Choosing a vendor to run your digital marketing campaigns can be simple. But choosing a digital marketing partner—a trusted advisor that knows your brand and audience backward and forward, understands your true business objectives, helps define marketing goals and works collaboratively with your team, integrated, attentive and compassionate at every step—is not as easy.
To find the right fit, you need to not only get to know their service offering, but also their marketing philosophy, account structure and project management processes, and the staff’s personalities. This is not something that can be rushed, but there are a few questions you can ask to start to get to know their approach, character and psyche.
1. What is your digital marketing philosophy?
Some agencies jump right in their service offering and tactical items without explaining the broader picture of their belief system. If their philosophy doesn’t align with yours, then you know it’s not a good fit. It’s like dating someone that wants kids when you don’t. Someone’s going to end up disappointed and it’ll end before too long.
2. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in digital marketing in the past year?
The answer to this question will let you know how current and insightful the agency is. You may not even know about the change that they mention, and maybe this is the response you want—showing that they have a better understanding than you do. And once they’ve answered this question, follow up with “Why?” Make them explain the reasoning behind why they think this change is so significant, and how it might impact your brand and digital marketing initiatives.
3. What is the optimal marketing mix?
There’s no right answer to this question, but hearing the agency talk through this lofty thesis will give you further understanding of their beliefs and approach.
4. What portion of your business is dedicated to [insert service offering]?
Insert the service that is your top priority. Let’s say you are specifically looking for SEO services, but know you have other needs. By learning how much of their business is dedicated to that specific service, as opposed to others, will help you understand what their specialty is. If they say they specialize in everything, you should be wary. This could be a case of Jack-Of-All-Trades-Master-Of-None. It’s possible they partner with other specialists to provide all services, and this is another question you should be asking as well.
5. What problems do you see with our current marketing efforts?
You’re going to have to provide some information about your brand, website, as well as current and past marketing efforts to get a legitimate response here, but it will be worth it to see if they do their homework. Don’t expect the partner to identify the exact problem you are trying to solve or have all the answers, but you can evaluate their dedication, thought process and understanding of general marketing principles by having them answer this question.
6. How will we work with your team on a daily basis?
Don’t save this question until after contracts are signed. It’s important to understand how you will be working with the agency each day, and determine if this is your preferred relationship. Most agencies are willing to adapt to fit their clients’ needs, but not all. Ensure you are comfortable with the relationship before entering it.
7. What level of support can we expect at our budget?
This is a follow-up to the previous question. Sure, the leading agencies have great reputations, do award-winning work and have fortune 500 clients, but if you are a smaller brand or just have a smaller budget, you’ll be assigned to their B team and won’t get the attention or support that they are known for. I’ve experienced it time and time again, a prospective client passes us up to work with a tier 1 agency, but comes back a year later, lamenting that their emails and calls were ignored, their campaigns tanked and they felt neglected and even disrespected throughout their contract.
Naturally, there are numerous other questions you’ll need to ask during the vetting process—questions both broad and specific—but these should be some of the first ones you ask to really get at the heart of the agency and the relationship you hope to establish with them.
What are some other revealing questions you typically ask agencies? Or, if you are an agency, what are some good questions you’ve been asked by prospects? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.