Questions to Ask When looking for a New Agency

By Madison Taylor
November 22, 2020
Blocks stacked with lines drawn with one block having lightbulb on it

Searching for a new marketing agency can often be a labor-intensive, time-consuming process, and it’s not one to take lightly. Ensuring you’re making the correct decision on a partnership that will account for 6-10% of your annual budget is crucial. Whether you’re actively in the process of exploring a new agency or reconsidering your current partnerships, the following are some questions to consider to guide your decision.

What’s the Agency’s Biggest Weakness?

Knowing the areas where an agency doesn’t excel is just as important as understanding where they do. You’ll find issues beyond mere service offering shortcomings — vertical experience, team resources, and responsiveness, among others — that will determine whether the agency is a good fit for your business. The key to this question is not only to ask the agency but also to ask previous customers and dig into their reviews and case studies.

The Answer You’re Looking For

Above all, you’re looking for an honest answer. Weaknesses are difficult to discern, as many agency sales teams will shy away from certain areas or attempt to redirect the conversation. Every agency wants to position themselves as the solution to all your needs — ask follow-up questions and dig deep to get the answers you need. From there, evaluate whether or not the weakness is something that matters to your organization. For example, if one of their shortcomings is vertical experience, do you believe they’ve demonstrated they can get up to speed?

How Much of the Work is Outsourced?

While it’s common practice to outsource specialized tasks like animation or video production, adding contractors into the mix can create extra costs or slowdowns that you don’t want to deal with. It can also mean that there aren’t dedicated resources working on your account, so consistency can be an issue.

The Answer You’re Looking For

Ask for a detailed outline of how outsourced work is integrated into the in-house work to ensure that tone and brand are maintained. You should also inquire about workflow — outsourcing inevitably adds extra steps (and usually extra time) to any campaign. Finally, make sure you know how the budget is affected by contractors.

What’s the Fee Structure?

Marketing fees will generally fall into one of three major categories: a single, project-based expense, hourly billing, or an ongoing retainer. Knowing exactly what this looks like means you’re able to budget effectively and sets transactional expectations.

The Answer You’re Looking For

A structure that fits both your budget and your individual company needs. If you want one particular project done and already have some idea what it’ll look like, then a project-based solution might be best. If you’d like to generally improve your company’s standing or hire a marketing agency in the long term, a retainer model is almost always preferable.

Retainer-based fees offer more flexible deliverables, but the costs are much more front-loaded. Over a year or several, though, those costs smooth out, and your agency has the freedom to experiment with different concepts and strategies. If you need ongoing marketing services, a retainer is much more economical than a series of individual projects.

What are the Results For Previous Clients?

An agency can make promises about its capabilities, but tangible results and examples are the best indications of an agency’s ability to execute its proposed strategies.

The Answer You’re Looking For

A good agency will provide you with case studies, testimonials, and referrals from previous clients that illustrate their expertise and build confidence.

You’re looking for an agency that shows competency in solving complex problems and delivering on their promised results. Many agency clients don’t know exactly what they need when they walk into a meeting, so look for an agency with a broad array of skills that they can bring to bear on your company’s goals.

When Will I Start To See Results?

Given that your marketing efforts should be results-driven, this is an excellent way to gauge alignment to goals.

The Answer You’re Looking For

Honesty. You want an agency that will set reasonable expectations, not sugarcoat things for you. PPC campaigns generally start to show results quickly, while an inbound marketing approach can take months or even years to deliver dramatic results. Be on the lookout for promises that seem too good to be true.

When the agency makes suggestions about the type of campaigns they’d like to run, ask the hard questions about how long it’s likely to take before you start to notice significant boosts to your metrics.

How Will Results Be Measured?

There’s no end to the number of iterations of data you can generate from a marketing campaign. Every agency will have a set of metrics and dashboards that they prefer to use, but those metrics don’t always align with the numbers that you value the most. Before entering into a relationship with a new marketing agency, you deserve to have a clear picture of how your agency will measure the success or failure of their materials.

The Answer You’re Looking For

Look for metrics that align with how you measure success internally. When an agency proposes specific campaign ideas, they should also tell you which metrics they plan to track and how the efforts align with your overarching goals. Ask them why they chose each metric, how it correlates to a return on your investment, and how the agency will know whether the campaign has been successful. You want an agency that tracks, measures, and defines success the same way you do.

Start a Conversation with Madison Taylor Marketing

There are more questions you can ask of an agency than we could fit in this blog post. That’s why we prefer to talk to our prospective clients one-on-one. We’ll take a close look at your existing marketing efforts, your company, and your competition and give you a holistic, tailored assessment of where you stand and where you should be heading. If you’re ready to start taking the next step in your company’s marketing, get in touch.