8 Questions To Ask When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Digital marketing agencies come in all shapes and sizes.  Some big, some small.  Some will blind you with jargon, some are straight talkers.

So how can you tell who’s the best fit for your business?

To help you make the right decision, here are eight key questions to ask before signing that agency contract…

1.  Are They Specialists or Generalists?  


Agencies who offer the full suite of digital marketing services – SEO, Google Ads, Social Media, Analytics, Content, Video etc - can be very appealing.  Having a ‘one-stop shop’ who can meet all your digital needs is much easier than juggling multiple providers.

However, in some cases, these generalist agencies turn out not to be actually not very good at some of those things.  They’re a jack of all trades, but master of none.  

We sometimes see this with web design agencies who say “we’ll not only build your website but also take care of your SEO”.  Well sure, they might be good at SEO too.  But in our experience, they tend to only know the basics, and we end up doing a lot of remedial work later on.  

Of course, it's perfectly ok for an agency to not be experts in every digital channel.  A company who are great at everything Google search-related may not be the right people to create viral videos.  

Only the largest agencies can offer true ‘full stack’ marketing services – but they can be expensive and lack the personal touch.  So it’s likely you may need to hire a couple of different providers for different things.

Whoever you hire, just make sure they’re genuinely experts at all the things you’re paying them to do.

2.  How Will They Measure Success?  


If you’re forking over money to an agency every month, it should be crystal clear what success will look like.  If it isn’t already clear from their proposal, ask them the following:

  • How will they identify the goals that matter most for your business?
  • How will they measure progress towards those goals – what will the KPIs be?  
  • What will their reports look like, and how often will you receive them?  
  • Will those reports just be graphs and tables you’ll have to interpret yourself, or will they include commentary as to why things are happening and what to do next?

This actually makes life easier for the agency too!  They'll want to certainty of knowing how they're tracking in getting you the results you want!

3.  What Results Can You Expect, and How Soon?  


A good agency is one who is realistic and honest about what they can do for you, but will still give you a good steer on what results you should expect for your money.  

If they say something like “we’ll get you 95 leads per month at $24 per lead” or “we’ll get you #1 rankings for all your keywords within 3 months”…  then they’re just making up a number to keep you happy. Likewise, if they’re too vague and just say “we’ll improve your search traffic” – that’s no good either.

For each service/channel, ask what results you can expect, and how soon you’ll see those results.  Note that this should be a different answer for each channel.  

So for example, Google Search Ads can generate decent results pretty quickly, and even better results with 3-6 months of optimisation – but you have to keep paying.  SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) work, on the other hand, will take much longer for the results to kick in, but the impact can last well into the future.

4.  What Service Level Will You Receive?


One mistake we used to make with clients was not being clear enough on how much time we’ll spend on their account each month.  To avoid any frustrations or arguments down the track, be sure to ask the agency:

  • How much time will they dedicate to working on your account each week/month
  • How often you’ll meet up with them in person and/or catch up on calls  
  • How quickly can they turn around urgent work if required  

There isn’t necessarily a ‘best practice’ level here – it all depends on how much you're willing to pay and what services they’re providing.  What does matter is to know exactly what you can expect before you begin.  

5.  Do They Have Other Clients Similar To You?  


Knowing if they’ve worked with similar companies matters for two reasons:  

  • Firstly, it will indicate whether they have any experience in your specific industry and whether they’re comfortable working with businesses of your size.  The ideal agency for you will be one who has already encountered challenges similar to the ones you face.  
  • Secondly, you’ll want to sniff out if they work with any of your competitors.  This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but you should ask them who those companies might be and what services they do for them.  

You won’t want your Google Ads manager to be also running search ads for one of your competitors, for example.  

But if the agency provides SEO services to one of your competitors, but all you need from them is Facebook Ads and Analytics?  That’s probably ok!

6.  What Will They Need From You?


Before signing on, nail down exactly what they’ll provide and what you’ll be expected to bring to the table in terms of assets and work to be done.  This includes things like visual ad design, access to stock photos, video production and website copywriting.  

The agency may have that capability in-house, or they may outsource it to other providers.  Alternatively, they may be looking to you to provide some of those resources.  Again, there’s no right or wrong approach here, but just be clear upfront as to who'll provide what.  

They may also request access to your business information – including your email databases of customers and leads, access to your CMS and CRM systems etc.  If so, ask them how it will be used, who will have access, and how that information will securely stored to comply with privacy requirements.

7.  Who Will You Be Working With?  


Here at Insight Online, we pride ourselves on having very close relationships with our clients.  We want to be an integral part of their marketing team, not just some faceless company they outsource stuff too.

If that sounds like what you want too, then ask a potential agency the following:

  • How will they integrate with your marketing, sales and product teams?  
  • How do they plan to really get to know your business and your people?  
  • Who will the main point of contact be, and who else will be working on your account?
  • Will any of the work be outsourced to freelancers, and if so, to whom?

A big part of the success of your partnership with the agency will come down to the working relationship you build with them - so you'll want to know who that is!

8.  Do They Receive Incentives For The Services They Recommend?  

This is less common in New Zealand than overseas, but you'll want to ensure the agency you hire is using or recommending a particular product/service because it's the best tool for the job, not because they're getting a kickback.  

If the agency can't or won't answer any of the questions above, treat that as a major red flag!  

But if they can answer each of them confidently and to your satisfaction, you can expect a happy and fruitful partnership together.  

Need Some More Help?


If you'd like to have a chat about any aspect of digital marketing, or you have any questions about any of the above, please get in touch!  

We'd be happy to help.

James Gunson

Digital Marketing Consultant

A super-smart ex-lawyer, James is our operational head and eye for detail.  He handles everything from Google Ads and Facebook campaigns to Google Analytics installations, SEO audits, digital strategy and more.

James' focus is on fine-tuning online campaigns to hit desired business goals, creating long-term success for our clients.

When he's not in the office, James can be found running social basketball games with friends, listening obsessively to music, and volunteering at the SPCA Animal Village.