10 Things to Look for When Shopping Around for a Marketing Agency

As you could probably guess, marketing agencies are really good at marketing. This means they’re good at selling themselves – convincing you you need them on your team ASAP. And you know what? You probably do. I just want to make sure you find the right marketing agency, and not fall for some flashy sales technique.

Here are the things you should actually look for when you’re shopping for a marketing agency.

1. Relevant Experience

If you were hiring for a permanent team member, what kind of background would your ideal candidate have? The same industry as yours? A similar team size? A company with comparable goals or obstacles? All of these things matter, and an agency worth its salt will be able to check all those boxes in a way no individual can. What’s more, the agency you hire shouldn’t just have this experience, but case studies to prove their relevant successes. The point of an agency’s portfolio isn’t to impress you with the big names on its roster – it’s to demonstrate compatibility with your objectives.

2. AI-Enablement

Artificial intelligence can analyze large volumes of data more quickly and accurately than any human, uncovering patterns, trends, and insights that can drive smarter, more effective marketing strategies. It can help personalize customer interactions, predict future trends, and automate routine tasks, freeing up more time for creativity and strategy. Soon, AI will be essential for an agency just to keep up, but for now, it’s the secret to giving your brand a competitive edge.

3. Innovative Technology

Technology innovation goes beyond just AI. In this rapidly evolving digital landscape, a solid marketing agency needs cutting-edge CRM software, social media management tools, SEO resources, graphic design software, and more. When screening for a marketing agency, ask about what tools they use. Ideally they’ll say names you like, or challenge you with new ones that you can discover.

For example, if you need an agency to help with SEO, they may say they use a tech brand you already know you can trust, like SEMrush or Ahrefs. If they say something you aren’t expecting, press them on why they trust that option over the competitors.

I started a venture capital firm called Hawke Ventures specifically to give my staff a competitive edge in this department. We can leverage technology that other people don’t have access to because of investments made in the future of marketing.

4. Performance Results

Too many agencies are full of hot air (my editor is making me say “hot air” instead of what I’d prefer) when it comes to creative campaign pitches. Gone are the days when a marketing agency can observe that “Geico” sounds like “gecko,” collect its paycheck, and be gone. Now, brands need real results. Your marketing agency should prioritize profit and treat your KPIs as its own. As I like to say, the bottom line is your bottom line.

5. Value

You don’t need to be told that price matters when it comes to finding the right marketing consultancy. You have a budget for a reason. That said, to really get the best fit for your business, you’ve got to reframe that qualification from “price” to “value.” Don’t just look at how much you’re spending, but how much you’re getting for that amount. Is the agency staff monitoring your account 24/7? Are you able to contact your reps anytime, or are your needs only addressed during scheduled meetings?

6. A Partner Network

When you hire a marketing agency, you should get so much more than one company. A good agency has connections with industry leaders in all aspects of ecommerce and lead generation. Sometimes the agency is leveraging its partners by default on certain services. Other times, it can hook you up with exclusive rates if you decide to broaden your tech stack.

7. Healthy Culture

This is a big one that a lot of people don’t think about until it’s too late. The agency’s work culture matters to you, even if the staff aren’t your employees. Why? A healthy office environment and work-life balance ensure happy and consistent representatives. Agency life has a reputation for driving marketers into the ground, which leads to high turnover. If your designated rep keeps getting swapped out, you will eventually leave the agency and then back at square one. Read Glassdoor, look for “Best Places to Work” awards, and so on. If the staff of an agency is happy, you’ll be happy.

8. Understanding of Your Brand

Besides case studies – often hand-picked to make the agency look as good as possible – how do you ensure that a marketer genuinely understands your brand? Before any paperwork is signed or money is exchanged, there should be an opportunity to essentially check the vibes. My agency has a free consultation, but whatever it looks like, there should be a designated space to explain the business’ vision and mission statement and its unique obstacles. You’ll be able to tell within the conversation whether the agency understands your brand or is just trying to make a sale.

9. Industry Awareness

You’ve already screened to make sure the agency has an understanding of your own brand and marketplace. Now it’s time to make sure they have an understanding of the marketing landscape. Go to some marketing blogs and get a sense of where the tides are turning. One example right now could be Chrome’s shift to stop using third-party cookies. In your preliminary calls, ask the agency what they’re doing to get ready for those kinds of shifts in the marketplace.

The same goes for smaller trends. How are they responding to the increased CPMs on TikTok? Do they see those trends in their own data? If you’re reading these questions and you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine! Just read this paragraph to the agency you’re trying to hire and get them to explain it to you.

10. Room to Grow

When you hire an agency, you’ve obviously made sure it’s a good fit for your specific needs. For example, if you hire an agency for its lifecycle management, you’ve likely done your due diligence to ensure they’re the best at email or SMS marketing, but do you have a vision for where they could go from there if successful? Does the agency?

Every agency should be able to lay out a 30-day and a 90-day forecast. What about plans for the year mark? Two years? Five years? My company keeps flexible contracts so that there’s room to grow as people see success with their initial needs. Was lifecycle marketing so successful that you want to port that kind of messaging into your social media? Maybe social media is so winning that you decide an agency would actually be a big help on PPC efforts.

The Best

If you’re a marketing agency, you’d do well to skim this list and ensure you have answers for the kinds of questions brands may have. I know I get my employees.

My hope is that if you’re reading this you’re not a marketing agency, but a brand. This is for small businesses that need an outsourced CMO, or the CMOs that need some support during financially tough periods. If you want to get the most out of your marketing dollars, you need an agency with relevant experience, AI enablement, technology resources, real results, and all these other items that prove an agency is worth its salt.

Published First on GritDaily. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Christina Morillo; Pexels; Thank you!

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