More and more companies are using HubSpot. More and more companies are leveraging marketing to drive revenue. More and more companies realize that transforming their digital footprint is critical to growing their business.
But just as many companies are starting to realize they don’t have the internal expertise, bandwidth or knowledge to create the strategy, orchestrate the tactics, design the analytics and optimize the technologies.
So, these companies have started looking for agency partners to assist them in supporting their digital transformation and revenue growth initiatives in 2022.
While finding an agency partner to help should be easy, it's not. There are thousands of HubSpot Solution Partners and while they might look similar on paper (or on the web), there are dramatic differences.
These differences can make or break your business. We hear, all too often, about an agency experience that was less than positive. We talk to many companies who chose a less expensive agency, only to have to start over months later.
A mistake in selecting an agency can set you back six months or more. To help avoid hiring the wrong agency partner, we created a set of questions that you should use when you’re engaged in a search for your next HubSpot partner agency.
Use these questions to uncover details about how the agency operates, who will be working on your account and how long they expect it to take to generate results.
Once you start asking the right questions, it should be obvious who the right partner is for you.
This is the first question to ask. It’s going to quickly identify how confident your prospective agency is with its ability to deliver results. Why hire an agency if they’re not capable of getting you results in short order?
Most agencies are going to waffle on the answer. They’ll respond with, “it depends”. Or they might say, “typically clients see results around the six-month mark”. That’s not what you asked.
You asked how long is it going to take for YOU to see quantitative results, right?
Agencies should be able to, with 100% confidence, tell you when you should expect to see results.
How do you feel when someone says you’ll have to wait six months to see results? And, by the way, they’re not really sure if that’s a true statement or not. I know I’m looking for a much more definitive answer.
When you’re looking for an agency partner, look for a shop that can deliver results in the second month. Look for an agency that has done exactly this over and over again for other clients. Look for a partner who has the systems, processes and methodology to deliver quickly and make a significant impact on your business.
Five or six years ago, waiting six months for work to be done so the results could start kicking in was common. But today, there are agencies with better delivery, smarter people and more efficient methodologies that make waiting half a year for results obsolete.
If you’re having trouble finding an agency with a turbo-charged delivery model, click here.
This is another excellent question that should be at the top of your list. Most agencies put their best people on sales. Those salespeople get you excited but then pass you along to a junior client services team.
Now you’re working with someone you haven’t met and don’t know.
Ask to meet the people who will be working with your company. This gives you a chance to make that personal connection and get to know your specific team.
You should also ask about the leadership of the agency. Do you have a chance to speak with them? Are they engaged in sales and client services? If you run into trouble, do you know who to contact? Will those people be able to take action quickly?
You should have a relationship with senior people at the agency. You should be comfortable with the team assigned to your company and you should be sure that the people working on your account have the skills, expertise and company background to quickly make a difference.
Most agencies use a fractional delivery model. This means almost everyone is working on multiple clients. At some agencies, people have eight, nine, 10, or in some cases 12 clients at one time.
Agencies that use fractional teams have people hopping around from client to client all day. These scenarios are often highly inefficient.
Generally, people are not great at multi-tasking, despite what they say. People should be able to focus on one client at a time, if possible.
Having 10 or more clients generally leads to your assigned account team spending just a few hours a week on your work. Finding time to actually think about your business is hard to come by when they're working so hard to keep all those balls from dropping.
Unfortunately, this is how agencies make money. By squeezing more clients into its existing delivery model, an agency improves its bottom line, but this makes it challenging to take great care of you and your company.
To give you even more insight into how agencies work, overloading the account team often causes them to make mistakes, neglect clients and usually produces poor service experiences for clients.
As the agency team gets overworked, they lose their passion, they start looking for new jobs and they get discouraged because they’re physically unable to perform at the levels they expect from themselves.
Turnover leads to challenges for the agency and for the clients the account team is servicing. It’s a tricky downward spiral that is hard to turn around.
One question that’s not listed here and one you should consider is, “What is the team member turnover rate inside the agency?” The answer to this question will give you an idea of how hard the agency is pushing the team and how stressed out everyone is currently.
Let’s stick with the team review. Usually, your program is only as good as the people working on your company’s program.
If you get junior people, you’ll get junior results, junior performance and junior insights. Asking for the detailed experience profiles of the people working on your account will reveal a lot about what you should expect.
Many agencies have senior people in leadership roles, but those people can’t spend any significant time with all the clients because of the number of clients.
Getting your company to grow is a complicated challenge and you’ll need people who have a deep and wide set of experiences. Typically, 10-plus years of experience is a minimum set of requirements.
This means your account team, copy team, design team, interactive team, strategy team, marketing team, sales execution team and technology team all need this level of experience.
Businesses change. They pivot frequently, especially smaller businesses that need to take advantage of market conditions. What worked last month might not work next month and your agency needs to be able to make those adjustments in real-time. This is like changing the tires on a car while it's moving at 60 miles per hour.
Your agency shouldn’t be doing the same thing, month over month. They should be aligning the work directly to what’s going on in your company.
There should be a methodology for delivering that alignment. When do you talk about company strategy? How do you align the work needed to the business goals? How does the agency do that month over month?
Typically, agencies settle in with a monthly retainer. This doesn’t work as well today as it did a few years ago.
Instead, ask for a flexible retainer. This retainer will allow you to plan monthly and execute on and then evaluate the results. As the business needs change, the support and work change to match.
Not every agency is designed to deliver in this agile manner. Not every agency has the rhythms to support this approach to delivery. Make sure the agency you choose can quickly adjust and adapt in an agile way.
A lot of agencies talk about strategy, but most agencies pay it lip service. We’ve had a number of prospective clients share with us that they felt as if their agencies were doing random acts of marketing.
This is common when the agency doesn’t have a methodology or framework to create the strategy necessary to drive results.
One of the elements of the strategy is an understanding of your prospect’s buyer journey. Agencies can’t create this on the fly. They should have a framework or model that they use to map your prospect’s buyer journey.
Ask them to articulate what framework they use. Did they create it? Did they license it from someone else? Do they have a framework? Ask them to walk you through it so you understand it and it makes sense to you.
As an example, Square 2 uses the Cyclonic Buyer Journey. This is a detailed, eight-stage buyer journey model that we use for all our clients. It’s more detailed than the HubSpot Flywheel and it informs many aspects of our client strategy.
It informs content strategy, website strategy, conversion strategy, nurture strategy and more. It helps us and you understand the questions prospects are asking and it helps us map out a more engaging sales process when clients ask for help with sales execution.
It ties all components together and provides an orchestrated effort that produces much better results.
Technology isn’t much of a differentiator for agencies these days. There are more than 4,000 HubSpot agencies. There are 10,000 Salesforce partners and there are thousands of other agencies all with some degree of technical expertise.
But there are agencies with their own proprietary software and technology that adds value and helps generate even better results.
It's not a common question, but it's one you should be asking. Agencies with their own software have thought through your challenges and can create solutions to help your program perform.
Agencies with their own software understand the gaps in the existing technology stacks and have created additional options for their clients.
Agencies with their own software are working to help their teams provide an even higher level of service and empower them to deliver even better results.
For example, Square 2 provides all our clients a subscription to MAXG, an AI-powered insights and recommendations engine that analyzes all your HubSpot data and produces a prioritized list of upgrades to improve performance.
Our team and our clients use this technology to produce even better results, streamline the identification of insights buried in data and create much more productive action plans for our clients.
This is the type of technology that can be a game-changer and an easy way to identify remarkable agencies.
Finally, you should want to know exactly how your agency partner is going to ensure you’re happy. Surveys, emails and touch base calls are fine, but how are they going to make sure you’re getting the level of service and results that exceed your expectations?
How have they created a system that ensures there is a constant stream of feedback from you to the agency team? How are the executives engaged in the feedback loop? Does the agency measure client happiness, report on it and share it with their entire team? Is client happiness part of their core values?
The best agencies have a solid system for client advocacy. This can be shared with prospective clients and everyone in the company understands the system and how they contribute to driving client advocacy.
At Square 2, our President is responsible for client advocacy. She checks in with every client on a schedule that the clients dictate. We score client happiness, we report on it to our entire team and perhaps most importantly, one of our core values is "Every Client Is A Raving Fan".
Advocacy is in our DNA and should be something that’s important to you when you’re looking for an agency partner.
Pricing isn’t everything. If you’re looking for the cheapest option, you’ll eventually be disappointed. You wouldn’t hire the cheapest attorney, doctor or architect — don’t make the same mistake with your agency partner.
Instead, evaluate them with these questions and pay close attention to their answers. This will ensure your company gets the expertise and attention it needs to grow.