Growth marketing

7 Big Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Digital Marketing Agency

Written by Kyjean Tomboc / October 29, 2019

Kyjean Tomboc finished nursing school but found joy in plucking and stringing words to ​create value-driven content for brands in the health, life sciences, and lean startup niches. She loves everything strategic in creating content -- from CRO to SEO to SMM to UX (the Internet sure loves acronyms!). Her current obsessions include the human gut microbiome, A/B testing, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Kyjean is also a seasoned trekker.

Although the expanding marketing technology landscape can elevate your marketing efforts to greater heights, you have to admit that you need an extra pair of hands (and brains!) to strategize, manage projects, set benchmarks, and interpret data.

Not to mention that you have to constantly keep up with what’s working and what’s not in the marketing sphere.

Partnering With a Digital Marketing Agency

Trust Us! We'll help you. Oh look, a new customer!

Everybody is quick to assure that your brand will do well if you just stick to what has been shown to work: create content to attract leads, promote on social media, and optimize your campaigns as much as you can.

Yet if this is true, why are some marketers struggling in interpreting data and translating it to effective campaigns? Why is it that proving ROI remains one of the biggest challenges faced by marketers?

For those who would want to streamline operations and eventually speed up growth, the decision to hire a digital marketing agency becomes a viable alternative.

The Most Important Consideration When Hiring an Agency

Are they selling what they do best?

Sounds like a good thing, right? It's not!

Your business has unique challenges. But, if you ask an advertising agency how to solve those challenges, they will tell you the solution is more ads. 

If you ask a content marketing agency what the answer is, they will tell you more content.

Ask a social media company, they will tell you the answer is more social media activity.

Agencies sell what they do, and then they do what they sell.

Want cookie-cutter marketing? Go to a cookie-cutter agency.

A lot of agencies talk about the strategy for your brand. But, 99% of the time, the "strategy" is just a copy/pasted menu they used on the last client that paid.

That menu consists of what they do, which is what they sell, which is what they do. It's a never-ending cycle of poor performance.

If you're considering hiring an agency, you need to hire an agency that is going to apply the right strategy to the right objective to bring you compounding growth.

If you want to know what that looks like, watch these videos on Growth Marketing.

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What to Ask a Prospective Digital Marketing Agency

Working with a reliable digital marketing agency, either by using their skills on a specific marketing deliverable or by outsourcing the entire solution to them, can shorten the time it takes to accomplish growth.

In contrast to relying on your in-house team or hiring freelancers, a digital marketing agency offers the advantage of quickly seeing results with minimal effort on your end.

Since digital marketing agencies come in all sizes and shapes, choosing the right agency to work with is another Herculean task altogether.

To assist your digital marketing agency selection efforts, here are 7 essential questions to ask to help evaluate if an agency of your liking is the perfect match.

1. Would you please describe your agency’s process in helping me meet my marketing goals?

Instead of asking about how they are going to help you accomplish your goals, be more exploratory in your question by asking about the process.

Sure, it’s easier for an agency to answer back that they are going to help you come up with a sound marketing strategy if you ask how. On the other hand, asking about the process itself will yield more insights on the details of the strategy.

If an agency cannot articulate its process in detail including the tools required and the frequency of interaction with your team, consider that a red flag.

2. What was your track record like for businesses like mine?

Most digital marketing agencies will be quick to point out that they know everything -- from PPC to SEO to a website redesign -- and can help address all of your marketing needs. Keep in mind, however, that not all agencies can walk the talk.

Before moving forward with an agency that says that they can help you with everything, evaluate them further by asking about their team’s expert skills. For instance, if content marketing is your brand’s Waterloo, ask the agency about previous clients whom they’ve helped grow through content.

If you’re still unsure about the specific services you’re looking for, go for an agency that has dealt with businesses within your niche. By opting for an agency with industry-specific experience as your brand, setting goals and executing campaigns is easier because are already adept in understanding what makes your target audiences tick.

3. What digital marketing strategies did you implement for your own brand?

Before you sign that retainer, take a step back from your business marketing goals and ask a prospective agency about theirs.

  • How did they decide to take on a specific strategy?
  • Do they keep up with the trends?
  • What have been the results of their own marketing efforts?
  • What key lessons have they learned from using their tactics to their business?

A digital marketing agency that practices what they preach is a good sign that they’re a keeper. They should be able to demonstrate that they are their marketing practices' best case study.

4. To what extent do you plan to work with my team?

The marketing agency you hire should be able to communicate what needs to be done. But that isn’t enough. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, right?

For your campaigns to truly deliver, the agency of your choice should be able and eager to train your in-house team on meeting goals and mapping KPIs. This could include training your team to use automation platforms or interpreting data from the analytics software that they recommend.

Furthermore, an agency that is truly involved in helping you grow your business understands that your team’s subject matter expertise is a critical piece of the puzzle. How will they communicate with your subject matter experts? How often?

Lastly, ask them about team member/s with whom you need to interact with often. What is the availability of this employee?

5. How much will it cost?

Ask about the budget required to implement the campaigns that they want you to invest in. Keep in mind that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Also, inquire on the estimated return of investment and the contract, if there is one.

What are the deliverables you should expect? How long is the contract? What happens if you don’t want to finish the contract?

6. How will you measure the success of the marketing campaigns you’re recommending?

Marketing is more than just an art. It’s also a science.

There’s more to creating the best call-to-action on your landing page or picking the right font size for your homepage. The marketing agency you work with should be able to support their recommendations with data.

When talking with a prospective agency, ask questions on benchmarks, metrics, and analytics. Additionally, they should communicate these jargon-heavy words to you in easy-to-understand chunks.

Aside from asking on what should be measured, inquire on how often the report on progress should be made towards these metrics. Also, what adjustments can be made if data indicates that the campaign is not working?

7. When will I see results?

Be wary of digital marketing agencies who promise that you can expect substantial ROI in a short span of time.

Marketing efforts founded on the inbound methodology take time to yield positive results. However, once you’ve built a mean inbound machine, you’re in it for the long haul. Think of it as a long-term investment with compounding interest.

At Lean Labs, here’s the timeline that we share with our clients who ask about the amount of time it takes to see results when using inbound marketing:

  • 6-8 months: You should see positive movement compounding each month.
  • 12 months-24 months: You should see substantial growth of traffic, as well as Marketing-Qualified Lead to Sales-Qualified Lead to Customer acquisition.

Ask Away!

When evaluating a digital marketing agency, you'll need to ask the questions that matter most to your brand's success. We could list down 8, 18, or 80 questions that you should ask but in the end, this list is just a guide. What you should really be asking is "what you think is essential".

When consulting with a marketing agency, there is no such thing as a dumb question. After all, it's your brand's success that is at stake.

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