How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency

How to choose a digital marketing agency with so many options? When choosing a digital marketing agency in Hong Kong, there is certainly enough to choose from. From freelancers to boutique agencies, global to service-specific agencies & “holistic agencies“.

It can be overwhelming as a customer to begin your search for digital marketing services. Choosing the right digital marketing agency partner for your business is crucial. This is so true, especially with the influx of digital marketing agencies in Hong Kong. 

Many, of course, will claim to be one the “best digital marketing agencies” and offer “so” many services, like social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and more. How to choose?

There are numerous experiences shared in our industry. Some are positive, and some are negative. A client has had disappointing results with agencies due to several reasons. Some reasons include overspending, lack of transparency, slow response rates, and so on.

Digital in itself should be impacting your bottom line positively. Also, your digital agency should provide you with a digital marketing strategy to bring in money. 

So, how to choose a digital marketing agency? Based on your constraints, it is up to the agency to clarify the timeline and expectations of the project. Occasionally, agencies fail to break away from short-termism when targets are misaligned with business objectives.

To assist with your decision-making, here are a few points to consider. It will help you start a solid working relationship with a digital marketing agency in Hong Kong:

1. Does the digital marketing agency attempt to understand your business thoroughly?

Understanding a client’s business ecosystem is crucial. It is crucial for formulating a strategy that can positively impact your business (i.e., your bottom line).

Understanding the fundamental components of your business model means your agency can align digital strategy and business goals fully

It is common for agency representatives to have at least a short call with you. Why? To understand the core components of your business.

This needs to be done before putting together a more in-depth proposal. You can also get a chance also to learn more about the agency itself.

For digital strategies in general, it helps us to understand the following points with more clarity;

  • What business KPIs do you want to impact? (sales? Leads? Subscription increase? “Valuable” website visitors? Online to offline store visits? etc.)
  • What is your timeline in wanting to achieve these goals? (there are short term vs long term strategies in digital marketing)
  • Who are your competitors? (point of reference in regards to what they are doing. Are there opportunities? How can we form a response?)
  • What have you done in the past? (be open to sharing what has worked and what hasn’t. Focus on promotions both online & offline, as this can impact strategy setting)
  • Can you provide budget allocated to digital or at least a range? (paid media and channel utilisation are dependent on budget available & time frame to achieve goals).

2. Find out an agency’s core strengths and in-house execution capabilities

We find that there are a number of agencies that do not provide adequate transparency. This is common when it comes to whether or not your services are rendered under the actual team itself.

Smaller agencies are dependent on potentially outsourcing your entire project to freelancers scattered across multiple cost-efficient countries.

All too often, this means that they will not be able to build any capabilities in-house. In this scenario, they simply outsource your campaign. 

Go visit the agency’s office. Get insights on their case studies and take a tour around what kind of talent they have available in-house.

Quickly you will know whether or not your project is going to get outsourced. 

A common issue with lack of transparency comes is an agency will give you access to your own data.

This is important because there are some agencies that run your campaigns through their “own accounts” to limit your access to your own data. 

Only minimal data is shared with you and is often limited to “vanity metrics” – which are metrics that at first glance might seem pretty, but don’t have a direct/measurable impact on your business goals (e.g. impressions, traffic but without traffic engagement metrics, cost per click but without a return on ad spend). 

This lack of transparency and use of vanity metrics hide the fact that there are other data points that should ALWAYS be of interest for you because they are directly related to your bottom line. 

When it comes to reporting, make sure that these can be accurately shared in reports or through direct access to your Google Ads account.

3. Client Reviews and Agency expansion = Indicator of Credibility

Any agency that is proud of their work and maintains client relationships in a positive manner is going to have reviews online regarding their current and past client experience.

Alas, there is no agency that succeeded in everything it has done, but if negative reviews outweigh the positive ones, it’s time to do a 180 and run as far as you can. 

You can see that there will be a number of agencies that hide their reviews.

Be wary of an agency that cannot showcase its brand portfolio, or are hesitant to share cases even anonymously as they’ve signed NDA’s with essentially all of their clients (note that for finance & insurance industries NDA’s are a little bit more though to the point of where in some cases nothing can be shared).

4. Charging models – pain/gain pricing models are the new norm 

When it comes to agency pricing models in Hong Kong, a lot are outdated and work against being in favour of the client.

Something you will come across frequently when it comes to paid media is a % of ad spend being allocated to the management fee. 

This incentivises agencies to naturally spend all of your budget to maintain their own management fees, regardless of whether that budget is spent efficiently or not.

This model is contrary in doing what every single marketer should optimise campaigns for – targeted, relevant, high-converting audiences – which in most cases should consciously try to maximise budget based on results vs the scatter shotgun approach.

Fact is that you need to find an agency that is willing to bet on their execution capabilities and tie your success to theirs.

In order to do that, the management fee should start off with an “entry-level” model for managing online marketing ads and gathering the necessary data for setting performance benchmarks (upon mutual agreement).

Subsequently, when these benchmarks are hit, the agency will get performance bonuses; and if they underperform, their management fee decreases as a penalty.

First Page is a firm believer of such performance-based models for all our campaigns (with significant budgets).

This pushes your agency to not just deliver at standard rates, but to overperform so that they do not just keep their clients happy, but justify their management fee and grow revenue as well.

What about SEO campaigns?

When it comes to SEO campaigns, we use both keyword rank guarantee & traffic guarantee models at different milestones across the campaign period, which if we do not meet, billing stops and we work for free until we do.

This puts a lot of our customers’ minds at ease, knowing that if we do not achieve the results we promise, we will work as hard as possible to get the performance back on track.

We know for a fact that a guarantee model for SEO is not common here in Hong Kong, which is what has helped us set ourselves apart.


Final thoughts

There are certainly more variables that are important to consider in regards to what is conducive to forming a solid partnership with a potential agency, but for now, this should suffice to at least weed out 70% of all digital marketing agencies in Hong Kong that operate under confusing and ‘less-than-transparent’ models.

 If you have questions or want to learn more about how we work at First Page, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

First Page is to not only share our past results but also to make sure that we can create an environment in Hong Kong where digital knowledge becomes higher to everyone’s benefit in this exciting and ever-evolving space.

Our agency offers a wide range of digital services, including social, SEO, reputation management, and more. We are always happy to discuss your needs obligation-free.