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  • Writer's pictureDan Spencer

HOW TO EVALUATE A MARKETING AGENCY

In the UK alone, there are over 25,000 marketing agencies. So, how do you evaluate a marketing agency from one to the next? With so many choices available it can be tough to find the one that’s right for you. Whether you need an industry-specific agency, a channel-specific agency, or a combination of the two, selecting a marketing agency that will deliver results is nothing short of daunting.


So, if you’ve decided you need a marketing agency, you’ll need to find a way to help tell them apart. In this blog, we’ll explore the 8 ways you can evaluate a marketing agency.


8 WAYS TO EVALUATE A MARKETING AGENCY

Your business is unique and you need to find a marketing agency that ticks all of your boxes. So, the best way to evaluate a marketing agency is to review these 8 key criteria.


It’s important to take all of these into consideration so you can select a marketing agency that meets your requirements exactly. Keep reading to dive deeper into how to evaluate all of these elements.


HOW MUCH DO THEY UNDERSTAND YOUR BUSINESS?


When you first engage with a marketing agency you need to remember that it’s all about you. You have the need. The challenge. The requirement. Marketing agencies are notoriously good at blowing their own trumpets. Although it is important for them to demonstrate this – more on that later – first off, you need to see if they listen. Is the agency keen to find the right solution to your challenge or are they just waiting to sell you whatever it is that makes them the most profit?


A marketing agency that puts its clients first and tries to understand the challenges they are facing, will do a better job of creating a solution that’s fit for purpose. If they ask you questions about your turnover, profit, growth goals, current strengths and weaknesses and so on, don’t be put off by this. They’re not trying to work out how much they can get away with charging. They are trying to establish where your business needs help the most and how they can support you. So be open and transparent and those that offer solutions that directly address your answers, are going to be much more valuable to your business.


ARE THEIR SOLUTIONS BESPOKE OR COPY AND PASTE?


Marketing agencies offer a variety of services, or for those niche-specific agencies, they’ll offer subsets of those services. You need to evaluate whether the solutions they are putting forward are suitable for your needs, or whether they are copied and pasted from the last client proposal they did. If you work with an agency that churns out the same strategy time and time again no matter their client, you’re unlikely to get a solution that fits the bill. Ask them to explain how these solutions address the needs you came to them with, the impact they will have on your business, and why they are right for you. This will help you determine if the solutions are built with you in mind, or just another cookie-cutter strategy.


WHAT IS THEIR COMPANY CREDIBILITY?


The best way to evaluate a marketing agency's credibility is through research. Do you know anyone who currently works with them? Ask them for their opinion. Look into who owns and operates the agency – what’s their background? Is it in the space your business operates or something completely irrelevant? If you struggle to find much in your own research, ask them for references from existing clients. Likewise, ask if they have any case studies or demonstrable results from working with other businesses like yours. The agency might be able to talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Get them to show you previous success stories to establish whether they are a reliable, trustworthy and results-driven agency.


DO THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE IN YOUR NICHE?


The knowledge and understanding of your business, vertical or market can be a huge factor in whether your partnership is a success or a failure. Try to establish what their experience is in your niche and how much they understand the challenges businesses like yours face. The more competency they have in working in your space, the better equipped they will be to offer solutions that work.


Again, case studies or customer references are a great way to do this. But be mindful that the experience of the agency extends down into its people. Unlike buying an item of clothing or a piece of tech, you're purchasing the years of experience the agency has within its team. So use tools like LinkedIn to look up the experience and skill set of the team you’ll be working with.


ARE THEY A GOOD CULTURAL FIT?


During any interaction with the agency, you’ll begin to get a feel for the type of business and people they are. Ask them to talk you through their values and vision for the business. Do you have these things in common? Much like choosing internal hires or even friends, you want to be surrounded by like-minded people who share your core values.


For any good client-agency relationship to work, there needs to be trust, respect, and a common goal. You should treat them like an extension of your team who are employed to provide objective and expert advice. Challenge the agency in a constructive manner to deliver results but be prepared to take on board their advice and recommendations – even if it’s hard to hear. At the end of the day, there was a reason you decided you needed to hire a marketing agency, so embrace this expertise.


HOW WILL THEY REPORT PERFORMANCE?


This is a biggie. You invest in marketing to achieve a specific goal (or goals). The role of the marketing agency is to establish SMART objectives that sets the criteria for that goal, how they’ll measure it, and by when. Ask them to show you the objectives and KPIs for the solutions they put forward, as well as the expected results and how and when they’ll report this to you. Without setting clear goals from day one there is no way for either you, or the agency, to measure success.


As the acronym states, SMART objectives should be, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Evaluate a marketing agency’s KPIs and watch out for agencies that promise overnight success. But equally, look out for those that don’t provide any information on how they measure or report on success. In both cases, they’re probably not the smart choice.


IS THEIR PRICING COMPETITIVE?


What’s the age-old advice – get three quotes and go for the one in the middle? This doesn’t necessarily apply here but the advice is to understand the value of what you are getting for your investment. At the end of the day, price is what you pay, value is what you receive. And in the service industry, the latter is extremely important.


Of course, price is important but, isn’t it worth paying a little more to work with an agency that has great references, credibility, and experience in your space?


Agencies often work on a retainer basis meaning they charge a set amount per month for a fixed service. This is beneficial as it allows you to easily budget, but ensure you get clarity on what you receive in exchange. Ask the agency to talk you through their pricing and be clear on what is and isn’t included.


Speaking on behalf of most agencies here, when we ask you what your budget is, it isn’t because we want to get our solution to fit your budget. Instead, it’s so that we can provide a solution – and expected results – that are aligned with your level of investment. Ensuring everyone is clear on budgets and expected ROI sets the client and agency up for a successful and healthy partnership.


ARE THEY IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL?


Marketing is not a get-rich scheme and rarely does success happen overnight. Marketing success takes time, effort, and expertise. You’re looking to work with, and benefit from, a marketing agency because they have learnt through blood, sweat, and tears what works and what doesn’t.


However, ensure you work with an agency that is looking at the longer term. Are they investing in this partnership to meet end-of-quarter sales targets, or because they want to establish a long and successful relationship? Agencies are only as successful as the clients they serve. So you want to work with an agency that is clear about the timeframe for short-term results, as well as one that is planning for the future.


We discussed budgets earlier. But do they discuss solutions that aren’t possible within your budget now? This may be an upsell tactic, but, the positive of this is they are considering the future, or the next step in the strategy if you will. If they present solutions that are suitable for the here and now, ask them about what’s next. If what you do with them pays off now, you should be looking to invest further. If they can give you an insight into what that next step looks like, you know you’ll be working with a partner who wants to help drive growth today, and in the future.


WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA TO EVALUATE A MARKETING AGENCY?


We’ve just discussed eight of them. But ultimately, when you evaluate a marketing agency you should do so based on what you want to achieve and which agency you feel is best suited to helping you get there.


Our biggest piece of advice is to use all eight of these elements to evaluate a marketing agency but pay attention to those that you feel are most important to the role the marketing agency is going to play for you. If you intend on being very closely aligned to the process, then working with an agency that values that personal relationship, then they will be a great fit. If you care less about the personal touch and more about results, select an agency that provides clear and transparent targets and reporting.


If you value all eight, then we’d love to hear from you. We established our business because we wanted to provide start-ups and small business access to expert marketing services, advice, and support at fair prices. We put our customers first, we treat you as individuals and build all of our solutions around your specific needs.


If that sounds like an agency you’d like to work with, why not book a free, no-obligation marketing consultation and let’s get started.



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