Hiring a marketing agency is an investment. Before you sign a contract, ask questions about how your agency plans to execute and measure your campaigns.
Many small to mid-sized businesses can’t afford to pay the overhead costs of an in-house marketing team. But they need digital strategies to boost web traffic, increase lead conversions, and obtain more customers. Using a marketing agency is a cost-effective way to implement those strategies.
With an agency, you get all the skills and experience of a fully-staffed marketing team without having to hire and pay new employees. Instead, you simply sign a contract, consult with your agency partner, and watch as your new strategies bring in results.
Naturally, most businesses have questions about using a marketing agency. An agency partner doesn’t consist of your own employees, so it can be difficult to see how you will hold them accountable for results and track their progress. When using a marketing agency, trust is the top attribute that 67% of businesses look for.
Building trust can take time, but establishing trust from the beginning of an agency partnership is integral to every operation moving forward. Establish trust from the start and create a long-standing relationship. 81% of agency clients say that their agency’s best work is the result of a long-lasting partnership.
Here are 10 important questions to ask when using a marketing agency:
1. What does your team specialize in?
Agencies strive to offer their clients a full list of services: search engine optimization (SEO), content, social media engagement, and more. But most agencies are exceptional at a few select strategies because they keep the essential skills for implementing them in-house. These are also the strategies they’ve used extensively for multiple clients.
Know what they are to make important decisions about your strategy and what agency to work with. You may even want to take advantage of additional services based on your agency’s specializations.
For example, if you want to dive head-first into a content strategy, partner with an agency that retains its own writers and designers. If you’re looking to redesign your website, partner with an agency that can let you shake the hand of your new web developer.
2. How will you measure the success of our campaigns?
Using a marketing agency gives you written content, sales collateral, and other marketing materials on a budget. Tracking the effectiveness of the materials is also important, however. Find out early if your agency tracks any kind of metrics related to the efforts they are putting in place for you. Ask them to give you access to their metrics tools.
Measure the success of your campaigns so you can hold your agency accountable for results and make adjustments to your strategy. Work with your agency partner to identify key performance indicators before the implementation of a strategy. Consult with your partner to set specific goals.
If your goal is to double your web traffic in a specific amount of time, your agency should be able to report on it at the due date.
3. What software do you use?
By some estimates, marketers use over 100 different software programs to put digital marketing strategies into action and track results. You may even recognize some of these programs. When using a marketing agency, find out what software they use. That way, you'll know how they plan to implement your strategy.
Compare your own software with theirs to mitigate any risks of incompatibility. Your agency may need to hand off materials for your own use. If you only use PowerPoint to present your sales presentations, find out if your agency plans to use it to develop your sales decks.
Knowing what programs your agency uses gives you insight into their capabilities. For example, if you know your agency has tools for creating and optimizing websites, you may want to enlist them for those services even if you only contracted them to do an email campaign for a sales event.
4. Will we have access to your project management tools?
If you are using a marketing agency for multiple marketing projects, ask them to give you access to their project management tools. Use this access to track the progress of each project and make sure deadlines are being met. Your agency’s project management tools also give you an easy and effective way to communicate about specific projects.
This type of communication is extremely important during the creation phase. Use it to steer projects in the right direction and cut back on the number of phone calls and emails you send back and forth. Use these tools to catalog every change, update, and comment made on specific projects.
5. How will you share our campaign’s progress with us?
Digital marketing relies on creativity, but it also relies on automation. Technical tactics like SEO happen behind the scenes and are virtually intangible at the beginning. It can sometimes be difficult to see the results of a marketing project until the numbers are right in front of you, which is why your agency should be able to present you with reports at regular intervals.
If they grant you access to metrics tools, get a snapshot of your campaigns by logging in often. Ask for progress reports and determine which campaigns are working and which ones need some adjustment. Marketing takes time, but sustained marketing can lead to amazing results.
Hold regular meetings to talk about progress. If you are distant from each other, have conference calls or web conferences. Whatever the method, your agency should put into place a common practice for sharing important information about all your progress.
6. Do you take advantage of your own services?
When using a marketing agency, find out if they practice what they preach. If you are contracting them to generate content, the agency should have their own well-maintained blog and their own content offers. If you are contracting them for SEO, ask them to demonstrate how they use keywords. Explore the agency’s website to see if they use their own services to generate leads. Conduct search queries to see if they rank in search results.
7. What do you recommend we do first? Second? How do all of our efforts work together?
Using a marketing agency for a “one-shot” effort like a Facebook ad campaign or an email blast can yield some results. A long-term growth requires integrated strategies and a lasting partnership, however. If you’re using a marketing agency to generate blog content, take advantage of SEO and content offers.
Ask your agency for optimized blog content month after month. This type of integrated strategy gets more visitors to your website that will read your content and convert into leads.
Maybe you want to cover specific verticals each month. Maybe you want all your efforts to lead up to a blowout sales event. Your agency should know how your campaigns will play out in the long term. They should also be able to explain how they benefit you directly.
8. Have you worked with clients that face similar challenges to ours?
Businesses have unique challenges. They arise from the nuances of their industry, their geographic location, the buying cycles of their customers, and other factors. Of course, many businesses have the same problems, like needing more leads and customers. Ask your agency if they’ve worked with anyone in your industry before.
Ask if they’ve helped other businesses overcome challenges that are the same or similar to your own. If they have, determine which strategies were successful for those businesses.
9. What is your timeframe for achieving our goals?
Establishing a timeframe for your efforts isn’t just an effective way to increase the accountability of your agency partner. It can also be helpful to their efforts. A timeframe for an entire campaign gives them a clear understanding of when assets need to be put into place. You'll also know when to expect results.
Create deadlines for projects to help your agency partner manage their tasks more effectively on a day-to-day basis. You won’t have to manage an agency staff directly. Establishing a timeframe with your point of contact will help to put things in perspective.
10. What are some important lessons you’ve learned from your own marketing efforts?
Any marketing agency that is worth your time will be able to recount what they've learned over time. Just like a job hunter at an interview, a business that claims to have no weaknesses is suspicious. Ask this question so you know if agency partner is ready to grow with your business and adapt.
When you deploy a winning strategy or hit a bump in the road, they'll need to be ready. Create a bridge of trust between your business and your agency partner that will inform your relationship well into the future.
Using a marketing agency is more than enlisting the services of a contractor; it’s creating a partnership that could last for months or even years. If you’re considering the benefits of using a marketing agency, keep these questions in mind during the prospecting process. Find an agency you can trust and establish a partnership that generates more leads, more customers, and lasting value for your business.