Your company recently decided to engage a digital marketing agency to help with your marketing strategy. This is a big decision and one that we believe highlights your organization’s readiness to invest in the future.
How do you get started?
Every agency has its strengths and weaknesses, just as any marketing candidate does, and you should identify early on what criteria is most important to your team (and stakeholders) to ensure you hire an agency that makes for a collaborative and successful partner.
So, let us take off our agency hat for a moment and spend some time in your shoes and impart a bit of wisdom on how your team can best evaluate the agencies you’re considering to help develop and execute your marketing strategy.
First, we admit, there are many talented agencies that are qualified to help take your marketing to the next level (no, we aren’t the ONLY awesome agency out there). Also, there are quite a few questions we could come up with to help you choose the best agency, but often the questions that matter most are the ones that address culture, communication, process, and measure of success.
Here are five questions to ask as you embark on your agency search.
1. Will Your Culture Jive With Agency Culture?
We can’t stress enough – you need to hire a digital agency with the best cultural fit for your organization. Clients seeking agency services often start their process by pre-qualifying prospective agencies based on the typical standards: capability, experience, location, client list, etc. But, they often fail to make sure cultures align.
At the end of the day, the marketing agency you hire should not only have the right capabilities, but also be compatible with your organization and culture. If you are a fun, laid back office with a high-energy culture, make sure the agency has the same vibe. Or, if you tend to be a more structured organization that is focused on a traditional culture, find a company that lives in that world. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Whatever your cultural preference, it is important to select an agency that best jives with your organization’s persona. Remember, you are entering a long-term relationship with this agency––you want it be a success.
Wondering how you measure cultural fit? First, it begins with the people you will be working with throughout the development of your marketing strategy. Meet the people who will be working on your account. Meetings, conversations, and onsite presentations are all good opportunities to gauge chemistry, so bring that mindset to each interaction as agency culture will start to come to life. It is not about being best friends with your agency, but you want to make sure that the agency understands you, your industry and be a good match for your team.
Once you have selected an agency, the goal is that they will fit seamlessly into your own team – and should be considered an extension of your brand. Therefore, picking the right one is very important.
2. How Does the Agency Measure Marketing Success?
Are they in it to win it? At the end of the day, you’re looking for an agency to enhance your current marketing or achieve a specific business goal. Not only do you want to know how they will do that, but how they will measure progress along the way. And, will they take you to the finish line?
When talking to prospective agencies, make sure they understand your goals. Are they able to articulate a clear path to achieving your goals? Do they have a sense of your challenges as you’ve tried to achieve your goals in the past? And, most importantly, do they have solutions to move past those challenges?
During a marketing campaign, there are many ways to track results, quality of campaign responses, new customer acquisitions, media coverage, online conversions, web traffic, email clicks, etc. But, the first question you need to ask is, what is most important to me as the client, and does the agency get that?
Have an idea in your head of what you believe is most important to measure, and then what results would be adequate to justify the time and cost involved. Then listen to what they have to say. Be realistic though. Your marketing agency should be a partner, not a vendor. You are working together to achieve success.
Speaking of success, how do you define it? You’re making an important investment and you want to maximize ROI. Be clear with the agency and work together to define what success will look like as you move forward. Throughout the relationship, there will be opportunities to reevaluate those terms and show some flexibility, and as long as everyone understands the goals and objectives from day one, you’re better positioned to achieve success.
3. How Do They Manage Client Communication?
Many companies are often focused on the big questions when considering an agency – seeing their previous work, learning about their pedigree, etc. But when you start to think about what’s important, you’re going to realize how important communication is in your new partnership – just like it is within your own team. To that end, collaboration is another important factor to include on this list. During interim conversations, start to get a sense of how the agency manages client communication and collaboration.
Going back to our first recommendation, you’re not looking for a new best friend who will spend hours on the phone with you, but you do want an agency that is responsive, communicates updates appropriately, and looks to you as a valued team member.
The level of sophistication an agency demonstrates in these areas is often an indication of their level of experience. Up front, you should have a good understanding of how they set timelines, execute work, gather feedback, measure results and evaluate overall success. Listen to them as they explain their methodologies behind these areas and see if it works for you.
If you’re just starting to evaluate prospective agencies – another great indicator of their communication skills is simply whether they are returning phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. Of course, all agencies have other clients who are also important, but if you’re feeling early on that you’re not getting the amount of attention you want and deserve, then it’s probably a good indicator of how the relationship will go when you sign on.
4. What Will the First 30-60-90 Days Be Like?
Hopefully you’re looking for a long-term strategic partner, but consider how the digital agency will start to look at your challenges from the moment you sign on and what they might be able to achieve in the first 90 days.
We’re not saying that within 90 days all your marketing woes will be solved, but getting to the heart of how they expect to dive in and get started on your marketing will allow you to see how they think, what immediate ideas they have,and how they develop an action plan.
One of the many advantages of working with an agency is tapping into the existing knowledge base. They’ve been crafting digital marketing strategies (hopefully successful ones) for as long as they’ve been around. That means they likely have some ideas that might help you achieve some early win.
Choose an agency that has a long-term vision for your company, but make sure they can also be agile in their tactical approach.
5. What Digital Marketing Case Studies Do They Have to Prove Past Success?
Here is the big one, the one that makes all companies excited – the “show me the money” question. You want to see the real, tangible, pretty results they have from previous client work. We all get excited about visuals, you know it, we know it. However, it is more important to understand their past success and their strategic methodology used to achieve it. What were the goals and challenges? Did the results achieve the desired outcome? Do they have case studies or client testimonials they can share with you?
You want to choose the agency that can best articulate the “Why” behind the “What”. These questions get to the heart of how an agency will go about developing your marketing strategy and how they frame the solution to your marketing challenges. You’ll get a snapshot into their strategic process and the answers to these questions will either wow you or leave you unimpressed.
Now You Are Armed and Dangerous
We know that there are many digital marketing agencies to choose from and it’s not always easy to determine which is the best hire for your organization. Use these questions to prepare yourself when making the final selection. Remember, you’re building a long-term partnership, make sure both parties are compatible before pulling the trigger.
Want to talk strategy with us?
Contact our team today to begin a conversation.