Maybe you’ve tried going with an in-house marketer or maybe you’ve tried doing it all yourself, only to find it’s more trouble than it’s worth—you’re an expert in your industry, after all. With the constant promise of increased social engagement, website traffic, and sales it is not uncommon to feel like you should be able to tackle your marketing needs on your own. 

But, if you’re truly ready to get serious about your marketing strategy and company growth, you may have finally decided working with an agency is in your best interest. And, with the average contract coming in at less than the cost of a full time employee, especially considering the cost of attrition which is estimated at a whopping 30% of first-year earnings, it’s absolutely not surprising, it’s a steal!

Now you’re doing a quick Google search for “marketing agencies in Portland, Oregon” only to find there are more than 200 agencies to choose from in Google Maps organic results, alone. Each specializes in different and overlapping areas and claims to have the answer. Which answer is the right answer for your business, right now?

With 200+ potential digital marketing agencies to choose from locally, how does one even begin to find that golden partnership (especially considering an agency doesn’t have to be in the same area as you!)?

Remember, if it’s not a good fit for you, it’s probably not a good fit for them, so taking the time to find that perfect partner upfront is always worth the wait.

Your Digital Quest Begins!

In your effort to find the perfect digital marketing agency to work with, the first step to whittling down your options is to understand your own business needs and to get clear on your goals.

If you have big goals and the budget to match, a multifaceted approach will likely be what you are looking for. However, if your concerns are narrow or your marketing budget is limited, a targeted and strategic approach will likely be a better, more accessible option. Even seemingly small adjustments can create a measurable impact when they’re implemented strategically and consistently. 

Finding a solid partnership means taking a deep dive into some common business challenges and how they can be solved by various digital marketing services.

Understanding Your Business Goals

The beauty of digital marketing is that it’s a relatively data-driven world. Thanks to tools like Google Analytics, SEO auditing and research software, and a plethora of platforms designed specifically to measure nearly every metric you can imagine, there is little reason you can’t have a firm grasp of how well (or not) your efforts are going.

In fact, it’s the sheer abundance of data that can make reporting difficult—identifying what to measure, and more specifically, why you’re measuring it, is the first step to designing a worthy digital marketing strategy. 

This is where understanding your own business goals comes into play. Sure, most marketing agencies would love to contract with you for a whole suite of services, but that doesn’t mean it’s the smartest or most effective use of your budget. Before engaging with any potential vendor, it’s a good idea to be clear on your goals, their priority level, and what a satisfactory return on investment looks like, for you. 

An agency will not only be able to tell you how realistic your expectations are—potentially saving frustration and disappointment down the line—they can also  create a roadmap to help you achieve those goals through proven marketing strategies. Don’t worry about having all the answers, that is why you’re hiring experts, after all, just make sure you have a clear(ish) idea of where you want to go. 

In general, business goals fall into three major categories, but can certainly overlap:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Boosting online or in-person traffic
  • Increasing conversions, whether they be purchases, leads, or subscriptions

In addition, it’s a good idea to get as clear as possible on other facets of your business. For example, who is your target audience? What problems do they have, and how does your product or service help solve them? Where are they located online? Do you have data on what has worked in the past and what hasn’t? 

Of course, an agency can help to answer these questions, but the more you can provide from the outset, the more quickly and efficiently a digital strategy can be developed and executed. Keep this in mind if you are in a hurry to get moving as quickly as possible, especially.

Common Marketing Services

SEO, content marketing, pay-per-click—these are all terms that get thrown around in the world of marketing, but what do they mean and how can they help you? The appropriate service and cost will vary depending on your business goals, so it’s a good idea to be acquainted with these terms before shopping around.

Content Marketing

From blogs to social media, infographics, and video tutorials, content marketing encompasses all of those pieces of content you provide to your audience. It helps build brand awareness and authority, audience loyalty, and done well, it drives traffic to your site and generates leads.

Strategy is the backbone of a successful content marketing campaign and is often considered inseparable from SEO. Think of SEO as the behind-the-scenes force that helps people find you, and your content is what reinforces the value of their discovery.   

Organic Social Media Management

Falling under the umbrella of content marketing, social media management refers to anything that goes into creating and maintaining a successful social media presence. While it often includes content creation, it can also involve community management, conversation monitoring, influencer research and outreach, and tracking various engagement metrics. 

Like content marketing, organic social media can play a key role in generating long-term growth and is best done as part of a larger SEO strategy. Executed skillfully, it helps connect you with customers, build community around your products or brand, and improves customer service and satisfaction.

A good marketing plan will evaluate your platforms for consistent messaging, imagery, and expression of your brand to ensure that your current and potential customers are getting the right message.

Paid Media

Also known as digital advertising, paid advertising, or pay-per-click (PPC), paid media campaigns are a great way to drive traffic to your website, via Google, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest ads (just to name a few). It is generally the fastest and most expensive way to see results, so bear this in mind while shopping for paid media services.

Recommended ad spend will vary from industry to industry depending on how competitive it is, and campaign management quotes often do not include this cost, since you’ll be paying for ads directly through the ad platform. You should include two separate line items in your paid media budget: campaign set and management and ad spend.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

A broad term to describe services that increase the quantity and quality of organic traffic to your site. It is the foundation of any digital marketing strategy worth its weight in gold. What’s organic traffic you might ask? That would be any visitors to your site that you didn’t have to pay for or who didn’t arrive directly to your site, by way of your domain (for example, I shop at Nike, so rather than typing Nike into the search engine, I go directly to

It can encompass local SEO, coming up in “near me” searches; on-page SEO and optimizing, (re)designing or (re)developing the website itself; or off-page SEO, driving traffic to your site. 

A well-rounded SEO strategy will typically include many, if not all, of the services above and is a long-term investment in helping potential new customers find you. After all, people typically turn to Google first when they have a problem, and appearing at the top of search results, at the right time, can lead to high-quality leads and conversions. 

Just like any big decision, it’s important to be clear on your objectives because  shopping for a marketing agency can be especially tricky if you don’t know what you need.

Working with an Agency vs. Hiring In-House

You understand your goals, you have an idea of what you need, so why not hire somebody in-house to execute the work? Would that not be cheaper and more efficient? Not necessarily. While building your own marketing team is certainly an option, there are several benefits to outsourcing the work to a digital marketing studio—including cost. 

You may be surprised to learn that working with an agency is often more cost-effective than hiring employees. The average price of a contract can vary from $2,000 to $10,000 a month, depending on the scope of work and services being quoted, which is roughly the cost of one to two employees.

But, rather than expecting one person to have a whole suite of expertise, for the same price, an agency will give you access to an entire team of industry experts. 

Further, an agency will already have access to sometimes expensive industry tools, like SEO software, campaign tools, publishing and analytics platforms, and more. These expenses are spread across a roster of clientele for an agency, reducing the cost per client and therefore making their comprehensive services more affordable for you.

Marketing agencies are also less risky because you can trust they have the expertise to deliver the scope of work they quote. The US Department of Labor estimates that a bad hire can cost up to 30% of their first year of earnings, which in many cases will be about the cost of a marketing studio contract. 

Because an agency’s team will already have the expertise you need and internal processes in place, time spent onboarding will be devoted completely to learning the ins and outs of your business and developing an appropriate strategy—not on technical training, employee development, or creating and setting up workflows. 

Where to Start

Whether you choose to work with an agency or build out your own team, it’s likely that cost is going to be a constraint, no matter how tremendous your ambitions or budget are. Having a clear sense of your priorities will help guide the overall strategy, but don’t be surprised if the first order of business is updating or optimizing your website. 

While there are clients who approach agencies with stellar websites already in place, chances are that poor user experience, design, or other technical aspects of your website are hindering growth or sales. Without addressing those problems first, and making sure your website is up to par (it is, after all, the number one factor in determining whether or not a customer converts), any money spent on marketing will be wasted. 

Luckily, web development is typically a project-based expense and not recurring, and completing it first will pay dividends in your future marketing efforts. 

Consistency: The Secret to Success

If there’s one golden rule to digital marketing, it’s that consistency is the key to success, especially if SEO is your priority. This is why most digital marketing agencies focus on long-term contracts, and why you should be prepared to focus on long-term goals ). 

Realistically, any kind of organic-focused marketing effort is going to take a time investment, not just a financial one. Average contract lengths are between one and two years, but vary, to a certain degree depending, on the nature of the services being scoped. Six months is often thought of as the minimum amount of time spent before any kind of ROI on SEO will be visible. 

But, what happens if you get stuck with an agency that isn’t meeting your needs? Chances are if it’s a bad fit for you, you’re also a bad fit for them. And, while we all have the goal of a high client or customer retention, it’s likely we can all agree unproductive or bad partnerships are a waste of everyone’s time and money, so most contracts should have easy outs for these situations.

In an effort to evaluate an agency’s client relationships, don’t hesitate to ask if any of their clients have terminated contracts early, and how many have stayed on past their initial contract term. It’s likely they will have experienced both, and how they talk about their clients will give you a good insight into how they manage difficult situations and how much they prioritize client-vendor relationships.

Is it a Match?

Our advice: when you’ve decided to take the plunge and hire a digital marketing agency, start off strong, have a plan, and move forward with intention. 

Evaluate your needs, do your homework, and vet prospective agencies like you would a romantic partner, because partnerships built on bad investments are a loss for both sides. At the end of the day, when you know, you know, but taking the time to really inquire will help you make the best possible decisions for your brand.

So, remember, action without a plan is pure chaos but action with a plan is intention.

Categories: Digital Marketing