Hiring a Marketing Agency can be a big step for a lot of Small to Medium businesses. A Marketing Agency can be a key part of your growth strategy, but you have to hire the right one. Trust is key to the relationship. If you can’t trust the agency with your brand then you’re wasting your money hiring them.

Micro-managing and worrying will take up a large part of the time you should be saving by outsourcing.

We’ve put together a list of 11 questions you should be asking when selecting a Marketing Agency. If you’ve got satisfactory answers to all of them then it’s a good sign that you should be confident in moving forward with that agency.

Are They Going To Help Me Achieve My Aims?

First and foremost, you must have a clear idea of what it is you are hoping to achieve by hiring the agency. Are you looking to create Brand Awareness, drive up sales or generate a big database of leads? Ask yourself how an agency is going to help you achieve those goals. Then ask them.  Remember not to get caught up in spin or hype. You are hiring an agency with specific goals in mind and you shouldn’t lose sight of those goals. A 1000% increase in site traffic is impressive. However, if your aim when hiring the agency was to generate quality leads and those visits aren’t translating into quality needs this means the agency isn’t helping you achieve your aims.

Can They Demonstrate Industry Knowledge?

If you’re hiring an agency to deal with your Marketing then you should expect them to be up-to-date on their industry. If you ask them about Inbound, Blab or Geotargeting and they can’t tell you much about them then maybe they’re not right for you. The Agency should be able to teach you things you don’t know, not vice versa. You need to be able to trust your agency to be at the forefront of the industry with a diverse range of tools and knowledge.

What tools and media do they use to stay up to date? If an agency doesn’t have mechanisms in place to stay up-to-the-minute in their own business area then it’s difficult to imagine them providing a stellar service for your Marketing.

Are They Selling What I Need?

There are plenty of Agencies out there that sell specific SEO or PPC packages. Make sure you know what you want, and then see how they’re going to provide for your needs. Optimising your SEO will bring you long term gains but won’t bring the short-term spike in leads that PPC could. If you want to work on a long-term Inbound strategy then hiring an Agency geared around PPC won’t give you the best returns.

Determine what you need to achieve your aims, discover what the Agency provides and see how these align.

Are They Dealing With Me Holistically?

By this point you should have asked quite a few questions. How is the Agency dealing with you? Do they keep pushing you toward particular packages or products? If you’re talking about a broad, Inbound approach and they keep talking about their SEO and PPC packages then they’re not dealing with you. They’re trying to sell to you. Remember that you’re going to be working with an Agency long term, make sure they want to work with you.

Do They Want A Partner? Or To Sell A Product?

Building on the last two questions, do you get the feeling they want to work with you or just sell you something? Trust is crucial in this relationship. The best way to cultivate that trust is for you and the Agency to be invested in each other. They want to see you grow and you recognise the value in the service they provide. If the relationship feels adversarial or ‘buyer-seller’ then you’re likely to have problems down the line.

Are They Being Honest With Me?

This seems like an obvious one! It’s important to remember that hearing ‘no’ can sometimes be a good thing. Be wary of any agency that promises too much. If they answer ‘yes’ every time you ask if they can do something it might be symptomatic of a culture of over-promising. Any Agency should be aware of it’s limitations and don’t be afraid to ask about these.

Ask about what an Agency does inhouse and what they outsource. Outsourcing within an Agency isn’t a bad thing, it shows that they know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. With their industry contacts and expertise even if they outsource everything there’s a good chance they’re getting a whole service well managed for a better price than you could trying the same thing. If they’re good at what they do!

How Will They Measure & Track My ROI?

It’s important to require your Agency of choice to measure and track various metrics to understand your Return On Investment. By measuring and tracking multiple things you can assess what is working and what isn’t. Consider what is important to you, and ask for reports on these areas to be generated when you have your monthly meetings. Do you want your Cost Per Acquisition driven down, or your volume of leads pushed up? Assess what affects such criteria and measure the relevant metrics.

An Agency should be willing to work with you on these reporting criteria so they can demonstrate the value they are bringing to your business.

Do They Practice What They Preach?

Look at their website and Social Media presence. Is it all up to scratch? If they say they can run an Inbound campaign have a look at their Blog content and Social Media posts. Are they Mobile Responsive and following all of their own advice?  If they believe in the service they’re offering then they should also be practicing it themselves. If not, why not?

What Are Their Core Values?

What sets their Agency apart from all of the others out there? Ask them what their core values are and why they have them. Try to assess whether these are just lip service or whether they really do embody them. If an Agency models itself as the number 1 for hitting targets and generating leads then they’d better prove that. If they say they believe in a holistic and complete service then that should show through their dealings with you and their online presence. It’s difficult to fake these values in the long term but easy in a couple of face-to-face meetings. This brings me on to the next question nicely.

What’s Their Proof?

Unless you’re using a brand new Agency they should have a good back catalog of Case Studies and satisfied customers to show their success. Recommendations and reviews are a great place to start when doing your due diligence. Try to get in contact with some of the Agencies customers if possible. A completely honest review from them is more likely over the phone than on the Agency website.

Case Studies are a good way to prove value added for previous clients. Look at who the Agency have done business with previously, have they worked with anyone in your industry before? Have they focused on B2B or B2C?

When it comes to providing specific services or products ask what links they have within the industry.

What Is Their Pricing Model?

Depending on the type of Agency you’re considering you’ll come across different billing methods. Many Agencies that offer a compartmentalised service will bill on an hourly or product package basis. If this is what you’re looking for then that’s not a problem. Be aware that such Agencies may have trouble providing a wider service, especially those that bill on a product package basis, as they’re likely to compartmentalise both internally and with their outsourcing.

The other billing method you will find is a Value Based billing system. You will often find this with the Agencies that offer a full spectrum of services and are willing to use multiple methods in a single campaign. Hourly and Value Based billing lend themselves to a more complete, holistic approach far better than product package based billing.

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