It’s hard to choose the right marketing agency. It’s an important decision, and can be a bit like the Wild West with a lot of lofty claims and big expectations. All the while, you’re worrying about how your business is going to be portrayed publicly, and how you’re going to grow. It’s a lot to get through.
To make the right decision, there are some questions that can help you better understand what it will be like to work with an agency. You need to make sure they fit with you, your business, and your story. Here are seven questions you should be asking prospective agencies – and yourself – so you can make sure you partner with the firm that will represent you best.
1. Have you heard of them?
Agencies can be a little more incognito these days, but with just a little digging on the web, social media, and through your contacts you can find out who the players are for your type of organization. Most agencies will have some representation of the work they have done so you can see if the organizations they’re working with are experiencing similar growth or challenges.
2. Do they understand business?
There are two kinds of marketing agencies, in this regard. There are order-takers, who just sit down with you, ask you what you want to buy, make that, and move on. That’s fine if you already know what you’re doing, and just need technical assistance, but most businesses aren’t like that. Most businesses seek a deeper perspective.
A marketing agency that understands your business objectives is one thing. But one with solid business acumen that can help craft a marketing strategy tied to solid business practices is an agency that can really take you places. I know that sounds a bit boring, but creative also needs substance.
3. Are they growing?
Marketing agencies are businesses too. They try to sell their services and products just like a bank, or a machine shop, or a software company. The only difference is that where a lot of companies need outside help to execute a marketing strategy, a marketing agency should have all of the resources in-house. And some of the most innovative and interesting work an agency does is the stuff they come up with for themselves.
That’s good news for you, when you’re looking for an agency to represent you. You just need to know if they are growing. If they can’t grow themselves, how the heck can they help you grow? Do not be shy with this question. If an agency really wants to do good work for you, they are going to ask you similar questions. It is also good to ask if they bring in new business when they need it, and is that new business the types of clients that they want? If a business isn’t doing well, that doesn’t always mean they don’t have the best product or service – it could mean they haven’t marketed it well. A marketing agency doesn’t have that excuse.
4. Do they have a sales team?
Marketing and sales are more closely related than ever, and in order for marketing to work, initiatives and sales should be working together. Again, how can an agency help you grow if they don’t believe enough in sales to invest in their own team and process? Agencies are infamous for having the founding principals be the only ones who sell, so what credibility will they have with your team if they won’t do it for themselves?
5. What’s their digital presence like?
A company’s website says a lot about them. Much of the time it’s the first exposure a prospect has to a business, and it’s the most easily accessible outward-facing communication they have. So look at an agency’s website, and their social media and other digital communications, before you make a decision.
Do you like their look and feel? Does their voice resonate with you? Are they actively blogging and tweeting? Do they talk about themselves more, or more about how they can help you? If you don’t like the way the agency represents itself, it’s unlikely you’re going to like how they represent you.
6. Are they experts in multiple aspects of marketing?
You’re hiring a marketing firm because they can bring you something different from what you and your team can do yourself. Most agencies claim to be an extension of your team, so a generalist usually does not have the depth of expertise you need across the broad spectrum of marketing. Look for deep expertise in areas like campaign planning, brand development, web development, digital strategy, creative strategy, paid media, and video. Cross-functional capabilities are invaluable — they ensure your agency is invested bottom-line results, not just protecting their piece of the marketing pie.
7. Do you like them?
The sales process is the best indicator of what it will be like to work with the agency. Are they responsive? Do they ask good questions about your business? Do they view business similarly? Are they genuine? If it feels off in the sales process it will rarely end up being an awesome relationship. That really only happens in the movies. If an agency has a quick conversation with you and gives you the quote that you want, you can be assured that they will always take your order, but is that what you really need? You can hire an intern to take your order.
Your perspective on why you should hire an agency will dictate the pace of the relationship. If you feel you are only hiring an agency to do the work you don’t want to do or to work quicker than you do, you should look for the cheapest mom-and-pop shop in town. If you are hiring an agency to think with you, to offer perspective, and to deliver amazing work, you’ll likely get what you expect and more when you pick the right firm.