Trust is the most important factor in a successful marketing agency-client relationship. When you hire an agency, you need to know that your marketing strategy and execution is in good hands. This foundational confidence will allow you to step back from micromanaging plans and activities and unleash the expertise and skills of your agency.
Trust needs to be established before the contract is signed and then reinforced through interactions and results. So, how do you know that you can trust an agency before you start working together? Here are 10 ways you can evaluate an agency’s trustworthiness prior to joining forces.
Now It’s on You
- Talk to current and past clients. This may seem like an obvious one. However, I am often surprised by how many potential clients do not request references before hiring us. Any agency you are considering should be able to provide you contact information of current and past clients with programs and initiatives similar to what you are seeking.
- Investigate relevant case studies. Any agency worth its salt should have client stories that explain the challenge, approach and results of effective programs. Look for case studies that align with your situation and goals and ask questions to understand how the agency achieved success in comparable circumstances.
- Follow their clients. If you are considering an agency for public relations, ask for names of clients they do PR for and do a Google News search on those companies. What quality and quantity of media coverage are they receiving? Are they achieving visibility in new and interesting ways? If you’re hiring an agency to boost your effectiveness on social media, follow the social channels of their other social clients. If their social presence and engagement makes you jealous, you can trust the agency’s prowess.
- See how the agency markets itself. When the cobbler’s kid has no shoes, the cobbler doesn’t believe in the importance of shoes. Every agency struggles with finding time to market itself, but not prioritizing it shows that the agency doesn’t practice what they preach. At Idea Grove, we use strategies that we recommend to our clients on ourselves. We even have a “retainer” for Idea Grove to ensure we allocate time to marketing the agency. Before promoting the Growth-Driven-Design approach to building websites, we tried it on the Idea Grove website, and became complete converts in the process. If an agency’s self-marketing doesn’t impress, that’s a red flag.
- Read the agency’s blog. An agency’s blog should be a window into its soul. What we write about on our blog shows what we think is important and why. Since our posts are written by nearly everyone in the office, it’s also a great way to get to know the people of Idea Grove. Like #4 above, an agency’s blog also shows you how they prioritize and strategize short-form content to build awareness and demonstrate thought leadership.
- Get to know the team . Sometimes the people working with you during the proposal process are not the same ones who will be working on your account. That’s fine, but you should absolutely request to talk to the team members who will be most involved in your account day-to-day. Do your personalities jive well together? Do those associates inspire your confidence in interactions that you have with them?
- Ask gotcha questions. There are questions that mid-to-senior level team members should be able to answer off the top of their heads—questions like, “What resources do you recommend for staying on top of inbound marketing trends and tools?” Or “Can you give me a recent example of successfully “newsjacking” a trending story to get media exposure for a client?” Asking these types of questions will reveal if an agency’s claims are based on substance or smoke and mirrors.
- Read employee reviews on Glassdoor. No agency is going to have a Glassdoor with only 5-star, glowing employee reviews. And a few bad reviews can be explained by a myriad of factors. But an agency with 2 or 3 stars and copious employee complaints is most likely full of dysfunction and dissatisfaction—two things you don’t need in an agency partner.
- Get a strategy focused on you. If an agency’s proposal for your program seems like a template where they did a find and replace on the client name, that’s a problem. While strategies and approaches apply to multiple clients, you need to know that the agency has a plan specifically tailored to your situation and goals.
- Listen for “No." Of course, you want to hear “yes, we can do that” during the agency selection process. However, be very cautious of an agency that won’t tell you no. Guaranteed you have requests that either A) won’t fit in the program scope/budget, B) are not well-advised, or C) are not in the wheelhouse of that agency. If an agency won’t tell you no now, they will let you down later.
If you’ve done your due diligence before hiring an agency and they have proven themselves, now it is up to you to start the relationship with the assumption of trust. Trust can be lost or strengthened along the course of relationship, but it should always be there out of the gate.
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