There are a lot of agencies out there with slick websites, seemingly revolutionary systems, and tall promises. Once you’ve made the decision to hire a digital marketing agency, here are six key questions you’ll want to ask:
“Where do you shine?”
There’s a tendency within digital marketing agencies to say ‘We can do that!’ But in reality, an organization can only really dedicate themselves to so much. Everything beyond that is just going to get roughed in or farmed out. Be sure to ask potential agencies about their deepest core competencies (and relevant experience reflecting that). They should be able to offer references and case studies that demonstrate that these are indeed areas where they are a cut above the rest.
“Who are your typical clients?”
Are the firm’s clients like you—not just in terms of industry, but in size, scope, maturity, and culture?
“What is your approach to outsourcing?”
There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing—but they need to manage contractors just as well as their core team. For example, I’ve heard horror stories about agencies that outsource web development—which isn’t all that uncommon. In this particular case, the contractors did a solid job with the coding and building of the site itself. Everything looked great—at first. But once the client started trying to use the site, they discovered an admin interface that was basically unusable because it was utterly undecipherable Google-translated English.
“What KPIs (key performance indicators) do you, as an agency, care and obsess about? How do you report on these?”
Most importantly, are their KPIs in lockstep with your goals? If you need to see hard conversions in order to justify this project, then you don’t want a branding agency who might focus more on reach, impressions, and sentiment. It’s next to impossible to extrapolate a dollars-and-cents return on investment from knowing a social media post got re-tweeted 1,348 times. Ask to see a sample report; can you make sense of it? How well does the agency answer your questions and explain terms or numbers that are new to you? How regularly can you expect to see these reports, and how quickly will your questions or concerns be addressed?
“What’s your approach to meetings and communication?”
How regularly will you and the agency meet? Who will be in meetings? Will you ever actually see the folks who showed up for the pitch meeting, or does the account get handed off immediately? How will those meetings be scheduled and run? Who will be the main point of contact?
“Who owns the ad accounts, the creative, and so on?”
This should ultimately be clearly written out in the contract—but you’ll want to know up front how these nuts and bolts fit together. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the right to reuse web copy in your print brochures, or pull testimonials out of an old content offer. When you ultimately part ways, who will the advertising and analytics accounts belong to?
Making Sense of the Answers You Hear
The answers to all of these questions are important. But, in a way, the most important thing isn’t the content of that answer, but how they answer:
Are they honest and forthcoming? Or does it feel like they’re fishing around to try and say what you want to hear?
In my experience, the best professional services are provided by people and organizations who are enthusiastic to share with you who they are and what they’re all about, so that you can say “Yes! These are definitely people I’m eager to work with.”