So you’ve decided to hire an agency to help you carry out your marketing efforts and crush your goals. Welcome to the dark side; we’re glad that you’re here.
Putting your marketing in the hands of someone else can be scary. It’s a lot of time, effort, and money on your part, so you want to be sure that you're choosing the right team. Whether you are at the very beginning of your journey or have already interviewed agencies, here are 16 questions to ask yourself and an agency before you sign a contract.
What to ask yourself:
Before diving into agency interviews, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
1. What the heck do I need help with?
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself before you start looking for a marketing agency. You may already have a marketing team in place and just need an agency to fill some gaps. Or maybe you’re a small team that doesn’t have a dedicated marketing department. Whether you need help with strategy or implementation, know what your strengths and limitations are before you start connecting with agencies.
2. What are my goals?
What are your hopes, dreams, and desires for your organization? Do you want to become the #1 brand for organic dog treats? Or the most downloaded Shopify app that ships the #1 organic dog treat brand? Perhaps you want to grow brand awareness across social platforms. Whatever your goals are, that will affect how an agency can help you.
Marketing goals for startups and large organizations can be a mix of several things. You may want to:
- Increase customer value
- Become an established thought leader
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate more leads
- Acquire and retain more customers
- Increase web traffic (or maybe you need a website)
- Improve branding
3. What’s my budget?
Some people are hesitant to share their budget because they don’t want to be taken advantage of. But with most marketing projects, firms will work with what they can. On the other hand, if an agency knows they have the time and resources to take something farther, they will.
The sky is truly the limit with how creative your agency partner can make something, and a clear budget helps an agency fully optimize their efforts. Does a bigger budget help? Of course. Can an agency create an amazing plan with realistic goals that fit within your budget? Absolutely.
TLDR: be transparent about your budget. If you're working with an agency you trust, any extra efforts are just to showcase how badass you are; it’s not necessarily about logging extra hours.
4. What’s my communication style?
We all communicate differently—whether it's by email, Slack, text, or carrier pigeon. As you have conversations with agencies, make your preferred communication style clear. You might discover that an agency doesn’t use a certain software and you’ll have to purchase additional seats for them.
If an agency is unwilling to use your toolset, due to lack of experience or just being restrictive, that could be a deal breaker for you. It’s important to know that upfront.
5. Who am I trying to be?
The ___ of ____ formula. I want to be the GUCCI of cat trees. If you can answer this and can communicate it to an agency, they'll understand who you are and what your brand wants to be.
6. Who is my ideal customer?
If you don’t know your target audience, you’ll be working in circles trying to find something that works.
You need to know everything about your ideal customer: what they do, what they need, what they have, and what they feel. Marketing agencies can get you leads, but if you don't know what makes them a good, qualified lead that shapes your business, you may not like where you end up.
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s ok! An agency can help you discover them and you might learn that your original target market isn’t the right market at all. Even if you only have a few pieces of the puzzle, a strategic agency team can work with you to put it all together.
7. If a marketing agency were to help me with this project and do everything right, is there still some reason that it might not be successful?
Yes. Know the constraints of your organization and communicate where the hurdles may come from, diplomatically of course.
An agency needs to know everything they possibly can to be sure they present you with a plan that can produce the most success. If you share these constraints with an agency, it may change how they approach your project so they can set you up for success (and makes you look better with those stubborn executives).
What to ask the agency:
Let’s get to the good stuff.
1. What does your team specialize in?
You want to make sure that you work with an agency that specializes in what you want to execute. Whether that’s content marketing, video production, or web design, you want to find an agency that best fits the type of work you’re looking for.
2. Who will I be working directly with?
It’s important to know who you’re working with for two main reasons. One, you need to know who to contact in case of an emergency. Two, you want to work with someone who meshes with your personality.
You also need to know who your accountability buddy is and who’s advocating for you within their team. A relationship with an agency should be a partnership and feel like an extension of your team.
3. When can I expect to see results and how will you track them?
An agency should be able to give you a rough timeline for what you can expect regarding the results of your campaign. Remember that things take time and not all marketing campaigns are created equal.
For example, you should see results fairly quickly for paid search campaigns depending on your budget. But if you're hiring a marketing agency to work on SEO, it could take upwards of a year to see real results.
Measuring and reporting on these results is crucial. Ask a potential agency about the key performance indicators of different campaigns and how they plan to keep track of them.
4. Do you have experience working in my organization’s industry?
In theory, the more familiar an agency is with your industry, the better the results will be. But that’s not always the case.
If an agency hasn’t worked in your industry before, ask them what ideas or strategies they have to ensure that your campaign is a successful one. Industry expertise is important, but an agency with experience in different industries may be able to bring an extra level of creativity and uniqueness to the table.
5. Do you have any examples of your work or case studies I could see?
Seeing examples of a successful campaign is absolutely essential! Whether it's a full-blown case study or snippets from several projects, this will give you a good idea of what the agency is capable of.
It’s also never a bad idea to ask for references from current or former clients (or stalk Google reviews).
6. What do you value most in a client relationship?
Trust? Communication? Customer service? Free cat trees?
In all seriousness, this is an important question. The answer will give you a clear outlook on an agency’s values.
Do they value results over everything else? Are they dedicated to their client’s wants and needs? There’s not necessarily a wrong answer here (besides the cat trees), but their response will give you a better understanding of their core values.
7. Do you outsource any of your work?
Should this be a deal breaker? No, but it’s important information to know. Working with outside vendors can disrupt schedules, but that’s not always the case.
Outsourcing shouldn’t be a negative word—it can actually make the project come together quickly and efficiently. Say, for example, that an agency is designing a website for your organization and you both conclude that some illustrations would elevate the site. If that agency has a trusted person they work with, it can save you time and money finding someone else to do the job.
8. How frequently do you communicate with your clients?
You’ll find that most agencies connect with clients differently. Some prefer an update monthly, while others like to connect weekly. If an agency isn’t willing to be flexible to your needs, that’s a red flag.
9. Can you tell me about a time when you didn’t succeed on a project?
*Cue awkward silence*
No one likes to talk about a project gone wrong, but the answer to this question will tell you a lot about an agency and their values.
Listen for specifics. Why did the project fail? Did they pivot strategies to try to solve the problem? Were they able to make it right? Did they place the blame solely on the client? We all fail from time to time, what’s important is that we learn from it.
If they can’t tell you about a time that a project went south well, it’s probably best to move on.
One final thought
The most important thing to remember when hiring an agency is making sure that they understand you and your organization’s hopes, dreams, and goals. That’s when the magic happens.
You made it this far, how about a conversation about your marketing goals? Get in touch with our team here.