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6 ways to identify a true expert marketing partner for your business

Written by Staff Writer

August 29, 2023

Cheryl Ingram, Co-Founder and Director of The Digital Media Collective (TDMC) 

The e-commerce playing field moves at breakneck speed, and for businesses with an online shopping division or one that is completely online, keeping up with the ever-changing algorithms and platform developments is a full-time job. In this cutthroat arena, the right digital marketing strategy and choosing a vetted paid media partner can be the difference between success and countless missed opportunities.

South African online retail is growing at a rapid rate, and for both established and burgeoning businesses, it is crucial to opt for an expert partner who possesses the knowledge, experience, and strategic insights to maximise e-commerce growth potential. Paid media pioneer Cheryl Ingram, Co-founder and Director of The Digital Media Collective, has built her business, one of only four accredited Shopify Experts in South Africa, based on this premise.

“The world of paid media moves so fast, with platform updates, algorithm shifts, new sales funnel building mechanisms, and technology shifts happening daily, that it’s impossible for an e-commerce business owner to stay up to date with it all,” she says.

With this in mind, Cheryl has created a checklist for business owners embarking on or considering changing up their paid media strategies:

Check your paid media expert’s partner status.

Before you choose your paid media specialist or agency, it is imperative to verify their skills, explains Cheryl, and this is easy to do across a variety of platforms. Both Meta and Google classify agency partners against a number of things, including skill set, campaign types, spend, and best practices, as well as requiring that their buying teams complete a series of exams to validate their expertise, which are governed by validity dates. On Meta, prospective partners can provide their account manager status and blueprint certification links to clients, while Google has a partner’s directory listing accrediting agencies as either standard partners or premier partners. 

In South Africa, there are only 34 accredited Google Partners (of which only a handful are independents like TDMC). Similarly, Shopify has only four accredited partners in South Africa. Clients don’t always feel like they can ask for these kinds of certifications, but we think it’s imperative that they do and that they have access to them. If you’re spending money, you are entitled to know that it is being spent by people who know what they are doing.

Insist on account access and transparency.

Not being granted access to your own social media account is a red flag in any e-commerce business. By having direct access to their ad accounts, clients have the option to monitor campaigns, evaluate performance metrics, and ensure their budget is allocated effectively. This level of transparency fosters trust, enables collaboration, and empowers clients to make more informed decisions. This openness leads to learning on all sides and ultimately drives successful outcomes. 

The volume of wasted budgets spent on channels as a result of lack of expertise and inefficiencies is extensive. At TDMC, we are passionate about transparency and firmly believe that everyone should always be able to see exactly what was spent where and what the results were, without having to request the information.

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Ask for an audit.

Making a commitment to appoint an agency can be an overwhelming process. One of the ways to allay concerns or answer questions you may have is to ask a prospective agency to conduct an audit of your current social media ad accounts and site performance. The data and learnings may come at a fee, of course, but I think it’s money well spent; you will soon be able to assess their ability to read the data and determine how and where they can assist your business.

Check with dedicated experts for different touchpoints.

While a small business owner is required to service multiple areas of their business simultaneously, the paid media world is so complex and fast-paced that it is always worth asking how a company structures their business. Within our business, we have platform specialists, each of whom has a deeper level of understanding of specific platforms. It would be impossible for a single Account Manager to know all there is to know about Meta, Google, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Programmatic, Digital Out of home, Mailchimp, Klaviyo, Shopify, Shopify Apps, and more. As and when clients need a platform deep dive, our specialists provide an additional layer of expertise to the Account Manager to ensure that clients are provided with all the up-to-date information they may need.

Ask for their scope of clients.

Each and every e-commerce business has a unique offering, but an agency that has expertise in your category is one that can use their market learnings to assist you on your journey. That said, an agency that has expertise in businesses operating on a far larger scale than your own can have enormous advantages for a business owner looking to outsource their paid media.

Ask about service.

E-commerce requires its paid media backbone to be ‘always on, both for efficiency and agility.’ The benefit of an agency with multiple specialists working on various channels is the level of available expertise and the volume of support.  

As the world of online and e-commerce continues to develop, accredited media partners will become more crucial. While creating the likes of organic or newsletter content can certainly be kept in-house, outsourcing expert-led sales channels is best left to the experts, who will assist with more targeted sales campaigns and work harder to safeguard your spend.

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