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Bring on the Brand Boosters: 7 Tips on How to Hire a Marketing Agency

By Michelle Martin Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Michelle Martin
By Michelle Martin Reviewed By Mike Lucas

If you’re at the stage where you’re wondering how to hire a marketing agency, congratulations.

That means you’ve grown enough to justify it and you’re ready to grow even more. That is something to celebrate, but the truth is, it’s a lot more complicated than simply signing on the dotted line.

We’ve compiled our best tips for hiring a marketing agency, no matter what services you need or the industry you’re in.

Learn the 7 key tips to know when looking for and hiring your first marketing agency.

A hand places a bag labeled “Marketing Agency” into a shopping cart.

When Should You Hire a Marketing Agency — and Why?

Hiring an external marketing agency can give you a significant boost. After all, you’re paying for results.

According to Statista, 73% of companies with more than 500 employees have hired at least 2 marketing agencies. About 9% have hired more than 6 agencies.

According to Statista, 73% of companies with more than 500 employees have hired at least 2 marketing agencies. About 9% have hired more than 6 agencies.
Source: Statista

As you grow, you may find you need more than one agency partner. You may need an agency that specializes in a certain field, such as Google or Facebook ads. Or, your first agency may not end up being the right fit.

But how do you know when is the right time to invest in a marketing agency?

5 Common Reasons to Hire a Marketing Agency

Of course, there are more than 5 reasons to hire a marketing agency, but if any of these describe you, it’s time to get Googling:

  1. You have a ton of great ideas and no time to execute them.
  2. You’re not sure how to track the success of your marketing initiatives accurately.
  3. You need help with a diverse set of marketing skills — content creation, design, web programming, ad campaigns, etc — but don’t have the budget to hire an employee for each specialty.
  4. Your time is better utilized staying out of day-to-day marketing tasks. Hiring an agency allows you to approve the big picture ideas and get on with your day.
  5. You’re in a growth phase and unsure how to best capitalize on that, or you need to grow but don’t have the marketing knowledge to do it yourself.

3 Key Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Agency

1. Get New Ideas

Been a while since you updated your brand strategy or marketing plan? A new set of eyes can help you see opportunities you hadn’t thought of, either because you’re so familiar with your business already or don’t have the time to commit to marketing.

One of the best benefits of an agency is that it’s no longer your responsibility to come up with amazing campaign ideas. Sometimes the mental stress that alleviates is worth its weight in gold alone. An external team can also help you execute those campaigns you’ve been wanting to do but didn’t have the resources to get done.

2. Access to a Team of Specialists

Marketing agencies have to stay on top of the latest trends and generate great campaign ideas. If they don’t, they won’t survive for long. By hiring one, you get access to a full team of specialists without having to train, manage or pay them individually.

A digital marketing team is usually made up of:

  • Strategists
  • Designers
  • Programmers and web developers
  • Copywriters
  • Project managers
  • Content managers
  • Assistants
  • Photographers and videographers
  • Social media managers

And the list seems to grow daily as new marketing channels evolve with the pace of technology.

3. Get Results … or Else

Hiring an agency means you’re paying for results. If the agency isn’t delivering on its promises or you’re not seeing enough growth, you can walk away.

Before doing so, check your contract to clarify the terms of separation. But firing an underperforming agency is often far easier and less expensive than firing an underperforming employee.

Why Hiring an Agency Saves You Money

If you’re tempted to hire an in-house marketing team instead of looking for an agency, think again. There are times when this makes sense, but outsourcing your marketing is often the smartest way to go.

Here’s why.

At first, hiring a marketing agency may seem more expensive but it’s actually less over the long term. For employees, you’re not only paying their salary, you’re paying for office equipment and space, health benefits, vacation days, taxes and much more. When you hire an agency, the price of the service is all you’re paying.

According to calculations from In Touch Marketing, hiring an agency can actually save you about $78,000 a year versus hiring one in-house marketer.

According to calculations from In Touch Marketing, hiring an agency can actually save you about $78,000 a year versus hiring one in-house marketer.
Source: In Touch Marketing

How to Choose a Marketing Firm: 7 Tips to Get It Right

1. Know Your Goals

From your first meeting with a potential agency partner, be honest about your goals even if you don’t know all the specifics. Want to get more sales? Enter a new market? Launch a new product? Grow your social following? 

Whatever it is, your agency needs to know what success means to you so they can deliver it.

2. Research Their Portfolio and Reviews

This goes without saying but you need to check out the agency you’re considering hiring. This is the same as completing your due diligence on a new employee hire. What projects has this agency done? What were the results? Do they have case studies and client testimonials to share with you? What is being said about them on public review forums (Glassdoor, Google Reviews, etc)?

3. Ask Your Network for a Referral

According to HubSpot’s Agency Growth report, referrals make up 38% of all agency leads.

According to HubSpot's Agency Growth report, referrals make up 38% of all agency leads.
Source: HubSpot

And for good reason: word-of-mouth is the oldest form of marketing around and still one of the most effective. Research from Nielsen shows 83% of buyers trust referrals from people they know, while 66% trust online editorial content.

Ask colleagues in your industry which agency they use. At a minimum, this will give you a good list to investigate further to find the right agency fit for you.

4. Understand Your Contract and Commitment

Agencies have vastly different pricing models. Some only sign clients if they commit to a year-long term, others do month-to-month but with a minimum commitment. Others may require no commitment at all.

Know how long you’re locked in for, what exact services you’ll be receiving for your money and what the penalties are, if any, for breaking your contract early. Ideally, the agency you choose will be a great fit but you need to protect yourself in case it isn’t.

5. Start Small and Add Larger Projects Later

It’s overwhelming to hire a marketing agency for the first time. There’s the onboarding, meetings to get everyone on the same page, planning and administrative work to get the first campaigns off the ground and so on. But you don’t need to hand over all the reins at once.

It’s OK to start small and hire an agency to manage only your social media accounts to start. Or, whatever area of marketing you’re struggling with the most. From there, you can add on new projects and larger campaigns as you build trust with your new agency partner.

6. Know What Services You Need or Want to Try

While your new agency partner should suggest campaign ideas proactively, you also should have a general sense of where you want your marketing to go in the future. Maybe you want to start a blog or corporate YouTube channel. Be sure to bring up those ideas in your initial meeting and verify that the agency can execute them.

7. Be Clear on Reporting Responsibilities

Before signing a contract, clarify how the agency will update you on the status of your campaigns and how successful they were. You’re paying for a service and have a right to know the results.

A survey from Wordstream found 26% of agencies aren’t using any data reporting tools. Yikes.

A survey from Wordstream found 26% of agencies aren't using any data reporting tools.
Source: Wordstream

You don’t need a fancy PowerPoint with animated graphs every month but make sure your chosen agency commits to reporting results to you. It could be a weekly or monthly telephone call to check in and update you on progress or an email summarizing recent activity.

You’re the customer in this relationship, so insist on seeing where your money is going every month.

Don’t Wait Too Late to Hire a Marketing Agency

One of the most common mistakes growing companies make isn’t hiring a marketing agency soon enough. It’s scary: the cost, wondering how to find a good marketer and what you’re getting yourself into.

But the benefits are worth it.

Remember: a marketing agency’s job is to get results and grow your company. If they don’t, they’re not doing their job — period.

You’ll save money instead of hiring your own internal team and even more importantly, you’ll save time by not having to execute marketing tasks or manage marketing employees. That time will instead go into where you serve your company best: leading it.

Make a short list, interview agencies with the tips mentioned here in mind, and sign on the dotted line with the one who can best handle your project needs. You’ll wish you did it sooner.

Michelle Martin Contributing Writer, Fast Capital 360
Michelle Martin is a freelance copywriter for business-to-business, software-as-a-service companies looking to stand out and scale up. She is an ex-agency producer and marketing strategist known for quickly understanding and distilling complicated technical topics into conversational copy that gets results.
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