s a checklist for you to evaluate the agency’s competence and instruct it to cover the following areas for your brand promotion exercise.
1. Brand Knowledge
If your digital agency does not understand your brand and the business ecosystem in which you operate, it will not be able to leverage digital media for your brand communications. It should have sufficient knowledge about the domestic and global markets, consumers, competition, and so on.
While digital media is relevant for all types of companies, digital brand strategy differs for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. Your agency should be able to make customized strategies depending on your marketing needs.
2. Web Development
There’s a great likelihood that your corporate or brand website is like a haunted land where no one dares to go except ghosts. It’s so repulsive that you as the owner of the company also don’t visit your website for months. Obviously, it’s time to get it revamped.
You can ask your digital agency to do the job. Also, ask it to use some latest Web technology like the Responsive Web Design (RWD) along with collaborative features to create your new site. But if your agency’s own site and blog are stale, it will be like a blind helping a blind. Don’t hire such a naive agency.
3. Web Content
Web content is like the Tower of Babel for most brand agencies as they work with tired and traditional mindsets while there are new, dynamic rules for creating marketing content for online consumption. If your digital agency is not quite equipped to create Web content, it will be better to stay away from it. Or you need to hire the services of a specialized content creation agency that could create attractive content that your consumers as well as search engines such as Google should love.
Real content is as expensive as gold. And content is not just the language. Rather, it’s a combination of information structuring, flow of thoughts, quality of expression, uniqueness of the subject, communicative language, sentence construction, paragraph structures, transitions, use of visual elements, and so on. All agencies will claim but only a few can develop content. Be careful.
4. Social Media
Everyone uses social media but no one understands it. Social media is also largely about content. If you want to use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest, etc., your agency needs to create dozens of disposable and engaging content units regularly to communicate your brand messages.
This is not a simple task. And never get impressed by the number of Likes or Followers on social media sites, because fake Followers are easily available on the Net at the price of peanuts. They are not your true brand followers.
If your agency is not capable of creating marketing content specifically for social media sites and it is delivering run-of-the-mill stuff, then social brand communication exercise can be more harmful than helpful for your business. Set it in stone.
5. Digital PR
Public Relations (PR) is an important, inevitable task for brand marketing. But the trouble is most PR agencies don’t understand brands and their business environment. As these agencies mostly work with unskilled PR workers who are nothing more than messengers to deliver press releases, PR work has lost its relevance particularly in today’s digitally driven business world.
Your agency must know how to write concise, search engine-friendly brand communications (press releases, boilerplates, executive quotes, etc.) and how to deliver them through digital channels to have maximum impact. In some cases, online reputation management is also part of the digital PR activity.
6. Web Traffic Management
Your digital marketing agency should be able to use different paid and free Web analytic tools to monitor the traffic on your website as well as social media properties. This will help you know the number of users visiting your brand pages, their geographical locations, time at which most people visit, and so on. Accordingly, the digital agency should be able to refine the content on your website and other peripheral properties.
7. Mobile Content
Today, most companies use mobile channels for delivering their brand messages on mobile phones and tablets. However, it is not yet a reliable digital marketing medium mainly because of mobile spam (m-spam) that has become a pain in the neck for mobile users.
Your digital agency should know how to leverage mobile platforms ethically without disturbing your consumers. Unsolicited messages (or m-spam) sent on mobiles work as poison for your brand because they annoy the consumers.
8. Creative Content
It won’t be wrong to say that digital marketing is about content and content only. You need to create and deliver content for your consumers on a 24×7 basis. But if your content is not engaging enough, it will be an uphill task for you to attract consumer eyeballs.
So, it won’t be a bad idea to develop creative content around your brand. It could be small animation clips, cartoon strips, viral videos, walkthroughs, slideshows, and so on. But remember this type of content is exorbitantly expensive. And most agencies won’t be able to handle it because they are used to working in old-style traditional media.
9. Competition Tracking
Digital universe is colossal. Still, you want to know what your rivals in the business are doing. Your agency should be able to use digital tracking tools to cull out information about the companies in your competition from all across the Web based on certain keywords.
Further, you can ask the agency to do a qualitative analysis of the raw information that it gets using the tracking tools.
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With this checklist, you will be in a better position to deal with your digital agency and to ensure more bang for each invested buck.
Although digital marketing is quite cost-effective as compared to traditional marketing because most digital media channels are available either free of charge or at negligibly low costs, content for digital media is quite expensive.
So, if as a mid-sized business unit, you are seriously planning to adopt digital marketing for your company, you should have an annual budget of at least US$50,000 ($4,000 per month or equivalent amount in other currencies) for the basic services covering the above-stated areas. More creative content would mean more costs for you.
There will be agencies that will offer to carry out your digital marketing job at lesser price, just ignore them instead of burning your fingers (and bucks) with them. Okay? Okay.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Digital.
This article is a part of our initiative: Tech-Wise Knowledge Center for SMBs