How to Evaluate Online Marketing Proposals

I recently met a friend of mine, whom I had not seen in years. So much so, that he did not know I had founded an online marketing agency. He had married his college sweetheart and moved to the East Coast. As we were catching up, he shared that he had recently launched a business and hired a local online marketing agency. Then he asked me to take a look at their proposal, since he valued my opinion and “knew nothing about the Internet”.

The incident got me thinking about how hard it for a small business owner to evaluate an online marketing proposal. Though savvy businesspeople know that moving their advertising dollars from print and traditional media to the digital arena is necessary, they often lack the tools to assess what they are being offered and what to expect. If you have been looking for an online marketing agency and reading proposals, this is what you should consider…

First things first

Hopefully, before you were presented with any strategy or quote, you met with the agency. On that meeting, you should have had the opportunity to share information about your business and the goals you wish to accomplish with the campaign. The agency must describe their services and explain how they can help you achieve your vision. Though I am evidently a tech fan, I really prefer to meet any potential clients in person, which lets me get a better sense of the business and the people behind it.

The proposal

Moving on to the proposal document itself … Though each agency has their unique way of presenting a proposal (or at least they should), these are some key elements you should look for:

  • Perceptiveness. Did you get a sense that the agency really understands what you do and are looking for?
  • Opportunity identification. Does the agency know where your business is missing opportunities, and how seize them with online tools?
  • Options. Even if they recommend a certain package or strategy, they should at least give you an alternative. It could be offered as an add-on or upgrade. Having these options empowers you as a customer.
  • Tools. Does the proposal clearly state the methods and channels (Facebook, twitter, etc.) it will use? Can they explain (either on the document or verbally), why they consider those to be the most appropriate for your business?
  • Pricing and features. Look for as much detail as possible… The number of social on each channel, in the case of a social media campaign; the number of pages and sections, in a website design proposal….  How often will you be able to meet/consult with your executive? Are there any expected extra costs, such as picture royalties or meme design?
  • Timeline. Does it establish a clear time frames and implementation times for the various elements of the campaign or project?
  • Responsibilities. What are theirs? What is yours? (You’ll probably have to turn in some information or graphic elements, within certain time frames, so they can meet their deadlines too)
  • Reports. How will success be measured? How often will you be receiving those reports? How extensively will you be able to discuss them?

A word about packages: 

Some agencies, such as Bloominari, offer packages that fit the needs of most clients. This certainly helps the customer compare different options and prices. Once you choose a package, though, you should receive a full proposal with further detail and personalized implementation ideas.

There are two final elements you should really look for. One is agile response and the other is original content. One of the main differences between traditional and digital media is that the later one allows for daily monitoring. We now have unprecedented information about the way people are interacting with our ads and content.

Do they open your webpage? What day of the week? What section? At what time do they see your Facebook ads? Any reputable agency should be able to quickly adapt to this information and make small changes, which will improve results.

The other important element is content. If an agency presents you with a series of social media blurbs or blog titles to choose from, be sure to ask if the content is original. Some agencies will just use a content curation tool to collect articles, and adapt a phrase or two for social media. This is fine if your goal is to fill out digital space with letters, but you should know that rehashing previously published content will do nothing for your website in terms of SEO (positioning at the top of search engine results).

You are by no means obligated to become an expert on online marketing (that’s why you are hiring one). But if something doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t. Better, consult with an agency that takes good care of you, and knows how to help your business, too.