11 tips for businesses when hiring a marketing consultant or agency

Are you ready to take the plunge with hiring a marketing consultant or agency to assist with your strategic marketing efforts? Finding the perfect fit for your business can seem like a daunting task when you think of all the boxes that have to be checked. You want a consultant or agency with experience in your industry, a record of happy clients and of course you want their services to fit with your budget. 

Did you know that your business could potentially be “at risk” of being taken advantage of when seeking marketing help? It’s important to do your due diligence when researching the agency or marketing consultant that you are considering while also having a goal in mind with what you wish to achieve through your marketing efforts. 

The following 10 tips from digital marketing experts will assist with your quest for hiring a reputable and effective marketing consultant or agency for your business.

  1. Do your research 

Jason Wirz of FLYBYm Web Design and SEO suggests “Take a deep look at the potential agencies client website profile. One way to do this is by visiting an SEO tool such as Semrush which offers a 7 day trial. With the tool you can scan their current clients websites to see how healthy and prosperous they are.”

Eduard Dziak of B2B Digital Marketers suggests “Ensure that they specialize in what you need, match your brand voice, and are able to collaborate if needed.”

Rachel Lindteigen of Etched Marketing suggests “Do research before hiring a marketing consultant. Many of the newer marketing channels can feel complicated to small business owners leaving them unsure what to ask or how to verify if they’re getting what they’re paying for and sadly, often they don’t. By researching the consultant and their background you have a better chance of finding someone who has the experience to get results for your business.”

  1. Know your objectives

Be clear on what you are looking for first, before you start looking for agencies. List down what exactly you are looking for. Why? Agencies usually have their own signature or their own niche, it can be PR, SEO, paid advertising, social media, or content / email marketing says Janelle Swing, CEO of Janelle Swing Marketing.

Alfonso Grasa Gerez of Maippen Consulting Ltd. says “From the very first moment the consultant must know what the deliverables should look like- What are your expectations in terms of quality and pieces to be delivered? Here, pricing is of great importance as you should acknowledge whether the portfolio’s quality is worth the value you will be paying for their services. It is also key that both parties understand how much they have to get involved in the process.”

Jason Therrien of Thunder Tech says “Know and prioritize what really matters to the organization. Everyone wants great work, but how important are other factors and how would you prioritize them? Many factors get discussed, but few client-side organizations actually rank their importance. Factors such as these have different meaning for each organization: proactive idea generation, ability to measure impact, personality fit, industry experience, tenure of agency and people on your account, breadth and depth of services, in-house vs. outsourcing, etc. These are all great things to have, but the order your organization puts them will make it clearer on how to decide which agency will serve you best.”

Kathryn Read Uniconsult-Wick & Partner Micheldorf says “You have a clear target of the result you are looking for, then it is easier to ask the right questions. Ask LOTS of questions as you need to find out if the consultant or agency has experience in your industry. Often companies want to avoid a consultant who has worked with a competitor, but that isn’t always a good plan. If they did a good job for the competition but no longer work together then they have a proven track record in your industry and you don’t need to pay for their “training hours” to get up to speed. Yes, you might need to amend your original plan later based on the expert advice of your agency but you need to be clear on what you want to achieve and why that’s important to your company’s overall strategy.”

  1. Do a pilot project

We love what Simon Dwight Kellar, founder and CEO of SDK Marketing suggests about starting off with a pilot project before committing to working with a specific agency or consultant. “Once you’ve made up your mind about the consultant you’d like to work with, give them a pilot project before hiring them. That way, you will measure the knowledge they can apply to help you achieve your goals. Make it easy for the marketing consultant by providing the details necessary to get the job done. These details are things like existing brand assets, account access for specific channels, past market analysis reports, and past performance reports.”

  1. Ensure they have experience with your niche

Juliana Walckoff of Spruce Sumo says “Depending on the company size and the way it is structured, the duties of a marketing consultant might vary. But in general, this position is in charge of all marketing efforts. Therefore, it is crucial to hire someone well-versed in all areas of marketing — email marketing, affiliate marketing, social media marketing and so on.”

Dylan Porter of Gremlin Works suggests “You want to find a digital marketing agency that is working for companies of all sizes. It is difficult for them to see the potential and develop your brand because they have collaborated with large companies only. A blend of independent, medium and large firms would be the right agency. Now even when you grow, they can take care of you.”

  1. Talk openly about your budget up front

Mary Cochran of Launching Labs Marketing says “Companies searching for an agency often try to hide their budget. They try to do a search as though they are looking for a product and not a service. The more open you can be about your needs and budget the less likely you will be disappointed. You are rarely comparing apples to apples like the model number of a TV set. If an agency knows the budget they can suggest ways to save or the best way to spend that money.”

  1. Do a reference check

Kevin Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of GR0 says “My #1 tip for businesses that are hiring marketing agencies is to do a reference check. Ask for the contact information of a few current or former clients, and reach out to them to see what their experience was like. If they’re current clients, are they satisfied with the work being done? Are they getting impactful results? If they’re a former client, why did they leave? Would they recommend the agency to you?

Gathering this valuable insight will help you make your decision for the right agency. You’ll be able to look beyond the agency’s website, and actually go behind the scenes to see what’s really going on. If an agency is unable to provide you with references, they probably aren’t a reputable agency.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO Mavens & Moguls suggests “My advice is that you have to kick the tires and look under the hood by talking with them, checking their references and seeing if there is a chemistry fit.”

Joseph Randazzo of Portland SEO Growth suggests “Ask to talk to as many current paying clients as possible to hear their experience. Ask them questions like:

  • Are you getting a positive ROI?
  • How does the agency communicate? Do they answer the phone? Does it take a while to respond to emails?
  • How’s the quality of the work?
  • Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?”

Julian Lloyd of Mindset Media suggests “Ask the agency or freelancer for the permission to contact 1-2 of their current or past clients to be able to discuss the services they received from the agency or freelancer. I feel this is a much safer approach than asking to see statistics because those are (in my opinion) much more easily faked. If you can reach out to an actual human being who has dealt with this individual for an extended period of time then you can get insight on how their website traffic increased, on the growth of actual leads they received, on the literal increase in their revenue during that time period, how fast they are at replying, how reliable they are etc. This, in my opinion, is the single most powerful way to find out if a freelancer or agency is worth investing your time and effort into.”

  1. Talk about strategy

Sam Puleo, President of Shwego Media suggests to ask “What is your recommended

strategy based on my goals? And can you outline a plan for me to make a return on my investment (i.e. your marketing fee, ad cost, etc)?” 

Puleo continues to explain “An effective marketing person understands the Profit & Loss statement, that is, he/she understands the financial impacts of the marketing strategy. There are many marketing people or agencies who present great ideas that simply do not earn profits.”

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Lauren Shroll, Founder of Camille Outside The Box suggests “When hiring a marketing agency, pose the following question during an initial discovery call: “What do you see as our next step in marketing at this point in time?” This question is important because it allows you to pry into a marketing agency or consultant’s core service offerings. You can better see how their strengths intersect with your business needs, available monthly marketing budget, and proposed timeline. A promising agency or consultant will be clear in their recommendations, budget, and ideal timeline to work together.”

Filip Silobod of Honest Marketing suggests “Ask who exactly will work on your account and their level of experience. Small clients might get interns. The work you get in an agency is often determined by how much money you pay. There are high, medium and low paying clients and they are treated like such in an agency. If you pay a lot you will be treated well but if you don’t, it’s better to go somewhere smaller.”

  1. Go into the details

Cole Torres from Local Eye Media says “One tip is to make sure that the consultant or agency you are interviewing can give a detailed plan on what they will do to make your marketing efforts successful. Anyone can give you broad ideas of what to expect. Make sure that the agency contact can provide you a step-by-step plan of the services that will be performed.”

Robert Brill of BrillMedia.co says “There are two things needed from a good marketing firm: performance and insights. Agencies sell on the promise of performance, and often don’t talk about the insights. Marketers are easily persuaded by promises of performance, and don’t get the benefit of insights.”

Milosz Krasinski of Chilli Fruit Web Consulting says “Find out how the consultant or agency will use the emails that they collect – for example, what kind of content will they be sending and, how often will they be sending it. This is something that you absolutely need to know before signing on the dotted line. This can basically be the difference between a marketing agency engaging with your audience and reacting to current events by sending relevant targeted information and an agency sending out a limp non-relevant email once a month.”

  1. Look for the red flags

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO Mavens & Moguls says “Red flags are when they talk about awards they have won and not results from their campaigns and work. If you are a small account you do not want to be a training ground for the young creatives to learn with, make sure you have access to good talent. Do they work with clients who have a similar budget?”

“Avoid companies that lack testimonials or feedback from previous customers. This is either an indication that the marketing firm is fresh or that their previous clients had negative experiences, all of which indicate that the agency is not a good fit for you” says Leia Dusk of Dusk Digital.

Kim Grennan of Axle Eight cautions “The biggest mistake people usually make is signing a contract that binds them into too long of a commitment. It’s really hard to gauge if the work your agency is doing for you is going to move the needle for your business. Locking yourself into a contract forces a commitment that might not be worth it.”

  1. Ask for case studies

Aidan Sowa of Sowa Marketing Agency suggests “When hiring a marketing agency, make them show their case studies. It’s important because anyone can start a marketing agency, but not anyone can achieve fantastic results for clients.”

In conclusion, start things off by knowing your objectives and thoroughly researching the consultant or agency’s relevant experience to your niche or industry. This can be achieved by  reading through case studies and speaking to previous clients. To top things off, trust your instincts and ensure you like the person you plan to hire!