15 Questions To Ask A Marketing Agency

Posted on February 20, 2015

Whether you are looking for a website design or marketing campaign development, partnering with a marketing agency can elevate your company to the next level. Working with skilled graphic designers, knowledgable developers and programmers, and marketing professionals allow them to leverage their experience while you focus on what you are best at: running your business.

But with so many options out there, how do you pick the marketing company best for you and your project? Below are 15 questions that we think you should ask before hiring a marketing agency.

1. What is your experience and do you have any specialties?

Some marketing agencies specialize on specific types of projects. An agency that focuses primarily on packaging might not be the best for a website design project and a marketing company that deals mostly on business cards certainly shouldn't be setting up an integrated eCommerce build for your organization. Make sure that an agency you choose is aligned with the end product you are looking for.

2. Do you have any experience within my industry?

Working with a marketing and design agency that has worked in your field can give them a head start on your project. Less research is needed, partnerships may have already been established, and they can hit the ground running. That said, experience within your industry may or may not matter. Unless your product/service requires a very intimate understanding of the industry you operate in, a fresh set of eyes outside of the norm can be a good way to refresh your marketing and reengage customers.

3. Do you have relationships with any competitors I should know about?

If you are a restaurant that is looking for marketing assistance, it is probably a good thing to choose an agency that works with other restaurants. If you are a public relations firm, it might not be a great idea to work with your top local competitor's agency. Ask your agency if they have any relationships established that might impact your working relationship.

4. Who will I be working with directly on my project?

There are various models in place from agency to agency. Some have an art director or programmer work with you directly on your project. Some have a dedicated project manager that serves as a middleman between you as the client and their internal team. Some are entirely automated and you just fill out a form online to get things accomplished. All have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, but finding out on the front end will help you analyze if it is a structure that will work for you.

5. What is the background of the individuals who will be working on my project?

The internal configuration of design agencies are all over the map. Some have a single employee who is responsible for designing and building websites, crafting custom marketing strategies, running PR and more. Others have individuals who take care of each of these projects as the sole focus of their job. Ask about the experience and background of anyone who is working on your project.

6. Do you use freelancers or is your team in-house?

Freelance employees can do amazing work, but aren't always available. When interviewing any potential marketing agency you are considering, ask if they use freelancers or not, how often, and their work experience. Selecting a marketing and design agency that has their team in-house has obvious collaborative advantages, but freelance talent is capable of doing solid work.

7. What are some measurable examples of success your clients have had based on your work?

Success can mean a lot of things to different people. The end goal of your marketing project might be money in the door, e-newsletter signups, more website viewers, or just a better looking logo. Ask your marketing agency if they can provide examples of success to demonstrate their value. Case studies and other marketing reports can be a good way to assure you that an agency can deliver on your unique business and marketing goals. Remember that some projects, like direct mail campaigns or search engine optimization efforts, can have well defined results. Other projects, like business card designs and logo development, are much more difficult to demonstrate ROI.

8. Can you talk me through the process of completing my project?

Understand the overarching process of how your project will be completed. What are and when are the first milestones? What do you as a client need to do at that time? What needs to be given to the agency (logos, files, copy, etc.) for them to move forward? Let them explain the project from start to finish so you know what to expect as you move forward.

9. How do you communicate with clients?

Most marketing agencies will work around your communication preferences, but with website links, logo proofs, and other digital assets going back and forth, email will likely be one of the primary channels between you and your agency. Ask how often you will receive updates, when you will receive them, and contact information in case you have an emergency that requires immediate attention.

10. How much will my project cost and what are the other billing details that will impact me?

As a marketing agency, we will just say please don't necessarily go with the cheapest option available. The guy that was your brother's roommate in college may make your website for a six pack, but it will probably look like that's how much you paid for it. When speaking with a marketing agency, find out the full costs of the project. What are the costs for third party expenses (stock photography, website hosting, printing, etc.)? What happens if my project goes over budget? What do I need to pay to start and when are the rest of the project costs due? Once you have all the numbers, weigh them against all the options available to you and decide which one is the most valuable (quality of work, cost, timelines, etc.).

11. How many revisions and edits can I make on my project?

Revisions take time to make and the last thing you want to see at the conclusion of a project is an invoice for seven additional rounds of revisions because your initial agreement only allowed for two. Inquire how many edits to your project you are allowed to make before additional costs will be incurred. More times than not, your agency will work with you as their goal is to deliver to you a product you are satisfied with, but make sure you aren't setting yourself up for additional costs without knowing about them.

12. How long will it be until my project is completed?

Nearly every marketing project is a two way street. Your agency may give you a website design that you need to approve. Or maybe they have designed the look of your new brochure and they need you to provide them content. Ask for a timeline of events and milestones in regards to your project, and remember that many of those events require action on your behalf before the marketing agency can move forward.

13. Upon completion of my project, what do I actually own?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask an agency as it can have a drastic impact on your business. Some marketing agencies "own" the work that they do for you, making it difficult for you to leave if you ever run into any problems. When selecting an agency, be sure that you can walk away if the relationship sours. Inquire about who owns the artwork, coding, files, photography, and other brand assets. As a rule, do not work with any marketing agency that will not give you these.

14. How long has your marketing agency been in operation?

Experience can't be taught, and working with an established marketing agency allows you to reap the rewards of years of graphic design, programming, search engine optimization and other departmental work. Every company was new at some point, so it is up to you to weigh the benefits of an accomplished marketing company versus those of an up and comer. Just be sure that you select someone you are confident in.

15. What are your expectations for me as a client?

If there is anyone that knows your brand, the industry, and your customers, it should be you. Ask what the marketing agency expects from you. Should I make myself available at certain times for questions? Are there examples and color schemes I enjoy that might help you? How quickly do I need to respond to you to maintain our timeline? Make yourself available so that your marketing agency can leverage your experience.

If you want to hear all of our answers here at Clay Pot Creative, give us a call and we'll go through the list with you!

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