I’ve worked with marketing agencies for the past 20 years, and one thing I can tell you is this: Even with good agencies, you need to keep them on their toes.
It all starts with the vetting process. When you’re about to engage with a new agency, be clear that while they clearly want your business, they are also evaluating you. They want to get a sense for what kind of client you are. The quality of the questions you ask a marketing agency before hiring them will set the tone for the entire relationship, so do not just view this process through the lens of “I get the information I want to make my decision of whether I hire them or not”.
Understanding the Agency’s Expertise
The expertise of a marketing agency is the bedrock of its ability to deliver results. It’s imperative to delve into their experience and successes in your industry to gauge their capability to meet your marketing objectives.
A marketing agency with a solid track record in your industry is likely to have a good understanding of the market dynamics, competition, and the behavior of your target audience. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Have you worked with companies in our industry before?
- Can you provide examples of successful campaigns you’ve run for similar companies?
- How do you stay updated with the latest trends and changes in our industry?
Past Success Stories
Success stories serve as a testament to the agency’s ability to deliver results. They provide tangible proof of their expertise and effectiveness. Here are some questions to explore:
- Can you share some case studies or success stories from past campaigns, particularly those in our industry?
- Do you have any client testimonials or references we can check?
- What were the challenges faced in those campaigns, and how were they overcome?
These questions are geared towards providing a clearer picture of the agency’s experience and success rate, especially within your industry. They help set the stage for further discussions on how the agency can tailor their services to meet your specific marketing needs and goals.
Services and Capabilities
Delving into the services and capabilities of a marketing agency gives you a glimpse into what they can bring to the table. It’s vital to understand their range of services and specializations to ascertain if they align with your marketing needs.
Range of Services
Marketing agencies often offer a spectrum of services. Knowing what they offer helps in understanding if they can cater to your holistic marketing needs. Here are some pertinent questions:
- What range of marketing services do you offer?
- Do you provide [insert whatever specific marketing services you’re looking for] services? Which of these are your core capabilities?
- Can you handle our current marketing needs as well as future ones as we grow?
Every marketing agency will have its core strengths or areas of specialization. Identifying these can help you leverage their expertise for your benefit. Here are some questions to consider:
- What are your agency’s core specializations?
- How do these specializations align with our marketing goals?
- Do you have certified professionals for the specialized services you offer?
Understanding the agency’s services and specializations not only helps in assessing their capabilities but also in foreseeing how they can contribute to your long-term marketing goals. It’s about finding an agency that not only meets your current needs but has the potential to cater to your evolving marketing requirements as your business grows.
The team that will handle your account plays a significant role in the success of your marketing endeavors. Getting to know the team, their expertise, and the communication channels established by the agency are crucial steps towards ensuring a productive working relationship.
Personally I found that the best, most lasting relationships between clients and marketing agencies happen when either one of the founders of the agency is your POC (which often is not possible, unless you’re one of their top clients), OR the main marketer actually working on your account. Avoid having an Account Manager being your POC (even if they call it something else, like a Marketing Manager, etc)—these people are basically sales people. Talk with the people who get their hands dirty, especially if you’re someone who knows a bit about marketing yourself.
A dedicated and skilled team can significantly impact your marketing campaigns. Here are some questions to get to know the team better:
- Who will be the primary contact for our account?
- Can we meet the team that will be working on our campaigns?
- What is the expertise and experience of the team members?
Be aware that many times you’ll talk with senior people, but then they’ll hand off the work to junior people within their company and just sign off on the work. That’s just the way marketing agencies operate. That’s why it’s important to constantly stay in touch with a marketing agency, to show them that you’re on top of things.
Clear communication is the linchpin of a successful collaboration. Ensuring that there are established channels for communication and regular updates can help keep the project on track. Here are some questions to understand the communication protocols:
- How often will we receive updates on ongoing campaigns?
- What channels of communication will be used?
- In case of emergencies or urgent matters, what is the protocol for communication?
Understanding the team dynamics and communication protocols will help in setting the right expectations and ensuring a smooth flow of information. It’s about creating a foundation for open dialogue and collaboration, which will in turn contribute to the effectiveness and success of the marketing campaigns undertaken.
What’s more, as a client what you want to do is really set aside time to make yourself available. You want to tell the marketing agency that you want to be involved, especially in the early stages of the working relationship. Show them that you’re committed to making this a win-win. Yes, you paid them, but take ownership for making this a successful working relationship.
Pricing and Contracts
The financial aspect of partnering with a marketing agency is a crucial factor that needs thorough examination. It’s essential to have clear understandings regarding pricing structures and contract terms to avoid any unforeseen complications down the line.
A transparent pricing structure is the first step towards a healthy financial relationship with the marketing agency. Here are some questions to help you understand the pricing model better:
- What is your pricing structure — hourly, retainer, or project-based?
- Are there any additional costs that might arise during the project?
- How are extra services outside the initial agreement billed?
The contract outlines the formal agreement between your company and the marketing agency. It’s vital to go through the contract terms meticulously. Here are some questions to consider:
- What is the duration of the contract?
- What are the terms for contract renewal or termination?
- How are disputes or disagreements resolved?
Understanding the financial commitments, the scope of services covered under the agreed pricing, and the terms of the contract are fundamental to maintaining a harmonious working relationship with the marketing agency. It’s advisable to have a legal advisor go through the contract terms to ensure that the interests of your company are well protected, and there’s a clear path for resolution should any disagreements arise.
Evaluating the performance of your marketing campaigns is crucial to understand the return on your investment and to make informed decisions moving forward. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of how the marketing agency measures performance and reports it back to you.
Metrics and Reporting
The metrics used to measure performance can vary from one agency to another. It’s vital to ensure that the metrics align with your business goals. Here are some questions to consider:
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) will be used to measure the success of our campaigns?
- How often will we receive reports on these metrics?
- What tools do you use for data analysis and reporting?
Adjustments and Scalability
The ability to make adjustments based on performance metrics and to scale the marketing efforts accordingly is crucial for achieving your marketing goals. Here are some questions to ask:
- How do you handle underperforming campaigns?
- What is the process for making adjustments to the campaigns?
- How easy is it to scale up or down based on performance and budget considerations?
Understanding the agency’s approach to performance measurement, their willingness to make necessary adjustments, and the scalability of their services are crucial factors in ensuring that your marketing campaigns remain aligned with your business objectives. This part of the discussion also sets the stage for a transparent and accountable working relationship where the agency’s performance can be objectively evaluated and improved upon over time.
Besides the primary aspects discussed so far, there are additional considerations that can further inform your decision when selecting a marketing agency. These include understanding any outsourcing practices and the technology and tools utilized by the agency.
Some agencies may outsource certain tasks to third-party service providers. It’s crucial to know what aspects of your marketing campaigns, if any, will be outsourced. Here are some questions to consider:
- What parts of our marketing campaigns, if any, will be outsourced?
- How do you ensure the quality and timeliness of outsourced work?
- What is the communication protocol for interacting with outsourced teams, if applicable?
I’ve worked with highly reputable, best-in-class agencies, that outsourced specific aspects of their content marketing, and while 80% of the time this was fine and unnoticed (I assume), every once in a while they delivered real crap.
Which is why one of the keey things to do when working with a marketing agency—and also one of the biggest painpoints for you as a client—is to constantly keep them on their toes and make sure that you’re checking their work. Shower them in praise when they’re doing well, but (respectfully) let them know when they’re slipping.
Technology and Tools
The technology and tools used by a marketing agency can significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Here are some questions to ask:
- What marketing technologies and tools does your agency use?
- How do these tools enhance the effectiveness and reporting of our campaigns?
- Is there any additional cost for the use of these tools?
These additional considerations provide a more rounded view of the operational dynamics of the marketing agency. It helps in understanding how the agency manages various aspects of marketing campaigns, the technology they leverage for better results, and how they handle tasks that are outsourced. This information can be crucial in making an informed decision and selecting a marketing agency that aligns well with your operational ethos and marketing objectives.
Part 7: Preparing for the First Meeting
The first meeting with a prospective marketing agency is a crucial step towards establishing a potentially long-term partnership. Being well-prepared for this meeting can help set a positive tone for the discussions to follow. This section provides insights into how you can prepare for that initial meeting and encourages an open dialogue to ensure a good fit between your company and the agency.
Conducting preliminary research before the meeting can provide a solid foundation for meaningful discussions. Here are some steps to consider:
- Review the agency’s portfolio, client testimonials, and any available case studies.
- Understand their areas of specialization and the range of services offered.
- Have a clear outline of your marketing goals, budget, and expectations.
Encouraging an open dialogue during the meeting can help both parties understand each other better. Here are some points to consider:
- Be ready to discuss your marketing challenges and the goals you aim to achieve.
- Ask for the agency’s initial thoughts or recommendations based on your current marketing position.
- Encourage the agency to ask questions as well, to better understand your business and its marketing needs.
Engaging in a well-prepared and open discussion during the first meeting can significantly contribute to establishing a clear and mutual understanding between your company and the marketing agency. It’s about creating a conducive environment for collaboration, which will, in turn, pave the way for a successful marketing partnership.