How to choose the right Digital Service partner for small to medium sized businesses

Geethal Fernanado

Strategic Partnerships and Sales

Finding digital partners you can build successful relationships with is, sometimes, next to impossible. In my years of trying to find digital talent and working with numerous suppliers across APAC, the results have been hit or miss (and more skewed towards the ‘miss’ side of things). This was a combination of not having a process to source the right type of talent or partner, and also not having any of the partners being able to guide us in a process driven manner — a bad cocktail overall.

“eMarketer expects an overall 5.9% growth in search ad spending just this year [2021] — Influencer MarketingHub”

Digital marketing is now more important than ever to reach your customers

COVID managed to test the metal of every business and for reaching consumers there was no other choice than to be digital or dead. If you had a downturn in business, you had to figure things out fast — or if you had a boom in online sales, you then had a scaling issue. The acceleration toward digital transactions and platforms meant traditional marketing approaches had to be rethought.

With the increasing need for businesses to pick and choose specific online spend battles in favor of showing ROI, the granularity of data became more critical. This requires greater expertise and many small businesses were not ready for this, and probably still aren’t. We all had more pressing challenges and also expected things to return to the way it was before. However, the paradigm shift to hybrid sales, online deployments and onboarding processes, for even B2B products and services, indicates buyer behavior changed and therefore sales and marketing needed to keep up.

Mckinsey estimates 20 percent of B2B buyers would be willing to spend more than $500,000 (USD) using a fully remote/digital sales model — and 11 percent would spend more than one million

In digital marketing services, everything was largely already remote, however the challenge for businesses given the noise was still about finding the right partner. Marketing skills and roles are changing rapidly and managers are constantly pressured to stay abreast of this dynamic landscape. Finding fewer partners who have a good balance of skills such as marketing strategy/analytics, search engine marketing (SEM), UI/UX, creatives, on top of managing your online assets, is ideal to keep your engagements manageable — again, very hard to find! Quality and consistency of digital talent also became more critical than where that talent was located.

In order to build trust with a ‘remote-only’ digital partner, you need to structure engagements in such a way that builds commitment over time allowing a working relationship to build up. If your digital partner is flexible and process driven, they will be able to work with you to execute a proven formula for success!

3-Step approach to finding the right digital partner

The 3 step process that I see working for serious firms seeking quality scalable digital marketing partners are:

  1. Have a starting point that is first about building a digital strategy – not jumping head first into the shallow end!
  2. Define a timeline with budgets for proving manageable outcomes within 3 months
  3. Have an idea on scaling commitment over time that’s cost effective

The seriousness note above is about budgets. Ideally, allocating $5,000 to $10,000 for building your digital strategy shouldn’t be a deal breaker and this becomes an invaluable asset in growing your business. A logo design alone might cost that at some agencies!

It is vital that your digital partner understands what you are doing. They don’t need to be an expert in your field, but they need to get the essence of your business in order to support your growth, and there’s a process to figuring that out (get an overview here). A thorough analysis of the industry trends, product market fit, competition, audience targeting, and budgets across platforms are essential before moving forward.

Once you have solid answers for the above on your strategy along with budgets, it is imperative to assess if you have the bandwidth and skills to execute in-house. It is easy to pick and choose elements of a strategy and try things thinking maybe something will stick. However, this approach is one that will burn budgets faster than you can blink without much to show for it at the end.

“45% of employers struggle to find talent with the right skills—ManpowerGroup”

If you are faced with challenges on sourcing the right talent to execute you can then move into the execution phase and measure those results within a defined timeline. Having an agreed and realistic timeline with objectives and key results (OKRs) allows you to measure budgets and outcomes ensuring engagements do not meaninglessly drag on.

Once you start to see results, it becomes relevant to have bandwidth to scale up efforts. Again, this agility is more for businesses who believe there has been a paradigm shift to online sales and are prepared to invest to reach those customers with the help of a capable partner.

“Listen to why our clients chose Surge as their preferred digital services partner”

Establishing these remote relationships takes time — however, it is achievable faster where there are process driven skilled suppliers. Accountability is enforced and there is transparency across the work that is being done at any point. Happy hunting!


McKinsey & Company – Omnichannel in B2B sales

McKinsey & Company – An essential marketing tool in a downturn

Influencer Marketing Hub – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Marketing & Ad Spend Report (Updated July 2021)

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you need digital strategy, support or bandwidth, every engagement at Surge starts with a discovery call. Connect with one of our digital marketing specialists at a time that’s convenient to you.

Geethal Fernanado

Strategic Partnerships and Sales
Geethal heads strategic partnerships at Surge and is a quality & process-driven tech sales professional who has lived in 5 countries. He has experience across diverse industries and has worked with teams in Germany, USA, Australia, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Middle East, and Sri Lanka. Geethal has extensive omnichannel experience in B2B solution sales and business models, reseller/partner selection and channel management, channel risk mitigation, contracting and legal proficiency. He enjoys travel, comedy, food, cooking, the beach—and dogs.

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