When it comes to selecting a digital marketing agency to help you with your inbound marketing, demand generation or account-based marketing campaigns, you have thousands to choose from.
Even more challenging is many of these firms look and sound similar. This makes the selection process tougher and more complex for most companies.
Most people come to the selection process with key questions to help them vet the agencies. We’re sharing questions that most agencies hope you never ask them.
These are the hard questions that will help you uncover the professionals you want to work with.
Creating demand, generating leads, producing sales opportunities and building a revenue generation system is very complicated. Part of the value of working with an agency is knowledge transfer, so how agencies are set up to get you educated is a critical part of the selection process.
They should have a system that they’re teaching you. They should have a passion and mission for teaching people, and they should have Core Values that keep the entire agency team focused on helping you and your company learn how to be better at growth.
At the tactical execution level, your agency team should be set up to help you understand not only what they’re doing but why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. This is going to be a wonderful way for your team to get up to speed on some of the tools and techniques they use to help you grow.
No client at any agency stays forever. Clients leave for all kinds of reasons, and it’s important to uncover some of those reasons when you’re looking for the best agency for your digital marketing needs.
Here are some of the answers that you should be looking for.
Clients leave because they take their program in-house. This is important to Square 2 because our passion and our mission is to teach our clients how to generate revenue. It’s our greatest thrill to have clients take their programs in-house.
Clients leave because it’s not a good fit between the two firms. As hard as we try to be selective in who we work with, sometimes we’re just not aligned with our clients. A few of these issues include alignment around the time we need our clients to invest with us. Another is the level of investment and the expected results. These two go hand in hand.
Finally, generating revenue and building out a lead generation machine is something you do every day, every month and every year. Some clients feel like marketing is something you do for a few months and then take a break. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Getting value from working with an agency is all about process. Organized agencies with a lot of processes usually are better at getting your work done on time, exceeding your expectations and organizing all the activities required to get your program to produce results.
You should be looking for weekly processes around communication, collaboration and getting work out to your team for review and approval. Ask about monthly processes around planning the work, organizing the tactics, optimizing your campaigns and reporting on results.
You should also be looking for quarterly processes that ensure your company’s strategy is aligning the tactical and campaign execution. If it’s not, you’ll have an issue.
I’d also ask about processes associated with hiring so that the agency can staff your engagement appropriately.
Your agency should have processes that ensure the people you’re working with are always improving their professional skill sets. Agencies committed to the professional development of their team are going to be committed to sharing that information with you and your team.
This is one of the best questions you can ask. It’s also one of the hardest for any agency to answer. It’s challenging because every client is a little different. Clients also have a major role in exceeding their expectations.
However, when you have alignment from the client, participation from the client and the right client agencies, an agency should be able to meet or exceed their expectations most of the time.
I think the answer here is about frequency of hitting goals and the way they respond to situations where they’re not meeting or exceeding client expectations. This will tell you a lot about the core values of the agency and the associated values of their people.
Systems produce results. If the agency treats every client engagement like a snowflake, meaning everyone gets something different, that would concern me.
The best agencies have systematized how they work with clients. They use specific tools, frameworks, workshops, exercises and processes to create a system that they use for all their clients.
Systems ensure a repeatable process for producing results. You want an agency that has a system, uses a system and is willing to teach you the system so you can learn how to create your own repeatable, predictable and scalable revenue generation effort.
Make sure the agencies you’re talking to can produce detailed documentation around their systems and processes. Any efficiency expert will tell you, processes that are not documented aren’t processes at all.
One of the ways agencies try to make money is to put junior or less expensive people on your account team. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but you should be aware of the tenure and experience of the people you will be working with directly.
So much of marketing today is knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it. This comes from experience. Working with different types of clients, seeing different situations and knowing what action plans cause program performance to improve is all about experience.
While junior team members might not necessarily be bad or cause for concern, having more senior team members working with your company is probably going to produce better results.
Any agency should be able to show you bios and profiles for the people you’ll be interacting with the most. These bios should include their overall level of experience and their tenure with the agency.
Nothing is more disruptive than to have some or all of your account team leave the agency, so agencies that have longer tenured team members are doing something right, and that almost always produces a better more productive experience for you as the client.
This is a recent add to this list of questions. Today, it’s impossible to avoid artificial intelligence (AI), and marketing agencies are at the center of this quickly evolving maelstrom of information.
What you’re looking for in this answer is that they’re being proactive with AI. They should be doing some testing to see exactly how AI can help their clients get better results.
They should also be considering how to use AI to reduce costs and make client engagements more efficient.
The most progressive agencies are offering AI-powered services. Others are using AI to help them iterate around campaign execution. Some of the areas AI is impacting agencies and the areas you should be talking to them about include content creation, search engine optimization, campaign copy creation and conversion rate optimization.
One of the best answers would be that the agency has spun up labs to use the wide variety of AI-powered marketing-related tools to see how and what they’re actually capable of doing. Not all the AI tools you see publicly are ready for prime time, and some companies like Google are actually putting in algorithm changes to counter AI-created content.
Agencies running tests and experiments are going to be best suited to share that information with you and help you leverage the right tools in the right way to get you better results.
Today, marketing is more of a science than an art, and with that comes metrics that everyone is agreed on and aligned around. Typically, these metrics make their way into scorecards that are used to measure results weekly, monthly and quarterly.
Looking at other client scorecards is going to be helpful. While agencies shouldn’t be sharing client data with anyone outside the agency, they can provide sample data inside a sample scorecard, which should give you an idea of how the agency thinks, what they’re comfortable measuring and how effective they are at hitting their numbers.
Also, every client’s scorecard is going to be different – even those clients in the same industry or running similar programs. It’s like personal financial data. Depending on your situation, results will vary, and depending on your goals, client scorecards are going to be different.
What’s important about this scorecard-related question is to see how comfortable the agency is with metrics, to understand what types of metrics their scorecards include and to see the context behind the scorecards. These conversations show how committed to metrics the agency is when working with clients.
Selecting an agency to help create demand, generate leads, drive sales opportunities and teach you how to build a revenue generation system isn’t easy.
These questions are going to help you sift through the pretenders and find the contenders. They’re going to ensure you pick the right agency based on how they work as opposed to what they charge. If you’re serious about using an agency, start with these questions to make smart choices.