How to Choose the Best Digital Marketing Agency in Chicago

In Digital Marketing Education by Matt ChieraLeave a Comment

There’s a saying in the marketing world that goes, “Ignoring online marketing is like opening a business but not telling anyone.”

You need people to know about your business if you want to stay in business. At the same time, “online marketing” is a very broad term that encompasses everything from creating a website to optimizing it for search engines to social media marketing and more.

Finding the right digital marketing strategy for your business requires help from an expert, but over the past few years, digital marketing agencies have sprung up faster than weeds. Suddenly everyone and their teenage nephew is building websites and selling them to business owners like you.

That means there’s money to be made in digital marketing, and where there’s money, there’s bound to be snake-oil salesmen trying to convince you they’re digital marketing experts

So how can you tell the difference between the real deal and the snake oil?

You don’t have to become a digital marketing expert to be able to spot the difference. You just need to know a few key facts about digital marketing.

Part 1: The Vetting Process

Before hiring anyone, you should have a vetting process that helps you make sure you’re hiring the right agency for your needs.

When it comes to digital marketing, here’s what that process should look like:

Define Your Goals

You’ve probably heard that you need a website, and you need to be on social media to grow your business.

That’s true, but “grow your business” is not a specific goal.

The question you need to answer is, How much do you want to grow your business? And how quickly?

How do you expect digital marketing to help you achieve those goals?

You’ll probably need to speak to a digital marketing expert to fully answer that last question, but if you at least have an idea of how digital marketing can help your business, that gives you a starting point.

Here are some of the most common areas of business development where digital marketing can come in handy:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website traffic
  • Lead generation
  • Lead nurturing
  • Prequalifying leads
  • Improving the sales process

Once you have clear goals, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in a digital marketing agency, as well as the right questions to ask.

Research Digital Marketing Agencies and Create a Shortlist

If you try to talk to the owner of every digital marketing agency you find, you could easily spend all your time talking to digital marketers, even if you limit yourself to the Chicago area.

Instead, narrow your list by looking for agencies that specialize in your industry. Ask people in your network if they have worked with any digital marketing agencies they would recommend.

Check out their portfolios and their online reviews. Do you like what you see in their portfolio? Does it contain elements you would like to see on your website?

Skip the testimonials on their website and go straight to their online reviews (Google, LinkedIn, etc.) They can’t filter their Google reviews, which means it’s the best way to get an idea of what their clients really think of them.

Evaluate Their Online Presence

If you’re going to hire someone to improve your online presence, one of the best ways to vet their work is to check out their online presence. Start with their website, then move on to their social media profiles.

Some things to look for include:

  • The look and feel of their website
  • How long they have been in business (beware of pop-up shops in digital marketing)
  • Does their website load quickly?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Does it reflect their brand?
  • Is their content strong?
  • Do they blog regularly?
  • Do they post on social media regularly? What level of engagement are they getting on their posts?
  • Do they engage with other people’s content? Or do they post and ghost?

If their website doesn’t convince you to work with them, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to create a website that convinces your prospects to work with you.

Also, look closely at how they respond to their online reviews. If they have negative reviews and they respond respectfully, that’s a very good sign. If they snap at their reviewers, that’s a red flag.

Ask the Right Questions

Once you have your short list of digital marketing agencies you’d like to interview, it’s time to ask the hard-hitting questions.

Start by telling them about your struggles with digital marketing. You should have an idea of the services you need, but they might come up with some solutions you haven’t considered. This is where it can help to have an idea of your goals before this conversation because knowing your goals will make this conversation easier for everyone.

Once they’ve asked about your project, it’s time for you to ask the questions. These should include:

  • What is your experience in my industry?
  • Can you share some success stories or case studies?
  • Who will be working on my account and what are their qualifications?
  • What does your process look like?
  • What kind of a timeline can I expect for this project?
  • How do you measure success, and how often will you report on progress?

Throughout this conversation, you should be evaluating whether this is someone you’d like to work with. Do they seem trustworthy? Competent? Do they provide satisfactory answers to your questions?

Qualifications are important, but so is the person with the qualifications. If the qualifications are there, but your gut is telling you something is off, that’s a feeling that might be worth investigating.

Request a Proposal

Once you’ve talked with a few digital marketing agencies, you should request a proposal from at least two or three of your top choices. In addition to price, the proposal should include:

  • A detailed plan for achieving your goals
  • The services they’ll provide
  • The team members who will be working on your account
  • The timeline

A good proposal should be a sort of summary of your conversation in which the digital marketing agency restates your digital marketing goals and how they plan to help you achieve those goals.

We’re not saying price is not a factor, but it’s not the only factor you should consider in this process. In addition to evaluating the team during your consultation with them, the request for proposal can act as a sort of test of what it will be like to work with them. Did they get the proposal to you when they said they would? Were they willing to have another conversation about the proposal, or did they turn it in and seemingly disappear off the face of the earth?

If the proposal is late, incomplete, or is followed by radio silence, that’s an indication of what it could be like to work with them, in which case you should move on to the next digital marketing agency on your list.

Part 2: Why Choose Ice Nine Online for Your Digital Marketing Needs?

Now that we’ve covered the best strategies for vetting a digital marketing agency, we would be honored if you would vet us. Our offerings include:

Comprehensive Digital Marketing Services

A big part of what makes digital marketing so confusing is the fact that it contains a lot of moving parts. Each of those parts works best in conjunction with all the other parts, which is why it’s so important to find a digital marketing agency that provides all the following services:

  • WordPress Website Development: We work exclusively with WordPress so we can create a website that is as unique as your business. WordPress lets us customize every aspect of a website so it has everything you need without any of the add-ons that just take up space and slow down your site.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): There are a lot of components to getting found online, but it all starts with the development of your website. If your website isn’t set up to be easy for Google to “read” so it can index and categorize it, you won’t get found online. We use SEO best practices in all our website development to give you the best chance of standing out online.
  • Online Advertising: SEO is great, but it can only do so much. When you need to get in front of your ideal clients right away, online advertising is the best way to achieve that goal. We work across a variety of online advertising platforms to help you get in front of the right people at the right time so you can start building your business now.
  • Training: If you’d rather go the DIY route with your digital marketing efforts, we can train you to use the best tools and techniques to get your business to stand out online.

Whether you need all our services, or just a few, we can put together a digital marketing strategy that helps you achieve all your goals.

Research-Driven Approach

Before we can put together a plan that will drive results for your business, we need to know all about your brand, so we’ll ask you a series of questions to get a thorough understanding of your business and what you’re already doing to stand out.

Then we’ll go into research mode so we can determine:

  • The landscape of your industry
  • Your competitors and how we can help you stand out
  • Your target market, including what they need and where they’re going to look for it.

Only once we have all that information can we put together a plan tailored to your business.

Proven Track Record

At the end of the day, digital marketing needs to be able to drive results for your business to justify the investment. We’re proud to say we’ve been able to generate some impressive results for our clients in the past, including:

  • Generating 10,000 marketing-qualified leads over 3 years (an average of 9/day) for one of our Chicago-based clients
  • Helping one of our e-commerce clients go from $50k to $1.5MM in e-commerce sales over one year
  • Training the CMO of a Fortune 1000 company on SEO, online advertising, and digital marketing. She then left her current post to secure a better digital-focused role at a larger organization
  • Getting a client on the 1st page of Google & Bing for the top 100 most competitive search terms in their market…and keeping them there consistently for over 4 years
  • Creating a 500%+ increase in marketing-qualified leads for a Chicago-based B2B company, necessitating them to hire a sales team to field the high quantity of new leads
  • Manually auditing/improving a 15,000+ page website, resulting in a 130% year-over-year organic traffic increase

What goals could we help your business achieve?

4. Client Success and Testimonials:

Our clients’ satisfaction is our greatest achievement. Here’s what some of our clients have to say about working with us:

  • Ambrosia L. from Limon Net Lease Group appreciated our modern website design and our ability to provide all the required functionality.
  • John S. from Gibraltar Business Capital commended our focus on communication and timely delivery of milestones.
  • Jessie K. from BDEX highlighted the significant increase in leads and website visits since partnering with us.
  • Shannon S. from V3 Companies appreciated our effective project management and our ability to listen to their needs and provide honest input.

You can read the full reviews from these clients and many more reviews in our Google Business Profile.

5. Partnership and Collaboration:

Some digital marketing agencies will tell you to hand over the digital keys to your business and let them take it from there, but that’s not how we work.

We know your business is as unique as you are, which means, that if we are going to put together a digital marketing strategy that is tailored to your needs, we need to work with you, not for you.

This is why we spend so much time getting to know everything we can about your business before we put together a plan to help you grow. Only once we have a thorough understanding of your needs and goals for your business, will we give you our expert opinion on what we can do to help you achieve those goals.

Continuous Improvement:

The world of digital marketing is constantly changing and evolving. Strategies and tactics that worked a few years ago don’t work today.

We stay up to date with the latest trends, tools, and techniques in digital marketing so you don’t have to. Everything we do is designed to ensure we know the best way to get you results now.

You can get high-quality leads knocking on your door, eager to work with you. But it can’t be done overnight, nor can it be done with someone who took one or two SEO courses and started calling themselves an SEO strategist.

You need someone with a proven track record of getting results for businesses like yours. We’re sure we can be that agency for you, and if you feel the same way, let’s start a conversation today!

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