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We all know that our customers are online but there’s so much noise with Google, Facebook, SEO (and the list goes on) that it’s easy to push it aside. Ignore that our customers are now researching and forming their purchasing preferences online. Or chose to do something, reach out to the ‘experts’ and end up spending thousands of dollars with very little result. Many businesses are left questioning how to navigate this new online world.

Russ Macumber has been working in marketing for the past 15 year and specialises in digital marketing. Our members in Melbourne heard from Russ at their board meeting where he outlined key tips on how to hire the right digital agency and more importantly what to watch out for. Here’s what Russ says:

*Phone rings*

Unknown number

Hmmm…it could be a customer…

I better answer it…


“Is this Russ Macumber?”


“Hi there Russ. Did you know your website is currently showing multiple errors which are preventing you from showing on page 1 of Google? My team have picked up a number of critical issues which need to be resolved. We can get you to the top of the ranking! Do you want more business?”

“Well actually I’m o—-”

“Russ, more business is what you need. We will get you to page 1. I will have one of my team come out and see you tomorrow. Let’s say tomorrow afternoon at 2pm. What’s the best address to meet you at Russ”

We’ve all had these calls. Often multiples of these calls…in a single day! Pushy sales tactics are just one of the bugbears that the digital marketing industry is known for. I’ve worked in and around marketing for over 15 years. I’ve owned a number of businesses. I know the digital agency stereotypes, and to be honest, lots are fair labels! Outside of pushy sales people, other labels associated with digital agencies include…

Cowboys, Rip off merchants, Shady, Unethical


Your customers are online. They start their research online, investigate options, and reach out (or purchase, for eComm sites) through your website. You need a digital strategy. So you are going to have to talk to the cowboys.

With that in mind, here are the questions I recommend you ask a prospective agency…

eCommerce businesses: What is the expected return on ad spend (ROAS)?

If the agency has done work in your industry, they should be confident to be able to generate you a return based on past experience. Eg. They should be able to say 2 or 3 or 5 x ROAS by a certain period. Things to look out for here…they (a) Won’t give you a number, (b) Give you a reeeeeaaally long answer, but you’re unsure if there was a number in there, or (c) Give you an outlandish number, say 100 x multiplier on your ad spend…RUN.

Lead Generation businesses: What is the expected CPA (cost per acquisition/lead)?

Again…if they have worked in your space, they should have an understanding of what type of result they can deliver. You should do some calculating beforehand on your current CPA so you can figure out if the agency can do a better job than you’re doing yourself.

Do you do the work yourself, or outsource?

Digital agencies are famous for projecting themselves as much bigger than they are. Any slightly digitally savvy person can whack up a slick looking WordPress website, write some punchy/engaging copy, and draw you into their funnel under the impression that they are a “team of strategists, creatives and tech heads”. When its likely they are just 1 person, outsourcing the work.

The risk of outsourcing is two-fold: (1) From a quality control perspective, wouldn’t you rather be able to speak to the person/s actually doing the work on your campaign? And (2) You need your agency to be responsive to your needs. It’s hard to turn off a Google Ads campaign if your digital agency has to wait on an email back from the overseas tech working on it.

Who owns the campaigns and the data from my campaigns? In Google Ad Manager, Facebook Business Manager etc

This is crucial: You are paying for the data in these accounts with your advertising spend. You should own the data. Don’t take that “it’s our IP” excuse from the agency. That’s 2000s era agency speak. You should expect transparency in 2018.

More questions to ask…

How much of the monthly retainer is media (advertising spend) and how much is service fees?

What does the onboarding process look like?

What does the reporting look like?

Who will manage my account? How often will I hear from them?

One question not to ask…

How many hours will you spend working on my campaign?

It’s irrelevant. What type of ROI/results can you achieve is a better question. I know for a fact my accountant is super expensive. I don’t even know exactly how much I pay! But I do know that he saves me thousands and thousands of dollars every year. And I don’t care how many hours it takes him to do it, I just know that before I used him, I didn’t have those extra thousands.

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