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What is different about buying digital marketing?
Digital is a highly dynamic, technology-driven marketing channel. The internet has changed the way consumers
engage with brands and how businesses operate. Digital marketing practices are intrinsically linked to a business’s
website and require input from teams across an organisation. As a result, unlike other marketing and communications,
it is often unworkable to have a pure outsourced model, and it is a real challenge to keep up with the technology and
talent (and their pricing) required to do digital well.
What are the key considerations for purchasers?
With so much change and technical jargon buyers face a challenge when trying to navigate the digital landscape. It is
therefore important to have a clear understanding what you need to buy, and not to be misled by any vendors trying to
sell services that aren’t necessary. Reform categorises digital marketing purchasing into the following four areas:
Most digital marketing channels – SEO, PPC, social media, display, mobile, affiliates – require the
management of a technology platform. For display advertising the practice of setting up the ads, is
very labour intensive, as is PPC search. Ensure that you have the technical skills required to do this
work, or that you pay the right price both for the technology and the management. Watch out for
hidden costs and agency mark-ups. Most importantly, try to secure the license directly and ensure
that the contract stipulates that you, the client/brand, owns the data. Otherwise, you will lose value
and continuity of results if you change providers or agent.
Digital marketing skills are as akin to engineering and maths as they are to editorial and creative
thinking. And digital is a broad church: depending on what kind of service you need – whether web
design, media buying or mobile – you may need to hire technology, design or analytical skills. So
know what skills you need and try to find an agency that offers all of these skills in one place.
The biggest challenge the digital industry faces is a lack of talent to meet demand. The industry has
exploded in the last twenty years yet only recently have colleges and universities started to offer
digital marketing as a specialist subject. So the pool of self-taught talent is still relatively small. As a
consequence, digital staff can be overpaid and move around a lot. Agencies have high churn rates
(>70% is not uncommon) and staff moves can be damaging to clients. So find out what agencies are
doing to nurture and retain their digital talent.
Finally, ensure your marketing department has strong digital skills too, and that it has clear plans,
goals and objectives for digital marketing. Social media gurus are all very well but can they measure
return on investment? Is there strong project or account management in place?
Digital marketing activities are fragmented, fast-paced and chaotic! Spend time assessing what
processes are in place within the agency to minimise resource wastage and to ensure that campaign
optimisation is both thorough and timely. How do they ensure that quality work is delivered while
keeping all of the digital balls in the air? How scalable is the operation? And how flexible is your SLA
if you need to dial your digital activities up or down, according to market movements?
Businesses today are drowning in digital data. You need people, process and technology to gather,
filter and analyse search, social and web analytics data – and to extract and communicate insights
which will drive the business forwards. Know which data sets you have, which you need, who owns
the data and be confident you are buying data expertise as part of the digital marketing service
For more information or advice on digital marketing procurement
Reform is a specialist digital marketing consulting firm that helps businesses to grow through digital channels. For
more advice on purchasing please contact Amanda Davie, Managing Director: [email protected] or