Hiring a marketing agency can be one of the highest ROI decisions or costly mistakes that your business can make. Choosing the right agency can result in high ROI for your marketing campaigns and many new customers. In contrast, outsourcing marketing to the wrong agency can lead to thousands of dollars wasted in addition to your time.
To maximize your results from working with a marketing agency, it’s important to be proactive and familiarize yourself with common pitfalls businesses go through when choosing a marketing agency. This will help prevent common mistakes and accelerate your marketing success. Here are some of the most important things you should know before hiring a marketing agency:
Before engaging with any marketing agency, it’s important to have clear objectives along with the outcomes you are hoping for. Going to an agency with clear objectives and goals will allow you to make an informed decision regarding which agency is best for you along with which marketing channels (SEO, Facebook ads, pay per click advertising, etc).
Once you’ve decided on your key objectives, be firm on them and set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals with the marketing agency you work with. This will give you and your marketing agency partner a roadmap and accountability for meeting your target objectives.
With your objectives in place, you can start exploring different digital marketing agencies and gauge which ones have the best resources and experience to help you reach your goal. Some parameters you can use to vet marketing agencies based on your objectives include:
Does the agency have staff that specialize in the specific marketing channel you are seeking? For example, if you’re looking to produce video marketing, does the company you’re working with have a marketing manager that knows how to produce videos on YouTube, TickTok, Instagram, or other social media accounts? Many small business owners make the mistake of choosing an agency that doesn’t specialize in any specific channels.
If you’ve decided on a specific marketing strategy, you’re probably very familiar with your own strategy. Asking the agency about strategy-specific details will give you a good idea on how knowledgeable and experienced the agency is about your marketing strategy and objectives.
The services offered by the agency is a crucial component of choosing to work with an agency. This is non-negotiable because if the agency does not offer the specific marketing solutions you’re looking for, it won’t drive results for your business.
Depending on your objectives, you can choose to work with an agency for some of your marketing or all of your digital marketing. There are very few agencies that can offer great results for all of the services they offer.
It’s best to work with a specialized agency because that will likely provide the best results; these types of agencies can provide you with tailored on-page SEO techniques, link building and content creation. If you’re looking for content marketing, it’s better to work with an agency that primarily does content creation and promotion instead of a full-service agency.
Some agencies offer complementary marketing services and that can suit your business better. The most important part is that the agency has to offer your top 2 or 3 marketing services you’re looking for. This will have the greatest impact on your marketing success.
Track record of the agency:
One of the key factors that will impact the success of your marketing is the track record of the agency you are working with. You want to work with an experienced agency that is proven and can generate great results for your business.
The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars each month for an agency to experiment on your business. A proven agency is far more reliable and effective in comparison to most new startup agencies.
In addition to looking at reviews and any case studies an agency has, it’s important to ask the agency what experience they have with working with companies like yours. Ideally, the agency you work with has extensive experience in your industry and has driven results for companies in the same vertical as yours.
You can ask more specific details like which strategy (paid ads, SEO, etc) did they use and what results were generated for the clients. This will give you an accurate estimate of what the agency can do for you.
Timeline of success:
One common area of misunderstanding between businesses and agencies is the timeline of success. Without a proper understanding of timelines, you can give up too soon on a marketing campaign before seeing results. Having the right time frame in mind will help you be patient and avoid quitting too soon.
In contrast, you can also keep paying for services that are not generating any benefit for your business. It’s important to talk to the agency you’re working with and set a clear timeline for your marketing campaigns. This helps establish accountability along with clear expectations.
Example of timeline:
The timeline of success will be impacted by which strategy you deploy. For example, if the agency you’re working with is using paid ads, the result can be almost immediate. Since you are spending money on ads to make more revenue for your business, you need an immediate ROI to keep reinvesting in paid ads.
In contrast, if you’re focusing on SEO, it can take months before you start seeing any results from SEO campaigns. This is because it takes time to write and publish content, build backlinks and build domain authority. It’s important to have a realistic timeline regardless of which strategy you deploy to ensure you and your marketing agency are on the same page.
Domain / niche expertise:
A crucial mistake that many small businesses make is that they hire an agency that has no expertise in their industry or niche. Although there are many fundamentals that are constant across industries within marketing disciplines, it is vital to have industry knowledge to market to your target audience.
When searching for an agency, search with a keyword or industry along with the specific service you’re looking for. This will help narrow down your choices and help you find an experienced marketing agency for your business’ needs.
Example of domain expertise
Here’s an example that illustrates the importance of picking a niche and domain specific marketing agency. If you’re a B2B company, working with a normal SEO agency is not your best option. Instead you need to work with a SaaS SEO or B2B SEO agency.
A B2B SEO agency knows how to do keyword research for a business-specific audience. Instead of targeting all keywords on search engines, they can focus on the keywords that your business customers are searching for and generate high quality leads. Additionally, with B2B SEO, you can generate significant revenue with lower amounts of traffic.
B2B customers are searching for high ticket products and services and you can generate a high ROI for your business even with lower amounts of traffic. A B2B SEO agency has a clear understanding of this while normal SEO agencies may not. These small differences in expertise can have a big impact on your SEO campaigns.
Costs and contracts:
It’s important to be aware of the typical costs of hiring a good marketing agency prior to engaging with them. A marketing firm will charge based on their experience, staff and previous results they have generated. Your goal should be to find a competent marketing agency that is within your budget range. This will ensure you’re getting more leads, clients and sales while staying within your budget.
Agencies will vary based on contracts and cost structure. The most common way small businesses pay marketing agencies is by monthly retainers. Your business will pay an agency a certain amount of money each month to manage your marketing efforts and run campaigns.
Some marketing agencies will require contracts and this can range from a few months up to a year. It’s best to consult with your own internal marketing team and other colleagues prior to engaging in any lengthy arrangement with a marketing agency.
The culture of the agency you work with will play an important role, especially if you’re working with the agency over a long period of time. The culture of the agency you work with will dictate important things like core values, approach to work, onboarding and more.
Your business already has an established culture, so it’s vital to work with a marketing firm that shares a similar culture. You don’t need to work with an agency with an identical culture, but working with a completely different agency can cause stress for you and your employees. The more aligned your team is with the agency, the more successful your marketing and sales efforts will be.
You can gauge the culture of the agency you work with by seeing how they communicate, their messaging on their website or working with them on a smaller project. If the culture is a complete misfit, it’s better to avoid working with the agency. Culture may seem like a small element in working with an agency, but it impacts the internal and external identity of the entire company.