by Alexis Damen, Shopify

Retailers have many disparate tasks to complete in a day. From restocking store shelves to fulfilling orders to inventory management, retail entrepreneurs have plenty to keep them busy.

One item that tops many retail to-do lists is marketing their products, but unless you have a background in the discipline, digital marketing can be an intimidating task for merchants whose time is already overextended.

Digital marketing is a wide umbrella encompassing a number of subcategories, including content marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising (among many others). Many business owners already have too much on their plate, so it’s difficult to master all these functions and expertly execute them on a regular basis.

Most companies need help with some digital marketing function, particularly generating leads and traffic for their business.

Rather than struggling to do everything yourself, it may be time to consider bringing in a pro. Hiring a digital marketing expert can make the job easier and provide a great return on your investment.

The Benefits of Hiring a Digital Marketer or Agency

An agency or freelancer can help retailers with a range of services, from redesigning a complicated ecommerce site to running a national campaign.

Here’s one example from a digital agency that recently helped a footwear brand increase overall revenue and returns on investment for its retail business through a paid marketing campaign.

Digital services for this client include paid marketing, audience building and refinement, growth planning, and campaign development and optimization.

Assess Your Needs and Budget

Before you outsource your digital marketing, establish your objectives and decide what role a digital agency will play in helping you achieve your goals. Are you launching a new product or trying to reach a new market? Are you rebranding in the hopes of growing your business? Are you ready to invest in paid social ads to increase your direct-to-consumer revenue?

Other questions to ask yourself before speaking with a digital marketing agency include:

  • What is your budget for digital marketing efforts?
  • How much time do have to invest in working with a digital marketing agency?
  • If you have an in-house marketing team, what is your team good at, and what areas do you need help with?

Understanding your own needs will allow you to give potential marketing partners a concise idea of your objectives and budget.

Do Your Research

Look for an agency with case studies of work with past clients it’s willing to share. Choose a partner that has worked with companies like yours before. That could include agencies who have worked with retailers or even other merchants in your specific niche.

Also, ensure their marketing specialization aligns with your goals. For example, if you want to ramp up your company blog, look for a digital marketing agency that offers content writing, blogging, and SEO services — not one whose primary focus is paid social ads. An agency can have an impressive track record and still not be the best fit for your specific business.

Be sure to choose an agency that keeps up to date with the latest digital marketing trends. Experience is valuable, but the digital landscape changes every day, and it is important your future partner knows how to keep up.

Be Sure the Agency is Transparent

Lack of transparency should be a red flag. When you look at an agency’s website, look for its address, client list, and an in-depth about page. If you feel like the agency is hiding something or you have to dig for information, your intuition is likely right.

If you ask them for case study examples and they don’t have anything to share with you, they might be hiding the fact that they haven’t successfully delivered the results they claim they can achieve.

A digital marketing agency with proven success should also have no problem providing you with a few references. Companies that have had a positive experience with the agency will be happy to speak with you and recommend their services.

If you see testimonials on the agency’s website, that’s also great social proof. It is still a good idea to speak with past and present clients to better understand how working with the agency can help your business grow.

Don’t Rush Decision Making and Think About the Long Haul

It is important to view your work with a digital marketing agency as a strategic partnership that can help you grow your business long-term. Finding the right partner can take time, but it is better than making an impulsive decision and hiring an agency that doesn’t understand your business or whom you don’t enjoy working with.

An agency relationship can range from six months to spanning multiple years, depending on your needs.

Choose the Best Value, Not the Best Price

Picking a digital marketing agency just because it offers the cheapest rate could hurt you in the long run. Take time to compare price versus the services offered, then choose an agency that’s the best fit for your business.

Moving Forward with Finding the Right Digital Marketing Agency For Your Business

In the end, the most important questions to ask yourself about a potential digital marketing partner are: Can they get the job done? Can I afford their fees? Will I like working with them? If you can answer yes to these three points, it will be easier to build a long-term relationship with your agency and partner in scaling your business.

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