3 questions to ask a marketing agency before working with them
by Lucy Seymour on 23 November 2018
We're big believers in the power of the agency – we know, we would say that, as we are one! But we also recognise a marketing agency might not be for you. Working alongside an agency, whether it's for your marketing strategy, sales advice or offering fantastic customer service, should be an experience that frees you up to do more of what your business needs, safe in the knowledge that other areas are being well taken care of.
But not just any agency will suit any business – you need to find the right fit. So we decided to pool together our top advice to help you find your best-fit agency (and tips about the tricky questions you need to ask from the start). Based on some of the informative queries that were raised at last week's 'Grow with HubSpot' event, which we were lucky enough to attend, we've got a clearer idea than ever about the concerns people have about working with agencies.
Speaking to a packed room about what it’s like to be – and work with – a HubSpot agency, the speakers – which included advice from our own directors, John Kelleher and Lucy Seymour, plus B2B Marketing Lab’s Verity Dearsley and Jessica Packer – were certainly qualified to discuss agency life: ESM Inbound recently became a Platinum-Certified HubSpot Agency Partner, while B2B Marketing Lab celebrated their Diamond HubSpot agency partner certification last year. If the agency you’re currently deliberating about can’t clearly answer the questions we've collated below, then you might want to look elsewhere.1. How do they communicate with clients?
Does your marketing agency have clear rules regarding communication? What are the expectations about contact in terms of form and frequency?
You may want to ask questions such as:
This may seem a lot of questions to find answers to, but, as FormKeep has reported, communication issues are one of the biggest problems between clients and agencies:
“Ninety-eight percent of agencies and clients agreed that trust was a major factor in maintaining relationships, but that poor communication was a major factor when there was a lack of trust.”
Establishing expectations at the start of your working relationship – including what is deemed under- and over-communicating – will ensure a much smoother process.
Top tip: Ask for communication guidelines to be outlined in your SLA (Service-Level Agreement) to help effectively manage expectations, clarify both parties’ responsibilities, and minimise chances of future conflict.
Does the marketing agency you’re considering working with have a clear and precise, tried-and-tested pricing structure? Are they transparent about these prices from the early stages of your communication with them?
You may want to consider questions such as:
During ESM Inbound’s panel session at ‘Grow with HubSpot’ many audience members had questions about justifying the cost of HubSpot. ESM Inbound’s Director of Growth, John Kelleher, explained this further:
“In terms of justifying the cost of the HubSpot software, you’re not going to have to pay us anything after time X to do maintenance and updates on your website – you might choose for us to provide other services which are much more valuable than that – but your HubSpot subscription takes care of the technical maintenance.”
Verity Dearsley, Managing Director at B2B Marketing Lab, supported this thinking:
“There are no other CMS platforms at HubSpot’s price point that allow you to do this level of smart tailoring natively within the platform: being able to have a huge amount of personalisation, smart forms based on devices, region or languages – that is the real value.”
Top tip: If your agency is providing you with their HubSpot onboarding service, it’s likely you’ll find the costs are more than worth it, once you consider how much you’re currently spending on other sales softwares, analytics platforms and content uploaders which can then be integrated into HubSpot so everything is in one place – but do shop around for the agency that suits your team, budget and goals.
One of the benefits of choosing to work with an agency should be having a clear timeline to results. Here are some questions to consider ahead of beginning:
These final two points came up a few times during the ‘HubSpot Partner Program Customer Panel’, where John Kelleher explained ESM Inbound’s approach to treating new customers as individuals:
“We do an awful lot of work in terms of trying to figure out: is this an existing HubSpot customer, or is it a new business? Those two prospects are going to need very different nurturing through our process. We want to do what it takes for clients to get a personalised HubSpot-onboarding experience.”
While Verity Dearsley explained the approach to prioritising internal development at B2B Marketing Lab:
“In the last couple of years, we’ve really focused in on ourselves. We took one of our most experienced account managers out of our client-services team and put him fully onto focusing on our own business.”
We know agencies aren’t for everyone: your own internal marketing team might be doing a stellar job, you might find working with freelancers is a successful way to add value, or you might want to start using new software directly with the provider – these options are all valid!
Every business is different – but if you do choose to work with an inbound marketing agency, we want to help you feel armed with probing questions so you can find the right one for you, forging an exceptional working relationship together. Keep these considerations in mind when you start your search for an agency, and don’t be afraid to shop around; the perfect one for you is out there!