While many startup founders excel in their fields, they don’t always have the time, expertise, or resources to create a detailed marketing strategy or plan.
In the same vein, they don’t have the time to constantly execute it and measure its value and ROI. That’s where marketing agencies come in. Working with the right agency can provide your business with the right strategy, as well as the right tactics to move the needle.
But there’s one thing every founder should keep in mind: if you don’t ask the right questions, they may be unable to deliver on a level that meets your expectations.
As a startup founder, you want an agency that perfectly fits your company. Before hiring them, you must ask them questions about their team members, their specialization, and how they work with clients.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few essential questions you should ask before choosing the right marketing agency.
What Is the Agency’s Specialization?
When you’re looking for a marketing agency, it’s important to ask them what they specialize in. Why? Because not all agencies are created equal.
Some specialize in digital marketing and social media, others focus on PR and traditional advertising, while others offer a broad range of services. So, it’s important that you find an agency that works with your specific needs and business goals.
Remember that in marketing there’s no “one trick pony.” You can’t expect to only run a PR campaign and see business results, just like you can’t expect to spend money on paid campaigns and gain brand recognition. Marketing is a mix that requires different skills and methods.
Knowing this information up front will help ensure that both parties are on the same page from the start and will save time, and money, and shorten the learning curve.
What Makes Them Qualified to Manage Your Marketing?
Marketing is more than just creating ads and posting on social media. It’s about understanding your audience and their needs and then creating content and activities that speak directly to them.
A good marketer will have experience in research and analysis, as well as the ability to use that data to create effective campaigns that speak directly to your audience. They’ll also be able to identify trends in your industry, which can help inform future strategies.
In addition, they should be able to demonstrate that they have experience managing teams, learning from co-workers (about the technology, about the product, about the target audience), and working on separate projects simultaneously. This requires an ability not just to work with other people, but also an understanding of how each project fits into the overall strategy.
Who Are the Agency’s Team Members?
The people working for the marketing agency make a big difference in how effective the strategy will be. It’s not just about their skills and experience, but also how they approach their work and communicate with you.
When you ask a marketing agency who their team members are, you ask for more than just names and titles. You’re trying to understand what kind of people they are and how they work as a team. Are they friendly? Do they have a lot of energy? Can they explain things clearly? Are they flexible with deadlines? Do you see yourself working closely with them over the next few months?
You should also ask what each member brings to the table. What are their backgrounds and what is their experience in managing marketing for startups like yours?
This information can provide insight into how things will go moving forward. It will also help you get a clearer picture of how well-suited each individual is for specific tasks within your project scope (e.g., writing copy versus managing ad campaigns).
How Does the Agency Work?
Asking an agency how they work is an important question because it gives you a sense of what their process is like and how they approach helping you build a marketing strategy. The answer to this question will help you understand how much time they need to dedicate to your activity (and whether or not that’s something that fits into your business plan), as well as what kind of resources and experience they have to complete their work effectively.
What’s Their Pricing Structure?
Pricing is often a sensitive topic for both businesses and customers. Because of this, you must have an open dialogue with your agency about pricing from the beginning so there are no surprises down the line when they send over an invoice with a large number attached!
Ask a marketing agency about its pricing structure because it can help you understand what you’re getting for your money.
A good marketing agency will provide a yearly budget with clear KPIs, be transparent, and provide timelog reports using a “pay for the actual hours” model.
They will also explain why they use specific tactics and how the funding is utilized for these tactics.
No one likes unpleasant surprises, especially when it comes to additional charges. Some agencies charge additional fees for design packages, brand strategies, PR outreach, or other services that may be considered “extras.”
Make sure you understand these fees, so you aren’t be surprised later.
Do They Set Marketing Milestones?
There are two main reasons you should work with an agency that uses milestones:
1) It allows them to manage the scope of your project
2) It helps you stay on track.
First, by managing their scope, your agency can plan out what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how much time will be required for each piece of work.
They can then use this information as a guide for where things are concerning the overall timeline of your project. This allows them to make adjustments as necessary.
The second reason is that milestones allow you to stay on track by specifying deadlines by which certain pieces of work need to be completed. This leads us to our next point…
How Will They Measure Success?
When evaluating agencies, it’s important to ask them how they will measure success. Do they use Google Analytics? Do they track sales? Do they monitor social engagement? These are all good questions to ask.
Success factors could be separated by two segments:
Data-Based Performance KPIs
- Social Engagement
- Likes / Comments / Shares
- Follower growth (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Channel growth (YouTube)
- Active followers
- Profile visits
Non-data Performance Factors
- Which marketing channels are most effective?
- What content formats are most engaging?
- Are they reaching the right audience?
- Is the messaging being heard? What’s the impact?
- Are they generating interest from events / speaking opps?
- Are they gaining interest from media / journalists?
- Are they putting the right employees at the forefront?
Can They Provide References?
Asking for references is one of the best ways to learn about a company’s past work and how they work with clients.
A reference will give you information about whether or not the agency is a good fit for you and your business, what type of services they provide, how their prices compare to others in the industry, and whether or not the agency is likely to meet your needs.
Suppose an agency doesn’t offer any references. In that case, it could mean that they haven’t been around long enough to build a list of satisfied clients (which could mean they’re still figuring out what works best), they don’t have enough clients (which could mean they’re not very good at what they do), or there’s some other reason why they don’t want to share their contact information with you.
Share a unique marketing campaign the agency conducted.
It’s essential to ask marketing agencies to share case studies showing marketing actions they took with their clients and how they created a real business impact.
This shows that they have the experience and resources to drive your business forward.
Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. A good agency will be able to tell you about how they’ve worked on similar projects in the past and explain why their approach is unique.
They’ll also be able to give examples of how their strategy has worked out for other clients.
You can break this question down into by asking:
- Tell me about a unique marketing activity your agency conducted.
- How did you measure success?
- Why was it successful?
- What would you do differently next time?
Who Will Be the Main Point of Contact?
Before committing to a marketing agency, ensure you understand who your point of contact will be. You want to know if it will be a single person or an entire team working on your project.
You also want to find out how often you’ll be able to communicate with that person or group of people.
It’s not uncommon for agencies to have multiple team members working on different projects simultaneously, so consider asking about their process for managing multiple projects and ensuring everyone is up-to-date about what’s happening in all areas of the business.
If possible, look for an agency with a dedicated account manager who will work closely with the client over long periods to provide strategic advice and guidance throughout the process—not just do one-off tasks where they’re responsible only for completing deliverables and getting paid!
Wrapping It Up
This article discussed many questions you should ask before choosing the right marketing agency for your business needs. Here are the quick takeaways to make it quick and easy for you.
- What is the demonstrated expertise?
- How do you work with clients?
- Do we have a dedicated account manager or team member who will work directly with us throughout our relationship?
- Which companies have you worked with that are similar to our needs?
- Ask to see case studies and get referrals from companies that can testify about the quality and the impact of the work done.
As SAGE Marketing, we hope that this article has helped guide you through the process of hiring a marketing agency.
Remember, many agencies out there claim to be the best and can deliver on their promises—but only if you ask these 10 questions before hiring them!