Tips & Advice

6 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Marketing Agency

Johnny McKenna

At their best, marketing agencies are an invaluable investment that help you clarify your messaging, build your business, and (last but not least) increase your sales. At their worst, they are gimmicky sales people who’ll give you a quick bump in exposure and get on to their next client. 

So how do you separate the marketing pros from the sleazy bros? Ask these 6 questions to see if the agency you’re evaluating is the right fit for you.

But first, let’s talk quickly about why businesses hire a marketing agency.

Marketing agencies often cost less than a full-time employee and include multiple specialists instead of one generalist. 

There’s always a time and place to hire a permanent full-time employee to help you steer the ship, but that’s not always the best move financially or even strategically. 

The ever-changing landscape of marketing quickly overwhelms a one person department, resulting in scattered execution from a lack of a focused plan.

Evaluate your business and marketing with an outside perspective, bringing fresh ideas and industry best practices.

We’ve all been there. We bring in a fresh set of eyes and all of a sudden something that seems so clear to them has been evading us for far too long. All it took was asking someone to look over your plan. 

Or, a new tool or method is introduced that you had no idea existed up until that point. As much as we want to be the saviors of our business, that’s way too much pressure to put on anyone’s shoulders and makes a better movie than it does a reality. 

Businesses that hire marketing agencies are playing the long game.

We’ve seen it happen before. A business hires an agency for a few months, they begin to see increased sales so they drop the agency. And in many cases sales slowly dip again. 

We’ve also worked with companies who have doubled their sales over the course of a few years because of a solid marketing plan and strategy.

Let’s face it, we all want to plant the seed and eat the fruit by the end of the week. But that’s just not how marketing (or life) works. Businesses that invest in a long-term partnership with a marketing agency will see greater impact and success than one-time pushes or projects.

So, how do you find the right marketing agency that fits your business’s needs? Start with asking these 6 questions:

1. Do they care about building my brand enough to set and achieve business goals?

Do you want your agency to view you as a client or a partner? How invested are they in your success?

Every agency should be able to generate leads and convert customers, but are they moving beyond that and working through your business’s biggest problems.

2. Do they report vanity metrics or results?

Likes, comments, and open rates are fun to talk about, but how are those numbers relating to sales (if they are at all!)? 

Flashy agencies focus on reporting numbers that sound good, but don’t have a clue how those numbers impact sales. For example, does your agency report on impressions and clicks or do they report on leads generated? Impressions are great, but if they aren’t driving the business forward, they don’t matter.

Data that matters should be reported and discussed at the beginning of the relationship. They should also map progress made along the way to learn what’s working and what’s falling short. 

3. What tools do they have in their toolbox?

For some agencies, all they have is a hammer and every problem looks like a nail. They offer the same solution to every company regardless of the problem they’re presented. 

Solid agencies are versatile and offer a repertoire of demonstrated capabilities and proficiencies.

What good will a well-researched and well-written blog post do if your website has poor SEO structure? It’s essentially as good as your Aunt Carol’s Facebook post about her spicy meatloaf recipe. No one is reading it.

It’s not a bad idea to ask what tools the agency has developed particular proficiency with. Maybe it’s advertising or high-converting websites, every agency has a sweet spot.

Avoid hiring the hammer-only agencies. Find the agency that has multiple tools in their toolbox. 

Important capabilities to consider are:

  • Web design
  • Web development
  • Branding
  • E-Commerce
  • Digital marketing
  • Digital ads
  • Photography
  • Video production
  • Email marketing
  • Lead generation
  • Copy and content writing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Sales Strategy
  • Analytics

4. If the agency could only utilize one SEO device, what would it be and why? 

SPOILER ALERT: this is a trick question.

There’s not just one SEO tactic that’s going to increase your traffic and bring in sales. SEO isn’t that simple, though some agencies would have you believe it is. 

A robust SEO strategy is taking a holistic approach and viewing of all of your marketing assets (like landing page optimization, article content length, backlink strategies, etc.) and taking an SEO-focused audit of your website.

5. What’s their website philosophy? 

Does the agency use templates or create custom sites? Are they capable of both? Do they utilize responsive design? What are they using for web analytics? How will they enhance your conversion rate?

All it takes is one Google search of your competitors to realize that all websites are NOT created equally. Do potential customers on your website know what you sell, how it makes their life better, and what they need to do to get it within 5 seconds of landing on the home page? 

A good marketing agency knows how to design your website with clarity and sales in mind.

6. What does reporting look like each month?

Will you have access to an analytics dashboard so you can see the progress being made against your goals? Are they transparent about the results? Or do they always spin things into a positive message instead of the real, actual truth?

Make sure you set clear expectations from the beginning on how often you’ll receive reporting and have the opportunity to ask questions, give feedback, and suggest improvements.

Last updated December 17, 2020.