25 Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Agency
Hiring a digital marketing agency makes sense for many brands. Access to extensive experience, knowledge of recent trends, and time savings are a few reasons companies go this route.
But with so many options, how do you know if a particular digital marketing agency is the right fit for your business?
Here are 25 questions to ask that will help you decide based on four key areas: experience, logistics, approach, and due diligence.
1. What industries do you have the most experience with?
Working with an agency with experience across many different industries can be valuable because it shows they’re flexible and will likely be able to pick up your product and target audience. But at the end of the day, an inbound marketing agency needs hands-on experience in your specific industry.
Note that you’ll generally want to avoid an agency whose client base is heavily skewed toward an industry that’s in no way related to yours (e.g. their client base is 90% orthodontists while your company sells sneakers), as they may only prove useful in one area.
2. Have you solved problems like these before?
If a potential partner has solved specific problems you’re facing with previous clients in the same or similar industry, odds are they’ll be able to help you as well.
Say, for example, your main goal is to increase organic search traffic. In that situation, you’d want an agency with direct experience ranking higher in search engines.
3. What types of companies or organizations do you typically work with?
Just like having experience in a similar industry as yours is important, so is having experience with similar companies or organizations. This usually shows that an inbound marketing agency has a formula they can apply to your campaign to get positive results.
4. What was your most successful campaign or project?
It’s always nice to see a real-life example of a campaign/project where an agency was massively successful. Ideally, they can point you to a specific client and offer quantifiable results (e.g. they increased organic search traffic by 400% and saw a 1,000% increase in leads).
5. What do you specialize in?
There are many different areas of marketing, including SEO, content marketing, and pay-per-click, just to name a few. If the agency has a specific focus on one of these areas, it’s important to know. Or, if they focus on many different areas this can be helpful as well, as they may have a breadth of experience.
6. Do your marketers have solid backgrounds?
A digital marketing agency is only as strong as its team. Do the marketers, for example, have backgrounds at top companies like Google or HubSpot?
7. Do you have a minimum engagement fee?
Costs can vary significantly. In 2022, digital marketing services ranged “from $2,500 to $12,000 per month, $50 to $500+ per hour, and $1,000 to $7,500 per project for small-to-mid-sized businesses,” WebFX explains.
Ask about the minimum engagement fee upfront to ensure you’re aligned on pricing.
8. How long does the process take?
The core process of discovery, strategy, creative, etc. can differ from partner to partner. Here’s the specific process we use at 3.7 Designs.
9. How much involvement do you need from me?
Some brands want to be heavily involved with the inbound marketing process. Others prefer more of a hands-off approach. Therefore, the agency you choose should be compatible from this standpoint.
10. How often do we communicate or touch base?
At 3.7 Designs, we believe interaction and communication are critical to every business relationship. That’s why we usually suggest partnering with an agency that’s willing to communicate regularly (if, of course, that’s what you prefer) as this improves the odds of success.
11. What kind of availability will you have?
Although an agency that’s slammed with clients may indicate quality, they may not be able to devote the time needed to you. So make sure they have enough bandwidth to give your campaign the attention it deserves.
12. How involved are higher-ups in the inbound marketing process?
Do you feel like you’d receive the top treatment with a direct point of contact from a higher-up? Or do you feel like you’d be just another small piece of a client base?
In other words, is the agency actually going to care about your success or just see you as another paycheck?
One of the positive comments we get at 3.7 Designs, for instance, is that one of our leaders Ross was heavily involved in the process when they needed him.
13. How quickly can we see results?
You may think the best answer to this question would be “within a few days!” And maybe that’s the case for some platforms and marketing strategies (although not many).
Google, for example, can take six months or longer to rank articles in search engines, especially if the site is new. So expecting results overnight simply isn’t realistic. That said, seeing legitimate results in a reasonable time is important. So if the agency tells you it may take a year before you see any leads from Google Ads, that’s a bad sign.
The real purpose of this question is to gauge honesty and gain a rough idea of how long you should expect to get a return on investment.
14. What do you think we should do to be successful?
At 3.7 Designs, for example, we believe strategy is instrumental to success. Further, every strategy needs to be founded on research so we can develop a customized game plan to get each client where they need to go.
15. What’s your onboarding process like?
How long will it take? How involved is it? Will onboarding be so extensive that it creates a hardship for managing your core business operations?
16. How will you make sure your content strategy aligns with our brand voice?
Elements like style, tone, and language can vary by brand. What specific approach does an agency take to ensure they use the right voice that resonates with your audience?
At 3.7 Designs, for instance, we have a discovery stage where we take a deep dive to fully understand each client’s need and branding, which guides our content strategy.
17. How do you measure success?
Short term? Long term?
What will a digital marketing agency show you to indicate you’re getting results? How often will they communicate these results to you?
18. What metrics will you monitor?
What KPIs do they focus on? What metrics do they monitor for similar companies?
Do those metrics sound like they’ll translate into money, leads, conversions, etc.?
19. Do you do strategy and implementation?
In other words, how involved is the agency? Usually, you’ll want to pick someone heavily involved in strategy and implementation, as you can leverage their expertise to get better results without having to do all the heavy lifting.
20. What is your full range of capabilities?
In question #5, we mentioned that most inbound agencies will have particular areas of focus. But it’s nice to zoom out and know about their capabilities as a whole.
21. What makes your agency unique?
What’s their unique value proposition (UVP)? Is it immediately obvious why you should choose them over another competitor?
If not, they’re probably not the best option.
22. Can you provide references, case studies, or testimonials?
Anyone can play up their skills and expertise. But you’ll always want tangible proof of real results (ideally from multiple clients). For instance, you can find a list of case studies from several clients we’ve worked with across multiple verticals.
23. What are your engagement terms of contracts like?
This pertains to things like services, responsibilities, confidentiality, and what happens if either party wants to terminate the contract. At 3.7 Designs, for example, we discuss engagement terms during an initial getting acquainted call so we’re on the same page right from the start.
24. Who owns any creative work that’s created?
Any time an agency creates content like blog posts, eBooks, or whitepapers, you’ll want to be crystal clear about ownership. Ideally, you’ll retain ownership, as you may use the content to generate leads long after your relationship with an inbound marketing agency has ended.
25. How much work is outsourced vs in-house?
Some agencies handle 100% of their work in-house, going directly through internal team members. Others outsource part or all of it to a third party. It’s important to know how they approach this because it can potentially affect brand voice and overall direction with multiple parties involved. Also, if there’s a problem, you’ll have to go deeper with the chain of command to get it resolved.
Finding the Right Digital Marketing Agency
Partnering with a digital marketing agency is highly common, with roughly half of businesses doing so. But with a wide range of backgrounds, experience, and focus, not every agency is a good fit.
Knowing which questions to ask should help you quickly evaluate a potential partner to ensure you make the right choice.