Tips to Help You Successfully Manage Your Digital Marketing Agency

Tips to Help You Successfully Manage Your Digital Marketing Agency

Running a digital marketing agency is tough work — it requires strong customer service, technical know-how, creativity, and solid communication. Industry experts shared their tips and philosophies for digital marketing agencies, from business development and budgeting, to best practices and experimentation, and even what to look for if you need an agency to help your business.

Nathaniel Smathers

Nathaniel Smathers

Senior Marketing Manager, MicroD

Specialize in something and be responsive.

Three Tips to Help Grow Your Agency

Pick A Niche

This tip may be obvious, but you would be surprised how many agencies are struggling to be everything to everyone. Trust me. That is impossible. I’ve learned that most of the successful marketing agencies in the world specialize in serving just a specific audience. Picking a niche allows you to brand yourself an expert in that sector and helps you separate from the pack. It opens up other opportunities for speaking and panel discussions.

Respond to Your Leads Quickly

If you’re doing any marketing for yourself, then you are probably generating leads. It is essential that you get back to them as quick as possible. Sure, you are busy, and you can let the lead hang out for a day or two before getting to it. This potential client is shopping around and you could lose out to another agency who responds faster.

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that the average response time among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours. In a similar study, agencies that connect with potential customers within an hour were 7x more likely to close the deal than those that tried an hour later. So this means there is opportunity. If you can get to your leads faster you are more likely to beat out the other guy or gal.

Leverage VAs and Outsourcing Systems

VAs (Virtual Assistants) have become incredibly common among small digital marketing agencies. While I believe that nothing beats having an energetic team member in the seat next to you, a VA can help you do so much more. You can hire several VAs for a fraction of what a full-time employee will cost, and if vetted correctly and trained well, a VA can help you scale the day-to-day work that you can’t manage if you want to grow your business. Many VAs are hungry to prove themselves and will surprise you with their determination.

Outsourcing companies like Upwork and Fiverr can take so much stress off your shoulders. I am sure there are potential projects on your desk that are profitable, but you are not sure how to get the work done. Upwork and Fiverr have so many categories, and if vetted like a VA, you will be surprised how well the work comes out and at a fraction of what it would cost you to hire a designer or a copywriter.

Daniel Vardi

Daniel Vardi

PPC Product Manager, (un)Common Logic

Testing is a long-term investment.

  • Invest in a time tracking tool and set goals for every role. Tracking employee time may sound like you are micro-managing your team and everyone wants to be trusted they invest their time correctly. However, agencies always have inefficiencies and opportunities they could uncover very easily. Is your team spending too long pulling data? Maybe they need a better reporting tool. Are they spending too long implementing bidding changes? Maybe it’s time to move to automation.
  • A rising tide lifts all boats, so look at the full picture. All online marketing efforts need to work together. Agency teams typically just focus on the efforts they are hired to do and view other efforts as competition. Removing the siloed barriers between the different departments like PPC, SEO, CRO or affiliates will help understand what each is working towards and the strategy taken to achieve the business goals.
  • Set a budget for testing at a 0% return. Let’s face it, every marketer says “Always Be Testing (ABT)”; however, not everyone actually sets aside a budget for these tests and is willing to get no return. At the end, agencies lose clients when they don’t lead their clients in innovation and ideas pushing for growth.
  • Deepen your roots with your clients. Agencies that have shallow connections with their clients—only investing in a relationship with their one point of contact—are at a greater risk to lose clients. Each team has to reach out across different business units. Fewer emails, more video calls and in-person meetings.
  • Train your team to understand automation and tools are only as good as the people who run them. At the end of the day, tools rely on the rules your team set for them. Mistakes happen when the understanding for the underlying reason for the rules is lacking.
Eli Zheleva

Eli Zheleva

Marketing Consultant

Testing is a long-term investment.

Be ethical.

When managing a portfolio of clients, it’s key to manage your time as well. This means that spending more time on one client can at times, come to the detriment of another, if we’re not careful. When a client needs to get charged more for the additional time you use, be ethical in the pricing. It’s OK to have a minimum hourly rate and to have a minimum charge of 1h. If that’s the case though, make sure that the work you do for the client adds up to an hour. Don’t make a simple change to a website that would take you 10 minutes to do and charge for the full hour because you can’t charge for less. Find ways to add value or roll over little jobs like this until they add up to an hour. This is a great way to build a relationship with your clients.

Build relationships.

Building a rapport with the clients is a key in enabling agencies to do a better job. You get to understand what metrics they need, why they need those and how you can support them better in their business. Also, when the relationship is strong, when the metrics are not there yet, the clients are more likely to stick around, as they know that you would add value to their business.

Ask the right questions.

Businesses work with agencies because they don’t have the necessary resources or knowledge to take the business to the next level. Because of that, the responsibility of the offering lies with us, the professionals. We need to strive to understand what the client wants before we offer them a cookie-cutter solution. This means that even if the client comes to you asking for SEO, ask a few guiding questions to make sure that SEO is the right channel for them. You don’t want to be in a situation where the client is frustrated and wants to leave because they are not getting the results they want. Moreover, you don’t want the reason for the frustration to be that they wanted SEO, you are doing SEO for them, yet SEO is not the right primary channel for their business at that point.

Craig Foster

Craig Foster

Founder, CMF Consulting and Coaching

Make some important considerations before selecting a digital agency.

As someone who worked for a digital agency in the past, I have seen the good and bad when working with one of these companies. I want to pass onto you three important things to look for when choosing an agency.

The first thing I would look for is whether they have experience working with clients in your industry. Without industry knowledge your new agency might not have a good idea on the best ways to target and find you new customers. At the same time, you don’t want to go to the same agency your main competitor is working with. This can cause business conflicts that could make your campaigns fail.

The second thing I would be looking at is their Account Manager to Client Ratio, and how their account teams are set up. A single account manager can only handle so many accounts to maintain effective campaigns. If the agency that you are looking at has 20+ clients per account manager, that would typically mean if you’re not the biggest fish in that group your level of service could suffer. In terms of their account teams, do the account managers do everything or do they have experts that handle paid search, social media, content and creative? An account manager cannot be an expert in all these areas and having these experts will allow your campaigns to be more effective.

The final thing I would look at is their own digital marketing. I would recommend Googling your agency to see what their search results are like. Are they coming up in search both paid and organic? If an agency cannot get results for the items that drive leads for them, how are they going to drive leads for you?

These are not the only things you should look for when looking at a digital agency, but they are some critical components to go along with pricing, management fee, overall services provided, and more.

Neil Yeomans

Neil Yeomans

Technical Director, This is Digital

Keep up with Google’s structured data recommendations for your websites.

Five Structured Data Tips from Agency Experts

There are many benefits to keeping sites up to date in line with Google’s recommendations on structured data. Here are five tips from This is Digital, a digital performance agency:

Use Types when marking up structured data.

With Google recently depreciating support of the schema, it’s important to ensure that the right markup is being used. Therefore, all Structured Data developments should use Types, in order to guarantee maximum interoperability across the search engines, and other platforms that can read it, such as Facebook (when a pixel is installed on a site).

Use JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) for structured data markup.

Much in the same way that HTML and CSS allow for content and presentation to be completely separated from each other, JSON-LD allows for structured data to be decoupled from a page’s HTML. This has multiple benefits, including ease of maintenance, resistance to page template changes, and lower development overheads when implementing.

Keep up to date with the latest recommendations from Google.

Google’s recommendations change frequently, so it’s always a good idea to check before you start. As an example, Google wants to see “unique product identifiers” on product-level structured data, but there are few retailers who represent these details e.g. “brand”, “gtin13” (barcode number), and “mpn” (manufacturer part number). Head over to for Google’s official reference guides.

Ensure that the most appropriate Types are being used.

Some of these include:

Due to the strict markup requirements associated with using structured data, developments should always be tested using This tool is flexible, so it will accept code being dropped into it, or URLs being inspected.

Vincent Tobiaz

Vincent Tobiaz

CEO, SEO Smooth

Diversify your lead sources, and focus on core services.

  • If you haven’t already done your spring cleaning like us here in Florida, get rid of tool subscriptions that aren’t in use or change the plans to better fit your needs.
  • Promote autonomy and employee freedoms to improve productivity & happiness.
  • Look back at Client accounts and particularly Paid Search and Social campaigns’ 2019 numbers and compare to the previous year, money in and money out, or cost per lead, and find patterns to find quick wins to get off to a quick jump in 2020.
  • Research possible new ways to improve processes and automate your internal processes. Every year (or even quarter) new connections and Zaps between tools make new possibilities commonplace.
  • Diversify your business sources, I can’t stress this one enough. It’s not a good idea to keep all the eggs in one basket betting that it is going to constantly produce amazing high-quality agency leads at a low cost. Getting a few leads from one source here, and a few there, etc. from several different places adds up and is more sustainable.
  • Marketing gets more complicated every year. If you’re a small agency, I’d recommend niching down in an underperforming area of your business. For us, we found web development projects—which we did just due to nature of the industry—lasted seemingly forever and were rarely profitable. Catering to those projects reduced our time doing and improving our core services of SEO/PPC/Social, and therefore reduced the quality of service. Now we won’t do new one-off-websites out of the gate to get the marketing retainer as we did as a “casualty” before. Better service, happier clients, happier team.

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