When deciding to hire a marketing agency for the first time, or making the transition from one to the next, it’s a good idea to have a game plan that will help you identify the right agency that will fit into your company culture. Making the right decision to work with a marketing agency as a strategic partner instead of a vendor is a tough task for any professional, even one that has made that decision before. By diving into the details and understanding who they are and what they like, you will be able to separate the ‘sales pitch’ from the ‘strategy’, and position your company to make the right decision.
Below are the questions that we think will help guide you to make the right decision for your company when searching for a new marketing agency. They are broken down into 4 key areas: General information about the company and how they work, Website design and development strategy and philosophy, Search engine identity and how to get noticed in a cloud, and Creative for both written and visual content.
1. Who are some of their past clients and what are some of their favorite projects?
It’s important to see the types of clients they’ve worked with but even more important to see the results of that work. When asking about a client list, also ask for metrics on the completed projects. An agency with fortitude will be happy to share. In addition to seeing what they do and how effective it is, we also suggest working with an agency that shows a level of passion for what they do. If they do not love what they do for themselves, how can they love what they do for you?
2. How do they measure success?
Depending on the tactic, marketing results can be fairly quick or they can take months to reveal. Make sure the agency you’re considering is upfront about tactic metrics and setting proper expectations. Defining Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and being able to set benchmarks so that it is easy to see results from specific activities makes all the difference. You need an agency that will demonstrate where you are now, what they did, and what that means in terms of results and ROI. Otherwise, how would you know if you are not just spinning your wheels and spending money?
3. How much of the work will be outsourced?
This question is probably more important than you think, because it’s more about your wants and needs. You should want AND need an agency that fits your company personality and expectations. Are you expecting ultra-fast results with updates 24/7? Then you probably want an agency that has access to anyone around the world at any time. However, if you are looking for a partner that rolls up their sleeves right beside you then you might be searching for a group that has full time employees. There is a different level of ‘responsibility and accountability’ from a company of employees who have direct access to the client, than a group of outsourced resources and freelancers. People are more proud of things that have their names on them and their level of effort and accomplishment does make a difference. We believe that great employees show more pride in their work and simply put out a better product. Again, some soul searching is required to ask this question.
4. What is the process for communication?
If you’re close enough to have in-person meetings this is a definite plus. However, find out how they conduct meetings/updates. Is it weekly or monthly? Is it from each member of a different project team or your daily agency contact? Will someone be available to take a question or do you have to wait for a scheduled connection. In our opinion having direct access to the resource is much healthier for the client/agency relationship than having a middle-man (operator). This is an important question for you to ask when it comes to your project lifeline.
Website Design and Development
5. What type of site designs do they specialize in?
Each company has individual needs and budgets. Sometimes it’s not all about what you need as much as a combination of what you need AND how much can you afford. Basic WordPress or template sites are a more economical choice, but customized sites can be programmed to do pretty much anything what you want. It’s truly a matter of sitting down with the agency and flushing out their expertise. But, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Saving a few bucks in the beginning just might cost you leads and sales in the end. It is much better to focus on lead generation and conversion (on the revenue side) than focus too much on cost and throw your money away on a bad website that does not deliver results.
6. Do they subscribe to responsive design?
If not…move on. With two-thirds of Americans owning smartphones today, a responsive site is a must-have! The more important part of this development is that it should be ONE site that is responsive to desktop and all mobile devices. If your agency is telling you that you need separate sites politely excuse yourself and find an agency that is up-to-date with technology.
7. Will the website keep up with your business?
Over the course of your employment your company’s website will have required a few face lifts. While this is time consuming and can be expensive, it is a necessary evil. Approximately every few years your website should be refreshed to keep up with the times. However, if built on a solid foundation (meant backend), your site won’t necessarily have to be ‘rebuilt’, simply just ‘redesigned’. There is a difference between the front end (the look and feel) and the back end (the database and functionality), and you should find out how your agency tackles this.
8. How will they enhance your conversion rate?
No one tactic is the answer for all goals. Your agency’s overall marketing strategy for your company (and especially website) should include specific tactics to increase your conversion rate. Ask them what tactics they’ve employed for others in your industry and follow that up with asking for the results. Proven strategies will help you in the long run. After all, this is where the rubber meets the road. Quality traffic from actual buyers that take action on your website that leads them into a purchase decision…what is more important than that (at any cost)?
9. When will you start to see results?
This questions ties nicely into measuring success (question #2). It’s important that your agency set proper expectations with you-this builds trust. If they’re promising amazing results in a month’s time….it’s probably too good to be true. But it is not unrealistic to expect to start seeing something in 90 days.
10. Can they work with multiple PPC platforms?
The first thing to remember with this question is that using only one platform for PPC or any paid ad program is not the answer. The agency should be well versed in at least a few various platforms to make your campaign successful. In this instance it will pay to speak directly to their SEO manager to get specifics.
11. What metrics are included in their reports?
Ask for a sample report from one of their non-competitive clients. This will show you hard-line details of what they include in their reports. These reports should not only come to you in a timely manner (say monthly) but should be accompanied by a phone call or meeting so that you understand fully what is happening with your strategy.
12. How will they decide which social channels you should use?
Instead of saying ‘all of them’ they should be sitting down with you, learning your business and recommending those platforms that fit your industry and target demographic. A great follow up question would then be “How will you manage our social content?” If they can’t or aren’t providing you with a content/editorial calendar it will be difficult for you to see if you’re throwing your money away.
13. Do they optimize content for SEO?
Find out if their content team works closely with their SEO team? This will be important to make sure your content is fully optimized for better search results. Ask them to explain how they connect with your audience.
14. What type of creative do they produce?
While it’s great to find a one-stop-shop, it’s even better to find an agency that specializes in certain creatives. Most agencies can produce effective written and graphic content, but will not have the capabilities to product videos, for example. This is when you should ask how nice they play in the sandbox with other marketing vendors. Do they have trusted sources for the areas they cannot provide themselves? This takes the pressure off of you to source various vendors yourself.
We hope these questions are helpful as you begin your search for a new marketing agency. If you have any other questions, please contact Marketing Relevance. We’re here to help and are an open book with regards to earning your trust….and business. Call us at 847-259-7312 or visit our website.