Certifications can be faked or manipulated and they do not always translate to optimal strategies or a return on your investment.
As a company, we definitely value certifications internally because we can confirm our staff’s knowledge. We also test them beyond the certification exams to further prove their skills. But externally, we are very cautious and rely heavily on our other methods to verify the quality of an individual or company. We recommend this practice for those evaluating a marketing agency as well. However, a company listing it’s certifications does at least tell you they are aware of them and made some effort to comply. So they’re not worthless!
How are certifications faked or manipulated?
Google allows anyone to login to an email address and complete their certification. There is no real identity verification. So one person can login to multiple accounts and complete them. This is the same for other platforms like Facebook. They also are wide open to searching for answers to copy and paste, or to have someone sitting beside the test-taker to give them the answers.
Takeaway: Ask the agency you’re interviewing “How are your staff members trained?” The answer they give should be clear and thorough. If they just say “Certifications. Certifications. Certifications.” beware! But note that most agencies don’t get asked this question, so if they fumble, that’s not necessarily an indicator that they’re not a trust worthy company.
Many agencies are service and product first, as opposed to strategy first. This means that they are motivated to solicit you on a particular product or service, even if that’s not best for your business. Strategy-first agencies look at your industry landscape to get a view of all of your opportunities as well as their risks and rewards. This information, up-front, is simultaneously making the agency accountable to you while also respecting your right to be informed of how your budget is spent before it’s spent.
Advertising agencies are easy to start because it only takes one loyal and growth-minded client to fund an entire agency, so there are many to choose from. You pair this with the variety of different forms of advertising and marketing methods (websites, social media, search, etc…) and it’s completely overwhelming!
Below is a list of the different types of agencies out there. Ultimately, a strategy-first business that has in-house staff – especially strategists – who have experience in multiple fields, will result in a more well-rounded and informed advertising strategy:
Which of these are we? We are a Full Service Digital Marketing & Application Development Company We offer website development, SEO, advertising management across all platforms, content development, photography, videography, animation and much more!
We have an office and a complete photography and video production studio in Sherwood, Oregon with ambassador staff in Wilsonville, which is historically our home base.
It’s distasteful to be asked what your budget is too early in negotiations. But if all of our potential clients started the conversation with “This is my max budget.” it would help us narrow down what opportunities are the best fit for them within their budget much sooner. We have clients that spend a few hundred bucks with us, and we have clients who spend tens of thousands or more. We want to give each client the mix of products that will give the best results for their budget.
Takeaway: If you are just getting started in advertising then decide what you’re willing to spend for the first 3-6 months and assume you don’t generate ROI until the end of that period.
Most agencies offer fixed budgets or flexible budgets. We offer both because we have found that first-time advertisers want a figure they can count on while experienced advertisers want efficient spending. Flexible budgets, at least in our company, allow us to mix and match products and services by drawing from a “General Retainer”. When you rely only on a fixed-price on a per-product/service the cost can increase quickly! As a result, the agency is happy because they’re getting paid well, but there is usually overlap between services – such as reporting, that are essentially being paid for twice.
Takeaway: Do you need a steady fixed budget? Or do you want efficiency and effectiveness?
In 15 years of business almost all of the agencies we know of – especially in Portland, Oregon – are a few people to a dozen or so.
Agencies with just a few people or less on staff tend to be less expensive, and you get more bang for your buck because they are trying to grow and want to impress you and earn a great review. There are real benefits there if you find a reliable agency. But, they tend to need grace with the timeline and limited but specific types of mistakes along the way.
Agencies with a dozen or more staff tend to have a higher costs but provide a more comprehensive service, determined to let you hear “Yes, we can do that.” more often than with smaller agencies. They also tend to be more on the cutting edge of trends and technology.
Our team, for example, has these staff members:
All of our staff are considered Strategists in their respective departments and work as a unified team to develop and define strategy for projects or specific aspects of projects.
Takeaway: Ask the agency “Tell me about your team. What is their background and experience? What is an example of a time they worked together on a project?” This, too, is not a common question, but it can tell you a lot about how prepared they are and how growth-minded they are.