Hiring New York Ad Agencies

The “Big Apple” is home to some great web design and digital marketing agencies. However, discerning the reputation and intentions of an agency is much harder today than in years past. New York is full of incredibly talented individuals, as well as scammers and outright criminals. In a densely populated area with more than 8.6 million residents, you’ll find just about everything in a city like NYC.

Typical 5-star agencies will present top-of-the-line services that easily rank among the world’s best.

Digital marketing is a highly competitive industry. However, the demand is still much lower than the supply. Presently, there is no “quality control” organization or entity when it comes to digital marketing services.

Consequently, there is an abundance of options outside of conventional Madison Avenue agencies, such as freelancers, churn factories, and mom & pop style agencies with an impressive roster and very small team.

Picking out the crème de la crème can be a tough ask in a town with an endless sea of variety. That said, here are a couple of pointers to ensure you know exactly what to look for when filtering and deciphering between the good creative marketing agencies, and bad ones.

5 Things to Avoid When Hiring A New York Ad Agency

The best marketing agencies spend more time & effort on their client’s websites than their own. This means they may not come up in search, and if they do it’s via random blog post because their website is strong and niche relevant. These agencies are usually made up of a team of 2-5 people who specialize in getting results for clients. They may come off relaxed and uneager to win your business, but don’t worry, this is a good sign.

1) GA certification

When it comes to digital expertise, watch out for an agency that tries to sell you on the various certifications they’ve received. It’s unimportant whether these certifications come from online services, within or beyond NYC borders. Unlike roofing or some sort of contract work, digital marketing is unregulated and rarely taught in universities. It’s like the wild west.

Many agencies will try to woo you with fancy certifications that don’t mean much to the industry insiders.

Some of those certifications come from Bing or Google. These SEO certifications which are supposed to indicate professionalism and adaptness, yet have a very low barrier to acquisition. Someone who just started selling SEO services can acquire them within a few weeks. Further, these certifications do not indicate competency or expertise. Someone at the agency has simply taken a test, and probably copied the answers from others who shared them on a Reddit forum, etc.

Furthermore, avoid being impressed by a Google Partner badge on an agency website. This does not mean Google has reviewed the website, agency, or individually verified them in any way. It simply means that Google allowed someone at the agency to take a test in exchange for free advertising. Hence, any agency that has a Google badge reinforces Google’s brand awareness.

Note: We know this because we used to have all the certifications and badges when started selling SEO. We had much less knowledge and experience, and the badge was our primary selling point because we didn’t have case studies. As our agency has grown, we’ve avoided renewing the certifications as they are utterly useless when you have real work to show clients.

2) Niche-related experience

No one agency is the best at everything it does.

If an agency tries to sell you multiple services, be wary of the results they’re promising.

The best agencies will specialize in one thing. Any additional offerings should compliment that one thing.

Some are great at SEO while others excel in social media, branding, advertising, direct marketing, and so on. Consequently, keep an eye out for an ad agency who has dealt with clients in your niche before. If their specialty coincides with the exact requirements and concerns that’s a good sign.

If your particular type of business OR their clientele is your exact archetype, you’re on the right track.

For example, our clients are usually a very specific archetype and we work well together, no matter the industry or competition. This is because we understand the mindset, motivations, and temperament of our target demographic.

The biggest New York ad agencies usually juggle various aspects of advertising and aren’t always the best to work with even though they are experienced. Smaller agencies particularly suited to your specialty or archetype will be a better fit in the long run.

3) Client List

An agency’s roster is also a good yardstick to go by as it alludes to how thinly the agency will spread themselves when working on your campaign.

Consider this, no matter the size of an agency – there will only be so many experts working inside the agency. Smaller agencies tend to have a team of experts and contractors, while large agencies have salespeople, account managers, etc.

The more branches an agency has, the less customized their solution for you will be. That’s just what we’ve experienced and heard from several clients who have come over from other agencies.

Unlike other industries where the amount of trust from the public via reviews directly correlates with the quality of work, digital marketing comes with an entirely different set of values & priorities.

The best marketers have few reviews, but tons of leads and referrals. As I mentioned, they focus more on their clients than their brand image.

Ads agencies are usually volume-focused or results-focused.

This means that the best agencies fly below the radar and you’ll really have to do some research to find them.

Digital marketing agencies around the Upper East Side and other financial heavyweight zones, for example, often paint a picture of quality on account of an opulent setting alone. Although that is not always an indication of their expertise but an indication they’ve sold a ton of clients. You’ll really have to discern if it feels like a good fit because some of these agencies are probably worthwhile, while others are going to drain your pockets.

4) Testimonials

Word-of-mouth reputation proves a reliable compass to nudge you in the right direction. There is no better way to get an objective view of a company’s effectiveness than from past clients who’ve experienced the service first-hand. However, there are paid review services and freelancers willing to use their personal Google account to submit reviews they’ve been paid for.

If you’re considering working with a company, check out the founder’s Linked In and their Google page for reviews. You can’t always trust the testimonials page on their website. A marketing agency’s website testimonials could be fake, so be sure to seek out multiple third-party review platforms for an independent analysis of the general consensus.

Additionally, in digital marketing, much like other B2B services, happy clients don’t always leave reviews.

5) Budget

How much do you have or plan to spend? Your ideal budget won’t always result in the best outcome. When it comes to SEO or ads, an agency should recommend the optimal solution for the results you desire. They’ll provide a quote and reduce that quote based on your budget. Try to avoid developing your strategy around budget, at least in the beginning. Similar to a doctor’s visit, your agency should recommend the best solution for the problem you’re faced with and then offer generic options or alternatives.

Your campaign may be expensive, as digital services usually are.

This not only entails the money you’ll fork out upfront but also what you’ll need to pay in terms of the agencies’ retainer & maintenance fees. Consequently, your results will directly correlate with the amount you spend. If you consider the average link cost is between $100 and $400, sometimes more, prepare to invest a decent amount of capital.

Justifying Cost

If your industry isn’t very competitive, the best strategy may not be to spend insane amounts of money advertising.

However, if your niche is competitive, let the doctor prescribe the best solution for you. Then figure out what can reduce the price.

For example, let’s say you’re a legal firm with a budget of $4,000 per month for SEO. The results you desire will require a $5,000 monthly investment. Instead of picking less trafficked keywords, offer to publish your own content on the site. This can ensure that you stay within your budget, and are able to accomplish similar, almost identical results. If you start at a lower price point, the agency may change your keyword package altogether.

A business person with capital to invest should inquire about high pricing before attempting to negotiate the cost. The best SEO experts are not trained salespeople. Instead of lowering your budget, gather the information you need to justify the cost and pay it – or don’t invest at all. It’s much better to focus on results, than cutting corners. By cutting corners, you’ll pay a lot more in the long run to get where you want to be.

Generally, an agency that views your package from a pricing standpoint is going to be focused on retaining you as a client by cutting the cost.

Alternatively, the best agencies focus on delivering the best outcome. They would rather not have you as a client if the campaign is premature for your budget. To get an exact feel for what your campaign will cost, it’s prudent to obtain quotes from several firms so as to pick out the best way forward.

New York certainly has no shortage of opportunity and clientele, hopefully, these pointers will help you find the right partner for growing your business.