Never hire a marketing agency without asking yourself these 5 questions

Years ago, I worked at a marketing agency, like many graduate students looking to get a foot in the door and gain experience. There are some things I learned while working indoors that stuck with me now that I’m outdoors.

Every time I hear someone say they’re looking to hire a marketing agency, a number of red flags that often go unnoticed come to mind, as well as five must-have questions before hiring a marketing agency. Because what every successful startup knows about marketing is that you need to find people who will love your product or service, which makes marketing a necessary evil.

With so many marketing agencies vying for your attention – in an industry where deception rates are notoriously high, it can be reminiscent of dealing with used car dealerships. But unlike, say, those car dealerships, marketing agencies are — or at least should be — the masters of marketing. It is therefore not uncommon to be taken for a ride. Because the problem is that many are really only very good at marketing one thing: themselves.

By asking these questions, you can quickly weed out agencies and find the best in the business, those who demonstrate transparency, expertise, and integrity. They make it easy for you to tell the good from the bad, so much so that I got suspended for asking some of these questions. Talk about the trash that takes itself out.

1. Who is responsible for making changes to my account?

You were probably told that you will get a account Manager, but beware: this does not mean that the account manager is actually the person who will come in and make changes to your account. In fact, chances are they probably won’t. What they will do is forward your notes to someone else, whose title will probably be more like PCB Specialist or strategist.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, you need to know who will have your password. And you should know that it can be more difficult to get your thoughts across when they then need to be conveyed to someone else.

2. What is your (employee) turnover rate?

Marketing and advertising agencies have notoriously high staff turnover rate with an average turnover of 30%— that’s 3 times the standard trade target of 10%. In reality, the figure could actually be much higher because agencies commonly use independent contractors, which makes their staff turnover rates misleading and seem much lower than they may actually be.

And even if it doesn’t look like any of your business, it will affect your business if you become a customer. In fact, high employee turnover is one of the most frustrating things about working with a marketing agency. After all, each new employee means another time where you have to introduce your company, explain your goals and establish a new relationship.

3. How many customers is each account manager assigned to?

Agencies vary widely in the number of clients each account manager is responsible for. Typically, an account manager at a marketing agency will have anywhere from 5 to over 40 clients. Of course, the more customers a person has, the less attention they will pay to your business. And no matter how good they are at keeping up with all of their customers, their varying needs, demands, and levels of performance.

4. Are account managers generalists or specialists?

For the most part, you want someone who works for you and has specific industry knowledge. After all, how can someone who knows nothing about, say, the aged care industry help market a retirement home? Especially since this person likely also manages accounts for a seniors’ residence, dental office, computer chip manufacturer, auto parts retailer, and computer software company. artificial intelligence. It’s going to be tough not only to learn them all well enough to market them well, but it’s going to be tough to track five very different industries simultaneously.

5. Do you work for my competition?

On the other hand, marketing agencies that offer specialists can market you and your competitors. This is as common among local agencies that market local businesses as it is among large national marketing agencies that focus on providing marketing services to those in a specific industry. And if that happens, too bad for your marketing agency that gives you any competitive advantage.

The process of hiring a marketing agency can be a lot like interview job candidates. Because that’s what you do. This is arguably more important because with hiring a marketing agency, as opposed to an individual marketer, the person you are talking to is likely not the same person who will actually do the work for which your company pays.

By approaching agencies as you would when hiring a candidate (e.g., using Elon Musk’s brilliant 2-handed test) and asking these questions before hiring an agency, you know exactly what you’re getting and what what you can expect from your relationship with them. . In turn, you’ll find it easier to find the best marketing agency for your business and start off on the right foot, with transparency, trust, and integrity.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.