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What To Ask When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

A successful partnership can help you get the results you want.

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Digital marketing is hard, but the way consumers look for information now demands that your business have an online presence. A mobile-optimized website is becoming as vital as a business license for any company expecting to survive past the first year. If marketing isn’t a strength of your team—or you don’t have the capacity to handle search engine optimization (SEO), email, pay-per-click (PPC), and social media—then you’re likely on the hunt for an agency to handle the day-to-day marketing work.

But where do you start when looking for an agency? What are some of the best questions to ask a consultant to determine if their agency is a good fit for your brand? Here is what to ask when hiring a digital marketing agency. Included are some of the best (and worst) questions I’ve experienced in my time as a Digital Marketing Consultant at Markitors.

The good:

“What sort of clients do you work with?”
This is a great question to open with. As a business owner, who you partner with can shape the success of your brand. Does the agency have experience with your industry? Great! Even if they don’t have direct experience, have they worked with clients that are in a similar situation? You are not always going to find the agency that specializes in clients who provide home valuations after a hurricane, but you might find one that has shown stellar results with home restoration companies following a flood or fire. The nature of the approach here is similar, and recognizing that processes can apply across industries might make your search easier.

“What is your approach to marketing for my industry?”
Here’s another good question to follow up the first, and identify if they really know your industry or goal. After all, you know your business best, so the answer to this question should provide you with enough clarity to determine if they really know what they’re doing.

“Describe your mission and your team. What are your strengths as a group?”
This is one of my favorites, as it provides the opportunity for both the consultant and potential client a clear scope of work. If you’re looking for an agency that can do SEO well, perform keyword research, and give you a content marketing strategy, this is a great time to find out if they have these capabilities. An agency wants to play to their strengths. This question identifies where they might stand out or fall flat.

“What marketing are you engaging in for your agency?”
It’s simple. Are you practicing what you preach? Agencies are not (or shouldn’t be) giving out specific client campaign information unless given permission. We can speak on what we’re doing for our own agency without fear of breaching client trust.

The bad:

A good digital marketing agency is vetting their clients, too. Put plainly, agencies shouldn’t want to work with just anyone who calls. We have an idea for what an ideal client looks like and much of that has to do with former successes, competencies in various industries, and company info like age, size, subject matter of product, etc. Here are a few questions that could indicate a frustrating agency-client relationship.

“I just was wondering how much it would be to market my business?”
…And cue the silence. The caller clearly has not done much research. You are not expected to be a marketing whiz or really know much at all. But a consultant would expect a bit more specific info. From here, I don’t know who you are, what your business is, or what exactly you need help with. From the start this tells me you’re only interested in finding the best price. “You get what you pay for” especially applies to someone hunting for marketing in the bargain bin.

Starting the conversation angry
We get it. There are a handful of agencies out there that claim to be “online marketing specialists” and proceed to deliver disappointing results that can leave you feeling ripped off. Most agencies take pride in the results they can produce for your business and will be more likely to take on work they feel confident in. Research the agency extensively online before making a call or filling out a form.

“Show me which keywords you will target for SEO & PPC, what your emails will look like, and plan social media for a week. I need to know what this will look like before signing up.”
OK, so this isn’t exactly a question I get when people are deciding when hiring a digital marketing agency. But essentially this is what some ask for before even considering taking on an agency.

Trust is the key ingredient in this relationship between the agency and potential client. You should be able to vet the agency with case studies without asking for free work. The customized campaigns are what you’ll pay for month to month. So you should be able to trust this work based on the agency’s proven effectiveness.

Would you ask your mechanic to replace car shocks for free just to see what the ride will feel like before purchasing? Of course not, because maybe you’ll decide that it really isn’t that great—and you want your old shocks back. Now your mechanic is out 5 hours of labor and $300 in parts. This is why it doesn’t make sense for an agency to put 10 hours into your marketing prior to signing a contract. In the same vein, you should beware of overpromising agencies and one-size-fits-all audits.

Written by Andrew Parker for Markitors, an official Mailchimp partner. Learn more about Markitors + Mailchimp in our Experts Directory.

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