It can seem overwhelming to conceptualize, execute, and track a full-scale marketing campaign, especially if you have limited internal resources.
That’s why so many companies are now preferring to outsource their marketing and outreach efforts to a professional agency. The benefits seem obvious: marketing agencies know the landscape inside out, it is their bread and butter after all. Plus they have a wealth of experience since they’ve been in the business for a while.
But it can be somewhat problematic to settle on an agency without conducting due diligence. It pays to adopt a cautious and careful approach; your partner will take ownership of your brand strategy after all, and that’s an enormous responsibility.
In this post, we’ve highlighted the 5 most important considerations you should evaluate before you hire a marketing agency.
1. What Are Their Range of Services?
Marketing in the digital age means agencies can’t get by just with the methods of the past.
Some agencies are adept at conceptualizing and delivering offline marketing strategies such as television, print, and radio campaigns. They might also be able to drive brand activation campaigns — such as approaching shoppers outside Toronto’s Eaton Centre.
These niches are where traditional marketing agencies normally struggle with as they’re so new and ‘best practices’ are constantly in flux.
Your choice of agency should represent your marketing goals. If you’re building an ecommerce site and need help with digital campaigns, then it’s counter-intuitive to select an agency which primarily helps clients with offline strategies.
Of course, some agencies will have expertise across the entire suite of marketing techniques but they’re expensive and usually demand hefty retainers. These make more sense for large companies with marketing budgets to match.
2. What’s Their Track Record?
Regardless of your marketing goals, you want to work with an agency that has a demonstrable record of delivering client wins and driving effective ROI.
Marketing these days can seem like the Wild West. There are plenty of snake oil salesmen out there, hawking solutions and achievements that seem too good to be true.
Before you sign on the dotted line, however, it’s absolutely essential for you to have a candid, yet tough conversation with the vendors you’re considering.
Some questions you can ask them:
- Do you currently work with similar brands and industries? What’s your track record?
- Can you name a specific instance where you were able to improve your client’s bottom line within the first three months of working with them? How did you achieve that?
- If we were to sign up with you, what would be a strategy that you would roll out immediately?
- What gaps do you see in our existing approach and how would you improve them?
- What are a couple of things that our competitors aren’t doing well and how would your marketing campaigns differ?
- How would you define success and what metrics would you keep reviewing?
3. How Many Team Members Do They Have and Do They Outsource?
When you hire a marketing agency, you’re bringing them on for their expertise in specific areas. For example, an agency that’s laser-focused on digital campaigns should have the following experts on their team:
- SEO strategist
- Content writer
- Graphic designer
- Paid media expert
- Web developer
- Account manager / digital strategist
If an agency chooses to outsource any of these core functions to a freelancer or another agency, then that’s a potential red flag. It shows that they don’t have confidence in their services or aren’t willing to hire well-qualified individuals, aiming to pocket the arbitrage.
At the same time, you will want to have a few conversations with them to really get to the heart of whether they understand your industry and niche.
As we said earlier, your agency will take ownership of your brand and its outreach efforts. That’s a big responsibility so you want to be reassured that it’s in good hands.
4. How Much Will It Cost You?
If all the agencies you shortlist give you a monthly retainer estimate in the tens of thousands of dollars, the question you need to ask yourself is if it’s worth it.
You might already have a few individuals on your team that are capable of driving marketing strategies — all they require is a bit of training and upskilling. That might be more beneficial for you in the long term.
Another hidden, implicit cost is whether your marketing agency will require constant feedback and meetings in order to get the ball rolling. You want an agency that’s able to deliver on its own — micromanagement is never a preferred approach. So, if they ask for a face to face session more often than not, that’s valuable time that could be better used elsewhere.
5. Read the Contract Carefully
Whenever you sign up with an agency, it’s important to not leave anything to chance. You must have clearly-defined clauses in terms of deliverables, goals, and causes for termination. Anything vague or unclear is liable to interpretation and could result in a lengthy legal battle. That’s the last thing you want if you’re looking to switch partners.
Read the fine print and insist on specific clauses before you sign up.