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8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

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Companies who have waited to get started with social media still have an opportunity to get started with website updates, social media interaction, blogs, and other digital marketing tactics.

Whether you’re the owner of a small company, or running a corporation, if bringing your digital marketing in-house isn’t an option, working with an agency is an optimum solution.

Buyer Beware

The problem is that there are plenty of agencies out there who are ready to take advantage of people who don’t understand social media, web analytics, website design and development, and SEO. These agencies can charge customers unfair prices and may not deliver on their claims because they assume their clients won’t know any better. Clients sign up for a contract and are able to say, “We’re online” but aren’t seeing ROI, and aren’t incorporating their digital marketing into their overall marketing mix. Clients probably have no idea what their website is or isn’t capable of, what level of engagement they have with customers, or if the SEO research the agency is doing is working.

Here are 8 questions to ask before hiring an outside agency

  • Does the agency have an updated, modern website? If the agency’s site looks old, is difficult to navigate, and not attractive, chances are your website won’t be either.
  • Does the agency have examples of their work on their site? (Portfolio) This gives you an idea of their aesthetic, types of clients they work with, and their creative capabilities.
  • Do they have clients you can call for a reference/recommendation?
  • Does the agency offer a free consultation?  This gives you and the agency time to see if the relationship is a good fit, bounce ideas, and get a feel for how the agency works.
  • How often do they send analytics, and how often will they schedule meetings to review the analytics? (a monthly meeting is ideal for a meeting)
  • Do analytics cost extra? If they do, I don’t recommend hiring that agency. Analytics show the progress and successes of your and the agency’s work. Agencies should WANT to show you the progress of campaigns.
  • If the agency will be doing SEO for you, make sure you get notifications of which keywords they’re testing and the progress of that testing. (Again, this should not cost extra.)
  • Will the agency or will you be updating the website? This is something to discuss with the agency to figure out the best solution for your company’s needs. If the website will be updated daily, someone in-house should be able to update it.

Time Flies

One of the last things to consider is the length of the contract. I’ve talked to many companies who got “a great deal” by signing up for a 3-year contract. What ended up happening is they forgot about their website, didn’t work with the agency (and the agency didn’t call them to discuss updates) so the agency got a lot of money for not a lot of work. A 1-year contract is the longest I’d recommend because that is enough time for the agency to test out campaigns, build up engagement, and to see if this is a relationship you want for long-term.

What other questions do you recommend asking an agency? Are there questions you wish you would have asked before working with an agency? Let me know in the comments section, or call Branding Personality at 1.888.747.3263.

Lori Johnson, MBA, blogs for Branding Personality. She works in the healthcare industry providing social, website, and branding strategies. Connect with her on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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  • cynthia kocialski

    Great post. I am glad you wrote a post on hiring an agency instead of the usual do-it-yourself approach. You can do less than a 1 year contract, some will do 6- and 3-month contracts. Also, there are some agencies that will engage under a performance based contract – so they work until the hit milestones against the key performance indicators. Because small and new businesses are always concerned about costs, getting a guarantee of a certain level of results is important. One of the other things I like to work into a conversations is how many active clients an agency currently has and how many staffers they have. If they have 5,000 clients and only 25 staffers then I know my project won’t get much attention.

  • Donna

    I am so grateful for your blog, I will use this info.

  • Kevin Hayes

    The public really does need better tools and knowledge about hiring digital agencies, so thanks for this post.

    I would just add that analytics are more than an agency proving that what they are doing is valuable. Analytics often give tremendous insight into consumer behaviour, what content is being consumed in what way, and provide context on how to shape future strategy and editorial content. For these reasons and more, analytics and reporting take time, skill, and expertise. I don’t believe analytics and reporting is something an agency should be giving away for free, but rather incorporate into it’s service offering. Analytics can take up to 4 hours a month. Over a year that is 48 hours or 1 full week of work. Anybody want to work for over a week for free?

    Though I would say that an agency that doesn’t provide reporting and analytics, is less credible.

    Thanks for the platform to discuss!