Key Questions to Ask When Talking to an Agency’s New Business References

Getting access to an agency’s references is an important step. But, how do you move beyond the recommendation to learn what it’s actually like to work with the agency? Here are 8 questions you should ask.

In my last post, we discussed when prospective agency clients should ask for references and why that matters in the agency/client courting process.

Once an agency provides introductions to valued clients, the door is open for a candid conversation. But once you are in this driver’s seat, what do you really want to know?


What You (The Client) Really Want

Hiring an agency is a big decision, and there is obvious consternation. If you are in the hiring process, there is a really good chance the last agency didn’t measure up in some way and you want to avoid repeating that pain in the future.

It seems that clients are mostly just looking for reassurance when they speak with an agency’s existing clients. You likely have both personal concerns (Is the agency going to help me do my job and make me look good?) as well business concerns (can this agency help me deliver the results I want to drive?) when you ask for references. Asking to talk to valued clients is one more item in the checklist of due diligence.


Ask The Right Questions To Really Learn About the Agency

At the end of the day, a hiring brand could almost look at this in a similar light as a Net Promoter Score – “Would you hire this agency again? Yes or no.”

And while that does indeed address the crux of the matter, we assume that references are going to say, “Yes, I’d definitely hire them again,” because, seriously, does anyone provide references who wouldn’t say that?

That means you’ll need to dig deeper to find out more about what really matters.

Consider a question list like this one:

  1. Does the agency bring value to your company or brand? How have they done that?
  2. Do you see the agency as strategic, or are they better at following the brand’s strategy and executing? In either case, is this the role you need them to play?
  3. How do they communicate? Is there transparency in the relationship?
  4. What was the biggest challenge you faced in working with the agency?
  5. Have they ever had to bring you bad news? How did they deliver that?
  6. Do you have access to the agency’s senior leadership? How do you know the agency values your business?
  7. Do you feel like the agency is really on your side? Would they go the extra mile because it’s the right thing to do?
  8. And then, would you hire them again?

You need to feel confident in selecting a new agency. If all goes well, they will become your partner - your comrade in arms. Together, your marketing efforts hold the potential to propel the business forward. If it fails, however, growth could be hindered for years to come. Choose wisely.