Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Agency with the Right Pricing

There’s no escaping it…digital marketing is here to stay. The price you pay for digital marketing services, in Malaysia or otherwise, depends on what the plan and strategy is.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, just about everyone started looking around for digital marketing agencies to help them boost their online sales and make more online connections through either building or revamping their websites, writing blogs, redoing their SEO efforts, pumping things up on social media, and integrating eCommerce into their websites. 

Despite the grim reasons for that, it is encouraging for the industry. 

The cataclysmic thing is that many business owners were looking for ‘cheap and fast solutions’. 

Why is that a problem? You see, there’s no such thing. Digital Marketing is a medium- to long-term investment. You’ve got to find a digital marketing agency that gets the strategy right, are diligent in their research and are persistent in implementing every nitty-gritty detail of the plan. 

There are plenty of digital marketing agencies who will promise you the sky and unicorns with a small budget. I’ll admit – some work, most don’t

What they do is, with that digital marketing plan, people carve out a template, use and reuse them without really making a connection with what your business is all about, how you want to position yourself, the industry you’re in, and the scalability of your business. They don’t care about your competitors and are forming a master plan on how to conquer them on SERPs. They don’t have a solid plan on how to mould a content marketing strategy that will slowly see you gain ground in the world of SEO. 

Digital Marketing Agencies Who Care about Website Audit

Most of the digital marketing agencies I know don’t care about performing an in-depth website audit, if you already have one. You’ll be presented with a few opinions:

  1. Start a brand new website
  2. Starting from where you are
  3. Just pump SEO keywords into your META tags
  4. Injecting a bunch of articles into your website for the sake of having some flesh around the bones

Performing website audit and competitor analysis will take up a whole bunch of the digital marketing agency’s time. Seriously. Even if your business is a small to medium one. Going without it is like going to the Doctor and asking him for medication and prognosis without letting him/her perform blood tests and scans on your body. 

I think we can agree that it doesn’t sound very workable. 

Once the website audit is done, there’s the action plan. What are your best options and what’s the pricing going to be like? Can you afford it? If you can, what are the returns and when can you expect it? How is it going to be and who is going to monitor and report it? 

All of this is going to take place within 6 months to a year. As I said, there are no overnight digital marketing results if you’re serious about battling it out with your competitors on the Internet. 

How to Go About Working with a Digital Marketing Agency

I don’t recommend the hands-off approach. Nobody knows your business, target market, and marketing plan better than you do and someone from your business needs to be working closely with the digital marketing agency. 

The price of your digital marketing plan takes into consideration the complexity of the strategies and the amount of time it is going to take, usually at least 6 months. 

As an example, if you’re confident about the performance and SEO condition of your website, the digital marketing agency will help you plan a PPC and social media marketing campaign. Compared to SEO, you can usually see the results faster. 

Even with PPC and social media integration, you have to have the right mindset and realistic expectations. For example, if you’re investing RM500 a month on the digital campaigns, you’re not going to be making millions in months

What you need to do is to work hand-in-hand with the digital marketing agency. Let them know what your budget is, what you are willing to invest in, and how you are going to reach the goals. 

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Every ‘Guru’ Knows How to Place Ads on Adwords

There’s a reason why people hire digital marketing agencies instead of putting on the boots for a sojourn out in the world of PPC and FB ad placements. The problem is not everyone knows how to dissect and analyze the data.

Based on my experience, digital marketing agencies that pay attention to each customer and focus on conversion tend to charge a higher fee but that’s because there’s more manpower involved. 

All those tools out there are fantastic but if you don’t know what to do with it, you’re not going anywhere. I’ve watched countless videos of people claiming how they can ‘get traffic to your website’ or ‘how to engage with your customers on social media’ but very few hit the mark on how to convert your site visitors or social media followers into customers

It’s a very personalized strategy, that’s why. There’s no blanket solution. 

Digital Marketing Agencies usually cater to the whims, fancies, budget, and goals of their customers. My advice is that if an agency presents you with an impressive GA slideshow but also lets you in on how they intend to turn the heads of your potential leads, it’s worth paying the extra money for. 

After all, what’s the point of placing Google Ads and ranking on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd page of Google Search Results page if it’s not producing the REAL RESULTS you’re looking for?

The Common Pricing Models for Digital Marketing Services

SEO – Starting with a brand new website

If you’re starting your website from ground-up, ask the web developer if it includes basic SEO services. Since they’re at the stage whereby everything is at its barest and you will start plugging your website URL everywhere you can, it makes sense for the website designer and developer to do some basic search engine optimization on your website before signing off. 

This might add an extra RM800 to RM4,000 to the cost of developing your website but it is better to start on the right foot. 

You might need to tweak the SEO for further optimization further down the road but getting the website developer to get the ball rolling ensures that the mechanics of SEO is already in place. 

SEO – Enhancements to a corporate website

Depending on the experience, country of origin of the digital marketing agency, the number of awards it has under its belt, and how established it is in the industry, enhancing the SEO of your corporate website (with approximately 10 – 20 pages) can cost you RM1,500 – RM13,000 per month or per contract. 

The digital marketing agency will be running the gamut, going deep into every piece of content on your website and analyzing your competitors for keyword competitiveness. 

Hiring a freelance digital marketing consultant

Hiring a freelancer has since picked up pace over the decade but when I was going S.O.L.O. during the early 2000s, I practically had the pool to myself. Now, everyone’s in it and the game has been upped a few notches. 

Many freelance digital marketing consultants go on a per-hour basis. There’s good and bad in this. 

The good: It’s fair. 

The bad: It’s hard to track and justify without micromanagement

Despite the bad, the good outweighs it because going by the hour is a global standard. For small to medium companies, going by the hour is also more affordable and easy on their wallets. The client is charged for hours worked and there’s often an agreed price-cap agreed on by both the company and Malaysian digital marketing service provider. 

For it to have an effect, a clear timeline, instructions, tracking, reporting, and meetings must be set. These days, most of these documents are reported LIVE with documents being updated on-the-go with Cloud Services

Paying a digital marketing agency on a per-project basis

The good thing about paying the digital marketing agency on a per-project basis is that everything’s pretty cookie-cutter. The objectives are clear, tasks are set out, the timeline is decided, and everyone’s in the clear about the deadline. 

The problem with paying an agency on a per-project basis is that it becomes inflexible when you need to change direction. For instance, if you’re going with an agency for SEO or purely social media marketing, you might have to renegotiate the fees and timelines if you wish to make use of their graphic designers for specific projects or include content marketing

Another thing to watch out for is that if you’re paying only for one specific project, agencies might max out their manpower and work with freelancers, anyway. 

Admittedly, I was/am one of those freelancers. 

So, instead of working directly with the freelancer who has all the information and working the kinks, you’re paying for the go-between price between the agency and freelancer. But the good thing is that when you’re paying exclusively only for the project, it is a good testing ground to see how you work together and the quality of work.  

Many small- to medium-sized agencies end up hiring the digital agency for long-term projects after starting them off with project-by-project contracts. 

The most common digital marketing pricing option – The Retainer

Once you’ve found the right Malaysian digital marketing agency or freelancer to work with, you’d want to go with the easiest and most common pricing option of them all – the retainer

Most companies start off with paying the digital marketing agency pricing based on targets and the number of hours per month. But based on observation, I see more companies pay Malaysian digital marketing agencies or freelancers retainers once the workflow and trust have been established

Hiring agencies based on tasks, objectives, and targets per month is simpler because it is easy to track and budget for. 

It is advisable, however, to start off slow if this is your first time working with the Malaysian digital marketing agency or freelancer. If they’re not keen to start off with a 3-month retainer project, keep looking. Many digital marketing agencies want to tie you down for as long as possible. With a shorter retainer period, you’ll have ample time to figure out if they’re all talk or walking the talk

An example of a good retainer plan is to get it down on paper with a digital marketing agency a pricing model that details out the type of services you’ll be receiving every month and the number of hours the agency is going to commit to your project. 

So, if their pricing is RM100 (USD24) per hour and you’re hiring them to work on your project for 100 hours a month, you’d be paying RM10,000 (USD2,400) per month for the agreed task-based results. 

Deciding on Your Digital Marketing Budget

It might be tempting to sign on with a major digital marketing agency because of the monumental clientele base they have. If you’re a small- to medium-sized company, you’ll overrun your budget if you’re not careful. 

On the other hand, you don’t want to go with just about any Tom, Dick, and Harry who claims to have ‘made it’ in the digital marketing world either. The tough thing about deciding on what kind of price you’re willing to pay for digital marketing is to find the right one that gives you value-for-money services. Not one that will quickly hoodwink you with long-term contracts. 

The money you spend on digital marketing also correlates with your industry and how far down the road you’re looking at the plan. 

For example, for quick, short-term results or for new companies/brands, investing in PPC campaigns for 4 to 6 months to get the word out makes sense. Branding and content marketing, on the other hand, might be the better option for a more established International company.

The Round-Up

There is no other way to know what will work best for you unless you get the engine started. But the proof is in the pudding that digital marketing is not going away. At some point, your business will have to start investing in some form of digital marketing. 

The world is in people’s palms. So, before I go, here’s the round-up:

  • Don’t look for cheap, fast solutions. They don’t exist
  • Digital marketing is a long-term project
  • A website audit is an almost-certain necessity
  • SEO is important to organic traffic. Never forget that 
  • Always be hands-on. Constant communication and brainstorming is key
  • Digital marketing involves a load of data analysis and numbers crunching. Be prepared for them
  • All the automation in the world will not cut it if you don’t have humans to dissect data and strategize against your competitors in the digital world
  • Digital marketing is more than just getting traffic, it’s also about conversion
  • Get your website developer to get the SEO for your new website
  • Paying for enhancements, retargeting, and reoptimization will be necessary further down the road
  • Hire a digital marketing agency based on what you need and they can deliver
  • You can always work with an experienced freelance digital marketer with a network of manpower but make sure there’s commitment to the project
  • The most common digital marketing pricing structure is the Retainer
  • Only go with a big digital marketing agency if you’re willing to pay the price for it. Results, however, are almost always guaranteed

Here’s wishing you all the best in your search for the right digital marketing agency to go with.

Featured image credit:

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Published by Marsha Maung

I am a freelance writer, copywriter, blogger, social media and online advertising consultant. On the other side of my Universe is a life of being a mother to 2 boys who are always ravenous or mean to each other. They love each other, but if I say that, they'll kill each other. I have been in the internet world since 2000 when I started off with a couple of dot-bombs but they've served me well. Right now, I primarily write for blogs and learning heaps about the ever-evolving world of social media and search engine marketing. Hit me up and we can learn together! Life is better together.

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