10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HIRING A DIGITAL AGENCY…
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to your digital advertising. To help you navigate through the process of meeting with agencies, we’ve compiled a list of common questions we’ve received from clients over the years & items we think are important to discuss upfront. Keep in mind that in order to get specific answers from any agency, they’ll need some specifics from you.
1 – WHAT DO I GAIN BY HIRING A DIGITAL AGENCY INSTEAD OF DOING IT MYSELF?
There are many reasons why people hire digital agencies. Here are some questions to consider. Can they do your advertising better or more efficiently? Is it more cost effective than hiring an additional employee? Does it save time you need to be working on other things? Do they have access to advertising platforms you do not? There are numerous other reasons, but these are the ones we see most often.
2 – IS THERE A MINIMUM COST & HOW WILL I BE BILLED?
Many agencies have a minimum monthly investment they require to sign a client. They may also bill clients before advertising runs, as many vendors expect payment as charges are accrued. You should find out what billing method they use and the specific due date for each bill. You should also ask how the agency makes money. They may charge a percentage of ad spend, a set monthly fee or retainer, an hourly fee, or another billing structure. Ask to make sure you know their policies beforehand.
3 – HAVE YOU WORKED WITH OTHER COMPANIES IN MY INDUSTRY?
Just because an agency doesn’t have experience in your industry doesn’t mean they won’t do a great job, but it’s important to know. If they have previous experience with your industry they will have established benchmarks & less time will have to be devoted to research upfront. Even if they have experience though, there is always a research element involved. Most agencies will have research and planning tools they use to gain industry insights. If in doubt about their experience, ask about their tools.
4 – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIRING A DIGITAL AGENCY & A MEDIA OUTLET?
Recently there has been a big push for everyone to jump on the digital bandwagon. Many media outlets whose primary business is selling traditional media (tv, radio, or newspaper ads), have added digital departments. These outlets often outsource their digital campaigns to other companies, which mean less control over campaign performance, another layer of fees, and decreased transparency. You should also be cautious if they only offer one type of digital opportunity, as this creates a bias. Digital agencies work with digital campaigns all day, every day. They bring expertise, cut out the middle man, and most will compare multiple opportunities to see which best fit your needs.
5 – WHAT SPECIFIC SERVICES DO YOU OFFER?
Some agencies are specialized in one area while others handle everything you can think of and more. Is there a specific platform you want to try? Do you need someone to evaluate all the platforms & make a recommendation? Do you need someone to create your ads for you? You may not need every service, but knowing what the agency can & can’t do will keep you from being surprised down the road. Bucket Media is a full-service agency that strives to be at the forefront of innovation, but we don’t just try new things to try them. We recommend them when they are the smart choice for your audience, goals, and budget. Our services are ever-expanding, but here are a few offerings we have extensive experience with:
Geofencing (ex: advertising to users within a 250ft radius of “x” location in last 7 days)
6 – HOW MUCH OF THE WORK IS DONE IN-HOUSE?
Each agency is different and while some handle the day-to-day management of all digital accounts in-house, some farm out everything, and others do a combination of the two. In-house execution allows for more control over account performance in real-time and more transparency. Outsourcing campaigns usually requires less time to manage the account, which can lead to a smaller management fee. However, a smaller management fee doesn’t actually mean a lower cost. Outsourced campaigns usually involve some type of passed along cost in the form of CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions). Ask how the agency makes money on outsourced campaigns, specifically what portion is advertising spend and what portion is agency fees, commissions, etc.
Here at Bucket Media we do everything we can in-house. When you hire us to manage your advertising, we are the ones building the campaigns, watching daily performance, and optimizing in real-time. We only give up that control when we work with vendors who do not offer a self-serve option to agencies. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but we intentionally seek out those platforms that allow us to manage campaigns ourselves. We do this because it allows us to be more responsive, more transparent, and more effective with every campaign.
7 – ARE YOU OPEN TO COMMUNICATING IN THE MANNER & FREQUENCY I PREFER?
If you like to receive all communication via email, make sure the agency knows & is willing to communicate with you in that way. If you want to have a weekly phone call or monthly meeting, make sure this is discussed upfront so expectations are clear for both parties.
8 – WHAT IS THE TYPICAL LEAD TIME TO HAVE A CAMPAIGN UP & RUNNING ONCE ALL COMPONENTS ARE GIVEN?
It is crucial to have accurate expectations for every campaign. In an emergency most agencies can have something up & running within a couple of days if they have all the components, but they will all tell you this is not the ideal way they’d like to work. Know what kind of lead time they expect from new & current clients on an ongoing basis. Since we build and manage campaigns ourselves, we prefer to work 2-3 weeks out for new campaigns. This ensures we have time to gather all the elements we need & double check our work before campaigns launch. For new clients, additional time is needed to set up accounts, perform necessary research, and execute creative.
9 – HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO SEE RESULTS?
Discussing your expectations with the agency upfront is crucial. This process helps translate your expectations into goals. You can then come up with a strategy to hit those goals together. Part of this strategy will be determining which platforms to use, important campaign metrics, and a time frame for evaluation. Beware of any agency that guarantees results like more sales or revenue. The reason for this is that the agency is only a piece of the equation. They can send people to a website, but if the site is poorly organized, users will still leave frustrated. They can send you phone calls, but if no one answers the phone, or if they’re rude when they do, those people still won’t do business with you. Any honest agency will admit this upfront. Working with an agency is a partnership, not magic.
10 – HOW WILL PERFORMANCE BE MEASURED & WHAT WILL BE ON THE REPORT?
The first part of this question is closely related to the previous question. There isn’t one answer that’s right for every campaign. Based on your advertising goals, work together with the agency to determine how those goals translate into metrics that can be used to track performance. To help visualize the data, ask for a sample report. Many agencies have a sample report on file they can provide you with if you ask. The length and depth of the report can often be customized to your liking, as well as the frequency with which you receive reports. Most of Bucket Media’s online clients opt for a monthly report. The report contents are quite detailed, and can be customized to what’s important for each client. We have the flexibility to offer such transparency because we manage campaigns ourselves. We also offer report summaries to help make sense of the data, and humans to further clarify things when needed.
All of this can be a bit overwhelming. The most important thing is to ask enough questions that you feel confident making a decision. In addition to these questions, pay attention to the overall feel of transparency, flexibility, & experience within the agency. Combined, these things should give you a solid basis for making a decision.
Have other questions you’d like to discuss? We’d love to talk to you!