How to Tell if Your Agency is Worth Its Salt

In ancient Rome, soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. If a warrior was loyal and fierce, he was said to be “worth his salt.” These days, we use the expression colloquially in all kinds of situations, usually when expressing disappointment about someone at work. “This guy certainly isn’t worth his salt. All he does is watch YouTube all day.” Ouch. 

So, how do you tell if your digital marketing agency is worth its salt? Whether you’re paying for design, digital strategy, web development, or other kinds of marketing services, it’s important to get value for that investment. While the idea may be obvious, some business owners and marketing leaders may have a hard time determining whether their agency partners are truly doing what they say they can do. Even worse, some agencies are pretty good bullsh** artists who can disguise bad work and use jargon and smoke to obscure poor productivity and results. While it’s important to remember agencies are not magicians, digital marketing ROI is a measurable concept.

This short blog offers three ways you can make sure your investment in your agency relationship is paying off. Consider the following 3 questions about digital marketing ROI.

Does your agency seem to be using industry best practices and keeping up on the latest developments in technology and consumer behavior?

  • Read your agency’s blog. Are they posting frequently about important topics in marketing, design, and development? Are their experts and executives participating in important events? An agency worth its salt will be well-versed in what’s going on in the industry and display thought leadership consistently.
  • Follow the links they post. What types of sources does your agency find useful, credible and worth sharing? Are they keeping good company, or linking to shady-looking click bait?
  • Is your account manager sending you interesting articles or reports that help you do your job better, or sharing details on important digital marketing topics from time to time? Your agency should want to help your team develop and achieve the best marketing results possible.

Does your agency’s work … work?

  • Does your website work? Does your web development team deliver on their promises? Are there user experience issues happening on your site? How is your traffic doing?
  • How is your SEO? Using tools like SEMRush, and SERPS can help you ensure you’re on the right track, and your agency should be able to provide you with clear reporting on your SEO progress.
  • Does your website bring in leads? Are those leads qualified? If you’ve been working with your agency (and not against them – see the important caveat to all of this below) for at least a year, your combined efforts should be starting to produce results in the form of leads and sales.  

Could you pay an internal employee to do the same thing your agency does?

  • Consider the amount of time, energy and money it takes to run your marketing yourself.
  • Are you paying your agency more, for less-effective work, that you can do yourself?
  • If you or your staff can do it better, and you’re finding yourself frustrated with the agency’s work, drop them.  

The Caveat: Don’t Dilute Your Agency’s Efforts

While we certainly advise diligence in attending to digital marketing agency ROI, it is important to explore one caveat. Your agency can only help you as much as you help them to help you. For example, if your quarter-one marketing strategy calls for blogging once a week and producing a series of case studies on your recent projects, there’s an important content production schedule your internal team will need to follow. If your content experts take 6 weeks to provide blog drafts and even longer to start thinking about results to highlight in your case studies, it’s unreasonable to expect your digital marketing agency ROI will be at its highest.

In most cases, agencies need to rely on marketing professionals and product/service experts within your company in order to do their job. If you feel like your team is providing all the support it can, as agreed, in a timely fashion, and you are still not seeing the results you expect, it may be time to fire your agency.

PS. Thanks for the Salt Bae Gif, juliewinegard (via GIPHY).