It’s easy enough to find a marketing agency – the internet is full of them – and these days every business is just a video call away. But how do you choose the right one for your needs?

It doesn’t make it easier that agencies also all describe what they do slightly differently. Sure, differentiation is the point, but it doesn’t make it easier for you to choose a partner who will be able to take your marketing to the next level.

Areas of expertise

Businesses now find themselves having to work out the difference between digital marketing agencies and creative marketing agencies, and asking themselves whether it’s more important to hire an agency that specialises in social media or one that specialises in SEO.

So, let’s look at steps you can take to help make your choice a little clearer.

When should you use a marketing agency?

First and foremost, you should work out if a marketing agency is what you need.

Sometimes your internal team is all you’ll need to market your business. Other times you might need a little external help, and it’s important that you know the difference.

There are many reasons why your business might need a marketing agency:

  • You’re not sure how to best market your business, and what’s being done so far isn’t working.
  • You have a great marketing strategy, but you’ve realised your team lacks critical expertise or just the scale to get it all done to an excellent standard.
  • You’re new and trying to break into the industry — Check out our Stax case study for a brilliant example of how an agency can help you break into a new industry.
  • Your marketing efforts seem to have peaked and your growth has stalled.
  • You need to launch a new product and you need some new ideas about how to go to market.
  • You’re trying to incentivise staff or salespeople to sell your products over the competition and are having trouble getting their attention.

What to expect when you contact your marketing agency

The top marketing agencies will run a discovery session with their potential clients. A discovery session allows the agency to really get to know your business, your goals, your challenges, and the environment you’re competing in. While it might not seem like it’s strictly marketing, this gives the agency that crucial context that will help every future project be more aligned to your brand and goals.

You need to be able to work collaboratively with your agency. This means sharing the information, resources, and industry knowledge that will help get the best results for your business.

In your discovery session you’ll find all the information you need to decide whether a particular agency is right for you:

  • Do they try to get to know you and your brand?
  • Do they ask intelligent questions that make you think too?
  • Are they personalising your discovery session, or does it feel like they’re just reading off a script?
  • Are there actions from the discovery session? While it’s technically about information gathering, all that discussion should result in things getting done.
  • Trust your gut. If you get a good feeling about an agency, that’s a good sign. Remember that you’re going to be working with these people very closely, and a bad ‘vibe’ isn’t a good start.

How to identify a good marketing agency

While not all agencies are the same, there are certain things that you should be able to expect from the top marketing agencies:

1. Skills and expertise

The first thing you need to decide is what skills your marketing agency needs to have. After all, you may hire the best social media agency in the world, but if you’re really looking for SEO services, their expertise isn’t going to be much use to you.

Make sure your agency has experience doing what you need them to do — and that they can prove it!

Case studies that demonstrate relevant experience are a great way of deciding whether an agency has the skills you need to market your business through the right channels.

Different marketing agencies have different areas of expertise:

  • Integrated marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • SEO and content marketing
  • Pure PPC (Pay-per-click digital marketing)
  • Brand marketing
  • Martech and automation

Even if an agency is an expert in their field, if they don’t deal with the channels you need, they aren’t the right agency for you.

To test an agency’s skills, perhaps you should consider briefing them on a small project that doesn’t directly impact your business. During this project, you can analyse their methods, suggestions, and solutions to get a good feel for their skills and experience.

Consolidating your marketing efforts

You should try and think about the future with your agency, as you’ll be investing your time and effort in getting them on board and working with your team. Once you’re collaborating well, will they be able to offer skills in other areas beyond your initial need?

So why not hire a single agency to do it all?

Integrated marketing agencies, specialise in bringing all of your marketing channels together to create a single, streamlined customer journey. There are many benefits to reconciling all your marketing channels under one agency:

  • Save resources through consistent workflows and processes
  • Save time having to brief multiple agencies
  • A streamlined experience for customers
  • A consistent brand ‘voice’
  • No miscommunication between multiple agencies
  • Shared targets and KPIs

Industry expertise

2. Industry experience

Many agencies will claim that they work with all sorts, but at the end of the day, you’re going to get better results from an agency that knows your industry.

Every industry is different, and many can be quite complicated. Your agency will need to have a clear understanding of what’s involved in selling within your industry, particularly if there are legal requirements governing how you sell your products and what you can say.

To find out whether an agency has the industry experience you need, see if they offer any case studies or testimonials from businesses within your industry.

3. Cultural fit

Don’t forget that you’re going to be working very closely with these people for a very long time, so it’s important that they fit the culture of your business. If you don’t like them, it’s going to make for a very awkward partnership.

Some agencies want to do anything they can to help, others offer only what’s within their defined processes. Agencies can be collaborative and supportive, or they can make you work harder than they do.

You want to choose your agency to fit your culture like you would an employee – after all they’ll be working for you!

Cultural fit

4. Understanding

Does your agency actually understand the problems that you face?

There’s no cookie cutter solution to marketing, and every business will have different goals, requirements and challenges.

An agency that puts an emphasis on getting to know you is more likely to be able to drive the right leads and sales, and nurture the prospects that will grow your business.

An agency that doesn’t ‘get’ your brand, on the other hand, isn’t going to know how to reflect it in the work they do for you. And if they don’t understand your brand, they’re unlikely to be able to sell it to your customers.

Remember, it’s a long-term relationship

When things work out with a marketing agency and you start to see the results you need, you’ll want to keep working with them. After all, who wants to go through all the work of finding, onboarding, testing, and then building relationships again and again. But it’s important to realise that things will change – in the market, in your business, with your products and services – so your agency needs to be able to grow and evolve with you too.

So, you want to look for an agency that will be able to adapt, understand and ride with change, and be honest with you through the process.

A bit like choosing a life partner, if you’re basically a fit and aligned on values, the rest looks after itself over the journey.

Ready to take this relationship to the next level?

The Walk understands how important it is to choose the right marketing agency for your brand. In this relationship, both sides need to be able to understand one another, work together, and communicate their needs clearly.

That’s why we like to get to know our clients before we get started, and we’d love to get to know you too!

Let’s have that conversation and see if we’re a fit for your culture, brand and goals.

Give us a call to book your free Discovery Session, and let’s see if we’re a match.