The decision to hire a marketing agency vs doing things on your own is a decision that causes a lot of grief for many business owners and experts. There are a lot of factors that go into making this decision. In the end, you need to do what is best for your business. This will often boil down to what will help you reach your goals more efficiently.
Once you have decided to work with a marketing agency, the next challenge is finding the right one for you. There are a lot of marketing agencies out there. While they may offer the same or similar services, it’s important to know how to figure out what makes them different and what factors are important for your business.
Here are 10 things you should ask before you make your decision about working with a marketing agency.
What are their core capabilities and skill sets?
While some larger agencies may be able to offer a truly full-service marketing agency, most agencies choose to specialize in a core offering of services. In order to provide more of a one-stop-shop, many of these agencies will either partner with third parties to fill out their services or they will hire contract workers on an as-needed basis. None of these three options is a bad option, however, it’s best if an agency is transparent with you so you know how they operate.
Working with a larger agency comes with a higher price tag, so working with a small or mid-sized marketing agency can be a more attractive option in terms of budget. You just need to make sure you know how they operate.
Who will be working on your account?
How many times have you heard that someone hired a marketing agency because they initially spoke with someone senior only to have a junior person put in charge of their account once you signed a contract. You should know who you will be working with before you even sign a contract. Find out who your main point of contact will be, who will be running point, and who will be executing the day-to-day management of your account.
How well does the marketing agency know your industry and target audience?
Everyone has to start somewhere, but sometimes you want to hire someone who is an expert in what you need. Find out whether the marketing agency you are speaking with has ever worked with clients in your industry or even complementary industries.
Perhaps even more important, how familiar are they with your audience? Do they have experience connecting with them using different strategies and techniques?
What client successes do they have?
You will be hard-pressed to find any legitimate marketing agency that won’t provide you with case studies so you can see some of the work that they have done. Most are also not shy about talking about awards and nominations if given the opportunity. That is how you know they will take pride in the work they do for you!
Have there been any client setbacks in terms of not meeting outcomes? Why?
This is a tricky one because no one likes to talk about failure. However, a great agency will tell you when they have worked on a similar campaign and found things that didn’t work. For example, we have done a few media campaigns where after pitching, we found that the spokesperson wasn’t as readily available for comment as we thought. This made it challenging to secure as much media coverage as we had intended. To ensure that this doesn’t happen moving forward, we are always very clear on
Do you like the people you would be working with?
This one is pretty subjective because it is based more on your gut feelings about a person. The reality is, if you feel uncomfortable with someone, you likely won’t have great communication with them. An agency – client relationship should be based on trust and transparency, so it’s important for you to feel comfortable with the team you will be working with. A great marketing agency should be able to push you outside of your comfort zone to get you the best results possible. In order for you to take those steps, trust is a key factor.
How well do they listen to do you?
Taking things a step further from the previous question, your relationship with a marketing agency should be a give and take. You want to make sure that the agency you choose listens to you and makes suggestions based on your conversations and overall business goals rather than taking you in a completely different direction with no explanation. We have also spoken to countless clients who worked with agencies in the past that have just asked what services they want rather than making suggestions based on what they need. A great marketing agency will listen to your overall goals and point you in the right direction so you can get their more efficiently.
How often will the agency do status updates?
Certain projects will require a more hands on approach while others won’t need as much ongoing communication. Talk to your agency to clarify how often you will be connecting with them for updates. For some, weekly updates are great, while others a monthly report and clarifying call works fine. It is a balance between what you are comfortable with and what the agency feels is necessary for your project.
What extra costs will there be?
Always beware of hidden costs. From printing to shipping, fees for paying expenses internally vs paying yourself, and everything in between, always ask if there will be extra fees that could come up. Some projects are more obvious than others.
How will results be measured?
Each project is so different, so it is good to make sure you are on the same page as your marketing agency when it comes to defining success and how you will figure out when you get there. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) should be seen as a guide, realizing that some projects are harder to measure than others.
BONUS: RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR
When it comes to working with a marketing agency, you should always steer clear of people that will say anything to make the sale. A few things that make me cringe are:
- “We can do everything” or “we are good at everything” – chances are, they likely excel in certain areas and don’t do other things well. You don’t want to be caught hiring them for the things they don’t do well.
- “We can guarantee results!” This one is one we hear often. Nobody can really tell you what the future looks like. Most professionals make educated guesses based on known audience behaviour. You also want to make sure that they aren’t just going for the “low hanging fruit” to get you “results” rather than putting together a robust strategy for you.
- “We charge based on results.” This is a tricky one. As someone who is extremely results driven, I absolutely understand the sentiment behind this. However, there is a lot of work that goes into getting those results. You are paying for the strategy, the expertise, and the hours of work that will be put into achieving success. Do you want to work with someone who doesn’t even value their time?
Hiring a marketing agency can be a tough decision, but there are factors that can make it easier for you to move forward.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.