Deciding to contract with a third-party firm for marketing and PR services is a big decision. Not only do you need a partner with whom you can build a trusting, long-standing partnership, you need an agency who excels in three key areas – strategy, creativity and execution. This winning combination will allow your company or cause to stand out from the crowd and generate tangible marketing ROI. How do you choose the right marketing firm? Start by asking these key questions:
1. What do you know about my industry?
While the decision of whether to contract with a marketing agency that focuses exclusively on one industry or serves multiple industries is driven by the prospective client’s wants and needs, it’s important to know that you are contracting with a firm that has a proven track record in the area (industry or service) you are looking to secure their support. If you are looking to work with an agency where you will be the exclusive account they service in your industry, let that be known up front. Some agencies do not offer exclusives, while others may have a minimum investment tied to exclusivity.
2. How are you different from your competitors?
No two marketing agencies are alike. From how client teams are structured, to the types of accounts they handle, to their internal culture, there are a lot of differentiators to be considered. Having already done your homework to determine which firms you wanted to interview, you likely have a sense of what makes each agency unique, but it is still an important question to ask. If the agency tells you first-hand that X makes them unique and you haven’t found any mention of X in your research, probe a little bit deeper. You want to be sure you gather as much intelligence as possible to make an informed decision about which agency is best suited to serve as your marketing partner.
3. Who will be on my account team?
Knowing who you will be working with is an absolute must. We’re often asked how we choose the account teams for various clients and there are a number of factors which inform this decision. Representative considerations include skill set and industry experience. Depending on the size and structure of the agencies you are interviewing, the people with whom you interface during the sales process may not be the people who will be servicing your account. It is critical to get this question answered early on in the agency hiring process to ensure you can build a positive, long-standing relationship with your soon-to-be marketing team.
4. How much time will I need to invest in working with a marketing agency?
Regardless of whether you or a colleague will serve as the agency’s primary point of contact, it is important to know how much time you will need to invest. Typically, there is a heavier investment of time made by the client at the onset of the relationship as strategies are built and workflows are established.
5. How often will we hear from you?
While many agencies provide monthly reporting, you’ll want to know what the interim touchpoints will look like and when they will occur. If you want to hear from your marketing agency via a weekly phone call, have that conversation up front. If you want twice weekly email check-ins, make it known. You want to be sure you are choosing a marketing partner whose communication practices are well-aligned with your wants and needs.
6. How does the onboarding process work?
Onboarding processes vary widely not only by agency, but by client and scope of work. Onboarding at Co-Communications typically starts with a discovery meeting, and depending on the nature of the engagement, may then move into a research phase. For more details about onboarding with a PR/marketing agency, click here.
7. How will you measure results?
Success metrics should be uniquely tailored to an individual client’s goals and objectives. They should be aligned with the overall business strategy and take into consideration all tactics being employed (within marketing and beyond) to achieve those objectives. It is important to find a marketing agency that will work with you to set measurable objectives and who has the tools and resources available to effectively measure outcomes against these goals. That said, there will likely be data (website analytics, form submissions, lead generation data) that you, the client, may need to provide to your agency. The more integrated the metrics, the easier it will be to quantify success.
8. How long will it take to see results?
The time it takes for marketing to work is largely dictated by the tactics employed. For example, a marketing program that includes public relations, in particular media relations, and is aiming to garner national press coverage will not yield overnight results. A digital tactic such as email marketing or Facebook advertising, however, may generate results more quickly. It all depends on the messaging, the medium and the call-to-action.
9. What if it doesn’t work?
When searching for a marketing agency, you want to find a partner who is both strategic and nimble. What does that mean? You want a research-informed roadmap to guide your marketing program but you also want to be able to make tweaks and refinements to seize timely opportunities. You also want to be able reallocate resources to the strategies and tactics that are yielding the greatest ROI. With the appropriate success metrics in place, it will be relatively easy to identify what is working well, what needs improvement and how best to move forward.
10. How much will it cost?
The cost of hiring a marketing agency is driven by the scope of work. Agencies will outline the scope of work/contract deliverables in their proposals and the suite of services they list should be customized based on your objectives. If you have aggressive goals and a limited budget, you may need to prioritize your marketing budget. Tip: You’ll want to start with the foundational elements, such as your brand and a strategic marketing plan, and build from there.