9 Critical Questions To Ask When Vetting Marketing Partners

It’s disappointing to see clients end up in the wrong hands with the wrong marketing partner. Even more, it’s beyond frustrating to hear from business owners and marketing leaders who:

  • Were stuck in long-term contracts when they were completely unhappy
  • Worked with providers who lacked accountability
  • Were overpromised on results but couldn’t deliver
  • Had vendors who lacked transparency
  • Worked with agencies that didn’t communicate or couldn’t communicate clearly
  • Lost access to all their data because they did not retain access of their account

The truth is, there’s no universal handbook that teaches you how to hire the right marketing expert. Just like dating and finding a soulmate, it’s important to know your values and explore your options. You have a right to take your time on your search.

The challenge that a lot of companies face is that they don’t know the right questions to ask to qualify or know if a marketing vendor is going to be the right fit. Because I’ve seen so many clients end up in the wrong hands, I’ve put together 9 critical questions to ask potential marketing vendors before you hire them:

1)Do you outsource?

Outsourcing has a very bad connotation for the right reasons. Be wary if the agency or freelancer you’re vetting stumbles or does not answer this question clearly with confidence. I’ve worked for agencies that outsourced to offshore teams and what I can say is that these teams are good at understanding the technical “textbook” best practices and doing basic manual set up but lack the skills to support strategy. If you have a tight budget, it may be OK to hire an agency that has a US-based and offshore hybrid model but be wary about the quality of work not being there. Even agencies that outsource domestically to freelancers – you may want to be careful because the degrees of separation can be a barrier to marketing growth and success unless done correctly. Companies that outsource domestically just hand off work to freelancers with little context and it becomes a game of telephone in order to get what you actually need. It’s recommended to work directly with the team who is EXECUTING the work for you.

2) Who will be managing my account?

More likely than not, the person selling you the marketing service is either the owner of a marketing agency or a dedicated sales person. It’s unlikely that these individuals have the knowledge to execute on the work itself and in turn, hand off your account to a campaign manager.

Get the name of the person who will be responsible for managing your account and look them up on LinkedIn. Is their profile up to date? How many years of experience do they have?

If they’re not on the call with you and have not been introduced from the start, there’s a reason for it – likely because they’re junior (0-3 years’ experience) and don’t know enough about client interfacing to be on the call with the person who is selling the services. Eeek!

3) Will I be able to maintain full control of my account should we end the relationship?

You have every right to maintain access of your account should the relationship go awry. If you get pushback about this from the start, you do not want to be working with that potential marketing partner. Imagine what other things they would be hiding from you to make a quick buck?

4) How much communication should I expect from your team?

Depending on your needs, you need to establish expectations upfront and see how the marketing vendor responds. Depending on the size of your account, they may have some type of communication schedule: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

5) Will I get reporting? If so, how often?

When working with marketers, reporting is a sign of accountability. Check the cadence for how often you will get reports – but beyond reports will you be getting real insights and recommendations to improve? What is the typical cadence for reporting based on your account size?

Ask what metrics they will report on and ask for a sample report. If they hesitate, that’s a red flag. If the report does not show conversions or lead numbers, that’s another red flag they’ll be hiding data from you.

6) How much do you charge?

If they are able to answer this question without trying to understand your business or your customers first, this is a big red flag. This is where a lot of clients go wrong – they look at price first before the value. Of course, price will be part of the equation in making a decision but you need to understand what you’re getting first. Just like if you were experiencing back pain and you go to the doctor, they will ask qualifying questions to diagnose the issue instead of assuming your condition and billing your insurance the same day. Good marketers seek to SERVE and UNDERSTAND you. Anyone else who claims to be a marketer that doesn’t do this is a sales person with a quota.

7) What strategy do you recommend in order to achieve (improved) results?

Regardless of whether this is your first time running a lead generation campaign or not, it is important for you to test how the marketing vendor thinks. Can they strategize? Are they using fluffy language to sound smart so they can impress you? A strong marketing partner should be able to clearly articulate a strategy in a simple way to get you from where you are to where you want to be (and if they can’t – at least reset your expectations). You don’t want to work with a partner who confuses you with “marketing talk” and “technical language” – you want to work with someone who can simplify language and communicate exactly how they solve complex problems. If they cannot demonstrate it or lose you along the way, it’s a bad sign.

Remember: You confuse, you lose.

8) Do you guarantee results?

A common question but still important to ask. When an agency says, “If we can’t get you results in 90 days, we’ll work for free,” what does that sound like to you? A guarantee? A BIG GIMMICK. No marketing professional/expert who values their time would want to work for free. I’m not saying that all agencies who guarantee results are crooks. The only way one can guarantee a certain level of results is if they’ve worked in your industry in the past and know exactly what it takes to get results. Just be wary of those who guarantee with gimmick-sounding offers. 99.9% of the time, they won’t be able to deliver.

Look, the most honest marketers won’t guarantee results and are very upfront about it. . There are factors outside of our control like: search trends, demand, and your industry that are constantly evolving

9) What sets you apart from the thousands of other marketing providers out there?

Basically this question is alluding to – why should I choose you? This gives the marketing vendor a chance to speak highly of themselves and differentiate themselves from others in the market. If they just say “10 years of experience” and have nothing else to show for it – you may want to reconsider because tenure is NOT enough. Some positive things to look out for: industry awards, public speaking at industry events, though leadership, blogging, content creation, certifications, reviews/testimonials, corporate experience, working with your industry in the past. Most importantly, ASK FOR PROVEN CASE STUDIES! This is where most companies go wrong when they work with marketing vendors. If your potential vendor doesn’t have case studies to show you, that’s not a good sign.

I understand what it’s like to be frustrated with a marketing partner who overpromised and couldn’t deliver. Unfortunately, those so-called “marketers” plague the industry and like you, I wish they would just disappear. The most important quality to look for is honesty. Ask these questions and pay attention to their tone, what they’re asking (if anything), their ability to listen, and look for cues of empathy.

If you have any questions, about picking the right marketing partner, feel free to reach out directly in the contact form.

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