As a small business owner, you know that finding the right partnerships can help grow your business and expand your audience. However, you might struggle with knowing what to ask an agency before hiring them—which is understandable when you consider all the forms of marketing at your fingertips.
While most agencies can deliver content designed around your products and services, some may not listen to your needs. Working with a company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart can easily leave a bad taste in your mouth. Instead of writing off all marketing agencies after an unsatisfactory experience, take note of all the positives and negatives, and be straightforward about what you need and expect from your next partner. With each meeting, use your previous experience and ask the questions that are important to you.
Consider these questions to ask before hiring a marketing agency and how each agency responds when choosing your next partnership.
With much of our time spent online working and scrolling, it’s imperative your Google business listing and social media accounts are active and relevant. While marketing agencies can be a great resource to get you started and provide guidance on how to proceed, they aren’t always great at letting go of creative content they’ve designed for you. Read your contract carefully and ask the right questions to make sure that you retain control of all your social media platforms and your Google business listing if you ever decide to part ways with your marketing agency.
You—as a client—should always own and have admin control of your business’s social media platforms, email, and Google business listing. Everything from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social network should remain under your control. And, whether you already have a Gmail address or your agency creates one for you, all your accounts should be tied to an account you own and have open access to. A marketing company should not create social media accounts that aren’t directly tied to a company email or a general Gmail account.
Social media content is constantly changing and evolving based on who your customers are and what they’re looking for. For some industries, this could mean a daily stream of posts and updates, while for others there could only be a few posts a week. Implementing the appropriate posts and information is crucial to the growth and maintenance of the company. A simple mistake or miscommunication could be the loss of a sale—or worse, a potential customer or long-standing relationship.
Upon the creation of your social media platforms, you should have the ability to edit and update any posts you need. Your marketing company shouldn’t leave you in the dark and relying on their staff to update your posts and pictures without consulting you. As a client, you should be trained and given the appropriate credentials to make edits. You (not the agency) should have full ownership of your assets.
Your company’s domain name system—or DNS—is the base of your website. It’s the link that sends prospects to your website. Businesses commonly purchase a domain name from a third-party hosting service, like GoDaddy. By purchasing your domain on registrar sites like GoDaddy, the control of where you point your domain can be easily transferred to display your new website. However, you, as the business should retain full ownership and admin access to your domain’s registrar account.
Regardless of which agency you work with—or if you end up building a website on your own—you should always retain full control of your DNS. When considering a new marketing company, ask what their policy is for the domains they own. Even if an agency purchases a domain name for you, they should not own or fully control it. You—as their client—should be given full ownership and admin rights to your company’s DNS.
It is imperative that you understand who owns the design and content of your website after it is built. Any blogs, photos, imagery, home pages, landing pages, or any other elements used to create the overall feel of your website are key components that make your website what it is.
Many times, businesses assume they own the design and content on the website just because they‘re making monthly payments. However, many are surprised to learn that they don’t and have spent years paying for a website that they now do not own. This makes it extremely hard when you want to move your website to a different hosting provider or no longer wish to work with the agency that built the site. The bottom line: If you’ve paid for all services—you should own and control your website. Be sure you understand the details of your contract before you sign.
You should own all rights to the content and design of your new website once you’ve paid your contract in full. This means the agency must provide you with the files and database at your request in the event you choose to move your site to a new hosting provider or away from their management.
In some cases, businesses will rent website design services from a website developer. It’s important to understand which agreement is included in your service contract.
Most marketing agencies provide hosting services for the websites they build. However, once your new website is published, depending on what was used to create your website, it may or may not be compatible and easily transferable to other hosting services.
Most small business websites are built on open-source platforms such as WordPress, which can easily be moved to just about any hosting provider. However, there are some platforms that require specialized licensing to host. If your website is built on one of these platforms, you may have an extremely hard time moving your site away from your current provider.
Your agency or designer should develop your website on a platform that is compatible with a wide variety of hosting providers. This way, if you choose to leave the agency or stop hosting with them, you’ll be able to more easily transfer your website to a different provider. If your site is built on a platform that is not easily moved, you should discuss hosting options with the agency prior to signing a contract.
When most clients approach marketing agencies for the first time, they aren’t sure what their business is lacking or what areas they should focus on to improve their customer interactions. It’s common for a business to realize—as they begin to grow—that their marketing efforts need to be fluid. The problem many business owners face, however, is an unclear concept of who their best customers are and what achievable goals they should set to grow and improve their business.
The marketing agency you choose should be your company’s strategic partner. They should have experience in helping you understand and define your goals, identify your best clients, and develop strategies to help you effectively reach them. Additionally, key performance indicators should be discussed as ways that you (and them) can monitor the progress of the strategy.
Communication is key for all business partnerships. When speaking to potential marketing agencies, be sure to inquire how they will communicate with you and how often. For example, will you be speaking to the owner of the company on a monthly basis, or is there a project manager
Most agencies have some sort of online project management system that
Before you decide to partner with a marketing agency, take care of your due diligence. Visit each agency’s website and look for key indicators like an address, employee bios, a list of current and previous clients, and testimonials. If you feel like an agency is hiding something from you, they probably are. Find an agency that is willing to give you full transparency, help you understand their services, and work with you to achieve your marketing goals. You shouldn’t ever feel like they’re talking over your head or pressuring you into a sale.
When considering if you should work with a specific marketing agency, you should never feel as though they’re keeping anything from you or pressuring you to spend more than your budget will allow. Great agencies will work with you and provide options that best meet your needs—even if that means spreading out your marketing needs into phases.
Additionally, you should be given a clear and concise proposal (in writing). This will help you understand exactly what you’re getting from the agency as well as your costs. Be sure to ask about any additional or hidden fees such as hosting costs, fees for changes, or additional hours that may be needed to complete a project.
It’s important to determine what your needs and values are when it comes to selecting a marketing partner. Many forceful marketing agencies will demand complete control of your website, social media, and any other marketing materials you commission. The good news is that great agencies will work with you as a partner, allowing you to retain full control of your marketing materials even after the termination of the business relationship.
How your marketing materials are handled is most often determined by the values of the agency. This is why it’s so important to make sure your goals and values are similar to the company you choose to partner with. What is most important to you? What matters above all else to the agency? If you both prioritize finding customers who will value your product or service and return year after year, this is likely a great fit. But if the marketing company is only focused on selecting the quickest solution without any research or business experience and hoping for the best, they’re probably not your ideal partner.
It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between a report that shows 500 referrals to your website and a report that shows 500 referrals that created a 25% increase in sales. Great marketing partners become part of your team—which is why you should be mindful of the agency’s values and if they parallel your own.
Knowing the right questions to ask before hiring a marketing agency can save you from deceptive contracts and lost assets. Before you sign your name on the dotted line, consider what you care about in a partnership and how a marketing company can help you reach your goals while upholding your core values. Once you’ve met with a few agencies and listened to their answers, you’ll have a better idea of who you should hire.
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Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small business. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, please visit our website. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.