May 22, 2023

By Nate

Like many entrepreneurs, you may have debated between hiring an employee and working with a marketing partner. If you’ve opted for the latter, then you may be wondering where to start and how to go about your search.

The first step is to determine what you want from your marketing partner. Consider setting your goals, establishing your priorities, and determining your budget before you reach out. Ask yourself to what degree you want to be involved in your marketing — do you want to be as hands-off as possible? Have a pulse on everything? Or land somewhere in the middle? The clearer you are about what you want, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the forthcoming conversations.

The next step will be to interview prospective companies, as you would any job applicant, by asking the right questions. As Tony Robbins says: “In business as in life, the quality of your outcome is determined by the quality of your questions”.

On that note, here are 9 important questions to ask when interviewing a marketing company to ensure you feel confident in making the right decision:

Questions You Can Answer Yourself

1. How Transparent Are Their Results?

Honesty and full transparency should be the first criterion when choosing a marketing partner for your business. If a company seems to be making outlandish claims and bold promises without backing them up, that’s a huge red flag.

Many of our clients come to us after a poor initial experience with a digital marketing company, and it often stems from a lack of transparency and poor communication. When reviewing their website, look for a client list, case studies, and video testimonials that support a company’s claims and point to recurring patterns of success.

2. Who Makes Up Their Team?

It’s crucial to make sure the company you choose has the right team members for your specific goals. You wouldn’t want to hire a company to improve your Google rankings if they don’t have an SEO specialist on their team, right?

Keep your long-term goals in mind as well. While you may not want a new website right now, it may become a higher priority in a couple of years. Does the marketing company have qualified web developers to meet your eventual needs?

A full-service company should have several in-house experts that cover the entire digital marketing spectrum, from Pay-Per-Click specialists to content writers to UX designers. Look through the company’s ‘About’ page to see if they list their team members (click here to see Intrigue’s team). If their website is lacking, then LinkedIn is a good place to look. Start by searching for the company, then click ‘People’ to find a list of their team members.

Intrigue's team on Linkedin

3. What Is Their Reputation?

Testimonials and previous client reviews will give you key insights into what working with a company is like — but don’t just look at their website, as you’ll inevitably only see the most glowing endorsements. Find their Google My Business listing for a more honest and unbiased appraisal of their services.

Negative or neutral reviews can shine a light on potential shortcomings. Take a look at how the company has responded to complaints to gain an understanding of how they might handle difficult conversations and negative feedback. The caveat here is that a low star rating could be left by bots, random people, or disgruntled employees, so look for in-depth comments from legitimate customers with valid concerns.

Click here to view Intrigue’s Google reviews.

Intrigue's Google review

4. Are They A Good Fit with Our Culture?

Of equal importance is ensuring that the prospective marketing company’s values and culture are aligned with your own. Much like a marriage, you want to make sure you believe the same things and operate in a similar way BEFORE putting the proverbial ring on it.

For example, if you value timely communication and you find yourself waiting an unreasonable amount of time to hear back from your marketing partner, that won’t be a very fruitful relationship. Review the company’s website and look for their purpose, mission statement, and values to get a sense of whether they’ll work well with your team. If not, move on to an agency that feels like a better fit.

At Intrigue, our purpose is to empower leaders to strengthen communities, and every day our team is guided by the following values:

Intrigue's core values

Questions You Should Ask Directly

5. What Goals Should We Focus On?

A marketing partner will have a host of strategic recommendations for your business after analyzing your web traffic, conversion rates, and acquisition cost for new leads. What’s important to pay close attention to is how these recommendations are framed. Are they giving you specific goals and timelines to which you can hold them accountable, or are they speaking of boosting your traffic and increasing your leads in ambiguous terms?

At Intrigue, we only set SMART goals. For example, a goal of increasing leads from an average of 3 per day to 6 per day in 6 months is a SMART goal because it is:

Specific: We want to double the number of qualified leads.

Measurable: Using the number of leads generated in a day will provide us with a benchmark to measure the success of our campaign.

Attainable: Based on our previous experience in the industry, doubling leads within the timeframe is an ambitious yet attainable target.

Relevant: Achieving this result is relevant to the client’s overarching goal of growing their business by X amount.

Timely: We’ve specified that we plan on reaching this goal in 6 months.

When speaking to prospective marketing companies, these are the types of goals you want to hear.

Download the Rate Your Marketing Company Checklist

6. What is Your Onboarding Process Like

This question is important because it allows you to peer into a marketing company’s process and level of professionalism. If they promise to deliver a marketing plan within a few business days by asking you minimal questions, you can bet you’ll be receiving a mass-produced, standardized plan. It’s akin to ordering dinner at a restaurant and having your meal delivered within 5 minutes…highly suspicious and rather unsettling.

Your business is unique and should be treated as such. If a marketing company asks you in-depth questions about your business — your biggest pain points, your cost-per-lead, the lifetime value of a customer, the demographics of your ideal clients, for example — they’re off to a good start. A marketing partner’s job is to craft a customized plan that answers your specific needs, solves your biggest challenges, and moves you closer to your goals. Don’t settle for a cookie-cutter plan that could apply to any business owner with a pulse and a checkbook.

7. How Will You Be Reporting On Our Results?

You need to be kept abreast of your results on a regular basis if you are to understand what’s happening, what wins you’re seeing, and what areas could be improved. In our experience, a regular monthly report works best as it provides a clear picture of how well your strategy is working, without overwhelming you with weekly traffic stats or a year’s worth of data. In addition, a great marketing partner will include suggestions, insights, and new opportunities to consider in your reports.

Regular reporting will keep both teams on the same page — which is a huge part of partnering with a digital marketing company. The company’s reporting should contain the level of data that is most relevant to your goals — your site traffic, conversion rate, and cost-per-lead, for example — without bogging you down with all the nitty-gritty details.

A snapshot of a monthly marketing report by Intrigue

8. Can You Get Me On the First Page of Google?

This is a bit of a trick question that is worth asking for the simple reason that any company that answers with an emphatic “yes” is one you might want to steer clear of. No matter how good a marketing company is, a first-page ranking isn’t something a digital marketing company can guarantee as there are numerous factors that go into search engine results.

On the other hand, if the marketing company responds with something along the lines of, “well, here are the strategies we’ve seen bear fruit in the past, and this is what we plan on doing to improve your rankings”, then it’s a strong indication that they know what they’re talking about. It’s good to know that any company that tries to sway you with promises of a first-page ranking is starting your relationship with a promise they can’t keep.

9. How Much Should I Invest To Reach My Goals, And What Does That Include?

Ah, the ultimate question, isn’t it? This is where looking at your initial goals and priorities is important. At the end of the day, you are paying for results. Although promises of quick results for low costs can be tempting, experience shows us that you get what you pay for. Marketing is a long-term game, and cutting corners doesn’t bode well.

With that in mind, get clear on the kind of results you’re looking for and what you are willing to spend to get them. When speaking with a prospective marketing company, find out the full costs of the project, what’s included, what timelines are involved, and what recourse you have if goals are missed.

Lastly, factor in the less tangible but equally valuable asset of what your working relationship would look like and whether your teams will mesh well. Once you have all the insights you need, weigh them against your priorities — quality of work, reputation, level of transparency, cost, etc. — to decide which marketing company you want to partner with.

Ultimately, a marketing company is an extension of your business. Choosing the wrong partner can drain your budget, strain your employees, and adversely affect your brand. Working with the right partner, on the other hand, will free up your time, provide you with peace of mind, and put your business on the path to sustainable growth.

We hope that these 9 questions are helpful in your search to find the right marketing partner for your business. If you’re looking for a partner who will work on your behalf to grow your company strategically, we can help. Get in touch with the team at Intrigue today!

Nate works to drive Intrigue's growth goals through data-driven inbound and outbound marketing campaigns. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs free up their time so that they can focus on what they do best: run amazing companies. You can usually catch him riding his mountain bike or devouring a slice of pizza.

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