Working With a Creative Agency: Ask These 6 Questions First
No matter the size of your organization, working with a creative agency can deliver a serious return on investment for your business. But if you want to ensure that you get the results you’re looking for, it’s essential to sign on with the right agency. There are plenty of great options out there, and some of them will be more suited to your particular business than others. Choosing wisely can produce major dividends in the months and years to come.
How do you know if a particular creative digital marketing agency is the right fit for your business? Ask them these 6 questions to find out.
1. How Do We Stack Up to Your Other Clients In Terms of Spending?
This is a big one. Are you a big fish in a small pond? Or are you a minnow swimming around in one of the Great Lakes?
Neither of those scenarios is a good thing. If you’re a much bigger client than anyone else on their roster, they may not be able to handle the workload you’ll likely place upon them. On the flip side, being much smaller than their other clients means you’ll be easier to ignore (intentionally or otherwise).
If your business is comparable in size to their other clients, it’s a good sign that they’ll be able to meet your expectations when it comes to technical support, customer service, and all other deliverables.
2. How Will You Keep Me Up to Date?
We’ve already discussed your primary point of contact. More specifically, though, it’s important to understand how an agency tends to communicate. Will they send you a daily email update? Do they like to schedule weekly or monthly calls? Are they available for emergency phone conferences as needed?
Generally speaking, best practices dictate that a creative agency should schedule a call with you at least once per month to talk through the current status of various projects. You should also receive prompt responses when you reach out to check on the progress of a particular item. Flexibility is key here: you don’t want to sign on with an agency that refuses to make any alterations to their communication habits in order to meet the needs of your company.
3. How Has Your Agency Changed Over the Years?
The world of digital marketing changes at an incredible rate. It’s important to work with a creative agency that understands both current and future trends. Some agencies are stuck in the past, and their clients suffer as a result.
We shifted our business model away from pure web design towards a fuller integration of design, development, and digital marketing. This allows us to provide our clients with the full suite of services they need. Find out if the company you’re considering has done the same, or if they’re spinning their wheels with strategies that have been outdated for years. It’s also helpful to pay attention to their team dynamic and company culture: have those shifted recently? How do they mesh with your company’s culture and goals?
4. Who Are Your Previous Clients?
There are some fly-by-night agencies out there that offer supposedly professional services at “too good to be true” prices. Invariably, these agencies seem like a great deal...until you ask them who they’ve worked within the past. That’s when you find out that they have little to nothing in the way of a portfolio. If an agency has no track record whatsoever, you’re taking a big risk signing on with them.
Of course, not all experience is created equal, either. Make sure that the creative agency you’re considering has experience in your industry, or at least one with similar needs. At the same time, choosing an agency that specializes in your niche could create potential conflicts of interest, potentially if they work with any of your competitors.
Most importantly of all: does the agency’s client history demonstrate their ability to provide you with the services you’re looking for? If not, you should move on and evaluate other possibilities.
5. Who Is My Point of Contact?
Every agency is different. Some agencies will assign you a single point of contact, and you’ll never be in touch with anyone else at the firm. Others will connect you with a team, and you’ll have regular calls with various departments and experts.
Understanding how all of this works ahead of time is important, as communication is key to success. Are you comfortable with an agency that outsources all of its work offshore? Is the agency a tightly-knit group of professionals working together in an office, or a smattering of freelancers scattered around the globe?
Different agency models have their advantages and disadvantages: for example, an agency that outsources most of its work offshore will likely have lower prices. However, the level of communication you’ll receive will likely be inferior to what you could expect from a creative agency with all of its talent in-house. Consider what will work best with your business, and whether you and your point of contact will be able to establish a positive working relationship.
6. How Do You Measure Return On Investment (ROI)?
If you have any experience working with a creative agency, you’ve likely already familiar with what a monthly analytics report looks like. Some agencies do a great job of hopping on a call, breaking these numbers down, and giving you the bottom line. Others simply dump a bunch of data on you and expect you to sort through it on your own. At the end of the day, though, clear data is necessary in order to measure ROI from month to month.
Different companies may give you different responses when it comes to how they calculate ROI. Some focus more on soft metrics such as brand perception, while others are more data-driven. Either way, though, it’s important to ask exactly how the agency will measure ROI from month to month.
The right answer to this question is simple: they should measure ROI in whatever way fits best with your business. If your company generates most of its leads online but closes sales over the phone, then ROI might involve keeping up with how many “request a quote” forms are submitted each month. For an e-commerce site, ROI could simply be the increase in sales across specific channels (such as organic search, paid traffic, and so on).
Before you sign an agreement, make sure you’re confident that the agency understands which metrics are most important to your business. You’ll need them to follow those metrics closely over the coming months in order to ensure you get the return on investment you’re looking for.
Choosing the Right Creative Agency
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that no agency’s efforts are magic. If your business is struggling, it’s unlikely that any particular agency will be able to step in and offer you overnight success. It may take many months -- perhaps even years -- of analytics, A/B testing, feedback, campaign adjustments, content creation, and more before your investment pays off.
That said, you should expect a qualified agency to work alongside you in a way that’s beneficial to your organization. Transparency, efficiency, and clear communication are essential. By using the above questions to evaluate an agency ahead of time, you’ll find the right digital marketing agency for your business.