The executive’s guide to hiring a digital marketing agency: How to hire the best agency for your business

How to hire the best agency for your business

The “best” agency is situational depending on many factors including:

  • Your needs;
  • Your team in place;
  • Your budget;
  • Your goals.

Contrary to what social media (or the Google search results) will tell you, there is no one “best” marketing agency that can get outsized results for every business.

Don’t be discouraged though, because there is a “best” agency for your specific business. This means that they do amazing work for businesses like yours that have budgets and goals similar to yours.

If you want me to tell you how to hire the best agency for your specific needs, here is how my friend Tom distilled it, and I fully agree:

Hire an agency that has substantial experience in your industry by overpaying them slightly and communicating with them constantly, holding them to account on the metrics you agree beforehand are most important to your business.

We’re going to unpack this in the rest of this guide.

How to identify a good agency

Identifying a good agency is a tough task if you’ve never worked at an agency or hired an agency before. Finding the right agency for your business’s unique needs and setup can be downright daunting if you don’t know where to start.

This is a large part of the reason Credo exists (we can help! See how we work).

You’re looking for an agency to solve problems you’re having. Whether that’s enough hands on deck to execute on your campaigns to expertise that you don’t have inhouse, you’re relying on them to get you out of a pickle.

Therefore it is imperative that you trust that the agency can solve your problems and not waste your time. Don’t hire someone just because they’re cheap. You get what you pay for, every time.

I have written about this more extensively here and here, but if you’re considering an agency you need to ask these questions of them:

  • “Do you have experience working with businesses like ours?” (specifically business model and type of customers)
  • “What does the beginning of an engagement look like?” (they should have a defined onboarding period)
  • “What are the milestones for projects like ours?” (before a proposal they shouldn’t have them, after the proposal they should)
  • “What are the marketing challenges that a business in our space typically runs into?” (tells you if they have experience)
  • “What experience do your specific team members who will be working on our project have?” (helps you understand how they operate their business and the expertise of the team members who will do the work)
  • “Can we start with a test project and scale up from there?” (they should explain to you the pluses and minuses, specifically that marketing takes time and a lower budget will elongate it)
  • “What access do you need to our data before pitching our project?” (good agencies/consultants will ask for this so they can pitch the right project)
  • “Will you refrain from working with our direct competitors?” (they should)
  • “What sort of guarantee do you offer?” (they shouldn’t offer one, because marketing is dynamic and changing)
  • “What are the metrics you recommend we use to define success?” (they should collaborate with you on these, but also suggest new ones in addition to those you track internally)
  • “What have I not asked you that I should know about your agency?” (always good to know what they value)

Once you get through those, you need to understand all of these points directly related to working with that agency:

  • “Who will be our point of contact at your agency?” (if not a solo consultant)
  • “What happens if we are not satisfied after a few months of working with your agency?” (they should have a good remediation process)
  • “How often will you invoice us?” (most invoice monthly, but if it’s a project then they may structure payment as half at the start and half at the end)
  • “If we want you to come onsite to visit us, how is that compensated?” (depends on the agency and their answer should gel with yours)
  • “How often do you raise your prices?” (always good to know how they handle this so you can set expectations)
  • “Can you give me some case studies of clients similar to us that you have worked with?” (good providers should have these)
  • “How long can we expect it to take before we start seeing results?” (this depends on the channel)

These are the questions we recommend that you ask and get answered, but you should also recognize that there is no “right” answer for most of them.

At Credo we try to take the question of “Can they do the work well?” off the table so that you can concentrate on finding the right fit for your company across expectations, timelines, team structure, and more. These questions help you not only qualify and vet them quantitatively, but also qualitatively.

That second part is important and often missed.

The biggest reason why a consulting/marketing services arrangement fails is not because the agency cannot do the work. It is because personalities and expectations clash.

If you can get those out of the way before an engagement even starts, you will start with a high degree of certainty that it will be successful!

This page last updated on October 3, 2022 by John Doherty

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