What to Look For in a Marketing Agency
A great marketing agency can maximize the potential of your company, product or service – they help reach your target audience, drive sales and increase profitability. They do this through their expertise, experience, and varied skill sets, along with their ability to help you execute marketing activity faster. It’s important to know what to look for in a marketing agency – especially if you haven’t hired one before – and in this article we’ll explore in detail everything you should consider.
Why Hire a Marketing Agency?
First, let’s take a step back and consider why you might want to partner with an agency. Keeping this in mind will help as you consider what you’re looking for, and it will inform the types of questions you’ll need to ask. There are various reasons why brands hire marketing agencies, and it’s important to discuss internally what gaps you need to cover and why you specifically need an agency.
Reasons brands want to hire a marketing agency can include:
- You aren’t getting the results you want from in-house marketing, whether that’s in terms of financial results, lead generation, or conversions. This undoubtedly isn’t anyone’s fault; there’s often a lot of pressure on in-house marketers to cover a lot of ground, or you may not even have a marketing team
- You lack expertise. Unless you’re a large organization, it’s often not possible to hire all the expertise you need internally. A marketing agency provides a wide range of marketing expertise while being more cost-effective
- You don’t have enough capacity. There is often too much work to do and not enough time to do it, or you may not have the appropriate resources
- Your current agency is under-performing. It may be that you already work with a marketing agency but they aren’t achieving the results you require, or perhaps your needs have changed
Whatever your reasons for hiring a marketing agency, whether it’s because of a lack of results, resources, skill, knowledge, or expertise, finding the right agency will help improve performance and achieve your goals. Hiring the right agency will deliver successful outcomes – and that’s why you need to know what to look for in a marketing agency.
Deciding What You Need From a Marketing Agency
So you know your reasons for hiring a marketing agency…now you need to figure out what you want them to do for you, and the most important goals they shouldachieve. This will help you decide what type of agency you want to work with – and there’s a lot of choice out there, from digital agencies and content specialists to PR agencies, SEO consultants, full service agencies and beyond.
Things to consider:
- Your channel needs: is your marketing purely online, do you need design support, a marketing strategist, public relations expertise, videography, media buying, or website development? Knowing your specific needs will narrow down the agencies to choose from.
- Where you lack expertise: look at the gaps in your internal skill sets to identify areas for support and development.
- Your objectives: what goals do you want to set for your marketing agency? This could be in terms of quality leads, improved conversion rates, increased enquiries, etc. – whatever success would look like for your business.
- How you want to work on a day-to-day basis: in an ideal world, what does the working relationship between you and the marketing agency look like?
What Makes a Good Marketing Agency?
The list of characteristics of a good marketing agency is long, and rightly so. If you find a marketing agency which meets all of these considerations, it’s probably worth taking the conversation further.
The Agency Is Results Driven
If an agency isn’t driven by results, the conversation is really over before it’s begun. After all, you are hiring them and investing money, time, and resources to meet a certain objective. How will you know what is working if they don’t have the mindset, processes, and tools to track and analyze results? Ask for case studies that provide evidence of how the agency analyzes their clients’ marketing activity. Proven results will demonstrate an agency’s expertise.
A good marketing agency will provide regular, detailed reports, analysis, data, and recommendations. They’ll identify what’s working and where improvements should be made to drive better outcomes, and they’ll make proactive suggestions and provide insights. They’ll also have access to data which can support competitor and industry research, showing you the wider picture as well as your own results.
They Want To Understand Your Brand
Don’t partner with an agency unless they truly want to understand your brand, they ask questions, are curious, and can articulate your company’s vision. They need to be as much a part of your brand as you are, able to understand and identify strategic opportunities, have your short and long-term goals as a central focus, and know your needs. That way, the relationship becomes a true partnership and they can advise solid strategy. If an agency can nail this, it can feed into everything else they offer.
They Have Knowledge and Expertise On Tap
A good marketing agency will be able to provide the knowledge and expertise you need to take your business to the next level. If you’re looking for an agency who can improve your organic search rankings, find an agency which has SEO experts. If you need a new website, you’ll need an agency with in-house web designers and developers. Take this a step further and look for examples of how they’ve helped previous clients achieve results.
Experienced Marketers Are Your Point of Contact
When you first contact an agency, you’ll probably meet someone from their sales team. It’s also important that the people who’ll be on your team and working with you on a daily basis have the experience to support you and take your business further.
These account managers are the face of their agency, and your relationship and growth will be much more fruitful when they are experienced in branding, strategy, creative, and can deliver on your objectives. As the link between you and the agency, they should also be skilled at relationship building, have attention to detail and quality, good communication skills and be able to set expectations. Added to that, if they are passionate experts in their field, the value they provide can be exponential.
They Have Processes and Tools To Keep Your Work On Track
You want an agency who will consistently deliver on time and on budget. It’s normal for agencies to be managing multiple projects for multiple clients and allocating resources across client work as new requests and approvals come in. Strong project management processes and tools are an indicator that the agency has a process for managing workflow and delivering on time and budget, while making it easier to work with them. How will the agency deliver work to you? Will it be via email where you need to search through months of emails to find a file or a communication thread about a project, or do they have a client portal where all communication is centrally housed? These are important things to know before you hire an agency, and they should tell you this upfront.
They Have a Strong Company Culture
The success of a marketing agency is very dependent on its staff, and on how they work with your team. If an agency has cultural values that align with your own, your staff and theirs are much more likely to work well together. The importance of this cannot be overestimated – this is where the bulk of the work and results will stem from, and these two teams must work as one. If your cultural traits complement each other, your teams are more likely to support and boost each other. Another good sign is a marketing agency that invests in training its staff and is dedicated to learning. This shows that they are committed to growing their employees and keeping up to date in the constantly changing world of marketing.
They Are Good Communicators
Marketing is based on good communication – both external and internal. Having good, open, transparent communication with your agency means a stronger relationship, better teamwork, and a more constructive working environment. An agency needs to be able to clearly communicate expectations, timings, deadlines, needs, requirements – and you as the client should feel comfortable asking questions and challenging your agency. It’s always better to start a relationship face-to-face, or by video. If that’s already happened and a relationship is established, communication through digital channels becomes a lot easier.
They Understand The Digital Landscape
Even if it’s not your first marketing priority, digital is such an integral part of our lives that almost every marketing channel has a connection to the digital landscape. A good marketing agency will be on top of the latest trends and be able to discuss them with you and advise your team. They should also be on the lookout for and responsive to changes in technology.
They Are Creative
If an agency ticks the expertise, experience and tools boxes but doesn’t have an ounce of creativity, they will only be able to take your business a short way. Creativity helps an agency stand out from the crowd, and in turn that will help set you apart from your competitors. Conversely, creativity can’t be the only card an agency has to play – it has to be backed up by the more robust practicalities we’ve already seen are characteristics of a good marketing agency.
They’ll Ask Lots Of Questions
You probably have a lot of questions to ask an agency – and if they’re good, they’ll ask you lots of questions right back. They’ll want to ensure that you’re the type of client they’re looking for and that you’d be a good fit for them as well. After all, it should be a partnership. The agency should also ask questions that allow them to feel confident they can solve the problems you have and that their expertise will meet your needs. They’ll probably also want to understand what marketing activity you’re currently undertaking, what gaps you need to fill, and what you consider success.
They Are Agile, Versatile and Able To Scale
A good marketing agency will be responsive and quick off the mark. They will be able to accommodate changes in your business or industry rather than sticking to rigid tactics, and they can meet your changing needs as you grow. In essence, they will have the flexibility that you would expect from an in-house marketing team to see what works, what doesn’t, and pivot accordingly. You may also need to scale down, and a strong partner agency will do that for you, too.
They Are Transparent About Costs
No one wants hidden costs or quotes that balloon as a project progresses. A good marketing agency will be open and honest about what it will cost to meet your goals. They will work with you to clarify the scope of the work so that both you and they are informed and understand what will be delivered for the value. That doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap – but a good agency will offer good value for the money. After all, it’s the return on investment that matters.
The Agency Will Market Themselves Well
A good marketing agency should have an informative, easy to navigate website. They may have a strong online presence such as a blog, be active on social media, take part in events and offer speaking engagements. After all, if an agency’s job is to market another brand, they need to be able to market themselves and demonstrate their expertise first. This could mean that they have an active blog, they participate in conferences and events by taking on speaking engagements, or they contribute to media publications. It’s always positive to see an agency that is open and willing to provide advice and expertise.
They Have Strong Client Retention
If possible, find out how long on average an agency retains their ongoing clients for – meaning clients who work with the agency on an ongoing basis, rather than just for a one-off project. This is a measure of how good they are both in terms of the work the do and the results they achieve, but also their relationship-building skills.
They’re Happy to Say No
If an agency blindly carries out your every wish, it puts their expertise into question. A good agency will question, challenge, make different suggestions, help you strategize, provide solid advice, new ideas, and data insights. They will also sometimes say no, that they don’t believe your idea is a good one, and it might in fact be detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. This is a good thing. It shows they are truly your partner and are committed to doing the best for your business.
Check out our choosing a marketing agency resource for more content on all aspects of hiring a marketing agency (including a downloadable guide), or call us if you’d like to chat through how LimeLight Marketing can support your brand.