Do you have a specialty? If yes, what is it?
Most agencies have their bread and butter – or the services they are most known for. You want to find out what these are. First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure the agency can deliver on the needs you have right now. Whether you’re looking to improve your search engine rankings or to create a series of whiteboard videos, does the agency have the skills required to do this, and to what extent? Can everything be done in-house or will the agency need to outsource? Do you feel confident in their ability to help you? If yes, great. Aligning your biggest current need with an agency’s greatest strength makes sense in this moment, but understanding the full breadth of services offered by the prospective agency will be a key factor in your decision.
Once you feel confident in today’s needs, what about the needs you may have a year from now? Three years from now? Five years? Finding an agency that can grow with you is a huge advantage. If you want to undertake a public relations campaign next year, can the agency handle that for you or will you have to vet another company? If you want to create a social media strategy for the business, can the agency assist or will you have to make an internal hire?
Hiring – whether it’s a third-party vendor or an internal employee – takes energy, time and resources. Hiring smart once saves you headaches in the future.
What is your process for helping businesses grow? (Do you have a plan?)
Behind every great agency is the story of how they do what they do. It’s the secret sauce they use to help clients and to achieve the best results. Asking about the agency’s process will give you and your team insight into what this agency brings to the table, while giving you a glimpse into the passion and excitement they have for it.
Be prepared to ask the agency:
- What are the steps you’ll take to create my marketing program?
- How do you learn about my industry and customers?
- What data/tools do you use?
- How often am I brought into the process?
- How often do you revisit the plan you create?
During the interview process, look for an agency with a fine-tuned, well articulated process. This is a good sign they’ve done this before and that they will do a good job for you. If the agency is unable to convey this information, it may be a sign they don’t have a clear process and that bumps may arise.
Who will I be working with on a regular basis? (Do I think I’ll like them?)
When you hire a marketing agency, you’re essentially hiring new team members. It’s important to vet your external team the same way you would an internal hire. Ask the prospective agency who specifically you would be working with day-to-day (don’t assume it’s the same people you’ve spoken with during the interview process) and collect bios from each. This will help you to get a sense of who they are, their experience, and if you think you’ll like working with them.
It’s a good idea to also do a culture check on the agency itself. Go to the website and poke around. Check out their social media channels. Sign up for their newsletter. What’s the vibe you get? Do they sound approachable? Do you trust their expertise? Are these the people you want to surround yourself and your business with?
As important as it is to know that the team can handle the work, you also want to know that they’ll be people you’ll like working with.
What results have you generated for similar clients?
A great barometer for whether an agency can help you is to understand the results they’ve helped similar clients achieve. Do they have experience within your industry (this can be less important) or with this type of work (more important)? Ask to see case studies that show not only the work done, but the results of that work. Creating an ebook series is great and may look impressive if you’re in need of content marketing services, but what did that content achieve? How was the content used? How was it promoted? How many sales did it lead to? A solid case study can provide this information.
However, it might not tell the whole story. When you have narrowed down your list of potential agencies to just a few, ask for references. Former or past clients who can help you understand what it’s like to be a client of the agency. Are they happy with the results? Has the agency delivered everything it promised? What is the day-to-day relationship like?
No two businesses, or campaigns, are exactly alike and there are always mitigating circumstances that affect the outcome. But this question makes certain the agency has the kind of strategic thinking, collaboration and effectiveness that you’re looking for.
How do you communicate results?
There’s more to marketing than just ads and pithy messages. It also needs to compel people to act. The marketing agency you choose should be able to support their recommendations with data and increased business revenue.
When evaluating prospective agencies, ask questions related to benchmarks, metrics and analytics. How are metrics defined, and how are they tied to business goals?
Ask the agency to provide an example report to understand how results will be communicated to you and your team. Is it easy to understand the marketing story being told, or does it all sound like jargon that doesn’t mean a whole lot? Do the reports just recap what happened over the last 30 days, or do they go on to provide additional insights and plan for how these insights will be used in the future? Can the reports be customized based on your needs and do they offer support for multiple languages?
Finally, is there a sense of clarity and transparency behind what has been done and whether or not is working? Ask the agency about times a strategy didn’t work and how they handled it. Everyone has tried a tactic only to find it didn’t yield results. An agency worth trusting has displayed honesty and agility under those circumstances and that shows the kind of integrity and business intelligence you want on your side.
These questions will get you started, but we’ve covered only a few of the most important elements to consider when choosing a digital marketing agency. When vetting an agency, you’ll want to add to our list. Only you can define all the questions that pertain directly to your business and marketing needs to be certain the agency understands your business and the problems it faces.
And don’t forget about likability. While it may seem like a softer tool by which to evaluate an agency, it’s incredibly important. Hiring an agency adds more members to your marketing team. It’s imperative they understand where you want to go, but also that they’ll care for your campaigns and will be good about providing feedback. The right partner will inspire you and be inspired by you, creating the right foundation for a relationship that can grow with your brand.