How to pick a marketing agency

Here’s a truth that can be hard to swallow: Even the best product or service in the world won’t sell if the marketing behind it is weak. The adverse is true, too. Some of the worst products are extremely profitable simply because of excellent marketing.

For business owners, this means investing in marketing is crucial if you want to succeed. Understanding the importance of having a marketing agency is crucial when selecting one. In today’s competitive business environment, a strategic and effective marketing approach can be the key to success. 

But making the investment in marketing is intimidating, to say the least. There are so many marketing agencies out there, all who range in experiences and price points. In fact, according to IBISWorld, there are 48,971 Digital Advertising Agencies businesses in the US as of 2023, an increase of 15.6% from 2022. So, now the question is how do you pick the right marketing agency for your business needs?

Here, we’ll outline which questions you should be asking and what to consider when choosing a marketing agency.

Question # 1: What are your expectations and needs?

Just like with any choice, you should know what you’re looking for first. What are you trying to accomplish with your business? And how will marketing play a role in accomplishing that goal?

Are you trying to get new customers? Are you hoping to get your current customers to buy more products from you? Are you aiming to improve your brand’s reputation? Are you a new company that no one knows about? 

Determining your business goals will help narrow down what type of marketing agency you should hire, since many agencies specialize in specific services. If you need help creating a brand or re-branding your business, for example, a branding agency is probably best. If you’re hoping to get more customers, a digital marketing agency that does SEO (search engine optimization) and/or PPC (pay-per-click advertising) is preferred. 

Other marketing agency types are:

  • Traditional ad agencies — The priority of ad agencies is managing advertisements across various mediums, including billboards, commercials, and print materials such as newspapers and magazines.
  • PR marketing agencies — A PR (public relations) agency focuses on your brand reputation and perception to the public.
  • Social media marketing agencies — These agencies create and deploy social media campaigns to build an audience and drive sales.
  • Content marketing agencies — It’s all about content for this agency type. They typically manage business blogs and create videos or other visual assets for businesses.

Question # 2: What is your budget?

Of course, your budget is going to play a big role in your selection of a digital marketing agency. The percentage of business revenue spent on marketing varies from industry to industry, but it tends to sit right around 10%.

Look at your budget and calculate how much you can realistically spend to reach your goals (get new customers, improve your reputation, establish a brand, sell more products, etc). Of course, all marketing should ultimately lead to bringing in more revenue.

For some marketing tactics, especially PPC, it’s fairly straightforward to measure the ROI of your efforts. Google will even tell you exactly how much you’re paying for each phone call. For other tactics that take time to establish, like general branding or SEO marketing, the ROI isn’t as clear. Put frankly, it may take time to see the immediate benefits from some marketing.

With your budget in mind, you can start shopping around for a marketing agency. Some agencies list their price packages online, while others you will need to get on the phone with in order to ask.

Question # 3: Do you want a specialist or generalist?

There’s one more question you should answer in your search for a marketing agency. Do you want to work with an agency that specializes in your industry or one that works with all types of industries?

The benefits of a specialist is that it won’t take them much time to crack the code for your business. Let’s say you are a pest control business. If the agency you are considering has already worked with several pest control companies, they have a head start. They already know which marketing tactics work, from the ideal header copy on a landing page to how to write a Google ad that always gets clicks.

If the agency has not worked with pest control businesses — or at least similar businesses — before, they will be taking a shot in the dark for the first few weeks or months. And that equates to a lot of money spent without getting a return.

Now, that’s not to say a generalist agency won’t ultimately get the job done. Oftentimes, there can be crossover between industries, allowing agencies to see success in an industry they’ve never touched before.

How to know if a digital marketing agency is a good fit

With those questions answered, you can narrow down your options of which marketing agencies to engage with. And once you start engaging with them, you can get a feel for some critical factors:

Way down here at the bottom of the page, Google has created a little real estate for more paid ads. These ads almost never get clicked on but you can’t blame the search giant for trying to generate more revenue. 

  • How the agency communicates
  • What the agency values
  • When and how they measure campaign performance

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Analyze their communication style

Communication is key in any relationship. Yes, that means whether or not they pick up the phone or respond to an email, but, perhaps more importantly, it means how they listen and speak.

An agency that dances around your questions or that makes assumptions about what you need rather than listens is not an agency you want to work with. A marketing agency partner should listen, validate your questions and concerns, and answer them truthfully.

Depending on how involved you want to be in your marketing, agencies should also be willing to share their marketing strategies and results — in a way that you understand. Agencies should not speak jargon or overcomplicate things to keep you in the dark. If you hope to learn about marketing so you can make educated decisions for your business, a good marketing agency will teach rather than gatekeep knowledge.

Consider the agency’s values

The agency-client relationship will be much smoother if you share similar values. These could include:

  • Honesty — They are upfront about what they can and cannot do, and the expected results of those efforts
  • Humility — Stay grounded and focused when they experience success
  • Dependability — Consistently available and does what they say they will do
  • Integrity — Are willing to take responsibility for actions
  • Hunger/Excitement — A genuine interest and passion for what they are doing
  • Learning — Doesn’t assume they know it all already
  • Creativity — Able to think out of the box and find solutions

In an ideal world, an agency would have all of these qualities, but not everyone is perfect. So that leads to the question: What values do you prioritize over others? What would you be willing to sacrifice and what is a non-starter? 

Ask about analytics and performance

You may want to know all the ins and outs of how marketing campaigns are performing. Or, you may want to be very hands off and just let the customers come in. Either way, the agency you work with should be willing and able to share analytics. Performance metrics will vary based on the tactics being deployed.

Ask the agency you are considering working with how they report on campaigns. You can even ask to see a sample report. If an agency is hesitant about showing you reports or straight-up says they don’t do reports, that’s a red flag.

We admit there is a lot to think about when picking a digital marketing agency for your business. You want an agency that fits your needs, communicates well, shares your values, has experience (preferably in your field), and is within your budget. It can seem like a lot. But there are a lot of agencies out there. Look around, ask around, and read reviews. And good luck in your search for the perfect agency!

If you think that GrowthBound Marketing may be a good fit for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. Honesty is one of our biggest values, so we’ll be honest about whether or not you are a good fit for us. We want clients that share our values and that we know we can deliver results for. Give us a call and let’s start the conversation.

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