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During this 3Q Accelerate Week, we are breaking down the relationship between your business and digital marketing agencies, and how to navigate it successfully from start to finish.

To start off the week, we’re going back to basics: for SMBs and startups who have never worked with an agency before, how do you know when it’s time to start?

You’re a marketer. You’ve been testing paid media and other forms of digital advertising with your in-house team or a consultant. You’re seeing some results – bringing in some leads and purchases, gathering data about your audience, what creative works. (Or, maybe you aren’t seeing results! Definitely a sign you should read on.) But how do you know when it’s time to shift from your in-house efforts and find an agency? Below, we walk through some signs that it’s time to take it up a notch from your looser in-house testing or consultant, to a full-blown agency.

    1. You don’t have time. From monitoring performance throughout the day to staying on top of industry news (What site just passed Facebook in US site visits? When are Partner Categories disappearing from Facebook?), ongoing management of your campaigns requires a large time investment. You and your team have more initiatives on your plate, and your consultant is charging you by the hour. When trying to decide if you should shift to agency management, you can ask yourself these questions: are your optimizations frequent enough? Are you testing new ad units and features before your competitors? If something happened to performance in the middle of the day, how quickly would you know?
    2. You need stricter testing. “Testing” is a very different concept from “testing well.” For the latter, you need your campaign setup to be accurate and consistent (for example, which optimization setting are you using in Google right now?), your tracking to be clean, and your hypotheses determined in advance. Additionally, you need to be able to plan (and keep to) a schedule to keep things improving over time – and do we need to revisit the time problem? Just because you’re running two audiences or ads against each other doesn’t mean you’re actually setting yourself up for clear, actionable learnings. A performance agency specializes in staying on top of all of this for you, interpreting the results, and recommending the most appropriate strategic next steps.
    3. You’re looking to get more perks for your investment. Without Nike-sized budgets, your reality is that Google and Facebook offer tons of features that you probably aren’t getting access to. Working with a larger agency can provide access to new betas and features before your competition and the rest of the market. Additionally, an agency with strong representative relationships can access top-quality, highly responsive support and advance notice on upcoming platform changes.
    4. Your performance has plateaued – and you don’t know what to do about it. More minds are better than one, two, or however many digital marketers are on your team. With an agency, you’d don’t just have your Account Manager; you have the power of the whole agency behind them: strategic leaders helping oversee and guide accounts, collaborative peers to share new ideas, test results driven by similar clients. That kind of manpower can’t be replicated with an in-house team.

 

If any of the above rings true for your digital program, that’s a good sign that you’re ready to take it up a notch. If you’re looking for a team that specializes directly in this transition point — from scrappy startup to high-growth brand — we’d love to hear from you.