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How to Select a Digital Strategy Agency

A lot of fuss is being made these days about a company's digital marketing strategy. Often the primary people being engaged are traditional advertising or marketing agencies - which I think is a mistake. Digital strategy is not simply an add-on to a traditional ad buy - it's not a microsite or a Facebook page, but instead should be treated as it's own market with it's own particular nuances. Like all service sectors it's important to find a firm that is honest and committed to great customer service, but there are also other specific things to look for:

  1. Digital Executives
  2. Facebook, Twitter (& YouTube)
  3. SEO Fundamentals
  4. Technology Bias, but not Dogma
  5. In-house Development
  6. R&D

1. Digital Executives

Leadership comes from the top, and creation of a digital culture is no exception. Hiring decisions, promotion - everything that you care about - comes from the top. If you care about stepping into the digital world, look for a company where the leadership is actively blogging, tweeting and is a member of Facebook.

2. Facebook, Twitter (& YouTube)

Some channels are way too important to ignore. Facebook, Twitter & YouTube (if video is important to you) are absolutely critical. Other services/sites are great to be informed about but they are much less important. There are geographic exceptions to this. For example, if you are looking to enter into Asia - Ushi ( is an important one to know about.

3. SEO & SEM Fundamentals

No planning conversation about a website should skim over or ignore Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it's premium sister Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Entry into a website is not via the home page the majority of time. For our site, less then 10% of our visitors actually arrived first thing on the home page - this means they were driven to the site via an ad or an organic search result.

4. Technology Bias, but not Dogma

You don't want an agency that is technology agnostic. What this means, is that they don't do any programming, so they'll simply find a contractor to do it - often someone they have never worked with before. You want someone who will recommend specific technologies (plural) depending on the needs of your campaign.

For example at Metal Toad we're big fans of Drupal development, but if a project comes along that is primarily ecommerce Magento may often be a better choice.

5. In-House Development

This may be controversial, but I think that it is critical to have either in-house developers or a strong established partnership with a development shop. There is too much value won or lost, based on how closely the strategy and creative work is paired with development. This is particularly poignant when leveraging an established framework; it cannot be ignored or development costs and timelines will be doubled or tripled.

6. R&D

In the digital world, if you're not looking to the future, you're being left behind. Be sure to ask your agency what kind of research and development they are doing in the space, what conferences they are attending and (importantly) how that information is being filtered back to the people actually doing the work.

Date posted: December 15, 2010


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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.


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