When hiring a digital marketing agency, you may have a lot of questions. Sometimes, it’s hard to be sure if you’re even asking the right questions! You might be curious about a lot of things, from the agency’s capabilities and qualifications to how well you think they fit with your brand, but there are three key questions to ask your agency before making a final decision:
What is Your Knowledge Base for Our Specific Market?
No matter what business you’re in, it’s important to partner with an agency that has a deep knowledge base of the industry. Ideally, the agency should have some experience in this market, and more than one person assigned to your project should have extensive knowledge of the field. Hopefully, you will get a chance to talk with some of the team members who will be working on your account, so you can learn more about their education and experience in your business.
This is especially true if you’re working in a niche market. Although many people in the branding business may have experience in, say, the fashion industry, your eclectic handmade dress boutique may need the attention of someone who has worked on clothing startups, boutiques, or niche, offbeat brands.
Larger companies with broader appeal may also benefit from having a very knowledgeable agency staff working on their projects. Often more established companies are looking to branch out into new markets, and having people with a strong knowledge base about the market can be invaluable in choosing a new target audience or niche to consider.
What is the Process You Use to Develop a Strategic Plan, and Could You Walk Me Through It?
This question is designed to help you understand how much individual attention your brand will receive at the agency. You want to know that your agency isn’t just going to go through the same motions for every brand they represent. They should be able to explain the steps they’ll take to learn your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, identify what makes your brand unique, and craft a specific strategy just for you.
If you ask them to walk you through their process, they should be able to explain not just their steps, but the research they’ll do, how they’ll combine new data with their current knowledge of the market, and how they will apply this knowledge to meet your objectives. If they can tell you some common strategies for your type of business, why these may or may not work in your case, and other alternatives they may consider, this shows they’ve already put some thought into your brand identity and goals.
Their answer should also teach you about their research process. Even though you want agency representatives who are already knowledgeable about your industry, their research skills are still key. They will need to understand not just the market as a whole, but your place in it, and how you can get to where you want to go. This requires solid, in-depth research into consumer behavior, buying patterns, and issues related to your product’s unique assets.
Another thing you should learn about is how the agency prepares to develop a cohesive brand strategy and keeps it consistent while running a marketing campaign across multiple channels. Many brands run into trouble when they fail to maintain consistency—they’re appealing to one market, then another, or can’t decide which asset to stress in their marketing efforts from week to week. Although A/B testing different tactics is a good thing, your agency will first need to determine the main message you want to communicate about your brand in all your marketing materials, then assure it is consistent across materials. This doesn’t mean that all the ads actually say the same things, but that they communicate the same basic idea.
The idea here is not to see if the agency staff have already figured out a complete strategy, but to learn more about their creative process and attention to detail.
How Do You Envision Being a Strategic Partner in Our Brand Vision, and What Level of Involvement Should We Both Have in This Partnership?
Technically, this is two questions, but they both seek to determine how you and your agency will work together. You want to determine if the agency executives want you to step back and stay out of their way, or if they want you to be involved in each step of the process.
Which scenario you prefer is up to you. In general, we at Digital DeLane recommend an approach somewhere in the middle. We like to keep our clients informed and get feedback at every step of the process. We don’t want to do anything you strongly dislike! We also believe you can give us better feedback if you’ve been kept in the loop.
However, sometimes clients run into trouble when they have very rigid ideas about what they want for a campaign or project. It’s great to have ideas about your brand and where you want to go. But sometimes, you may have a cool idea that just isn’t quite right for your current project. Maybe it doesn’t resonate with the target market. Maybe it isn’t doable with your present budget. Maybe it doesn’t demonstrate your product’s best features. You don’t necessarily have to give up on your idea if your agency suggests something else, but we do recommend you at least consider the alternatives your agency has suggested. In some cases, there may be a way to use elements of both ideas, or you may want to save your idea for a different project in the future.
Some agencies prefer less client involvement because of past difficulties with other clients, or because their creatives feel they do better work with less client involvement. And in fact, some clients also prefer to be less involved—for example, you may be busy running a company, or you may recognize that marketing isn’t your area of expertise. Maybe you don’t have the time or energy to learn about things like negative keywords right now, and would rather let someone else handle these details.
Objectively, there is no right or wrong answer to these last questions. The goal is to determine if you and the agency are on the same page about how you will work together. Here are some follow-up questions that may help illuminate the answer:
- What happens if I disagree with your proposed strategy?
- Can you tell me about a situation where you and a client didn’t have the same ideas about the project, and how you worked to find a solution?
- What kind of analytics do you use to monitor an ongoing campaign and make changes as needed?
These questions should help you learn more about any agency you’re considering for your digital branding or other marketing needs. Remember also to consider the questions the agency’s representatives ask you, as well as examples of their previous work. Most importantly, remember that any agency you hire should treat your brand as unique, and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.