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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Oct 17, 2019 12 min read

The One Question You Have To Ask Your Digital Agency Before You Hire Them

Agency Selection Questions

Digital Growth Agencies Have An Obligation To Get Clients Results Quickly

Agency Selection QuestionsYou’ve decided you need an agency. Congratulations! You’ve made the right choice. No matter what your internal team looks like and no matter what their experience, an agency offers expertise and skills that your internal team can never deliver.

Agencies simply have more experience executing plans that perform than any internal team. Think about it for a second. How many companies has your internal marketing team generated leads for? One, two, three or four at the most, right?

Over the course of a year, agency teams work with four to eight times that amount. They simply have more experience and give you a better chance to succeed if you pick the right agency.

That brings me to today’s article. How do you choose the right agency? How do you effectively evaluate agencies? How many should you be looking at? What questions should your evaluation process include?

I think there is one simple question that will decide who you should work with. Ready?


Make sure you get the right answer. So, let me be crystal clear on what you’re looking for: How many clients will my team (the exact team you plan to assign to my account) be working with at the same time?

Here is a follow-up question: Will that number change? In other words, will you be giving them more clients to handle while we’re engaged with your agency?

Here’s What The Answer Should Be...

The answer you want to hear is one.

Ultimately, you want your agency account team to be 100% dedicated to your company. When big companies bring in consulting firms, they don’t share those teams with five other clients, and you shouldn’t have to share your team either.

In fact, you can use this question to evaluate agencies. The higher the number, the smaller your chances of being successful. We’ll drill into all of the reasons why, but you want this number to be as low as possible.

Here’s Why This Is The Most Important Question

Agencies make more money when they squeeze more clients into their existing cost structure. The more clients an agency team handles, the more profitable the agency. This is the opposite of what you want.

Just break it down. Do you want to be working with a team that is also working with nine other clients, or do you want a team that is working with just your company?

The answer is clear.

Here’s something else to be aware of when you’re selecting an agency: The lower your retainer, the more clients your team is going to be working with.

You think you’re getting a better deal compared to working with a more expensive agency, but you’re actually getting yourself into a worse situation.

How do I know all this? Well, I coach other agencies, so I know exactly what they’re doing, how they’re organized and what your investment gets you.

Let’s compare. Imagine you’re looking at three finalists. One is offering a retainer for $5,000 per month, one is recommending $7,500 per month and one came in at $9,000 per month. The recommendations all look similar, which isn’t surprising, because they’re all pretty good at assessing your situation and coming up with recommendations.

Each of the agency teams can handle about $40,000 to $50,000 in monthly retainer revenue. This means the $5,000 retainer agency is going to put you into a team that is working with eight to 10 other clients, the $7,500 agency is going to put you into a team with six to eight other clients and the $9,000 agency is going to put you into a team with five to seven other clients.

On the surface, this might not seem like an issue, but let’s look at agency life to see why this conflicts with your business goals.

The Big Differences Between One And Many

The best way to help you understand the differences between agencies that put a team on just your account and those that squeeze you into their multi-client teams is to illustrate what a day in the life of an agency account team looks like.

When your account team is working with six, seven, eight or even more accounts, the day looks like this.

It’s impossible for client teams to work on all of their assigned accounts every day. So typically what happens is every day a to-do list is created with the most pressing work pushed up to the top.

Client teams are hopping from client meeting to client meeting. They’re handling emails and phone calls from their clients, and they’re working with the delivery teams to get the most pressing work done and out the door during that day.

Ask any efficiency expert and they’ll tell you this is highly inefficient and you’re paying for this inefficiency. Teams are moving from industry to industry, from client to client and from project to project every single day without the ability to focus or really dig in.

This is one of the major contributing factors as to why companies describe their agency experience as “random acts of marketing.” It’s very hard to keep up, it’s very hard to generate results quickly, it’s very hard to develop deep expertise in your industry or with your company and it’s very hard to produce results quickly.

Now let’s look at what the experience looks like when you have one client team working with just one company.

First, they’re working on just your business every day. They’re talking to you every day. They’re producing work every day. You’re reviewing work and providing feedback every day. It’s like you instantly hired a complete team of marketing and sales experts for your company.

In just a few days, the team members get to know your industry intimately, they get to know your company intimately and they get to know you because you’re working with your company all day. It’s an unmatched client experience.

But it gets better.

There is no jumping from client to client here. There are no distractions. That means your team gets much more done in much less time than in the shared team model.

We’ve found that a dedicated team can produce six months of work in just 30 days. That’s a 6X efficiency gain that solves one of your biggest challenges getting results fast.

Clients want results, and they want results quickly. Agencies are good at producing results if you’re willing to wait and be patient. But now you can get results and get them quickly.

Here’s Why There Is Only One Answer You’re Looking For

You want results and you want them fast. No one really wants to wait six months or more to see a payoff on their investment in marketing. The only way to generate results quickly is to look for an agency that is going to put you on a team that is only working with you.

So, the best answer to this very important question is one.

But if you can’t find that, then you should be looking for the lowest number possible. The highest number you should settle on is four. Any more than four clients at a time is going to cause your program to slow down unnecessarily.

Would A Dedicated Team Be More Expensive?

If you’re astute, you might be thinking this: Isn’t a dedicated team going to be more expensive? On the surface, it might seem like it. But when you dig in, you see that’s not the case at all.

If you hire an agency and they give you a shared team, you’re looking at (as an example) $7,500 per month, or $90,000 for a full year. And you’ll be waiting for results. Most agencies will tell you to expect to wait three or four months to start to see results.

But in our experience, the wait to see results can be more like six or seven months. The less you pay, the longer you should expect to wait for results. 

Now look at the dedicated team model that might need an investment of $75,000. You’ll be spending 16% less money and getting six months of work delivered in just 30 days. This means you’ll have months of an active and complete program to produces results, which will boost your ROI significantly.

But it gets even better. It might be possible for you to get a dedicated team for 30 days, get six months of work in just 30 days, get the benefit of all that efficiency and still pay for it over six months. Today, progressive agencies are allowing clients to finance their programs, getting full value early and paying it off over time.

Armed with this knowledge, what type of account team do you want for your company? How many clients do you want your account team working with? Do you want an agency that is creating unique and innovative engagements? Do you want a progressive agency that is helping you creatively pay for your engagement while delivering full value up front? Do you want an agency that you will love working with?

Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.