If you’re considering an agency to help with digital marketing, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a lot to consider before investing time, money and resources into a marketing agency that, at least for now, feels more like an additional obstacle to your goals, rather than a trusted partner.
We’ve compiled a list of the most important questions to ask yourself before engaging with another company to handle online marketing efforts. These are questions we typically ask our prospects to learn more about them, and information we like to know before creating a customized marketing strategy for their business. By understanding these key factors, you can set yourself up for long-term success alongside a reputable agency.
Why do you want to hire an agency?
I love to start my conversation with prospective clients by understanding exactly why they want to hire an agency for their digital marketing efforts. So much can be uncovered about your pain points and marketing approach by simply understanding your motivation for outsourcing.
Your reason could be as simple as freeing up time and resources to focus more on the day-to-day operations of your business, or as complex as a CMO realizing there are gaps within their internal marketing department that needs to be filled. After all, it’s typically more cost effective to outsource rather than hiring additional staff.
What are your primary digital marketing challenges?
Does any of the following sound familiar?
- You’re driving substantial amounts of organic traffic but it’s not converting to leads or sales.
- You produce exceptional content but don’t have the technical SEO expertise to rank highly in search results.
- You have a stellar sales team but they don’t have enough leads to keep them busy.
If so, you are not alone. We hear about these challenges all the time from prospects looking to improve their website (and, ultimately, their bottom line). The more specific you can get about these challenges, the better an agency can propose an effective approach that will directly address your pain points.
You don’t need to limit this to just one marketing challenge, either. When talking to full-service digital marketing agencies, you should share as much as you can. The more they know, the more effective they can be at helping you reach your goals.
Have you tried to alleviate these pain points? If so, how?
We often hear a similar story: You hired someone to work in-house that didn’t really know what they were doing and made things worse. Or, the person you hired does know what they are doing but require additional resources to reach the company’s goals.
I like to ask if you’ve hired someone in-house or worked with another agency, and if so, what was their approach? Knowing the history of your digital marketing efforts and the effectiveness of those efforts can be very insightful on where things went wrong and why (or what was successful).
We teach workshops all around the world, which gives us the benefit of being in front of marketers and executives like you every month, for years.
5 years ago, we would ask people in our workshop: “How many of you know what content marketing is?” – and only 50% would raise their hands.
Today, all of you know about content marketing.
But, when we follow that question with, “How many of you have been successful with your marketing for 12 months in a row?” – the hands fall back down.
This tells us that most marketers or business owners understand the importance of using content, paid, SEO and lead nurture, but they don’t fully know how to utilize them to market their business successfully and alleviate those challenges.
Who’s your target audience?
Do you only conduct business in a specific geographical region? Are your customers mostly stay at home moms? Do they exclusively use mobile devices to search for your products online?
Any worthwhile agency should be able to create personas for you, but you should be the expert on your own target audience. By understanding who you should target, you can tap into where they spend their time online, what types of content they like to consume and what motivates them to convert.
In order to help our clients become successful with digital marketing, we’ve migrated to an integrated approach that fully embraces the customer journey.
According to Google, on average, your audience completes 68% of their journey before contacting your organization. This means you must produce the right content and promote it at the right time to lead them through their journey toward making a purchase decision. By understanding your target audience and strategizing around this journey, you’ll grow your business like never before.
How well do you know your competitors?
When it comes to digital marketing, we’re not talking about the business down the street that sells the same products as you, but rather the websites that you’re competing with for traffic, leads and conversions (although, in some cases, they may be one in the same).
Before any agency can create a winning digital marketing strategy, they must know who’s outranking you in Google for search terms that are relevant to your services or products.
- What are your competitors doing better than you online?
- How are they engaging with their audience?
- Are there competitors paying for ads in Google when you search your company name? (We call this, conquesting).
A lot can be learned by analyzing what your competitors are doing and finding ways to do it better.
What marketing tools are you currently using?
By tools, we mean any platform that you use to gather data that helps you make informed decisions, such as:
- Google Analytics
- Google AdWords
The more an agency knows about how you gather data and track performance, the better they can provide recommendations for improving your current processes and/or strategy.
Are you willing to share that data or access to your tools? Will that require a non-disclosure agreement?
Having access to your data and tools during the proposal process should lead to a much more informed recommendation. Any agency worth their salt will ask for access and knowing what that process involves ahead of time can drastically expedite agency onboarding.
Have you set any specific marketing goals?
As an agency, we really want to specify which goals you’re targeting and how we can help reach them. With that being said, if your goals are vague, a good agency will continue to ask “Why?” until they reach the core reason. For example:
This isn’t meant to be obnoxious, but it is meant to challenge your thinking behind these goals. By asking “why?” we’re able to get to the heart of what you wish to accomplish and make a recommendation that’s based on data and not anecdotal.
This also helps agencies set a timeframe for reaching your goals. As an easy example, let’s say your primary goal is to generate a specific amount or percentage increase in traffic to your website. Knowing whether that goal is for the end of the year, or the end of the quarter, or year over year, or needs to grow by that percentage quarter over quarter is critical for agencies to set realistic expectations.
Do you have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can track an agencies performance?
For some, KPIs are based on customer experience, such as response time and transparency of their agency. For others, it’s based on how well the agency meets their goals. If you have very specific expectations that you intend to measure your agency by, be sure to have certain metrics outlined, like:
- Average cost per lead
- Average cost per conversion
- Average time to conversion
- Lifetime value of a client
This information (and related metrics) should be prepared to share with the agency prior to building a strategy. However you plan to measure your agency’s effectiveness, it’s best to let them know up front, so they can try to meet (or exceed) those expectations.
What’s your budget?
Ah, yes. The all-important question every agency wants/needs to know, but nobody wants to reveal. This is the final piece. Once we understand your goals, timeline and budget, we’re able to create a custom strategy designed to meet those goals in the set timeframe, or at the very least, reset expectations before moving forward.
Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t meet your goals, it just means that we’ll either need more time or more budget to effectively grow your business to the heights you’ve outlined. Believe me when I say, an agency will always want more budget, but there may be different reasons for it.
All agencies are for-profit companies, but it’s important to find a partner that’s upfront, honest and motivated to reach those goals with you. The alternative is to have an agency focused on short-term success with minimal ROI for your company. Continue reading to find out how we approach successful client/agency relationships, and how you can ensure success in digital marketing for years to come.
by John Triplet