The Top Five Questions to Ask When Hiring an Advertising Agency

Avatar Jim Macdonald
January 16, 2017
For many small to medium businesses, the process of hiring an advertising agency or marketing firm can be daunting. Most of the time, small companies have risen to a certain level of success without a lot of outside marketing or advertising help: So why start now? Maybe that’s the most important question of all.

The simple answer is that a good marketing firm is filled with exceptionally talented people who can take your company to a level of success that you’ve never even imagined. Nowadays, a full-service agency has offerings from design to online advertising, and everything in between, and the level of expertise is well beyond what a small business can muster on its own.

Despite their expertise, it is still your responsibility as a business owner to ask the right questions to find out if the agency you are considering is a good fit. Here are the top five questions we recommend asking to find out what is happening behind-the-scenes:
  1. What is Your Process? If an agency does not have defined processes for what they do, chances are that they are secretly disorganized. Despite the cool exterior, an agency that doesn’t have processes in place and followed by all, will result in your project costing more and taking longer, with an end result that may not meet your expectations. Don’t be afraid to talk with the people in the agency who are responsible for implementing these processes, and find out just what their process entails.
  2. How will you assure me that this will work? There’s a famous saying, “I know that half of my marketing is working; I just don’t know which half.” In today’s world of digital advertising, analytics, and measurable KPI’s, there is no doubt that you can quickly see the success of a campaign in the digital space. Your agency should be working with you to quickly change course or modify the campaign if it is not working. Your agency should make you, the client, feel comfortable and secure in the fact that they will do what it takes to help insure your success. Discuss what options are available to make your marketing measurable.
  3. Can I talk with some of your clients? If the answer is no, then it might be an indication of a potential problem. Granted, some agencies have non-disclosure agreements that restrict them from revealing the identity of certain clients, but not ALL clients. If a marketing firm is hesitant to provide you with a few client contacts, you have every right to ask why. Assuming that your intention is not to ‘steal’ a client from them, there shouldn’t be any reason that they can’t get a few clients to talk with you openly about their experiences.
  4. What tools do you use, and what will they tell me? (A question for the digital space) Digital marketing can be quite effective when done correctly, but there should be a good amount of research and strategy behind every digital campaign. An agency needs to have the right tools in place to understand the ever-changing trends, and have the right people trained to interpret the information provided. As more companies invest in advertising in the digital space, digital agencies have a responsibility to help you understand what you are buying and how it will help you.
  5. How much is this going to cost me? If the project is ‘cut and dried’ like, “I need a 30 second television commercial with shots of my business and some voiceover,” you may get a price immediately. However, be cautious if you ask for the price for a website or a marketing campaign, and the agency rep quickly tells you how much it will cost. Without first establishing the scope of work, specifications, or even an outline of a strategy, it is unrealistic to ask for a price and actually expect to get one. It’s a great question to ask to see if the response is legitimate.

If your company is looking to take that next step, interview some marketing firms to see if you are a fit. Be observant of body language and tone of the response when the agency answers you. Did you sense that your questions seemed to inconvenience or annoy them? Were they open, friendly, and willing to share? After all, you are going to have to spend a lot of time with these people. Trust your gut, do your due diligence, and choose an agency that checks off all the right boxes in your mind. If you are unsure, keep asking questions, and if it just doesn’t feel right then run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

We would be happy to answer any questions that you might have if you are thinking about getting involved with a marketing company. Contact us and let’s set up an appointment!
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