This is a difficult question to answer for most businesses. What type of digital marketing firm or agency should I partner with to improve my business? If you’re trying to decide on what type of firm will be the best match, consider the checklist below and ask yourself some of these basic questions.

What’s the Size of Your Company?

Typically, a business will fall into 2 or 3 main buckets. Large firms, small or mid-size companies, and micro-businesses. A large company has several 1,000 employees with revenue in the Billions of dollars. A mid-size company can have revenue in the Millions with <1,000 employees but over 100. A small company generally has less than 100 employees with <50 Million in revenue. A micro business can have only a few Million in revenue with as little as one or two employees.

1. Large Company (>500 Million)

If you have a large monthly budget, you may be able to afford a national firm with a team of experienced marketing strategists. A larger digital firm will generally come with a higher price tag, but this may be what you need to quantify results for your business. Typically larger firms will only work with companies with a large monthly budget. If you fall near the low end of their monthly spend minimum, you may have junior resources or interns assigned to your account and pay a relatively high blended hourly rate, somewhere in the $200 per hour range. If you are a very large business, this may be your only option to get the right support. If you are a mid-size company looking for more personalized service, then a smaller agency or consultancy is likely the better choice.

Large Digital Firm Key Advantages:

  • Larger support staff allowing you to scale quickly
  • Industry insights across several different verticals
  • Well connected industry experts on top of the latest trends

2. Small and Medium Size Business or SMBs (<500 Million)

If your annual revenue is 5 to 200 million, you may be able to find a smaller agency that can provide you with a similar amount of service as a larger firm, but at a lower rate. Smaller digital firms have a lower monthly minimum, so you may fall somewhere in the middle of their client list priority wise.

The downside of a smaller firm is you typically do not have the same level of experience on staff. Many smaller firms typically have one subject matter expert across all clients. This expert is typically supported by junior resources who may work with you directly, following the experts advice and strategy.

Consultants may also be a good choice. Consultants typically act as a project manager for ongoing digital campaigns. If you are a SMB, consultants may be a good option since you will likely get more personalized attention versus the services of an agency or larger firm.

Small Digital Firm Key Advantages:

  • More personalized support
  • Lower cost per hour
  • Larger share of agency revenue means more focus on your business

Marketing Consultant Key Advantages:

  • More personalize support
  • Custom campaigns to fit your business goals
  • Larger share of consultant revenue means more focus on your business
  • Well connected industry experts on top of the latest trends

3. Micro Business (<10 Million)

If your annual revenue is in the <1-5 million range or you are a new business start up, you may be able to find a small agency or consultant that can provide you with ongoing digital marketing services at a relatively low cost. At a low price point, say 2k per month in total marketing spend, a consultant or freelancer may be your ONLY quality option.

Freelancer Key Advantages:

  • Much lower cost per hour
  • Flexible schedule and contracts

Beware Cheap Digital Marketing Packages

“Beware SEO firms that promise results at a very low price point.”

If a digital marketing company claims to generate 100s of leads or top Google rankings for $399 per month, you should be VERY skeptical of that company on their ability to deliver on that promise. Make sure your investment is inline with your expectations.

Think about it; would you take your car to a mechanic who says they can rebuild your transmission for $49 and in less than an hour? That doesn’t make sense does it? Digital marketing works the same way. Good marketing takes time and quality work to see positive results.

What are Your Expectations?

Immediate Results & ROI

High ROI and results come from a high level of effort. Generally, the more you invest in your digital marketing, the sooner you will see results. If you want immediate results, make sure your investment matches those expectations. If you can invest $500 a month, you should expect to see results at a much, much slower pace than a company investing 5-8k per month. If you choose a small firm or consultant due to your budget, you should expect a longer timeframe to see results. Return on investment will generally take much longer at a lower budget, so expect several months to go by before you have enough reliable data on which to base your decisions. Generally, a one year timeframe is needed for most new campaigns.

Personalized Service

If you are looking for more personalized service, a consultant or larger firm may be your best choice. Larger firms have the staff to support day to day client requests and generally can act quickly. Smaller firms may not have the staff available to act quickly on small requests or may not be available as much as a consultant. If you need something done quickly or need a lot of technical support, expect to pay a premium on those services. An agency or consultant can provide you with ongoing support but may require a retainer agreement.

Full Service

If you are looking for a full service digital firm, a mid-size or large agency may be your best choice. They offer a one stop shop for your marketing needs (search engine optimization, social media management, print design, web design, digital advertising, etc). A small agency may be able to service your needs, but this may involve the agency hiring outside freelancers and consultants to work on your project. If you’re thinking of working with a small full service agency, you may want to consider contacting one or two consultants first. It could save you money and improve your results. A small agency may already use some of these consultants to fulfill their obligations to clients.

How Much Should I Budget?

“Companies plan to spend >35% of their total marketing budget on digital advertising in 2017, up from 19% in 2011.” (Source: Forrester Research)

So what does 30-40% of spend look like for your small business? Read our info graphic on SMB budgets to learn more.

What’s clear is companies are moving more budget to digital marketing in 2016 and 2017, but at a slower pace than the past 2-3 years. Knowing that your competitors are growing their digital budgets, it would make sense that your budget should be in-line with these estimates just to keep pace with competitors.

Learn More

Still not sure which firm fits your needs? Contact us today for a free analysis and consultation. We would be happy to provide you with a forecast and considerations for your marketing budget.

photo credit: denisbin Kimba. The old General Store from the 1920s. In the town village museum. (license)