10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Marketing Agency in 2022

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Marketing Agency in 2022

Navigating the agency dating scene can be tough.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed about choosing a digital marketing agency for your business? 

Every marketing agency has its specialties, its quirks, its costs, and its methods. Finding the right one can feel like navigating the dating scene: filled with unknown twists, communication challenges, competition, and expenses. 

But with the right questions, you can find the perfect match for your business, your budget, and your communication style. 

As a marketing agency, we’ve had our fair share of questions from new businesses looking to hire. Here are 10 questions that we’ve found to be the most insightful for navigating the agency dating scene. 

1. What services do they focus on?

A full-service marketing agency may ship itself as an all-encompassing solution for your business, but it probably has more expertise in one area than another. Dig a little deeper to find out if its core services are aligned with your business goals. Here are just a few examples of the many marketing services that you may want to consider for your business:

  • Social Media
  • Branding and Design
  • Product Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Funnels
  • Website
  • Paid advertisement (Google PPC ads, Facebook Ads, etc.)
  • SEO
  • Lead Generation
  • Email
  • Ecommerce Marketing
  • Copywriting

Having a good idea of what your business needs to succeed up front will help you navigate this conversation to determine if you and the agency make a good team. And if you don’t know what to look for or what you need, a good agency should be able to advise you based on your industry, goals, and target audience. 

2. How much do their services cost?

Like asking about religion before writing your vows, this question can’t wait. You don’t want to waste their time, and they certainly don’t want to waste yours.  

If you do your research in advance, you will know what to expect. Smaller businesses generally don’t have big budgets for advertising. They will rely on an agency that understands their limitations without compromising the quality of service. Most agencies will charge by project, hour, or a retainer model, so familiarize yourself with the options in advance. 

The devil is in the details—and getting those details out in front of you from day one will help prevent issues down the road. 

3. What sets them apart from other agencies?

“What makes you the best fit for me?”

Any agency worth their salt will be able to sell you on why their services will be the best choice for you. 

But first, you need to know what qualities you are looking for. Is it creative talent? Industry experience? Success stories? Lots of resources? Customer service? Lead acquisition? 

Assess your priorities before going on a first date with an agency, so that you can know what you want to hear before they even say it. Make a “must-haves” list. And if you’re caught in a love triangle between two proposing agencies, look at the overall package before making a decision.

4. What other businesses do they work with?

Make sure your digital marketing agency has legitimate experience working with similar businesses. A marketing agency with experience in your industry will have an edge on others who are new to the game. They’ve done their research.  

At the same time, consider nimbleness. A nimble, smart agency will be able to get ahead by questioning old assumptions and turning the table on dusty marketing strategies.

Older, established agencies will have a better understanding of target audiences and strategies. They will have more market data available at their fingertips. Yet, they may be unwilling to try new channels or test different strategies that branch out from the status quo. 

If you feel confident about your choice, then go for it! If not, keep looking.

5. What does their content creation process look like?

Content creation will always be a two-way street. It’s a collaborative effort to transform your raw material into a packaged product. And you know your product best. 

Your marketing agency should have a general idea about content creation workflows going into a contract. 

If the agency is local, you will probably work alongside them to gather content, like product photos and on-site content. If they are not local, they will likely factor in extra fees to hire photographers or contractors to the scene. Or, you may have an employee on-site assigned to help them with the content gathering process. 

Other questions to ask could include: 

  • What is your workflow for content creation?
  • What do you expect from us?
  • Do you provide creative services or will we hire that in-house?
  • Are there other ways that we can work together on content creation?
  • Can you show me examples of content created in these (X, Y, Z) ways?

A great marketing agency will tell you up front what they need from you as well as what they can bring to the table. 

6. Do they outsource projects?

A digital marketing agency may outsource certain aspects of its operation to freelancers or subcontractors. By leaning into the talent of other professionals, they have more to offer your business. But outsourcing comes with risks. You might not get what you want.  The quality may not be as good. Your instructions could get lost in translation.

To minimize these risks, ask prospective agencies about their methods for choosing freelancers:

  • How do you vet freelance talent?
  • What skills must a freelancer have?
  • Do they use freelancers on an ongoing basis or only for certain projects?
  • Can I see examples of work done by your freelance team?
  • Where do they operate from?

Ask these questions in advance to save you from any future headaches (or therapy hours) down the road. 

7. What does their turnaround time look like for projects?

Ideally, you want an agency that will work with you to ensure that projects are delivered on time and budget. Look for an agency that can provide clear turnaround times and details about how they determine what counts as on-time (i.e., do they include weekends? If so, how many?). 

Ultimately, ask questions until you’re completely comfortable. The expectations for deliverables should be clear from the start.

8. Can they share any examples of successful marketing case studies?

To get a feel for how an agency approaches success, ask them to share a case study from a previous client. Many agencies publish client case studies on their websites and would be more than happy to walk you through.

Hearing a success story can give you confidence in an agency’s practices. But remember, companies will have different perspectives about what they consider a success because success in marketing should align with a client’s business goals. Be prepared for a different answer. 

Here’s what to look for in a successful marketing case study:

  • Stated goal(s)
  • Strategy and implementation
  • Data-driven or anecdotal results
  • Creative visualization of the data
  • Client feedback

Agencies may be hesitant to disclose trade secrets or past clients—which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing! It means they take care of their clients very well. If they make you jump through hoops just to reveal what they’ve done before, odds are you should probably keep looking. 

9. How do they communicate with clients?

Every agency and business owner has a communication cadence. If you’re not sure how they want to communicate, ask before assuming based on previous agency relationships. This will eliminate confusion down the road. Having expectations aligned beforehand makes future collaboration much easier. 

Here are a few questions that may help the conversation flow:

  • Does your agency use email, phone calls, or video calls?
  • Do you use an online messaging system like Basecamp or Slack?
  • Are you available during business hours only?
  • How are results tracked and communicated?
  • Do you have established weekly meeting times with clients?

Communication is key to all great relationships. 

10. Can you speak with someone who has used their services before?

Speaking with references is a great way to learn more about how they could be a good (or bad!) fit for your business. If they hesitate to share client contact information, keep in mind that this may be due to confidentiality issues. With this one, don’t be alarmed or jump to conclusions unless you spot other red flags in the conversation.

Are you navigating the “marketing agency dating scene” right now and found a question to be helpful or informative? Add your questions to the comments below!

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