5 Questions to Ask Before Partnering with a Marketing Agency

Choosing the right digital marketing agency is a lot like online dating.

You have tons of options vying for your business, and they all look pretty much the same when you scroll through their portfolios: Responsive pages, professional media, clean designs, trendy website features. So, how do you choose the right partner for your business?

Much like you wouldn’t marry someone based on their dating profile, don’t commit to a digital marketing agency based on their online presence or reviews. You want to make the decision that provides the best return on investment for your budget. You want a communicative, professional, efficient agency. So, make sure you play the field a little.

Think of agency shopping as a series of first dates. You’re looking for the partner to settle down with, the one that will help you reach your goals. You don’t have time for wishy washy behavior or lack of commitment. After all, choosing the wrong digital marketing agency can quickly become a costly mistake — especially if you have to break a contract and find a new agency.

To help vet your candidates, we've put together a quick question list that you should always plan to ask the digital marketing agency you're considering working with. Let's jump in!

1. What kind of industry experience do they have?

If you’re a B2B business, but the potential agency only has experience in the B2C world, you might proceed with caution. They don’t need to have experience in your exact market segment, but make sure you ask about their previous clients.

Take it beyond flipping through their online portfolio; ask about their clients’ unique industry challenges. If you’re a growing business without an established online presence and they’ve never worked with startups before, you might seek a different agency with more experience in organizations like yours.

2. How will they work to understand your brand?

No matter their experience or the breadth of their portfolio, this question is key. Ask what kind of audience analysis and social listening they do. (And if they don't mention either of these tactics, it's a red flag.) Will they interview your past clients? How do they work to understand your customers' unique pain points? If they don't take the time to truly understand your audience and how they interact with your product or service, they'll never be able to successfully market your business.

Their answers either solidify their existing knowledge of your particular business model, or compensate for their greenness to your industry. Either way, if this question makes them look at you like a deer in the headlights, then it’s probably best to move on to the next agency on your list.

3. How will you ensure my social strategy matches my brand?

First of all, if the digital marketing agency in question simply suggests that your business should be on all social platforms, break it off with them immediately.

It's far too much time and effort to jump on all platforms at once and come up with a schedule that follows best practices. Instead, your efforts are best focused on one or two platforms that maximize your visibility. Then you can steadily ramp up to add more. (Re: the audience analysis and social listening from question number two.)

Your digital marketing agency should be researching the social media outlets that have the most traction with your target audience. Next, how are they writing your social media posts? Are they tailoring them to your brand voice? Ask them how they’ll determine the best conversations and topics to weigh in on. There should be plenty of thought put into these responses. They should be asking you clarifying questions and getting to know your customers better. If they give you a cookie cutter answer, then you'll get cookie cutter posts.

4. How easy will my website be to edit?

Eventually, you and your marketing agency will go separate ways and you’ll be left to spread your digital marketing wings! Reputable agencies don't want you to rely on them (of course, they'll still be a phone call or an email away). But ultimately, they should have set up your technology stack and content calendar to be repeatable. So, it's worth asking: How intuitive is the website they plan to build? Is it completely custom code, or is it module based and easy for a non-coder to manipulate?

Let’s say you have to update your store hours or some of the pictures on your website in a few months. Is the process so complicated that you’d be held up and need to contact your agency for those minor updates? Or will you be able to make these changes on your own? What kind of support or tutorials are made available? The answers to these questions will have a huge impact on your budget.

5. What's included in my contract?

And finally, what are you agreeing to? Contracts are not standard, so you must be aware of the expectations. Be wary of blanket costs. The pricing breakdown should be very apparent to you. And be sure that you ask for differentiation.

If the agency agrees to set up a blog for you, do they expect you to write all of the content for them? Or is that included in the tech setup? Don't be afraid to ask all of the questions up front so that you aren't blindsided in the long run. Keep yourselves in check and make sure that priorities and expectations are aligned before you begin a contractual agreement.

And now here's our shameless plug: If you want to explore the possibility of working with us here at Moxie, we'd be more than happy to answer these five questions (and any others you may have)!

Give us a shout, we'd love to talk about your business and your goals for the future.