Working with an agency is more like a marriage than a date. Here are 5 questions to ask to determine the right relational fit for you.

Many companies prefer self-sufficiency. But doing it all in-house has a laundry list of pros and cons. There can be lots of reasons to hire an agency. Sometimes it’s just plain bandwidth – expanding the ability to deliver or deliver more quickly. More often it is to add unique skills that you don’t have on the in-house team.

Choosing wisely is mission critical. Constant or frequent churn in agency partners is inefficient, painful for the team and downright expensive. So, doing it right the first time just makes sense. It’s not a process to be rushed. Remember: it’s a marriage, not a date.

Hiring a new agency can feel like an intimidating process. Here are five questions that will help you pinpoint the right agency fit for you:

1. What do I want to accomplish?

It seems simple, but this often gets overlooked. Put in some framework about what you are looking to accomplish. Define the goals you want to achieve, and when you want to achieve them (for example, “I want to grow the number of leads my website generates by 10% of the year.” Or, “I want to increase online revenue by 5% over the next 6 months.) This starts to limit the possible partners.

2. Does the agency meet my needs?

With your goals in mind, you can then determine what services you need from an agency. How specific is that? Do you need an agency with a broad range of skills? Do you need specialized knowledge around a skillset, like PPC, inbound marketing, ecommerce, or an audience focus, like Millennials or Boomers?

All agencies are not created equal. You may need a partner who specializes in a specific skillset, such as web design or paid search, a partner with experience in your particular vertical, or an integrated cross-service agency to help you achieve your marketing goals.

3. Do I need a local agency?

With goals and services identified, you can now narrow the field based on the way you want to work with an agency. Do they need to be local? Can you function indefinitely in a long-distance relationship?

This should serve to narrow down your list to your top preferred prospects.

4. Can they help me discover new opportunities?

An experienced agency brings a fresh perspective to a brand. They aren’t bogged down in the management and day to day of the business, and can focus on the strategy, creative, and execution that your team may be too heads down to see. 

Plus, an agency typically works across verticals and can bring ideas to bear that it has seen work in other types of businesses but might seem revolutionary in yours. 

5. Do they prioritize relationships and embrace the partnership?

Prioritizing the relationship means showing mutual respect, providing candid feedback, practicing empathy and supporting new ideas.  Research shows that agencies that prioritize relationships have more success. Consider:

  • 84% of agencies and 81% of clients agree that longstanding relationships lead to the best work *
  • 94% of agencies and 100% of clients agree that collaboration from start to finish leads to the best work *
  • 98% of agencies AND clients agree that client trust leads to the best work *

*”The Naked Truth” a 2014 Cannes Forum presentation by RPA

In 1984, the average client-agency relationship tenure was 7.2 years. By 1997 (13 years later), that number declined by 25% to 5.3 years. Today the average client-agency tenure is thought to be less than three years. Open and clear communication remains key if you are committed to the long term relationship.

Finding the right agency partner should be a strategic, thoughtful process. Ask these 5 questions throughout the process to ensure you find the agency partner who will help you achieve your specific goals.