If you’ve decided that you’re not a marketer or simply don’t have time for it, you may have decided it’s time to outsource your digital marketing efforts. It’s a big decision, but first vanquish what you’ve learned, and seen, on Mad Men. Times are different; we’re not all huge, Madison Avenue agencies who drink during lunch and fill our offices with cigarette smoke. Your time, reputation, and hard-earned revenue are at stake. So, consider the following factors prior to signing a contract with a digital marketing agency.

Beware the Zombie Clause

First, beware the auto-renewal contract. They’re not exclusive to consumer contracts, like those for health clubs, video-streaming services, publications, or computer software. That’s right, auto-renewals are often included in marketing agency contracts.

Make sure you look out for any auto-renewal clauses, euphemistically called “evergreen clauses.” If you contract for 12 months of marketing services, but you fail to provide advanced notice of cancellation as stated in the contract (usually 90 days), you’re locked in for another 12 months. So, if you’re not happy with the agency you’ve hired, well…

The auto-renewal contract can be so punitive that 22 states have statutes that limit auto-renewals. In the past 12 months, there have been over 50 auto-renewal-related bills in state legislatures. When the government gets involved, there’s an issue. One New Jersey legislator dubbed them “zombie clauses” because they never seem to die.

Are you sure you own it?

You may be thinking, Of course I own my own content, it’s my content, I paid for it! That sounds logical, but you’ll definitely want to discuss content ownership prior to entering into an agency agreement. Here’s the rub on content generated by some agencies―unless you’ve negotiated a specific provision in the contract, the agency may own the rights to their work even, after you’ve paid for it.

What does not owning your own content mean? It means that if you move to another agency or bring your marketing in-house, all the content on your website is gone. Pages of content will have to be reconstructed and optimized, blogs the agency has written on your behalf can’t be utilized, and months, maybe years, of analytics information is gone. So, basically, you can expect to have zero online presence for weeks, maybe months.

A recent conversation with an estate planning attorney who had utilized a lead company (disguised as a digital marketing agency) can be summarized with this statement: “The leads were junk.” Sure, they had delivered him one hundred “leads” per month as promised, but he soon discovered they were little more than responses to a “check the box” survey. He spent hours contacting them, only to learn that the lead company’s definition of a lead was little more than a name and a phone number. Those aren’t leads.

A reputable digital marketing agency will sit down with you to fully understand your expectations, your business and your style, then put together a comprehensive game plan based on your budget that will utilize any or all of the following elements:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)―sure, you’ve got a website, but can anyone find it?
  • Content Management―are you providing valuable and educational content?
  • Social Media―are you finding and keeping potential clients engaged?
  • Reputation Management―do you monitor, manage, and act on your online reviews?
  • Listing Management―are you managing your online presence?
  • Paid Search―are you reaching your audience online, at the optimal time, through targeted search engine advertising?

Remember, marketing is about developing―over time―a demand for a product or service by fulfilling customers’ needs. Can marketing generate leads? Of course it can. But great marketing finds prospective customers that are well-informed, educated, and who understand how you differentiate, and separate yourself, from the rest of the marketplace.

According to several studies conducted over the past 3 years, well over 90% of people seeking a product or service use a search engine. But here’s the best part― almost 80% of them contact only one company prior to making a purchase. What does this mean? It means that your online presence better be optimal.

Questions about any of the many elements required in a solid digital marketing strategy?

Talk to the tenured, highly experienced professionals at d2 Designs, Dallas/Ft. Worth’s most innovative digital marketing agency. d2 creates, executes, and manages multi-marketing solutions for customers with a focus on brand engagement that optimizes the digital experience through traditional media, social media, lead gen and key analytics, e-commerce, and experiential events. Check us out at d2.designs, or email us at info@d2.design. And please follow us via social media for more great, informative digital marketing tips and suggestions.