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hiring a digital marketing agency

10 Questions You Should Ask Before Signing With a Digital Marketing Agency

Ah, the joys of agency vetting. As the lone business development person at a growing digital marketing agency, I’ve been through many rounds of questioning from in-house marketing teams and corporate executives. And as somebody who used to be on an in-house marketing team that outsourced work to agencies: I get it.

In fact, I get it so much that I wanted to write a blog about it. The goal of vetting an agency is to build trust and make sure that no stone is left unturned. In the highly niche world of digital marketing, it’s even more important that you know the right questions to ask. 

So what are those questions?! Listed below are 10 for your consideration.

#1: “What digital marketing services does your agency specialize in?”

The goal of this question is trying to gauge which parts of the digital marketing puzzle the agency really excels in, and to ensure that it aligns with what you need. If you ask 10 different digital marketers what they do, you’ll get 10 different answers. Some of the top services may include:

  • Social media management (posting on your business’ social media pages)
  • Social media advertising (running paid ads on social media channels)
  • Search engine marketing (bidding on keywords and running ads on Google, Bind, etc.)
  • Affiliate marketing (working with influencers or other affiliates to build sales opportunities)
  • Email marketing (drip campaigns and other email services to increase sales)
  • … and more.

Though you may find an agency that says “we do it all,” dig deeper. Ask where the bulk of their revenue comes from, or where their expertise really lies. It will be extremely rare to find an agency that is highly proficient in all forms of digital marketing. Rather, ensure that they help identify your biggest need, and can offer solutions that assist in solving it.

digital marketing options

#2: “How many clients does your agency have? How many employees do you have to manage said clients?”

Yeah, yeah, so this is technically two questions. But both are important to note! If you’re going to be investing in a marketing agency to oversee your digital presence, you want to ensure that they can go above and beyond what you’d be able to do internally.

The important thing here is to identify if your company will just be another number. In most cases, each dedicated strategist should be able to manage between 5 and 10 clients at a time. If an agency has 10 employees and 200 clients (20 per employee), that may be a red flag. 

If you are concerned about the answers given by the agency, you can ask a follow up question to try to gauge the communication & oversight that you should expect. Something like, “how many hours should we expect your agency to devote to just our business?”

#3: “Who will be our point of contact?”

It’s pretty common to enjoy your sales rep. In many cases, they’ll be footing the tab when they take you out to lunch, they’ll be asking questions about your family and your past work history, and they’ll be hyping up you and your company. That’s because most salespeople are all about the sale.

But when the honeymoon phase is over and you sign the dotted line, you can quickly be passed over to your new point of contact and the luster can wear off. 

My advice: try to meet your future contact in the present. Ask to meet the marketing strategist that you’ll be working with on a regular basis, and the creative personnel who will be responsible for your brand. They’ll also naturally be less “salesy” than your current point of contact, and may help paint a more accurate picture of what to expect from working with this agency.

#4: “When clients have left your agency, what was the reason?”

No marketing agency has a perfect batting average. And sometimes, the way an agency speaks about a past client may reveal how they feel about client relationships in general. In addition to sussing out whether or not they like to badmouth ex-clients, it’s also important to understand the types of clients that don’t work well with their processes.

I’ve been asked this question before, and the first time I was asked it, I was pretty caught off guard. After collecting myself, I realized that the only way to answer this was with 100% transparency. Hopefully your agency will unearth their skeletons too!

marketing agency clients

#5: “Which past clients of yours have had the most success, and what do you think led to that success?”

It’s not only nice to know which clients didn’t have success; it’s also great to know who has had success and why. Many digital marketing agencies will call out specific industries that they have the most success with. A lot of executives appreciate a deep level of industry knowledge in their marketing agencies, but I’ll offer a counterpoint:

Isn’t a fresh perspective nice?

Rather than focusing on the type of industry they work well with, inquire about the business. How many employees? What year of operation? E-commerce or lead gen? Try to glean as many insights as you can about their ideal clients or case study examples, and you’ll be able to feel a greater sense of comfort as to whether or not they’ll have success with you too.

#6: “How does your company develop digital strategies?”

Really focus on the word strategy. Strategy separates the A-player agencies from the B-player agencies. It will also help you see how proactive they are, or if they’re just order takers. Do they expect you to come up with the strategy, and they’re just buying media? Is the process collaborative?

The best agencies will likely have a process in place for developing both account and creative strategies. Try to ask questions to help uncover what their approach looks like, and ensure that they’re putting enough time and effort into building yours.

#7: “What kind of work will be expected of OUR COMPANY when we work with your agency?”

This is one of the most common areas of misalignment between companies and any contracted work. Who handles what? If an agency says that there will be no work required from you, they’re probably lying. At the very least, you’ll need to provide some education about your company and the competitive landscape + provide assets and/or account access to get things rolling.

The main objective with this line of questioning is trying to see who does the heavy lifting. Do you want an agency that can just handle the tactical work (setting up keywords, launching campaigns, tracking data) or do you want an agency that can go above and beyond? The best agencies will make your job easier, but you will still have a job to tend to.

best digital marketing agency

#8: “How long does you onboarding process typically take?”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your digital marketing strategy won’t be either. If you’re looking to get campaigns launched tomorrow, it’ll likely be a heavy ask for any agency. Regardless, get to know the process that your prospective agency uses to get your campaigns launched, so you can prepare accordingly.

In many cases, you’ll hear that it takes a digital agency anywhere from 2-4 weeks to have you fully onboarded. For us, this process involves a discovery session (getting to know more about your company and do introductions to our team members), getting account access, setting up tracking and reporting, building our digital and creative strategies, mockups and copywriting, and building a report before launch.

#9: “Do you handle the development of creative assets as well?”

From my experience, most every agency will have a different answer to this. There are some agencies who excel in creative, and just happen to offer digital placement. There are other agencies who excel in digital strategy, but need your help with the graphics or videos. Then, there are agencies like ours that have an in-house creative department and a digital strategy team that work together.

Figuring out whether or not a digital marketing agency can handle the creative work (video, photo, graphic design, animation, copywriting) will help you plan your resources. In some cases, you may still have to lean on internal creative development, or the creative services of another agency. It’s good to have that in mind as you approach the decision of which agency to hire.

#10: “Do we get access to our accounts and creative assets if we end up leaving your agency?”

This is HUGELY important, and often overlooked. Whether it was your account to begin with or not, when an agency takes over your digital advertising, they’ll be (hopefully) making very impactful changes to your Facebook Business Manager and/or Google Ads accounts. If you end up having to leave (no matter what the circumstances), a clean break is nice. 

I would go as far as recommending that an agency have verbiage on their contract or proposal that spells out what happens to the accounts and creative assets if you leave their agency. Otherwise, you can risk going back to square one if you separate.

account access requirements

As you embark on your search for the next great digital marketing agency, we hope these questions helped. They’re all questions that I’ve been asked, or I’ve thought should be asked when people are prospecting our agency. If you’d like to learn more about what working with our team looks like, feel free to contact me to learn more. I’d be happy to put together a proposal that spells out how you can achieve your search engine goals. Thanks for reading!


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