“Our marketing sucks.”

The thought that runs through your head at least once is that, if you’re a marketer and you’re asked to help choose a marketing agency, you’re going to have to worm your way into their heads.

You might feel overwhelmed by the requirements of a campaign. You might feel like you’ve struggled to gain traction. Or, you might think that hiring an agency is what mature companies do.

The reason for this is unknown, but you have been asked to help with the agency selection process.

We are professionals, but many of us do not receive much hands-on training in choosing the right company. Most entrepreneurs also do not receive much hands-on training. This is probably why clients in our industry often struggle with disbelief and chronic disappointment.

They want specific results.

Some companies hire what they believe to be the best agency for the job, but then the work delivered is poor. Usually, the company assumes that the agency tricked them and did not do a good job.

Each business has its own set of rules, attitudes, and culture. Just like people, businesses have their own unique personalities.

What are the characteristics of a good marketing agency? There are certain key ingredients that can help you identify a good marketing agency. Look for an agency that is creative, collaborative, and has a strong track record of delivering results. A good agency will also be a good fit for your company in terms of size, culture, and values.

The right agency will understand your business and be able to speak to your customers fluently. This will allow them to attract more of the right customers for you.

If the agency is not a good fit for your business, their ideas will likely not be successful. This can cause tension with customers.

Your Organization’s Temperament Impacts Agency Success

An agency that understands the culture and climate of your business can create a more customized approach that is better suited to you and your customers.

Clients who say “do it all for me” often spend a lot of time deliberating on which agency to choose. Once they’ve made their decision, they push all of the work onto their agency. Their motto is “just take care of it”.

Clients who want their agency to “do it my way” have a clear vision or plan for what they want. They are more interested in finding an agency that can execute their vision than in getting feedback or collaboration from the agency.

Collaborators want an agency that will work with them to create a strategy. They want to be able to discuss and work out their plans together; they believe this kind of discussion is a natural part of how work should be. They want to be challenged and supported.

Clients who come to us want to learn; they understand that there’s a lot they don’t know. Hiring an agency allows them to get one-on-one instruction from people who are experienced and work in this field every day. After they feel like they’ve learned enough, they either bring their marketing programs in-house or hire generalists that they train.

Find The Best Marketing Agencies And You Win

The typical approach is to find the best agency your money can buy and hire them.

  1. Reach out to network and connections for a recommendation
  2. Go through your company’s contacts to find someone
  3. Finally, place an add, RFP or request with a list of agencies

The approaches described in the text will only be effective if the reader knows what they want from an agency. The first step is to eliminate any agencies that are not suitable from the list. The next step is to create a list of potential agencies to investigate further.

So What Should You Look For In A Marketing Agency?

1. Agency size

The logic behind this approach is that by choosing an agency where your budget puts you in the top 3%, you will get more attention on your account, which in turn leads to more traffic, leads, and sales.

A great place to start would be case studies. A better question to ask your agency is if they can deliver, with evidence to back it up. Ask for case studies that show they understand your business, customers, and language, and that they have been able to produce great results for other clients.

2. Category, market segment or product experience

The theory behind this is that choosing an agency which specializes in your industry means they will already be familiar with the industry and what works. This reduces the amount of time and training needed to get them up to speed, making the process quicker overall.

Your organization’s approach will dictate which agency you want to find. An experienced agency will be able to not only work in your industry, but be able to focus their time and attention on what will be the best fit.

If you want to take on more risk to get faster results, work with an agency that has a proven track record of getting attention. It is more important to validate the agency’s ability when working with them, as there is a higher risk of failure.

3. Location

Organizations often prefer to have face-to-face meetings with their agency. This can be a good idea because it allows you to sit down and strategize with the people who are actually working on your account. You also get a better sense of what you’re paying for when you meet in person.

Only you’re not.

You travel, hire locally or subcontract to get the results you need. But let’s be honest, are these in-person meetings really necessary, or are they just because of expectations and a need for control?

Experience tells us it’s the latter.

4. Agency self-promotion

Have You Tried These 10 Marketing Agency Selection Criteria?

This basically means: Does this agency do what they say they will do? Are their websites and marketing materials high quality? Does their client work show that they know what they’re doing? Does this agency care about their image and reputation?

You should ask agencies you are considering working with to show you an example of a marketing campaign that they have planned and executed from start to finish. After that, ask to see the results of the campaign. You’re looking for:

  • The financial results of their campaign
  • How they ran the campaign
  • How they came up with their ideas
  • How customers responded to the campaign

You’re looking for a clear indication of each step.

5. Client references

Most of the time, clients ask for references from the agency. This is because getting references from the agency will give them a good indication of the agency’s credibility.

On average, how much time should I allow per agency? You should ask prospective agencies to set up a meeting with the client that includes you and the agency employees that would be working on the account. You should allow for about an hour of time per agency.

If agencies have good relationships with their clients, they can easily set up this kind of arrangement.


You can listen to the interaction between the client and the agency staff. This allows you to gauge how well the client knows the staff and how much they know about the topic. This powerful combination of watching and listening provides answers to these questions.


The agency’s case study discusses the results it achieved for a client. It explains what the agency did for the client and how this affected the client’s business. This discussion allows you to validate the results of the case study in real time.


Do clients feel comfortable with agency staff? Does their tone sound like they’re old friends and have a relationship or does it sound forced, awkward, and uncomfortable?


Questions are meant to help assess each contender for a project. They are designed to help determine how long it took for the client to see results, when those results started, how long they lasted, and if the results are continuing to grow.

6. They have what I want

When looking to hire a marketing provider, it is important to find one that demonstrates all the qualities you would want them to have for your business. This includes having a message that resonates with target audiences, producing valuable content, and having a website that presents their value proposition in a clear way. Having a provider that can do all of these things is proof that they can truly deliver.

It is important to work with a marketing agency that is ambitious and will hold itself and its clients accountable.

7. Transparency across every dimension of the partnership

Have You Tried These 10 Marketing Agency Selection Criteria?

Level of effort and schedule

A successful marketing partnership is one in which both sides understand the tasks required of them, the stakeholders involved, and the level of effort and participation required. Having a clear understanding of these things from the beginning will help create a successful partnership.

Flexibility in purchasing services

You should explore contract arrangements that are beneficial to both parties, including equal monthly payments or milestone payments. You should also consider paying with credit cards.

Another thing to think about is whether your company could save money by getting a bundled, packaged, or subscription service. We all know that having extra staff on hand isn’t profitable in the professional world.

A packaged approach to hiring can be beneficial for both the hiring firm and the provider firm. The hiring firm can save money, and the provider firm can ensure that staff are billable.

When considering what kind of service to purchase, it is important to evaluate whether an a la carte service or a packaged service would be more beneficial. A la carte services can be beneficial for certain needs, but there are also times when a packaged service would make more sense. It all depends on the specific situation.

Team makeup

Does your business only care about cost, to the point where you’re only considering hiring solo marketing consultants (or even worse, the boss’s nephew)? To gain productive and valuable marketing insight, you need to employ a group of workers with a diverse range of skillsets, including digital skills, research skills, analytical skills, creative writing skills, strategic planning skills, social media skills, and project management skills.

You will have a difficult time finding a marketing consultant who can work on your rebranding project effectively if they are working alone. It is important to consider cost when hiring a consultant, but it is more important to make sure that they have relevant experience and enough resources to get the job done.

Fluency in remote access

When you are looking at different marketing agencies, think about how comfortable they are with technology. Are they good at using virtual meetings? Can you get the help of an entire team of specialists? Or do you just get one person to meet with you? In today’s relationships between clients and providers, being able to access an entire team, even virtually, can be more beneficial than just having one face-to-face meeting.

Having specialists available to talk to by phone can be a great value to your firm.

8. Demonstrated success is all the proof you need

The best way to learn about an advertising agency is to talk to their current and past clients. Even if the reference isn’t in the same industry as your firm, they can provide insights on project delivery, team dynamics, overall client management, and success rates.

You can learn a lot about a marketing agency by looking at the case studies and designs in their portfolio, as well as the variety of references they have.

Consider their track record. Ask about their involvement or knowledge of your industry. Have they written or spoken to trade organizations related to your main business? Are they a well-known expert? Remember, professional services are more difficult to market than most consumer products. Is the firm you’re thinking about committed to educating themselves and their potential clients? Look at their history to see if they have a good track record.

9. The firm knows that even great strategies fail without implementation

Here are some key questions to ask: When you are looking at a marketing agency, it is important to think about how they will help you put your marketing plans into action. Beyond the reports, plans and data they will give you, how will they help you understand and carry out the implementation that is needed? Here are some key questions you can ask:

These are the questions the implementation and measurement phase must answer. The CEO in an old commercial is surprised when the strategists he compliments don’t know how the strategy will be implemented or measured. The implementation and measurement phase exists to answer these questions.

You can evaluate these criteria by thinking of it as a diagnosis. If they understand the issues and recommend a workable solution, then you can trust them. However, if you’re not convinced that the marketing consultant has the right diagnosis, you’re not likely to be happy with the cure.

10. Culture is a pixel-deep

We are all used to searching the internet for information about a company or individual before we meet them. When choosing a potential marketing agency, we should do the same thing. We should look at the company’s website and social media presence to see if they have what we are looking for.

You can learn about a company’s culture by visiting their website. A mix of younger and older employees means that the company is likely to have a lot of experience and be up-to-date with the latest trends. A company culture that supports a good relationship between clients and vendors is more likely to be profitable than one that doesn’t.

Standard qualification when looking for a marketing agency:

Staff: experience and tenure

Specialization: focus areas and experience

Pricing: pricing methods, timing, amounts, etc.

Legal: compliance with your legal requirements, terms, disclosures, etc.

Process: How will they accomplish campaign goals and objectives?

When looking at a pitch from a company, you should consider if their proposed approach is compatible with your brief, if it solves the problem, and if you think they are the right company for the job. Asking yourself these questions can help you make a decision about whether or not to hire the company.


About the Author Brian Richards

See Brian's Amazon Author Central profile at https://amazon.com/author/brianrichards

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