You've decided your company could benefit from working with a marketing agency. So now what? How do you find the right agency for your business? What questions should you ask? And, most importantly, what should you look for in the answers? Here are seven tips.
1. Avoid fly-by-night companies. Anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a marketing consultant or marketing agency. And, no doubt, some of these folks might actually be good marketers (e.g. they might be setting up a solo shop after working for someone else).
What you want to avoid is the person/company with little-to-no experience. Yes, everyone needs to start somewhere, but that doesn't mean your company should serve as the newbie's guinea pig.
What to do: Choose a company that has at least five years of experience. You can usually find this information on the company's "About Us" page. If unsure, ask.
2. Make sure old-school agencies are up to speed on modern marketing methods. Yes, you should avoid marketing firms with little experience. But you should also avoid firms that have refused to evolve. Make sure a marketing firm that's been around for ten years or longer has a firm grasp on modern marketing methods (think inbound marketing vs. outbound, online company stores, and so forth).
What to do: You can usually get a sense of the firm's experience in modern marketing based on the content it produces. Does the firm have an active blog filled with well written, insightful articles about various marketing topics? Does it produce other content, such as white papers and offers, that demonstrates its expertise? Do the customer testimonials and case studies reference a wide range of successful marketing programs/campaigns?
3. Find out what services the marketing agency offers. You want efficient marketing in addition to effective marketing. Seriously consider marketing agencies that can handle all of your marketing under one roof since they will (usually) be more efficient, which will ultimately save you time and money.
What to do: Review each firm's service offerings. Once again, you should be able to find this easily on the website. Offerings should include, at a minimum, inbound (digital) marketing and outbound (traditional) marketing. A firm that offers additional services, such as photography and video, are even better.
(Psst: At Proforma Durkee, we handle ALL of the above plus promo items, branded apparel, company stores, and creative campaigns. Learn more about our marketing solutions here.)
4. Understand how the firm bills its clients. Typically, firms will charge either by the hour or the project. You can often opt for a retainer, where you agree to a monthly fee that you pay in exchange for certain services.
What to do: There's no right or wrong answer; only what's right for your company and budget. If this is your first time working with a marketing agency, it can make sense to try a smaller project to see if you're a good fit or to opt for a shorter engagement (such as three months). If it is a good fit, then a retainer might make sense.
5. Review portfolios and call references. You have every right to see the marketing agency's work AND to ask about specific results. For example, if the marketing agency shows you ads it created for a customer's PPC campaign, you should also ask about the conversion rates. If the marketing agency shows you the white paper it created and the accompanying landing page, again you should review both, but also ask about conversions.
In addition, you should speak to two or three customers. Yes, the marketing agency will only give you people that it feels will offer solid recommendations. That's why it's essential you call the people since they might be more forthcoming over the phone than they would be in an email.
What to do: In addition to reviewing the portfolios, here are questions you should ask the agency's customers:
These questions will show how the agency works with its customers and whether the agency's process would be a good fit for you and your company.
6. Don't underestimate chemistry. Once you vet a marketing agency's website, review their work, and talk to their customers, you need to carefully consider how you feel when you talk to the people you'll be dealing with day in and day out.
What to do: Ask yourself these questions:
7. Don't necessarily disqualify a firm that doesn't have experience in your industry. This can be a tricky point. After all, we did say above that your company shouldn't be the guinea pig or the "teachable moment" for any marketing firm. That said, a nimble marketing agency can usually get up to speed pretty quickly in an industry it hasn't worked in before. Yes, there will be a learning curve for certain things (e.g. writing certain content), but if everything else feels right, don't let this one thing torpedo the potential.
What to do: Ask the marketing agency how it will get up to speed regarding your industry. Again, the best marketing agencies will have a plan/process for doing exactly that--and will likely be able to demonstrate how they successfully did it for other industries.
Can you think of any other important tips for vetting and choosing a marketing agency? We want to hear them! Share in the comments.