So you’ve decided that it’s time for your company to bring in a digital marketing agency, maybe you can’t afford a robust in house team or maybe you’re an internal marketing department that is looking to bolster expertise in one practice area of marketing. Either way now begins the tedious task of researching what agency to hire. As a marketer, I’ve been on both sides of the fence, first on the client-side at the beginning of my marketing career as part of a large internal team. Now as the President Of Mission Disrupt a digital agency based in the Huntington Village, New York. Through these experiences, I’ll give you the questions to ask to properly vet out an agency that will drive the best result for your company.

 

1.) The Full-Service Dilemma: 

Question to ask: What services are you specialized in?

While many agencies position themselves as full service (most truly aren’t), that doesn’t mean a one-stop shop is what you’re looking for. Instead, ask yourself what are the true needs of your company? Is it a website redesign? Management of a paid media campaign? Packaging design? My best advice is to find an agency that specializes in the services you need. By choosing a boutique firm you can ensure you’re getting the best specialists to manage that project. In Mission Disrupt’s case, we’re a digital experience agency, meaning we specialize in digital strategy, user experience design and the ability to convert users through paid media channels. 

 

2.) Technology Fuels Innovation

Question to ask: What emerging technology do you use and how do can it be applied at our company?

We all like The Flintstones but you don’t want an agency operating like the “The Flintstones. I love this question because it tests an agency’s knowledge of what’s happening in the marketing world, and how they’re using that technology to drive results for clients. A great agency will be able to answer that question with ease and give you the example of a piece of technology they recently used and how it drove a result for the client.

 

3.) A Jack Of All Trades And A Master Of None

Questions to ask: What is the track record of your team? 

Agencies’ best resources are the people who are apart of their team. Find out what team members would be assigned to your account and what other projects they’ve worked on in the past. Asking them a few questions about their methodology is a great way to see how they think and if you feel they can bring value to your organization. Beware of agencies that try to sell a person as a jack of all trades, in my experience a staff member should only have one or two areas that they are truly experts in.

4.) Walk The Walk

Question to ask: Can you show me a case study?

A portfolio says a lot about the agency, it gives you an idea of the quality of work you can expect from the team and separates the elite from the average joes. The agency should have no issue explaining the results they are driving to their clients. When it comes to metrics here’s a quick guide for understanding what’s important and what’s not:

  • Important Metrics: Conversions, Conversion Rate, Cost Per Lead, Return on Ad Spend, Average Order Volume, Bounce Rate, 
  • Not Important: Ad Clicks & Impressions 

5.) Practice What You Preach

Question to ask: How are you using digital for your business?

Ask the agency what practices they use to drive business for themselves, a great agency will be able to breakdown their strategy and how they use digital to drive in business for themselves. Furthermore, the agency may be using more just digital to drive results so be sure to ask them about the offline advertising channel they are activating on. 

6.) Reporting For Duty

Questions to ask: Explain your reporting process and how your team adds value to it?

Agency reporting is all too often one of the most automated deliverables given to clients. Often times agencies send excel sheets or use third-party platforms that display metrics with a few data points attached to the report. This type of reporting doesn’t provide business intelligence to stakeholders and certainly doesn’t help in understanding how campaigns are helping to fit company goals. The most valuable reporting happens when account strategists can have a deep understanding of the product/service they are marketing & analyze the data from the company’s POV. Remember this isn’t a quick task and requires more hands-on time with accounts. As the Marketer, you should not expect bottom tier pricing for this type of treatment.  

7.) Promises, Promises, Promises

Questions to ask: How do we establish realistic goals?

Transparency is the key ingredient to managing expectations and for clients not to fall into the overpromised category. An agency should be proactive in giving you timelines for projects and when they expect results. As a client, you need to understand that putting pressure on timelines will not work in your favor, in fact, many digital ad networks need a best-practice set of times in order to correctly optimized for peak performance. Be wary of agencies that promise results to good to be true, nothing is guaranteed in media and even clients that are within the same industry can see differences in performances. It’s important that the agencies have a solidified process to help you get to your desired result and a plan in place to deal with the variables that you may encounter (case studies will help back these results up).

8.) Avoid “The Set-It & Forget It” Types

Questions to ask: What is your process for monitoring performance?

    1. Automation is helpful but to much of it can damage your performance. You want to be sure your account has eyes on it frequently & consistently- it’s important that campaigns are monitored on an ongoing basis and an optimization plan is in place. Set it and forget it in PPC can be dangerous, letting advertising engines like Google or Bing make all the moves can mean a higher chance of your campaign going rouge, spending unnecessary amounts of advertising spend on keywords & other targetting parameters that don’t matter.

 

9.) A Match Made In Heaven…

Question to ask: How do you determine if we are a good partner client for your agency?

Agencies should be asking questions too, learning about your companies history, product/service offerings. There’s also another strategic reason agencies should be asking questions: they should be vetting you as a client to see if you will be a good match. Agencies need to evaluate the client’s marketplace, competition and the product and services they offer before any engagement begins. It’s equally important that an agency believes in the product you sell so they are sure they can drive positive results. A great agency evaluates its potential clients to make sure there is a true fit. You should be wary of agencies that take on everyone as a client and pay close attention to how they propose onboarding your company into their agency model.