7 Questions to ask before hiring a marketing agency

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There is no shortage of marketing agencies out there. As with most things, the internet has made it easy to do business with any agency, in any city, or even any country in the world. So, how is a company, small business, or even a sole proprietor to know what questions to ask before hiring a marketing agency? 

Here at Elevation Marketing, educating our clients is an essential part of what we do. We are often shocked when we onboard new clients to learn about their experiences with other agencies. Maybe it’s because we operate so transparently that we assume all agencies were built the same. With each new client that comes to us, we learn a little more of how they were swindled, taken advantage of, and in our opinion, treated unethically. With that, we were inspired to put pen to paper to help businesses find the right agency that is beneficial to their profitability even after parting ways with their marketing agency.

Will I own the Digital Assets you create?

Digital assets can be content, photos, videos, spreadsheets, etc. We most commonly see a client who paid an agency to design and build a website, and when they leave, they are expected to pay an additional fee to keep the digital assets associated with the website. If you are having a new website built, do not assume you own all content that lives on the website. 

Not owning your digital assets means that as soon as your contract is done with that agency, they get to keep all the copy they have written for you, and any images, illustrations, or graphics that were created along with your website. What we find unfair about this practice is that the price you pay to have the website built includes having the copy or content written, so why should you have to pay again to keep it? Ensure you’ll be the owner of any digital assets an agency creates for you while you are contracted to work together.

Will I own the accounts you create for me?

Oftentimes, clients come to us needing accounts setup for them, a service we are happy to provide. Typically we see these requests come when a client is starting SEO, paid media or having us develop a new website. You want to ensure you are the owner of, and have access to the following accounts:

Any qualified agency can help you decide which services to use and then set them up, but they should never expect to own your accounts. We will help as much as you need, but will only ask for the access required to successfully install the services you choose for your site’s success. We’ve seen clients come to us who lose their entire AdWords account, and/or Google Analytics account. When lost, all data associated with those accounts is gone. Why does this matter?

Imagine spending $10,000 on digital ads, you move to a new agency, and they have no track record of which ads performed the best and drove the most leads. They will have to start from scratch testing ads, ad copy and budgets.

Losing the history associated with Google Analytics makes it more difficult to navigate seasonal ebbs and flows in online traffic, best performing acquisition channels, email campaigns, social campaigns, and so much more. Be sure you confirm that you will own all of your digital accounts, and have login access at all times, before hiring an agency. 

What specific experience do you have in my industry? With which companies?

Another trick of the trade is illustrating a company’s logo on your marketing website as if you’ve provided ALL marketing services for that company. Even if the marketing company was hired to create a print brochure, that marketing company can now tout said company as a client. This is dishonest and may lead potential customers to believe a marketing company has provided more services than they really have, have more experience than they really have, or have yielded favorable results when in fact, they have not. 

Understanding what experience, and the results a marketing company has in your industry should be considered before hiring an agency. A lot of marketing tactics are the same, and serve all industries but there are nuanced strategies for particular industries. For example, a newer client came to us for a national marketing agency after poor results in 12 months. With a little investigation, it was easy to see what was missing in their digital strategy. The large agency checked all the boxes for a broad marketing plan, but didn’t contemplate the specifics associated with home services marketing.

Be sure to ask what work or which specific services the marketing agency has provided for companies similar to yours. Don’t be fooled by seeing a logo on an agency’s website, and assuming they’ve performed the same services you’re looking for. 

Reporting: How often and in what format should I expect reporting?

Reporting from your marketing agency keeps you involved in how their strategy is progressing, challenges in the marketplace, and keeps you dialed in to overall performance.  You should expect consistent reporting on the same metrics month over month. Changing the metrics that are reported on month over month can paint an inaccurate picture of what is happening with your digital strategy.

Be wary of always good news! Not every month is going to yield big wins from your digital efforts. As an agency, of course we certainly hope for the best but must be transparent and deliver the bad news–and pivot our strategy if we aren’t making progress for a client.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to measure your success. Once you’ve determined your Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs with your marketing firm, ensure they are reporting on these specific metrics monthly or quarterly, whichever aligns with contract stipulations.

We’ve recently begun working with a client who came to us from a national agency. That national agency took 60 days to report where $12,000 in ad spend was used. For our small business clients, that is a huge amount of money and waiting 60 days to find out where that money was spent is wildly unacceptable. That’s what tends to happen when small companies sign on with big agencies, so beware.

 

What should be included in a new website?

This is a tough question to answer because there are many different routes, and many different pricing structures used to build websites. We’ve seen websites built for $250, and websites built for $250,000 (e-commerce websites). As is true in most cases, you get what you pay for. By today’s standards, your website contract, at a minimum, should include:

  • Google Analytics connectivity or setup
  • Google Search Console connectivity or setup
  • Mobile First optimization
  • Responsive (fits to any screen size)
  • Contact Forms
  • Thank You Page
  • SEO Friendly Site Structure

Additional questions or services that you should ask about with your new website:

  • Will my site be SEO optimized?
  • How will you ensure my site is SEO friendly? (All web designs should be SEO friendly even if you have not hired an agency to do SEO work)
  • Who will be writing the content for the website and will it be unique?
  • Are you working from a customized template or a custom design? (Many firms customize a template and pawn it off as a custom design, and charge as such. A custom design would include showing you wireframes and mockups before a developer codes the design into a CMS such as WordPress.)
  • Will I be able to manage the website on my own or is it a proprietary Content Management System (CMS)?
  • Who managed security updates for the site?
  • What fees are not included in the price of the website? (For example, stock photography, font licensing, hosting, etc.)
  • Does the price include social headers to match the look and feel of the website?

What is your termination clause?

Understand what it will take to get out of a contract, how many days notice, and if any fees are associated with ending a contract prematurely. At Elevation Marketing, if a client is not happy with our results,, we’re not happy and feel it’s best for them to go and use their marketing dollars wherever they see fit. That’s us. Not all agencies are created equal. If an agency is underperforming, or ignoring you–what are your options? Understanding the termination agreement before signing on with an agency is crucial. 

Do you serve companies similar to mine in the same market?

The answer to this question is most important in the world of SEO. For example, we won’t take on more than one roofing company in the same market because we’d be competing against ourselves, and neither client would be served well. There is no rule saying we couldn’t do that but we don’t because we understand what it takes to be successful with SEO. It would be a great disservice to all parties, and just isn’t the right thing to do. 

Conclusion

We’ve shared with you some of the common pitfalls associated with not knowing what questions to ask before hiring a marketing agency. Did we miss any? Have you experienced something different?  Let us know! We strive to be partners with our clients, and ensuring they know they are not just another contract. If you’re interested in a true marketing partnership, we’d love to speak with you. Contact us today, and let’s talk!

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