Of course it’s exciting to hire an agency, there’s a lot of hope and vision that goes into the process. However, sometimes there’s also the feeling of dread that comes with hiring an agency. 

“What if they blow it, and what if I get blamed for it?” 

You’re not alone. But you’d probably be surprised at just how much of your agency’s success or failure is actually in your court. Use this collection of resources to guarantee results and a fruitful agency partnership. 

Pre-vetting agency checklist

The success of your future agency starts before you even hire them. When you have a concrete
gameplan in your research process you will find the hiring, and subsequent partnership, going
much smoother.

Set both parties up for success by making sure you have hit each item on this pre-vetting checklist.

Knowing the answers to each of these items will take time — and some of them may not be possible to complete in full — but careful thought about each item listed below is going to help your business earn greater results with your agency.

☑️ Benchmark relevant marketing numbers (traffic, CPA, closing rates, etc.)

☑️ Have a 12 month goal in mind for a handful of target KPIs.

☑️ Determine what sources of data are trusted sources, including web analytics, CRM data, and sales numbers.

☑️ Set, or seek out, a budget before talking to agencies; a range is appropriate.

☑️ Determine what success means for you in the next 12 months.

☑️ Determine exactly what an agency would need to accomplish for you to reach your 12 month success goal.

☑️ Act and speak for the final decision maker, not yourself (if you are not the final decision maker)

☑️ Do a post-mortem examination of your most recent agency relationship, including reading emails, regular reports, call agendas, and so on.

☑️ Additionally, read through the most recent agency SOW to determine what was actually asked at the onset of the relationship.

☑️ Create a scorecard of important factors for your organization to reference when hiring an agency (e.g. performance, reliability, cost, contract length, etc.)

A lot of folks may disagree about the idea of coming with a budget in mind. True, that number will inevitably change, but there’s little benefit in hiding that from a prospective agency. A few things to note about agencies setting budgets:

☑️ The right agency will press for the right budget

☑️ The right agency will give you the most value for your budget

☑️ The right agency will give more value when you offer more budget

And finally, don’t forget to come up with a list of questions for when you get to the sales process; we’ve got a great list on the next page.

Questions to ask during the sales process

You may find yourself talking with 3-6 agencies when making your agency hire. Good questions power good discussion and help you feel assured that you are making the right decision in the end. Know what you want, and relentlessly ask questions to learn more.

Use this list of questions during the sales process. These questions can and should be asked over the course of a few phone calls, not all out the gate.

  • What makes your agency different from others?
    • Look for an easy, concrete response.
  • Tell me how you plan to achieve these goals for us?
    • Ask for a solid action plan instead of a case study of how they did it with someone else.
  • Why do you recommend doing XYZ?
    • This will ensure you understand the agency’s plan of attack, and also push them to create a custom strategy for you.
  • How will the work be executed?
    • Seek understanding about the agencies’ team/department structure, know how many and who will be working on your account.
  • What’s your preference between hourly, deliverable, and goal-based agreements?
    • Goal-based agreements are nearly always the best long-term relationship.
  • Can we set up another call to discuss the proposal?
    • Agencies shouldn’t send a proposal over email with a phone call to review it, give them the time to review the proposal together in person.
  • What will reporting look like, and how often will I receive reports?
    • Most agencies have standard reporting frequencies, but look for an agency that adheres to standards, while offering room for flexibility to suit your needs.

A little note on RFPs. These are one of the poorest means to understand whether an agency will be a good fit. If you are required to create an RFP, don’t neglect the questions above in your communication with the agencies you contact. Sending information back and forth exclusively through email is not a good way to do business.

Deliverable or goal-based contract?

More times than not, goal-based contracts are the way to go. However, there are certain situations where one prevails against the other.

Use this chart to determine which is right for your current situation.

There are some businesses out there that will be perpetually deliverable-based. These are usually enterprises with strict procurement processes. Even in situations like this, when working with an agency long-term, make an effort to set an underlying goal as the priority behind deliverables. This will inevitably increase the quality of work produced by your agency.

It’s appropriate to begin an agency engagement with deliverable-based contracts with the intent to turn it into a goal-based partnership. This transition usually takes 3-6 months.

Trust quiz

Have you worked with multiple agencies and found yourself constantly underwhelmed and flustered with results? Trust, or lack of trust, may be the culprit. And believe it or not, trust is a two-way street with your agency. Take this quiz and find out if you’re giving your agency enough trust to have a healthy partnership. Download this list as a PDF

The results/communication cycle

When you communicate effectively with your marketing agency, you can expect better results. And those positive results will inevitably power better communication. It’s a symbiotic system that perpetually feeds itself indefinitely.

Read up on what can help you enter or stay in this cycle with your agency, and what will kick you out of the cycle.

How to continue the cycle

  • Push for the optimizations or suggestions your agency makes to be implemented on time
  • Tell your agency when results, strategy, or deliverables seem off
  • Trust your agencies’ expertise when they come with pivots
  • Ask questions when you don’t understand jargon or strategy presented by your agency
  • Feed your agency small, but impactful projects
  • Make an efforts for regular meetings to feel more organic and driven by organic discussion
  • Spend at least 30 minutes each week in the weeds, be it analytics, dashboards, or another area your agency has a vantage point over

How to break the cycle

  • Never step out of the driver’s seat in the relationship
  • Express displeasure with deliverables or results with little explanation or suggestions for improvement
  • Save all your agency communication for your standing call
  • Treat your standing meetings with your agency like test or trial where you are checking their work
  • Show disappointment when your agency responds to a question with, “I don’t know the answer, but I will have one to you tomorrow.”
  • Be defensive at every turn

We wish you the best success with whichever agency you currently use, or will use. But should you find yourself in the market for a marketing agency, think of 97th Floor.