01 Dec 15 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HIRING A MARKETING AGENCY
The new quarter has begun, and if you’re like any other business professional or CEO, you’re probably taking some time to re-examine company goals and re-evaluate strategy and budgets. A significant piece of that puzzle is your marketing.
Maybe you’re thinking about multiplying your marketing efforts by hiring an agency. Or maybe you’re not completely satisfied with your current marketing firm.
Whether you work for a nonprofit, a manufacturing company, or anything in between, you will want to answer the million dollar question:
How do I choose the right marketing agency that will give me the best return on investment for my marketing dollars?
Let’s answer this question by breaking it down into bite-sized pieces:
1. WHO ARE SOME OF THEIR PREVIOUS CLIENTS?
If you’re checking out some of the agency’s work and notice that all of their clients have been B2B manufacturing companies and you are a trampoline park, you might want to take notice. Not to say that agencies can’t be extremely versatile, but it’s nice to see proven results from previous clients within your industry. At the same time, watch out for agencies that work exclusively in one industry – they may have conflicts of interest with your competitors.
2. WILL THE AGENCY WORK WITH ME TO SET AND ACHIEVE COMPANY GOALS?
Every deliverable and action item should relate back to your company’s overall goals. Ask them how they tie marketing activities to site traffic, lead generation, and revenue.
3. HOW WILL THE AGENCY MEASURE THE SUCCESS AND ROI OF THE MARKETING SPEND?
If you view marketing as a giant black hole where your company dumps thousands of dollars every year, this question is especially obvious. It can take months to test what works and then amplify these results, but the agency needs to be able to demonstrate the ROI from marketing campaigns and ad spend.
4. WHAT THINGS DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE LAST FIRM YOU WORKED WITH, AND WHAT DID YOU HATE?
If this isn’t your first rodeo, review why you’re looking for a new agency. Record the positives and negatives about the experience, and be honest about what kind of results you want with this new agency.
See if you can find a case study or blog post featuring one of their relevant clients, and ask how well the agency understands your business. If they don’t have recent work in your industry, find out how they will gain the knowledge they need about your company’s industry, revenue, and sales goals.
OFFERINGS AND CAPABILITIES
5. IS THIS AGENCY A ONE STOP SHOP FOR ALL OF YOUR MARKETING AND WEB DESIGN NEEDS, OR DOES IT SPECIALIZE IN PPC ADS?
The different services an agency provides is one of the most important factors to consider. Every agency is better at some things than others, so you’ll want to have a good idea of what your company needs to ensure that it’s the right fit.
A few capabilities that are important to consider include:
Web Design and Development
Branding & Logo Design
Digital & Inbound Marketing
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Social Media Strategy
It can be a huge advantage to work with an agency that can scale with you. As your marketing budget grows and you strive to compete in a digital world, can you add a video to your website without needing to hire another firm? Or explode your social media strategy without having to hire someone internally?
Another benefit of agencies who are all-encompassing is that the branding, web design, video, and digital marketing will all flow together cohesively.
Make sure the agency’s different offerings and capabilities match your company’s short and long-term goals.
6. HOW MUCH OF THE WORK WILL BE OUTSOURCED?
A marketing firm might offer web design, but will these designs be outsourced, or is there an Art Director and Design Team on staff? It’s okay to outsource some things, but if you’re revamping your company’s website or doing a complete rebranding, it’s much more comforting to know that there are experienced designers or web developers on staff.
GET TO KNOW THE TEAM
7. WHO WILL YOU BE WORKING WITH ON A REGULAR BASIS?
You probably know from different work experiences that the people you work with have a huge impact on your day-to-day happiness and success. When you hire a marketing agency, you’re essentially gaining new teammates. For marketing to yield any concrete results, the typical minimum retainer is from 8 to 12 months. Make sure these new co-workers are good people who you look forward to collaborating and communicating with over the next year or longer!
Start off by checking out the agency’s website – How approachable do they look? When you go in for a visit, ask if you can meet some of the team members who would be working on your project.
8. DOES THE TEAM FIT WITH MY COMPANY’S PERSONALITY?
You want to work with a company that has similar values to your own. Are they fun and friendly or cold and analytical? Maybe a bit of both is a great alignment to your own company culture.
TOOLS & MARKETING SOFTWARE
9. WHAT PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS DO THEY USE?
Now that you know what type of work they do and who’s doing the work, it’s time to take a look at the how. Not all tools and software are created equally.
For example, at Upturn, we use Basecamp for project management and file sharing. It streamlines the communication process between the team and clients – which is important because you want your agency to be using your budget for actual marketing work and not 50% project management.
10. WHICH MARKETING SOFTWARE DO THEY SPECIALIZE IN?
If you already use marketing automation software and aren’t interested in switching, find out if the agency has experience with that particular platform.
HubSpot is an increasingly popular inbound marketing software. It ranks its 2,050+ partner agencies based on different tiers. An agency that is a gold partner has more experience than a brand new partner. Check what credentials the agency has, as well as their relationship with the different marketing software companies.
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT11. HOW FREQUENTLY WILL WE MEET?
The tools and software used will play a big role in how they manage your account and report on progress. That being said, some clients like to meet once a week, others like a formal meeting just once a month. Be honest with yourself – Will you need someone to be on call if you have questions each day? Or do you feel comfortable handing over the implementation of the strategy to the agency’s team, and just want to check in with a bi-weekly call?
Communicate your expectations from the start so that the agency can assemble a team and schedule that meets your needs.
12. WHAT IS THE FORMAT FOR THESE MEETINGS?
If you are close enough to have in-person meetings occasionally, this is definitely a plus. Otherwise, can you hold meetings over the phone or video conference? Not everyone wants to make the commute every week or every other week for a meeting with their agency.
13. HOW AVAILABLE WILL I HAVE TO BE?
Most people ask if their agency will be available to answer their calls and emails, but what about the time you realistically have to approve designs and content? Hiring an agency requires a bit of account management on your part as well.
If you are too busy to be approving designs and collaborating on projects when needed, maybe there is someone else on your team who you trust to coordinate the bulk of communications.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTRACT AND PROPOSAL
14. HOW LONG SHOULD MY CONTRACT BE?
With inbound and content marketing, you are not likely to see a return until after 3 to 6 months. An agency should be able to understand your business and jumpstart your marketing campaigns, but it can take time to see substantial results – Don’t ditch them after the first month if you’re not seeing a return. If you need results on day one, consider dedicating some budget to running paid advertisements.
In order to provide you with a solution that focuses on company ROI, an agency needs to get a full view of the market, and you both need to be committed to your company’s long-term goals.
Another great point is that many businesses are seasonal. Therefore, a 3 month contract is not going to give you a very good idea of what results to expect. If you are a large construction company in New England, your website is not going to be pulling in as many leads in the winter season as it is in the springtime.
15. WHAT IS INCLUDED EACH MONTH WITH THIS CONTRACT?
Contracts from different agencies vary, and it’s essential for you to be aware of what deliverables are expected when. Is your contract for a digital marketing campaign every two months that includes one offer, four blog posts, social media promotion, and an automated email workflow?
Know what to expect so that your project stays in scope, and there are no surprises down the road.
I hope you find these questions helpful in guiding you towards a successful, collaborative relationship with your next marketing agency. Reach out if you want to quiz us on any of these questions!