Hiring a marketing agency is a complicated process. Weeding out the studs from the duds if tough if you don’t know the right questions to ask. Marketing activities, online or offline, requires strategic thinking and logically, you’re going to depend on an external agency for the growth of your business. You need to be sure before taking the leap of faith and getting into a contractual position.

Here are eight things to remember before hiring a marketing agency.

#1 Experience

Is the marketing agency experienced? If yes, in what industry segment? Of course, it is logically feasible to find an experience marketing agency in a specific industry always; however, working with one is potentially problematic because there will be a conflict of interest with the competitors. It’s good to choose a versatile marketing agency that has worked on a variety of projects.

Ask for case studies or project reports to understand their expertise and whether their methods and knowledge of your industry are sufficient for them to handle your business. You can also ask for client references for a personal word with them. Take note of the years of experience and what kind of projects they have work in and the resultant growth for the client business.

#2 Goal Alignment

The marketing agency should be a strategic partner. Marketing is a huge terminology and encompasses various facets such as lead generation to developing ad copies. Understand whether the company is capable enough to align themselves with your business goals. Are they able to understand your vision? A good method to judge is multiple meetings with the marketing manager or project manager and discussing the scope of the project. Discuss the scope of short-term and long-term results. Having a realistic understanding of the goals and their achievability paves the way for a smoother working relation between you and the marketing agency.

#3 One-Stop Solution

It is better to choose a marketing agency which is a one-stop solution rather than multiple vendors. Why? First, it is cost effective and second, a collaboration between multiple vendors is always an issue. In the digital world, the measure of the authenticity of a business begins with a website. What’s the point in hiring a marketing agency for handling advertisements when the website is a relic from 1999?! It is laughable. Getting the desired results is next to impossible. The measurable benchmarks will cease to be valid. What if the ads are good, but it’s not generating results because of a poor website structure? Who will take the responsibility? Think about it.

Web development, branding, website hosting, inbound marketing, digital marketing, video marketing, copywriting, PR, social media strategy and reputation management are some of the capabilities a versatile marketing agency would possess. Talk about these capabilities with the marketing agency. A good marketing agency will be able to give a complete overview of their one-stop services without overwhelming you.

#4 Know the Team

Not everyone but it makes sense to remain in close contact with the team/project manager involved with your work. A new marketing agency is like having a new in-house team onboard. A typical marketing strategy takes around 9-12 months to yield results. If you’re getting on a contractual or retainer model, getting to know the new coworkers will work for the benefit of the business. Get on an online team call or schedule multiple physical meetings to have a casual talk with the team members. Remember to follow gut instincts. Be comfortable.

#5 Marketing Automation

Automation is the trend of the day, and truly, various SaaS products do help to automate a project; however, everything shouldn’t be left to automation because artificial intelligence can’t replace the human mind. Talk with the marketing agency about the nature of automation involved and how it is going to impact the business. Using a project management system like Basecamp or Teamwork is fine but setting up a chatbot to reply to customers on Twitter is scary! Senseless automation isn’t sensible, for anyone.

#6 Communication

Regular communication is the core aspect of hiring a marketing agency. What should be the communication interval? Daily, weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly or monthly? Daily project updates isn’t recommended except for the initial project setup days. Beyond that, daily updates don’t make practical sense as marketing activities take time.

Bi-weekly and weekly meetings are good, either through online meeting platforms like GoToMeeting / Skype or personal scheduled meetups. The monthly meeting could be a round-up of all the work done in a month. Communicate the expectation from the beginning to create a better understanding and to remain on the same page. A good marketing agency will also create minutes of the meeting and share them across for tracking the progress of the work.

#7 Contract Duration

Always sign a contract or agreement. The duration of the contract depends on the duration of the project.  An inbound marketing activity takes around six months as does SEO. Website development takes around 2-3 months, and social media marketing is a continued activity. Marketing is synonymous with trust and creativity, and neither of them happens in a day! A marketing agency can jumpstart activities today, but it always takes the time to see substantial results. As such, define a contractual period and sign it. Six months is a safe period to start seeing results.

#8 Ramp Up Phase

Marketing won’t begin immediately after contract signing. Marketing strategies need to be devised, which is known as the ramp-up phase, colloquially. It can’t be launched and executed in a month. The ramp-up phase is crucial and time consuming for the long-term success of the work. Putting unrealistic timelines, impossible targets and pressuring the agency to start the marketing process isn’t doable. Similarly, the chosen marketing agency shouldn’t commit to overzealous timelines and unrealistic project parameters.

Endnote: With a tremendous growth in the digital business space, you’re going to need a marketing agency now or later. Do your research well and choose an agency for the long-term.

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