Is Your Potential Marketing Agency Strategic Enough? Questions To Ask

Christine Slocumb is a B2B marketing leader, speaker, author of “Stop Starvation Marketing”, and President of Clarity Quest Marketing.

The biggest complaint I hear from prospective clients is that they need their agency partners to be more strategic. Companies are frustrated because their agency’s account team is filled with tacticians, not strategists.

They are tired of constantly asking their agencies for ideas, supervising them and editing deliverables. And they are rightfully exhausted.

Companies crave fresh ideas, and they need agency partners that always bring their A-game.

Here are five questions you can ask a prospective agency during discovery calls to gauge their approach to client service.

What’s your onboarding process like?

If an agency wants to jump right into campaign execution, beware. Marketing without a plan is planning to fail.

Strategic agencies want to learn more about your organization, talk to your customers and see a product demonstration before executing a plan. Month one should be about planning for success, not simply launching campaigns to meet arbitrary deadlines.

How will you keep us competitive?

How an agency answers this question is telling. You really need to know that your agency understands your organization within the larger ecosystem in which you operate.

For example, if you are engaging an agency to write new brand messaging, ask them how they will ensure that you sound different from your competitors.

If you are engaging an agency for digital marketing, continuous improvement and flexibility are key to ensuring that you hit industry benchmarks and key performance indicators. If a campaign is falling flat, you want an agency that will say, “This isn’t working, so let’s pivot our strategy.”

How do you measure success?

Speaking of KPIs, if your agency can’t talk about how your marketing campaigns tie back to your company’s business goals, that should be a major red flag. Reporting is a core deliverable a strategic agency offers.

Bonus points for those agencies that include a reporting cadence and sample report in their proposals to you.

Can you share a campaign example?

What’s an example of a bold or creative campaign the agency executed for a client, and what were the results? This question aims to see what creative problem-solving skills they bring to the table. Don’t worry too much about “that idea won’t work here” because the point is they aren’t just playing it safe; they are willing to push themselves and their clients to show results.

Creative ideas backed by data are the very essence of a strategic approach.

How do you stay up to date?

How does the agency stay up to date on industry trends and the evolving marketing landscape? Are agency leadership and staff attending conferences and penning thought leadership articles? Are they encouraged to seek certifications?

Meeting quality deliverable expectations and deadlines is essential. Still, if your agency team is always heads-down following a prescribed plan, they have little space to engage with big-picture ideas and innovations.

If you want more strategic ideas from your agency, ensure that the agency you engage prioritizes lifelong learning within its ranks.

Keep an open mind.

When you approach a marketing agency to bid on a defined scope of work, be open to the potential. You may think you want X, but the agency that says you should also consider Y is the one you want in your corner.

Don’t look for people-pleasers; look for the agency that makes you think starting at the proposal stage.


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