Choosing the best agency to help you with your marketing efforts can be difficult. And we’re proud you’ve taken this crucial step and are ready to consider all the factors when choosing a digital marketing, media, social media, creative, and inbound marketing agency to suit your needs.
If you’re considering a new agency or thinking of hiring a long-term partner, you’re thinking about the future of your company and you definitely want to grow your business, right? We’ve got news for you! ROI is not a quick win and should not be treated as such. Some agencies are not suited for your business’ needs or growth path, but you need to make sure you get more ‘bang for your buck’ from the get-go.
According to Chief Marketer, a marketing company, “Cutting-edge innovation and sleek design mean nothing if you don’t know how to position and sell your brand. So when it comes to differentiating your product from the competition, finding the right branding agency is crucial. Yet, just like distinguishing your brand in the marketplace, it can be difficult to tell one agency apart from another.” And we wholeheartedly agree!
But what makes one agency stand out from the rest? Below are crucial questions you need to ask your different agencies before picking the right partner.
We've put together a handy list of questions to ask various different types of marketing agencies to help you make an informed decision when choosing an agency partner. You can click on the links below to jump to the relevant questions:
- Questions to ask your digital agency
- Questions to ask your media agency
- Questions to ask your social media agency
- Questions to ask your creative agency
- Questions to ask your inbound agency
Why you need to ask the important questions upfront
According to Forbes Magazine, “A pitch should not be about hiring an agency’s past; it’s about hiring its potential, its future. And that future, while somewhat informed by previous accomplishments, is more likely to be a reflection of an agency’s forward thinking, attitude and behavior.” Before you can choose your ideal agency, it’s important to have a standard set of questions to ask each agency to ensure that you are getting a transparent, clear comparison of services when requesting quotes or proposals.
Ask these questions:
Who will manage us as a client?
The skills and characteristics of each individual in the agency really matter. Find out why certain individuals are chosen to service your needs.
How frequently should we expect to see the involvement of senior management?
The involvement of senior management is important from time to time as it shows they care about the client’s needs and will be available when needed - i.e. as an escalation point. Retainer rates are further structured according to seniority (per person hourly rate), but the scope has to be set out according to senior or junior team members.
- What is considered in scope or out of scope?
Make sure you know exactly what is included in the job - and what isn’t - so you don’t end up paying extra for every little thing.
“Most agencies get into trouble when it comes to "scope issues." They either agree to do extra work for a client that was not part of the original scope-of-work and lose money, or they refuse to do something that is out-of-scope without incremental fees and risk damaging their relationship with the client,” says Forbes Magazine.
- How do I know I'm getting the best rates in the market?
You need to have an overall view and understand what you're profiting on top of that (your ROI). Be aware that agencies can charge by the hour for specific tasks - it’s a simple, straightforward billing process and you’ll understand exactly what you’re paying for. Other agencies may opt for a project-based pricing model where clients pay per project completed. Prices are thus based on expertise and not time. 99Designs notes, “Clients like project-based pricing because it lets them try you out before they make a longer-term commitment—kind of like test driving a car before buying it. However, some clients struggle with project-based pricing because they think it lacks transparency; since they don’t know how much you’re charging them per hour, they worry they’re getting overcharged.”
The retainer pricing model allows clients to agree to a pre-negotiated rate with a set amount of time and deliverables. This model makes budgeting and accounting very easy.
How will your chosen agency add value?
You’ll know you’re choosing the right agency when they display insights and share their thought processes with you. Choosing an agency is very much dependent on chemistry - if you don’t see eye to eye from the start, move on.
What to ask your digital marketing agency
Looking to hire a digital marketing agency? If you want to streamline your operations and stimulate growth, you’ll need the expertise of an established agency.
You’ll want to ask these 11 questions:
- Do you have official partnerships and what accreditations do you have?
If your agency has a Google Partner badge it means they have employees certified in Google AdWords and Google Analytics, have access to their own Google agency team, and keep up with the latest innovations.
It’s always important to be knowledgeable and ahead of the marketing curve. Your digital marketing agency should have an edge in the industry. You’ll also need to inquire about certain certifications and awards your digital marketing agency has received.
- Do you outsource work?
It’s important that your agency is transparent about who is doing the work they provide to you. A good agency will handle your work in-house and give you a named point of contact who will always be able to discuss your project or campaign with you.
- How do you keep up-to-date with industry changes?
If your agency’s team has been there a long time, that’s great. It shows they’re experienced. But things change very quickly in the world of digital marketing. Ask how they keep on top of these fast-paced changes, and how much time they devote to training and industry changes.
- What metrics are included in your standard reports?
From CPC (cost per click) to keywords and landing pages, your agency should deliver easy-to-read reports that make it clear how your paid search campaigns are performing. Not only should they be clear, but they also need to be analysed and understood by the client.
- What experience do you have with other businesses, and businesses like mine?
This is something you can and should research on your own, but hearing it from the agency itself will give you a proper perspective of their track record. Do they already do work in your industry? Do they work with any of your competitors? It’s important that your agency remains unbiased in your campaign.
- What digital marketing strategies have you implemented for your own brand?
Before you sign that retainer, take a step back from your business marketing goals and ask a prospective agency about theirs:
- How did they decide to take on a specific strategy?
- Do they keep up with the latest trends?
- What are the results of their own marketing efforts?
- What key lessons have they learned from using their tactics to their business?
A digital marketing agency who practises what they preach is a good sign that they’re a keeper.
- Who will be working on your account and what are their credentials?
Your account manager or director will be your point of contact almost every day. Make sure you get to know the person you’ll be working with.
- What are the agency’s core values and how do they translate those into the work that they provide to their clients?
Most agencies will have their core values and business proposition in place, but actions speak louder than words.
- What is the average tenure of your clients?
Does the agency have a revolving door of clients coming in and out or do they believe in long-term partnerships?
- What makes the agency different from their competitors?
The landscape is cluttered with new agencies popping up constantly. Ask these agencies for a reason why you should choose them, and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
- What is the agency’s pricing model?
If you’re going to get into business with an agency you need to know what to expect upfront. What mark-up fees and management fees do they charge? Do they work on retainer or hourly basis? When does payment need to be made, in advance or after the completion of the campaign? Every agency is different and it’s best to know where you stand with them from the beginning.
Questions to ask your media agency
Agency Spotter believes, “Programmatic, media buying, media planning are all impactful strategies that can help move the needle for any company or brand. But while media buying can be very fruitful, there are plenty of pitfalls and traps that many advertisers can fall for.” Your ideal media agency needs to stay on top of media trends and its ever-changing landscape.
What should you ask?
- What is traditional media?
Traditional media is mass media that focuses on delivering a message to a specific, targeted group of the public. Types of traditional media include print publications (newspapers and magazines), television, radio, as well as Out-Of-Home Media (i.e billboards, street advertising, and mall advertising).
- What is the difference between traditional and social media?
Traditional media messages are one-way conversations delivered to the mass media where social media is more of a two-way conversation. The deliverable metric for traditional media is viewership, reach, and frequency and social media’s important metric is engagement.
It is important to take a 360-degree approach as this will ensure all possible customers, on all different platforms, are reached through your campaign.
- What planning tools do you use?
There are plenty of media planning and buying tools available. It depends on what research is needed and the outcomes required.
- Do you provide further analysis and insights of a campaign?
It’s very important to be able to measure your campaign’s outcomes. This will determine if the budget of the campaign was spent effectively and if you have reached the planned number of potential customers. This should also ultimately reflect in the sales of your product or service.
Questions to ask your social media agency
Avoid hiring the wrong social media agency, by asking these crucial questions (you’ll thank us later):
- What official partnerships and accreditations do you have?
Ideally your agency should have Facebook Blueprint certified employees and could possibly have Facebook or Twitter partnerships.
- What tools do they offer/make use of?
There are hundreds of social media tools to help with all aspects of the job. It’s important that your agency has good data analysis, scheduling, monitoring, and content creation tools.
- What are the social media services you provide?
Some agencies specialise in B2B or B2C marketing and others specialise in providing community management or content creation. Some agencies offer strategic insight and others only assist with execution. Asking this question helps you understand what you can expect from the agency and if their skill sets match your business needs.
- What is your approach to social media and how does your process work?
It’s important to understand the process that you are about to embark on. This approach and process will define how the agency will use social media for your business.
- Who is the team that will be responsible for your social media marketing?
It’s important to know who will be handling the ‘voice’ of your business on social media. What skill sets, certification, and experience do they have? Does the team have enough members for the number of clients they service?
- Do you provide reporting and how do you measure success?
It’s crucial that your social media agency provides reporting on your social media efforts, measuring reach, engagement, shareability, and whether you’re gaining customers and making sales.
- What is your overall approach to social media marketing? Do you have a guiding philosophy?
These questions help you figure out what the company’s values are and what drives them. The best companies have a set of shared common core values, or beliefs, and they are at the heart of everything they do.
These questions also help you understand their world view: how they see their agency and the work they do, in the overall marketing and business landscape.
You’ll want to make sure their values align with yours.
- What is your online community management strategy?
Community management includes responding to both disgruntled and happy customers or clients, answering their queries and solving their problems, facilitating conversations across all social media channels, encouraging engagement in the comments section, and just generally connecting with customers or clients in the best way possible through various social media platforms.
- What kind of management process do they have in place?
- Have they delegated different parts of community management to different employees or does one person respond to queries?
- Will they provide 24hour social media customer service, or a limited time service?
While community management is an important part of a social media strategy, it’s also very easy for it to get expensive fast. Look for agencies that are trying to cut costs as much as possible with community management — especially if you’re a small business. Certain parts of community management are better handled in-house, so ask if community management is an optional service that you can opt out of.
- What is your content development strategy?
Social media needs consistent content updating. This requires a plethora of content. So, is this agency equipped to handle content development of this scale?
- Do they create original pieces of content or use content off the internet?
- Will they make use of user-generated content, content that people are posting online? Creating custom content from scratch can get super-pricey so most agencies use a good amount of UGC content. Be sceptical if they plan to ignore UGC content.
- What type of content will they create?
- Will they use snippets of your blog posts and videos to cross promote your content?
- How will they create visual elements? Will they use stock photos or create original ones? Who is responsible for the creation of images?
- Will they reuse content and visual elements each month, or will they create new content?
Agencies using a combination of original content and curated content might be your best option.
- What results can I expect for my budget and how long will it take to achieve these results?
Some agencies will promise you the moon, others might not promise you anything. Be wary of both. But, nobody can guarantee your results. An agency not knowing what results you should expect is a big NO, too.
The right agency will give you an idea of what results you can expect based on previous campaigns.
- What is their paid social strategy and do they have a paid social specialist?
While social media relies heavily on community management and content creation, more brands are putting more and more budget into their paid social media efforts to obtain great results. Ensure the agency you decide to work with has the skill set and the knowledge to run well-executed, results-bearing paid social media campaigns.
What should you ask the creative agency?
Column Five Media believes, “A good agency will want to work with you—not for you or above you. Although you’re going to them for expertise and knowledge you may not have, you have ownership over your brand. Thus, you should always feel like an active partner, and both sides should cultivate a relationship based on mutual respect.”
It’s important to ask the following questions before choosing your creative agency:
- Do you have a portfolio of work?
- How diverse is your portfolio? How many different industries do/have you design(ed) for?
- Do you offer through-the-line services or do you specialise in digital or traditional media?
- Do you have current clients within my industry?
- If not, what other work have you done which is similar or applicable to my industry?
- What type of creative services do you specialise in?
- What creative services do you offer? (e.g. video, animation, TV, radio, etc.)
- Do you have any customer testimonials?
- What is your creative process?
- How do you work with your clients to push the boundaries?
- Will I have direct access to work collaboratively with the creative team?
- Who within your team will be working on my account? Is this person passionate about the industry, product, or service? Will they be a good fit for my business?
- Does your agency have a list of trusted suppliers to work with?
- Is your production managed in-house or does the agency work with third party suppliers?
What do you need to know about your potential inbound marketing agency?
How do you choose the right agency to help you on your inbound marketing journey? Our sister company, Spitfire Inbound, has a few ideas…
When choosing your agency, it’s a great idea to opt for an integrated agency as it’s a ‘one stop shop’. All departments are under one roof and you have less admin, easier reporting, no irritation to get collaboration and no waiting period for one piece of work so the next piece can be developed.
Why choose Penquin? We’re small enough to care, we do lots of research, we partner with you and try (where possible) to match you with a creative team that’s passionate about your product or service. We aim to create long-lasting relationships and you will have direct access to our experts if you need them (e.g. someone from the creative team will attend strategy sessions when necessary to understand your business goals). We’re not just brief takers, we try to push clients creatively. We have an in-house production team where very little needs to be outsourced to a supplier. This reduces your costs as you’re dealing directly with us, as the agency. Choose wisely!
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