It can be overwhelming to create the vision and execute a marketing strategy with a small internal team. Agencies can come alongside you and transform your business, but you need the right one.

Here are a few things to think about as you look for your next agency partner:

1. What Do They Offer?

A full-service marketing agency can offer everything your business needs. They’ll be able to develop and deliver a comprehensive marketing program as a one-stop shop. Look for gaps in your own marketing team and see if the agency can fill them with a tailor-made contract for your business.

A full-service agency will likely be more affordable than hiring all talent in-house and it will be just one relationship to manage. However, if you have a powerful in-house team that just needs a little extra help or expertise, think about other solutions such as hiring freelancers or a specialty marketing firm.

2. Are They Results-Driven?

Finding a team that you can work alongside is great, but if an agency isn’t results-driven, that’s a problem. It’s an even bigger problem if they can’t provide documentation of their results. Reporting is just as important as the work they do each month. Reporting keeps everyone accountable and shows areas that have opportunity to improve. You want a marketing partner that can take your business to the next level.

Set up clear goals and the right KPIs for your business to keep the agency accountable. Lauren Jochum, Director of Branding at GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc., says, “Before you hire an agency, clearly define your needs and goals. Do you need a new website, design services, or digital support? Taking this step will ensure you have a clear vision and budget to discuss with potential agencies.”

3. Who Does the Work?

Ask clarifying questions so that you understand who will be working with your team. You may sign the dotted line because you connected well with the sales team, but do they just pass you along to an intern once you get going?

It’s important to understand what the team looks like as you move forward. You want to feel comfortable and confident in the partnership. “An agency that takes the time to understand your business, culture, and industry will be a successful partner and help grow your business,” said Jochum.

4. Learn from Others

Once you narrow down to a few viable agencies to work with, ask for referrals. An agency should be able to connect you with a handful of other companies they have worked with. Take advantage of this and reach out to as many as you can. Michael Reardon, Head of The Meadowbrook School, says, “Good firms usually get more business because they have a track record of being fair and reliable. Recommendations are very popular in my industry.” Other clients have been in your shoes and will likely be honest about their experience with an agency. Make sure you speak with at least one other company that is in your industry.

On the flip side, any agency will connect you with their happiest customers who can give you positive information. But what about the negative? Looking at reviews posted on a third-party site will give you a better idea of agency/client relationships overall. Sixty-seven percent of consumers are influenced by online reviews.

5. A Few More Things to Think About

  • It’s OK to break up. Not every relationship will last forever. If the agency isn’t meeting the expectations that you set at the beginning, it’s OK to end the partnership.
  • Look outside your city. Although it may be nice to think that you can drive over and sit at a table with your marketing agency’s team, don’t overlook agencies outside of your geographic area. SmartBug is a fully remote company—we have super talented marketers all over North America, and we work with clients all over the world. Remote work enables our agency to hire the best and the brightest, and not be restrained by geographic area.
  • Do they market themselves well? If you’re looking at an agency to redo your website and you can’t navigate theirs, look elsewhere.
  • Are they thought leaders? Look for an agency that is a leader in its industry and filled with employees dedicated to professional growth.

A great partner can change the trajectory of our business so don’t settle. Set your goals, use these tips, and find the right fit!

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