At one time or another, you may be asked to weigh in on the decision of whether or not to hire an outside marketing agency—whether you are going to be the day to day contact with the firm, or just giving your opinion because you know the intricacies, personality and culture of your company.
If you are hiring a creative agency, for example, the marketing team and/or executive team will most likely be making the final decision, but that doesn’t mean you may not be asked for your opinion as part of the decision-making committee near the end of the process, or you may even be asked to be part of the initial weeding out phase in the process.
Whether the partner is a creative, business, affiliate or technological firm, here are the key questions to ask when looking fr an agency partner:
Industry Experience? Does the agency work with B2C or B2B firms? Does the agency understand your target market? You don’t need to be too literal such as you are an accounting firm and you only want to find an agency that works with accounting firms. However, being an accounting firm and finding a marketing agency that works with professional services firms, is probably a good match.
Day-to-Day Contact? More often than not, the person who sells to you is not the person you will be working with day to day. Make sure the firm has a designated project manager and meet with this person before committing. Is there a personality match? Can this person see a project to completion?
Payment Structure? Is it a flat fee per project, hourly or does the firm work on a monthly retainer? Is it milestone-based payment schedule or monthly? With pricing, you may think you’re comparing “apples to apples” but you’re not. If you simply ask about hourly rates, you are not seeing the whole picture.
Industry Reputation? Creativity and industry awards aren’t everything but it is good to see an agency being recognized by its peers for its work. Ask them about design awards, marketing awards, customer service awards, technological praise, etc.
Does the firm practice what they preach? If an agency supposedly excels at SEO, how does their own website rank for targeted keyword phrases? If an agency says they are excellent at web design, do they have an impressive website and easy user interface? If an agency believes in marketing tactics for their clients, they should be practicing them for themselves.
Metrics? Awards are great but what impact did an agency’s strategy have on client acquisition, sales, website visitors, website conversion, etc?
References? All agencies will include glowing references and testimonials on their proposal and website. However, ask them about a random project in their portfolio and ask them for a reference to that client. If they are showcasing the work, they should be okay with that client speaking for them. Also, ask them for a reference from their own vendors or network of professionals in their circle who they work with or partner with on a regular basis.
Part of any organization’s success is determined by the “company that they keep.” The business partners, vendors, affiliates, and even customers can help determine the achievement, reputation, and growth a company has the potential to become. Help ensure that your organization is heading in the right direction by being selective about the agency partners you add to your team.