You’ve made the decision to hire a marketing agency. How do you know which agency to select? A good place to start is by asking businesspeople in your network for recommendations and conducting some good old-fashioned Google research. Look for true experts in the field, thought leaders who demonstrate their expertise in blogs and articles. Review agency websites paying attention to client work shared, team bios, case studies, and news about the agency.
Narrow your selection pool to three agencies and then interview each in person. Here’s a checklist of important questions to ask:
What do you know about my company/business?
You should expect an agency to have done a little homework prior to your meeting. This demonstrates interest and gives you an idea of the effort they are willing to put in upfront even prior to an engagement.
What is your approach to project management?
Listen to a level of communication and organization that suits your needs. A one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach is generally not ideal. Timelines, deadlines, mindful budget management and measurement should be part of ongoing project management.
Can you share references and case studies?
Hiring a PR/marketing agency is similar to hiring a new team member. Checking references and reviewing case studies are important to get a sense of how the agency performs with other clients and the work they’ve done. The Forbes Agency Council urges, “Please don’t skip this step: It will save you a lot of heartache and money.”
Who will be the primary point of contact?
Having the opportunity to meet the primary point of contact at the initial meeting is important. You’ll know who you will be working directly with rather than meeting and building rapport with a business development team to then be handed off to an account manager you have not met. Bonus points to the agency that has a senior-level person connected to every account.
How will the relationship be kicked off – how long will it take for you (the agency) to be up to speed?
Once you’ve chosen an agency, you’re likely ready to get started as soon as possible, so you’ll want your agency to reflect that sense of urgency in their response. Launching immediately into the discovery phase and conducting a deep dive is a key first step not to be missed in order to develop a sound strategy. Your agency partner should quickly understand your unique points of differentiation, your coveted audiences, and your business goals.
Will all of our work be handled in-house?
Depending on the scope of work anticipated, knowing upfront what kind of work, if any, might need to be out-sourced is important. Don’t assume the agency you hire has the expertise in house to perform all of the work. Some agencies have in-house creative and digital teams and others do not, for example.
Learning about any strategic partnerships or additional resources may also be important to fulfill your scope. Being a member of The Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), a consortium of more than 50 public relations and communications agencies with over 900 employees and spanning six continents allows associated agencies to tap into particular expertise for clients as necessary.
Why should I hire you?
Rather than looking for a great sales closing line, listen for alignment from the agency on things that are important to you.
What information will I receive my monthly invoice?
In my experience, I’ve found that clients really appreciate receiving a detailed report of activities along with the invoice. Look for an agency with full transparency and willing to share the detail of what goes on behind the scenes.
What do you need from me too for us to work well together?
Agencies should mention things such as open, two-way communication. It is important for you to think of your agency and utilize them as an extension of your team. Open lines of communication are critical for that.
Chances are all the three agencies probably have the skills and expertise to do the job at hand. Responses to the interview questions should help differentiate the agencies. Ultimately, ask yourself, “Who do I want to work with?” As inc.com noted, “What makes a relationship with a PR agency work is no different from what makes any great relationship work: The chemistry has to be there, they have to really “get” what you’re trying to do, and just because they’re able to prove past success in past relationships doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right for you.”
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