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Evaluating A Digital Marketing Agency For Potential Partnership: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

Vetting digital marketing agencies for suitability, fit and value for money isn’t the easiest of tasks. Especially if you’re not a marketer. Knowing what to look for and what questions you should be asking plays a significant role in finding the right marketing partner for your business. We curated this FAQ list to provide you with a foundational framework for what you should be looking for and to help you feel confident saying, “I made the right choice. “

Have questions about selecting a great digital marketing agency? We’d love to answer them. Contact us today and ask about our process.

1. How do I evaluate a digital marketing agency when I don’t know what I’m looking for?

Choosing the best digital media strategy and marketing agency for your company is a high-stakes endeavor — especially in today’s competitive online environment. The rules of what works and what doesn’t (seem to) change by the second. As such, partnering with a solid digital marketing agency just makes sense when your business needs marketing subject matter experts.

You know the drill: Select the ‘right’ agency partner with a proven track record and you’re a hero. Select the ‘wrong’ agency partner and well… (no one wants to think about that.) You want to make a good long-term investment and you need to see measurable success — that’s a given.

evaluating an agency key benchmarks infographic

The three categories below provide good indication benchmarks. The questions listed under each of the three subject headings will help you with your due diligence and streamline your research when working through the vetting and evaluation process:

Credibility

Is the digital agency credible? Does their first impression inspire confidence? Do they have proof of work in the form of case studies, client reviews, and their own digital presence? Do others acknowledge the agency and marketing manager’s expertise? Have they made a notable impact on their existing and previous clients? Have they received any awards or special recognition for their marketing efforts?

Trustworthiness 

Do they provide real solutions that make a measurable difference to other clients? Do they do what they say they will do, when (and how) they say they’re going to do it? Are they transparent and clear in their communications? Do they keep their clients in the loop while executing a digital strategy? Do you have a good feeling when interacting with them directly?

Responsiveness

Can you easily get in touch with them by phone, email, or other means? How responsive are they when you reach out?  Do they respond in a reasonable time frame after your first attempt to connect? Or are multiple attempts required before someone responds? Will time zones or language barriers be problematic? Does their work demonstrate they’re listening to your marketing needs? Are they capturing the heart and essence of your brand?

2. What are some must-ask questions during a digital marketing agency partnership vetting process?

Asking the right questions at the right time and having them answered is critical when vetting an agency for a potential business partnership. These are our favorite must-ask questions and we recommend adding them to your list:

  1. What are your agency’s core values? How do you demonstrate them to your clients and business partners?
  2. Who are your most successful clients? Why?
  3. How do your most successful client-agency relationships function?
  4. Why have past clients left or moved on from a partnership with your agency? Was there an internal fix required?
  5. How do you manage new client expectations?
  6. Do you operate on a 12-month contract or something else?
  7. Can you explain your pricing structures? Why are deliverables and services priced the way they are?
  8. Is there a quality or service guarantee? If yes, what are the terms?
  9. Do you have a formal client onboarding process? What is it? How long does it take?
  10. When can I expect results? How is reporting delivered? How often? What data is included?
  11. What’s your agency’s communication cadence? How quickly do you get back to clients when they reach out? What communication tools do you use?
  12. Do you have a project management system? What is it?
  13. Who’s doing the work? What’s their experience? Is the work done in-house or outsourced? Where is your team located?
  14. Will I be assigned an account manager? Can I interview my account manager before signing a contract?
  15. Is anyone on your team knowledgeable or experienced in my industry and niche?
  16. Is my company a good fit for your agency’s expertise, culture, and processes? And who wouldn’t be a good fit for you?
  17. How confident are you that your agency can help me reach my business marketing goals?

Curious how we’ll answer these questions at Beacon Media + Marketing? Get in touch! We’d love to connect.

3. How do I know if a digital agency is ‘the right fit’ for my business? Aren’t they all the same?

No. Not all agencies are the same. Agencies often specialize in one specific (or a few related) industries. Industry specialization allows an agency to go deep and identify the best marketing strategies for connecting clients with their unique target audiences.

Seeking out digital agencies that specialize in your industry is a great starting place when searching for a good digital marketing agency.

In addition to showing and proving their expertise in a specific industry, great digital marketing agencies will intentionally build a foundation of trust between themselves and their clients. They’ll encourage questions, keep their clients informed and take their client-agency relationships seriously.

Determining whether a digital agency has good business partner potential also hedges upon how informed you are. Preparing a list of questions to ask the agency in advance is an excellent way of evaluating a digital marketing agency for fit.

4. What red flags I should look for when evaluating a digital marketing agency?

Some excellent red flag questions you can use to evaluate a digital marketing agency are:

  • Do they employ high-pressure sales tactics?
  • Do they promise instant results?
  • Do they have obscure pricing structures?
  • Is their communication poor? Are clientele expectations poorly managed?
  • Do they fail to listen? Or fail to acknowledge a client’s questions, cares, or concerns?
  • Does their website display properly formatted copy, grammar, and/or punctuation?
  • Is their website customized or cookie-cutter? Does it have low-quality images, broken links, etc?
  • Does their agency website have proof-of-work and case studies? Is their portfolio web page only showing ‘straight-out-of-the-box’ templates?
  • Do they have SSL certification on their agency website?
  • Does their website display profile photos and bios of their team?
  • Do they have a comprehensive contract? Are the terms and conditions clear? Does their contract lock you in for more than one year?
  • Do they specialize in one or a few related industries? Do they claim to specialize in everything?
  • Does their portfolio showcase work on their website in your specific industry (or a related one?)
  • Do they have reputable reviews or testimonials on their website as well as outside sources? (Such as: Google Reviews, Glassdoor, Facebook Page, Clutch.co, etc)

For more in-depth reading on ‘red flags’ to watch out for, our part 1 and part 2 guides have some excellent pointers.

5. I’ve found what looks like a great marketing firm but, something isn’t clicking. What should I do?

Press pause. Take a step back. Do your best to identify what’s missing. Then, review what you’re really looking for in a digital agency.

Having a solid connection with the team you’re evaluating for help with your online marketing efforts is vital to your overall success.

Here at Beacon, we believe there’s a marketing partner for everyone and it’s vital both parties make the match a good one. In fact, we’re first to admit, “We’re not the right partner for everyone.”

It’s not uncommon to find ‘the right agency’ yet, feel something about the connection is just off. On paper (and online) they’ll look fantastic, have impressive case studies, run successful marketing campaigns, specialize in your field and yet something just won’t click.

There are myriad reasons for this. What’s crucial is: recognizing when your connection with an agency isn’t working.

This is one of the most important partnerships a business will make. Because of this, it’s critical to go slowly and get the match just right.

The bottom line is: You need a marketing partner you can trust. You should enjoy working with them as they help your organization attain the next level of growth. Slowing down and getting to know and evaluate a few different agencies will help you hone in on ‘the one’ best suited to your unique business needs.

6. After hiring a digital marketing agency, should I expect to be involved?

Yes. You can and should expect involvement. However, how much or how little is a two way street. The clearer and more explicit you are regarding how much (or little) you expect to be involved, the better. In fact, this is a major key to finding a marketing agency capable of accommodating you.

Keep in mind: Some agencies happily accept client input while others prefer having full control.

If you’re accustomed to doing everything on your own, new to the agency experience or previously had a poor experience then, handing over control of your brand can be unnerving— especially at first. Each marketing agency has their own approach and preferences regarding client involvement. Understanding this is helpful when choosing one that aligns with your partnership ideals.

  • A good marketing firm will build your confidence in their ability to deliver while addressing your questions and concerns.
  • A great digital marketing agency will ensure you understand their processes upfront and provide a clear framework for what you can expect from them as well.

7. How long should I expect a contract with a digital marketing agency to last?

The answer varies. However, any contract locking you in longer than 12-months is suspect. It’s vital you know exactly what you’re agreeing to, why you’re agreeing to it and how your company will benefit from an agency’s partnership.

Longer term contracts should be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb. Conversely, agencies claiming to deliver ‘instant results’ are equally suspect. In such cases it’s worth asking, “If the results are instant, why is a contract necessary?”

At Beacon Media + Marketing, our standard contracts are for 90 days. You can learn more about them in our Beacon Welcome Kit

8. Are guarantees standard practice for digital marketing agencies?

No. This is not standard practice however, some online advertising agencies do offer guarantees. A digital marketing agency who offers its clientele a guarantee is confident in their team’s capacity to deliver. Agencies like this typically run top-tier, high level operations and are worth considering as a business partner.
A good guarantee is:

  • specific
  • clearly outlines the terms and conditions
  • spells out what is or isn’t included in the your contracted service and deliverables package

If they have one, a great digital advertising or marketing agency will take the time to walk you through their guarantee and respond to any questions or concerns you have.

9. Other than an agency’s website, where can I find reviews or testimonials about their services and work?

While most digital agencies agencies include client testimonials on their websites, we recognize that in today’s world, that’s not always enough. Here are a few other places you may want to include when evaluating a digital marketing agency:

  • The agency’s Google Business listing reviews
  • The agency’s Glassdoor company page reviews
  • The agency’s Facebook Page reviews
  • Clutch.co (An online marketplace helping users search, find, and decide on business service providers)
  • Yelp.com (May prove handy when searching for a locally based marketing firm)

10. How can I tell if my marketing investment is a good value for the money?

If working with a digital marketing agency is a new experience for you (or it’s been awhile,) the cost of services and deliverables may be mysterious or surprising. Not understanding what you’re paying for naturally gives rise to questions (as well as eyebrows.) You have every right to know exactly where your money’s going and what kind of results to anticipate. Contracts, fee structure and billing should be clearly explained with nothing hidden.

A competent and trustworthy digital marketing agency will be transparent when discussing their pricing structures. They’ll keep you well informed and ensure you understand the cost breakdown of each project phase before moving forward.

They’ll be willing to explain their strategies and walk you through their reasoning. They’ll also demystify unfamiliar acronyms, terminology or jargon. More importantly, they will treat you like a valued partner.

You should feel confident that your marketing investment is well allocated and producing positive outcomes. Specifically, that your ROI will result in the largest possible impact across your target audience. An excellent digital marketing agency will:

  • Openly share their results with you through regular reporting processes.
  • Show you exactly how your marketing budget is achieving your goals.
  • Help you build a strong, well-strategized online presence.

For further reading on what investing your marketing budget with specific services from an agency includes, go here.

For help evaluating your overall marketing budget, here’s a great place to look.

If you want to ask us here at Beacon Media + Marketing any of the questions you’ve read above, we’d love the opportunity to chat. Connect with us here for a free consultation.

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