Your business may be growing by word of mouth (or the digital equivalent – good social buzz), and your website may be doing decent traffic from organic search, but that’s not going to get you to the next level. If you want to make your presence known on a larger scale, your own in-house SEO and horn-tooting probably won’t get you there. You need to hire a digital marketing firm.

But what do you look for? Here are a few questions that may be running through your mind right now:

Take a deep breath and try not to worry. There are many considerations to keep in mind when looking to hire an online marketing agency. Weeding through the options by researching important questions to ask while vetting firms is wise. Here are the top 20 questions that should be asked when considering hiring digital marketing agency – divided into 3 categories:

  • Working Together
  • Capabilities
  • Strategy

Working Together

1. What specific services does a contract buy my business (ie how much content of what types)? What will you charge extra fees for? How long is the contract?

These are important starter questions entrepreneurs must ask in order to gauge what services the marketing company offers. It falls in the same vein as, what do online marketing companies do? Price points, services offered, and contact lengths vary widely, so asking these questions up front will be an ideal first step.

2. When will I see results, and how will you report your progress to me? 

The only way to make sure progress is occurring is by measuring it by hiring digital marketing services. Finding out what the barometers for success are will enable it to be discerned properly. There are many excellent, competing tools for measuring SEO success, so it’s a great starting-off point for this discussion.

3. Who are some of your previous clients? Have you had disputes with them and why?

Wondering how to hire a marketing company most effectively? It’s always reasonable to ask about references. Unbiased reviews of the company’s performance from past clients are a helpful reference for prospective new clients.

4. How often will we need to meet? Do you prefer online or real-world meetings? 

Finding out how much time will need to be carved out of the schedule to work with the online marketing agency is a fundamental consideration when choosing between the options.

5. Who will be my point person at the agency?

Plenty of online marketing agencies have promotional people who advertise services and seek out new clients, and others who actually do the work. Before signing up to work up with a company, it’s smart to figure out who, exactly, would be involved in the marketing efforts and make sure there is a sense of mutual respect.  

Capabilities

6. Are content creation and web design integrated, or are they separate divisions? How well do your different divisions communicate?

In smaller companies, content creation and web design functionality may occur in the same department, but larger companies will separate these duties. Determining how well people work together communicate and work together is an integral part of the decision to choose a particular company for online marketing efforts.

7. Do you build custom websites or templates? Do you have web designers and developers in-house?

These are ideal opener-style questions about website design. How a company’s web presence looks and functions is absolutely essential for any thriving business, but entrepreneurs definitely don’t want to overpay or spend inordinate amounts of time making sure their website looks good. Anyone who wants their business to thrive should ask smart questions to ask when hiring a marketing company, like these.

8. How much work will be done in-house and how much will be outsourced? What can you not do in-house?

Any work that’s not accomplished in-house will necessarily be more expensive. Outsourcing involves extra costs – there’s just no way around it. So figuring out the variables in terms of in-house and outsourced work is wise in order to either plan for those costs or choose a company that offers more in-house services.

9. Do you have the capacity to scale up as my business grows?

Having a thriving business is the goal, but when success happens, it can be so annoying to have to switch online marketing companies. Choosing one that’s prepared to take on larger clients, like yours will hopefully be in the near future, is a smart move.

10.  What are your tools? (ie project management software, marketing software, communication)

Every company has certain “tricks of the trade” they utilize to deliver services and meet customer expectations. In the marketing industry, project management software, SEO tools, marketing software, communication strategies are often heavily relied upon. Simply asking this open-ended question is a great way to determine where the company is at currently and where their efforts will be directed if/when a partnership with your company begins. Asking around “should I hire a marketing company?,” and you receive well-informed answers to this question, the answer is most likely yes.

Strategies

11.  Can you show me an example of another client’s process? What specific strategy did you use for them, and how did it work?

Hire a digital marketer with complete confidence after seeing examples of past work and the thinking behind it. Asking this question will help make the decision to hire a marketing firm an evidence-based decision.  

12.  What does your idea generation process look like? Will you incorporate my feedback into the process? Will I be involved in content creation? 

The answers to these questions will reveal how creative, innovative, and efficient the company is when considering new ideas and processes, as well as how open they are to making changes based on feedback. For some, this isn’t a key consideration, but for others, a positive working relationship requires it.

13.  Do you have experience in brand development? How do you integrate brand development with the content you produce?

Brands are an essential part of marketing efforts for just about current or aspiring any national brand. For many, hiring a digital marketing company depends on answers to these questions. Be sure to ask about writing personas, branded design, and audience research.

14.  Do you have experience with marketing in my company’s field, and if not, what is your process for researching the field?

Many industries are very specific, which marketing efforts must reflect. Making sure there is some familiarity with the industry, or solid research abilities, are keys to success when working with an online marketing agency.

15.  How do you define a successful campaign (ie increasing conversion rate, driving traffic, earning backlinks, etc)? Do you have examples of past successes? 

Seeing past successes is often an accurate predictor of future success. Requesting specific examples is an ideal to get a clear picture.

16.  What is the current state of SEO? What is the one most essential SEO tactic in your repertoire? 

The answers to these questions are revelatory. Seeing whether the company has a usable understanding of SEO tactics is prudent before beginning a working relationship.

17.  What do you use for web analytics and what metrics will you focus on?

As the saying goes – the numbers don’t lie. Finding ways to measure success in terms of increased traffic and exposure is a great way to determine to worth of the investment in the partnership with a particular online marketing agency.

18.  How will you get quality backlinks for my site, and how do you know they are quality? 

Not all content is the same. The answer to this question should be detailed, specific to the industry of your business, and demonstrate a solid understanding of online marketing strategies. Hire a marketing manager who has excellent answers to these questions.

19.  How will you tailor social media strategy to our brand, and how will you choose appropriate social channels?

There are so many social media platforms these days, so marketing efforts must be directed according to which audience the company wants to reach. Boomers? Facebook. Gen X? Snapchat or Tic Toc. Information buffs? Twitter. Only hire a marketing firm that has an in-depth knowledge of the various platforms and the best approaches for marketing your specific company.  

20.  What are your standards for quality content? (ie long or short-form content, SEO, production values for video, etc)

When hiring digital marketing companies, understanding their standards for quality content is important. Hire a digital marketer who will meet your quality standards in terms of long or short-form content, SEO, production values for video, and more.

Good luck in your search for an excellent digital marketing company to meet your needs!