You can’t attract new customers or grow your brand if you don’t have a reliable outlet to spread the word about your business. The trouble is, marketing is a complex art (and science) that requires years of expertise to truly perfect, and hiring full-time staff members can get expensive.

That’s why many new businesses choose to work with an external marketing agency, which has more experience, access to more resources, and lower costs than most other options. But with so many marketing agencies to choose from, how can you know which one is right for your business?

Most Important Considerations

These are some of your most important considerations when choosing a marketing agency:

  1. First, consider whether the agency specializes in serving a particular industry. For example, there are some firms that focus on healthcare marketing or manufacturing marketing, while others serve a general audience. You don’t have to have an agency that specializes in your industry, but it might help if your industry faces specific challenges that general marketing firms might not understand.
  2. Beyond that, you’ll need to consider your marketing firm’s area of specialty. Some firms like to develop a skillset around one specific strategy, like digital ad buying or SEO, while others want to become a one-size-fits all tool that offers many strategies under one roof. If you’re only interested in one strategy, a specialist is likely better, but if you want options or multiple strategies working together, a generalist is the way to go.
  3. Consider the size of the agency you’re working with. A bigger agency will likely have access to more personnel and more resources, but can also afford to lose your account, and might not give you as much attention or hospitality. Size can also be an indirect indication of experience, though it’s better to investigate that as a separate category.
  4. New agencies aren’t inherently bad, but if you want consistent, dependable results, you’ll want to choose an agency with several years of experience under their belt. Ask how long they’ve been in business, and what kind of clients they’ve had in the past.
  5. What happens if something goes wrong with one of your campaigns, or if you aren’t seeing results after a few months of effort? A good agency will step up their game; it’s virtually impossible to guarantee results (since every client and situation is unique), but if results are coming slow or aren’t coming at all, an agency should work to improve things.
  6. Marketing agencies aren’t usually ridiculously expensive, but cost is still a factor you should consider. As you might expect, higher costs tend to be associated with businesses that have more experience, or better services. However, low-cost agencies are still a viable option if you have a limited budget. The best questions to ask here are “how much can I afford to pay?” and “what am I getting for my money?” For a good cost comparison, look at the prices and services of multiple firms.
  7. Pay close attention to the terms being offered by your agency of choice; if you can’t find this out through their website, ask to see an example of a standard contract they’d issue a new client. Some agencies only charge you for work as it comes in, while others want a monthly retainer fee. Some, especially monthly retainer-based agencies, also have a minimum period for the contract, such as a year or longer. If you’re looking for flexibility, this is a bad sign.
  8. See if you can talk to the account manager who will be responsible for handling your account; the value of a good point person is enormous. How easy are they to get in contact with? How friendly and easy to communicate with are they? Are they willing to go out of their way to make sure your business stays happy? Do they seem truly invested in your results?

Handling Uncertainty

If you’ve researched multiple options and you still aren’t sure what the best path forward is, your best bet is to choose the agency that gives you the greatest flexibility for the future—one with flexible terms, lots of different specialties, and an accommodating team who wants your business to be successful. That way, if you decide to change directions in the future, you can do so without issue.