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How to Interview a Marketing Agency

For many small to medium sized businesses, bringing on a marketing agency to aid in brand awareness and growth often represents a step into “the big leagues”. Taking this leap can feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to. With some thoughtful planning and goal development, finding the right fit is easier than one might think—and the outcomes of such a partnership can deliver exponentially. Finding the right fit just takes a little preparation.

Develop Your Marketing Goals Ahead of Time

Decide specifically upon time-based, measurable goals that you’d like to see as a result from your collaboration with an agency. It’s difficult for both parties to understand one another if the goal of the partnership is simply, and vaguely, to “grow the brand’s reach”, or ‘doing social’ because your competition is. Instead, arrive at your chemistry meeting (another invaluable step in the hiring process, but we’ll get there in a minute) with a specific outcome in mind. For example, you’d like to “form 5 new brand partnerships to establish the company as a leader in the field,” or, you’d like to “increase business lead generation by 30% before the end of the fiscal year.” These are measurable goals which allow the agency to create critical and strategic data-based campaign plans and they also make for easier reporting. Developing these goals will also encourage buy-in from your management team, enabling the agency’s proposal to be built to succeed where it matters most to your company.

Make Sure There’s Chemistry When Choosing A Marketing Partner

Like all business partners, you should feel comfortable having a professional relationship with your marketing agency. This looks different for every company, but the long list of agency choices can usually be drastically shortened by dedicating some time to online research. Read up on the leading agencies serving your industry to get a sense of their expertise and then reach out to set up a chemistry meeting when you see work that impresses you.

The chemistry meeting is vital. You will not only be able to confirm that the agency’s communication style is favourable for you, but also be able to align project expectations from which the agency can determine whether they can commit to your project measurables. Make sure that your team meshes well with the agency team that has been assigned to you. There is no substitute for good chemistry.

The realities of your marketing budget should also be disclosed at this meeting. It’s not a bad thing to have limited funds, but a potential agency should have this information before the proposal stage. With this information, agencies will be able to tailor their campaign plans to your budget, maximizing benefit to both parties.

Ask About an Agency’s Industry Specialties

Despite how an agency might seem in your preliminary research, or even through your chemistry meeting, it’s important to inquire specifically about methodologies and industries that a given agency might specialize in. In B2B logistics, for example, you’d do well to avoid companies that specialize in social media marketing; rather you might look for an agency that excels in research and trend reporting to establish your business as a trusted leader in the field. In the same spirit, inquire about an agency’s experience with your industry. Those versed in B2C marketing will have a very different skill set than those who exclusively work in B2B realms. It’s okay if an agency has limited experience in your industry as long as they demonstrate a keen and efficient drive to learn more about it and are able to meet the agreed upon outcomes.

Establish Expectations

The best partnerships are based on clear, honest communication. Ask your agency about their other clients to get a sense of how much time and attention they’ll be comfortable devoting to your business. It’s not at all a bad thing to be a small fish in a much bigger pond so long as the agency makes you and your goals feel respected and reaches the outcomes laid out in the proposal. You should always feel that your business is your agency’s priority, regardless of their other obligations.

Further, ask about reporting. Reporting can encompass a wide variety of information which your agency would package and present to you at agreed upon intervals. However, reporting can be a very time consuming part of an agency’s day, which leaves fewer funds allocated to the real work of marketing outreach. Agree up front on how often your agency will report and how often you’ll communicate day-to-day or week-to-week for other updates.

Ultimately, your relationship with a marketing agency should feel collaborative; you should trust that you’ve been understood and that your marketing budget is being put to good use. Ensuring a good interpersonal fit and taking care to manage clear communication will set your business to grow. Agencies, too, want to find the right clients so both parties can walk away as winners. All it takes is asking the right questions.


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