Experienced digital marketing consultant, Arek Estall, shares his top seven tips to choosing the perfect marketing agency.
When it comes to choosing a marketing agency, it can be difficult to make a decision, simply because there are so many of them. It seems like every time you sign in to Twitter there’s a new “full-service agency” following you.
However, it doesn’t matter whether you’re buying website services, AdWords support, PR help or any other services – there are some key considerations everyone should be making when appointing a creative agency to work on your business. Weighing up credentials is one thing, but finding an agency that fits your ethos is equally as important.
Many companies fall into the trap of choosing the wrong partner and end up switching within a year. Unfortunately, switching usually comes with hidden costs, both financial and time related.
With this in mind, here are my top seven tips to choosing a marketing agency:
1. Ask for proven results
The first thing you need to ask any prospective agency is to see detailed examples of the work they’ve done for other clients.
This proves two things: the first is that they can do the job they say they can; the second is that they understand the bigger picture and are not just tactical thinkers. Good case studies demonstrate that they understand a client’s end goals, meaning you’re more likely to get the results you desire.
Find an agency that can prove their results and they’ll be more likely to perform for you, too.
2. Test their understanding of your market
Many agencies are generalists, and will say that it gives them a competitive edge as they can approach your project objectively.
Although that can be true in some cases, you should definitely test how quickly they pick up your market during the pitching process. Do they “get” your industry and how it works?
Whether they end up running PR campaigns, creating content or reaching out to affiliates, nothing is less effective in achieving results than lack of knowledge.
Hiring an agency that doesn’t understand your business can be counterproductive, particularly when you have to spend valuable time helping them.
3. Check who will actually be doing your work
This is a scenario I’ve seen time and time again.
Agencies send their best people to pitches in an attempt to impress you with their knowledge. They sell you the dream and tell you how big your campaign will go. However, when it comes to signing the contract, many businesses find out that they have been assigned junior marketers and will never actually hear from the ones that pitched again.
Check the people who come to see you will be the same ones who doing your work or at the very least will be heading up your team.
4. Size matters
For most businesses, it is appealing to choose a big agency with strong experience. Those looking for a more affordable and responsive option, however, may opt for a freelancer.
The truth is: there is no one-size-fits-all model.
The key is to choose an agency that is large enough to handle your project. If you have plans that you want to implement, having an agency that’s too small may mean waiting around for weeks before your work is done. If you choose an agency that is too big, they may not prioritise your work. They could have clients who spend ten or twenty times more than you, meaning you’ll never get the attention you deserve.
The ideal scenario is to find an agency that has the resources to get your work done, but also one that sees you as a key account.
5. Consider lifetime budget
Imagine you’re building a new website and have a budget assigned; it’s obvious that you will look for a supplier that can deliver within that budget.
Seems logical, right?
What can sometimes go wrong is that while your budget works for the initial project, when you need to make future changes or developments, the hourly rate stays the same.
Make sure you consider not just the up-front cost, but also future and maintenance costs.
6. Learn as much as you can about what they do
For me, outsourcing is a great and flexible option. My clients enjoy focusing on their business, while I help them grow their reputation and online presence.
Whenever I hear about a client/agency relationship that has gone wrong, there can be a whole host of reasons, but often it’s because a client gave too much freedom to the agency.
The best way to avoid this scenario is to be really knowledgeable about the subject, as well as managing the relationship regularly and keeping lines of communication open.
Monthly meetings are a great way to keep track of progress and iron out any issues.
7. Check their marketing credentials
This is a point that is often overlooked.
When you hire a marketing or design agency, people focus a lot on the technical or design aspects. What is sometimes forgotten is the value of a strong marketing focus, understanding the brand strategy and strategic objectives. What that translates into is that sometimes the identity or implementation doesn’t align to what you want to achieve.
Check if your agency has a marketing person in-house because a consistent brand is worth its weight in gold.