5 Questions You Should Ask a Marketing Agency

There are many benefits of hiring a marketing agency – but only if you can find the right fit for your business. Choosing a marketing agency is a lot like buying a house: not every agency is the right fit for every customer. It’s also a big investment – one that you’ll want to protect by doing your due diligence before signing any contracts. Here are some questions to ask to help you learn how to choose the right marketing agency for your business. 

What is the difference between an advertising agency and a marketing agency? 

Before we get into the questions you should be asking as you interview different marketing agencies, it’s important to know what a marketing agency can offer – and what services are usually handled by advertising agencies. 

An advertising agency oversees communication programs: think ad campaigns that use traditional mediums like radio ads, TV ads, billboards, and press outreach. An ad agency will have a team of creative people at your disposal, from art directors to graphic designers and copywriters. 

Marketing agencies are more strategic, offering a broader, “consultative approach”. These agencies help you design a marketing program that includes some advertising channels. The real value in working with a marketing agency is that your business learns how to optimally spend your budget on the channels, outreach efforts, and designs that will reach your target customer and convert into sales. 

There is no shortage of marketing agencies, with each agency offering a different combination of services – and promises. How do you choose the right marketing agency for your business? Start by asking the agency these 5 questions.

Who are your other clients?

Some marketing agencies won’t be willing to give you a list of their existing clients, but its important to learn more about their expertise. If they won’t name names, ask the agency what industries they work in, as well as the how their other clients’ budgets and production needs compare to yours. 

“It is a bit of a case-by-case situation, but typically you do not want to be an agency’s biggest or smallest client. If you are the biggest client you run the risk of being too big for the agency to handle. If you’re too small you might not get the same level of customer service and priority as a much larger, higher value client,” explained the experts at Hubspot.

You’ll also want to find someone who knows about your industry – or can figure it out fast. If an agency doesn’t mention your industry or any tangential industries, they probably will need to learn about your market on the fly. You don’t want them treating your company like a guinea pig – and wasting your budget in the process. 

Who will be working with us?

This question is critical – and it’s worthwhile getting the answer in writing, as some agencies don’t do all of their work in-house. “You don’t want your work to be offshored and passed from pillar to post; the agency should be able to directly fill the holes in your business you don’t want to specifically hire for,” reports Ad Age.

Treat your vetting process in the same way you would host a job interview. The account manager is essentially filling a role in your organization: do you like this person? Do they have the expertise and the organization to handle your marketing needs? Are they responsive to your requests? 

You can also ask how many other clients this person or team is handling at the same time. This can tell you how the marketing agency will prioritize your work. 

What KPIs do you track?

It is essential to align on key performance indicators, KPIs, before you sign on with any marketing agency. “A good agency will be able to define key performance indicators related to your specific marketing goals, and express clearly and concisely how they plan to keep track of them. Agencies who are only concerned with vanity metrics are not going to be able to demonstrate ROI,” writes one expert

Part of vetting a marketing agency is understanding how they measure success – and if those metrics support your business goals. Get specific with your questions to learn what ROI you can expect, what growth metrics you will see increase, and how publicity the marketing agency will achieve for your brand. 

How does your team collaborate with ours?

This might seem like a minor detail, but you don’t want your marketing budget wasted on endless meetings and admin. Ask the marketing agency what tools and platforms they have in place to streamline communication between your team and theirs. 

“As a client, you want your budgeted agency hours going into real work, not project management and administration, although you should anticipate that at approximately 10% of your budget will be required for project management,” said Hubspot

As you’re choosing a marketing agency, make sure to find out how often they communicate. It’s all about finding the right balance of being informed about your marketing progress, while not wasting time that could be better spent finding leads. 

What is your pricing model?

The biggest question: how much does a marketing agency cost? 

Marketing agencies have different pricing models depending on their size and services offered. Expect an agency to charge in one of these schemes:

  • Hourly-rate pricing model: the marketing agency will set an agency-wide hourly rate (also known as a blended rate), or charge different hourly rates depending what talent is on your account team (e.g., a senior designer will have a different rate than an account manager). 
  • Fixed-fee pricing model: the marketing agency will give you the number of hours required by the project , along with the hourly rate per employee, plus a fee or margin.  This fixed amount is usually billed in increments, with 25% – 50% of your bill due upfront and the rest upon completion. 
  • Value-based pricing model: you and the agency agree on a “most valuable” metric – leads, traffic, or conversion rates, for instance – and the agency prices its services on a percentage increase in that metric.

There’s no right answer for which of these pricing models is the “best option.” Ask the agency for more information about pricing from the outset so there are no surprises when you start working together.

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Get to know the author:

Alex Steeno

Alex Steeno

Alex is a growth marketing, design, and analytics expert who currently serves a portfolio of client's as either a fractional Head of Growth, Head of Analytics, and sometimes both.

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