Increasingly case studies today are often shorter, which isn’t a bad thing – these can be much easier to read so you can get to the important details faster. What makes a good case study from the viewpoint of someone vetting the top digital marketing agencies? Usually there are several significant factors to watch for that can tell you if a digital marketing agency offers innovative and effective services, or if they don’t measure up. Get your hands on some case studies and compare and contrast the agencies on your short list. Here are some points to look for:

1) Do the case studies seem a bit too glib? Remember that old Wendy’s commercial ‘Where’s the beef?’ The same can be said for some case studies. Today’s trend of shorter case studies shouldn’t mean that the agency has skipped over important details. If you sense something’s missing, be sure to ask follow up questions at your interview.

2) What was the challenge? A good case study clearly articulates what the challenge was. What brought the client to the agency; what problem was presented to the agency to solve? It’s important to know the answer to this question so you can understand if the agency’s solution was a logical premise and one that you would feel comfortable with if you will be presenting a similar challenge to the firm.

3) The top digital marketing agencies should offer many case studies that address the issues you face. Not all of them may be listed on the agency’s website as they likely will want to show a diverse range of case studies. Ask the agencies you’re interested in how many challenges such as yours they have resolved over the years.

4) The best case studies give you an inside look at how agencies plan strategy. What do you think about their problem solving approach? Their case studies will give you a preview of what it will be like to work with the agency. Pay attention to the time frame for resolution of problems. Ask the agency to explain how the campaign was organized from start to finish.

Bonus Tip: Should you stop at case studies? No, but they are a great way to see the level of challenge an agency has faced and how they went about achieving results. Interviewing agencies is another part of doing your due diligence when it comes to selecting a new firm. Most top digital marketing agencies will set aside some time with you so you can interview their principals. Ask to interview your potential account manager as well. Get a good feel for his or her capabilities and ask if the manager has not only handled campaigns like yours, but if they have produced innovations or pioneering work for your industry. As you review the credentials of each agency, understand that award-winning agencies are going to cost more; also up-and-coming agencies may be comprised of highly capable professionals who have worked elsewhere and are just now building their reputation as an agency.

Another point to consider is testimonials. It’s likely that most of the testimonials on an agency’s website will be positive. Pick these apart and glean the details. Ask questions about how campaigns were structured, how many different staff members worked on the campaigns, and what type of tracking system was used to measure success. It’s easy to have one’s eyes glaze over after reading dozens of testimonials. Use them as conversation starters when you interview the top digital marketing agencies on your list.