For businesses looking to hire a marketing agency: the truth is, 90% of the agencies out there won’t be a good fit for your business.
Finding an agency that understands your business’s needs, opportunities for growth, and budget limitations is no small task. But, there are key ways you can identify whether or not an agency will be a good match.
One effective tactic for vetting an agency is by preparing a one-page document that summarizes your business, its needs, your budget, and some stakeholders. At Ajax Union, we call this document a “Request for Proposal Questionnaire,” or an RFPQ.
Here are the 8 kinds of information you should include in your RPFQ:
1. Details on your business
What is the name of your business and product or service? What is the website URL that you would like to market? Who do you serve? What problem do you solve in the market?
2. Your current needs
What is the problem you are trying to solve with marketing? Why do you need digital marketing? Are you looking for lead generation, branding, or general marketing support? What tactics do you need help with? PPC? SEO? Social media? Email? Public relations? Video? Website management? Help the agency identify your need and the tactics you would like to execute.
3. Your current situation
Why are you reaching out now? What changed in your business? Did someone leave? Are you looking to change agencies because of a lack of results or some other reason?
4. List of decision-makers
Who are all of the people that will need to make the decision on selecting an agency? This should include everyone’s names, titles, and what their involvement will be.
5. Marketing budget
What is your marketing budget for an agency and for advertising spent monthly? If you do not have one, it’s helpful to provide a range. Also, if possible; you should explain how much revenue you hope to generate in your business and what your average client spends with you. Be as specific as possible.
If you decide to move forward with what the agency has to offer, when would you like to get started? Pick a project start date now so the agency knows if they have the resources to accommodate and onboard you properly.
7. Contact information
What is the best way for the agency to reach you? This should include your name, email, cell, and address if you want the agency to meet you in person at some point. What are the best times to set up a meeting to review this opportunity and who else needs to be on this thread? Include their contact information as well.
8. Additional information
You can also include more information if you feel like it’s needed and you did not cover it. For example, you can tell the agency about your culture, your values, how you operate, what CRM you use, and what technologies you are currently using. You can include links to your style guide, and resources for the agency to watch, read or review. Anything that you think might be helpful for the agency to understand the scope of the project or your business would be very helpful.
The RFPQ is extremely helpful because it saves time; you won’t have to have an hour-long conversation with an agency trying to just collect information because you spent 15 minutes writing everything down. It might be worth filling elements of this document out if you want to hire a freelancer or employee. You want to make sure that people get a full picture of what your need is.
But why is all this information needed? Let’s do a Q&A below:
Q: How much information do I need to provide about my business in order for an agency or freelancer to be able to help me?
A: The more information that you provide, the better equipped the agency or freelancer will be to be able to support you and see if what they have to offer is a good fit. Often, it’s not a good fit, but agencies will not be able to tell you that because they do not have enough information. Agencies need to know what your company does, who you best service, why you have focused on that market, what your competitive advantage is, what your values are, and what problem you solve in the market. Additional videos, websites, links to brochures, or marketing materials are also helpful to help your agency get the full picture.
Other questions you should try to answer are: How many employees do you have? Who are the key players? What are your annual sales? What are your goals? What are your main product lines or services that you offer? The more information you provide, the better. Often you can just provide a few sentences with some links and that would be enough.
Q: Why do I have to tell an agency what my need is? Aren’t they the experts? Shouldn’t they tell me what I need instead of me spelling out what we need?
A: You are the expert in your own business. You know your business better than anyone else. Your opinions and experiences matter. By telling an agency what your need is, what tactics are working that need to be expanded on, and what is not working but would like to fix, you’re helping your agency get you the services you need.
Yes, they might be the marketing experts, but putting the marketing experts together with you, the expert on your business, will help them create a plan that will achieve your goals.
Q: Why is it important for an agency to know your current situation? Why can’t an agency just give your business a proposal? How will this information help the agency?
A: Knowing the history of your marketing operation helps us understand what resources you have had in the past and what you are used to dealing with. You may have lost access to a resource or you may have access to a resource that you will be losing very soon. Our approach will be different depending on your situation. We want to be proactive and get to know the lay of the land. We also want to be sensitive to any problems that you may have experienced. Maybe you were burned by a past relationship. We want to understand WHY you feel like you were burned to try to avoid history repeating itself.
Q: How will understanding who is involved in making the decisions help an agency provide us with great marketing services?
A: When it comes to making decisions for hiring an agency or freelancer, there are often a few people that are involved: you have gatekeepers, influencers, decision-makers, users, and buyers. There can be a board that is involved. The agency will want to understand each unique player, who they are, and what their concerns are from the beginning so they can make the best possible presentation to appeal to all of those key players.
Q: We really do not want to share our marketing budget. Do we have to decide on a budget? Why can’t an agency just tell us what it costs instead of making us create a budget?
A: Most small businesses do not have budgets for marketing. If they get results, they will spend more. If they are wasting money, they will spend less. At the same time, when you are starting a marketing campaign, you must have some understanding of what your test budget will be to try out a campaign for a period of time. There is no real way of knowing what result you will get unless you have a crystal ball. Working with an agency might cost a few thousand dollars per month and testing out an advertising campaign can also cost a few thousand dollars per month.
A common issue businesses run into is that they don’t have the cash to run a test, or they want to create a new brand for their business and have a set budget to do that. In this event, businesses fear that full transparency will disallow them from accomplishing a marketing goal for less. This is a valid concern. If you do not trust an agency with a budget, you probably shouldn’t trust them to do work for you. When the agency gives you a proposal with a scope of work, it needs to make sense. You will not get the same website for 20k as you will get for 50k.
Ultimately, higher-quality services cost more money, whether it’s a flat fee or hourly. There are standard prices for getting things done. You will not get someone to manage your $10k AdWords budget for $500 per month and spend an hour per day in your account. They might spend an hour a day in your account if you spend $2,500 a month to get that campaign managed. You will not get a proper brand strategy session that costs $15k for $300. Tell the agency where you are at, and they will find a way to either work with you or refer you to someone that would fit into your range.
Q: How do I decide what my marketing test budget should be for a lead generation campaign?
A: A good agency will look at your goal first and understand what you are trying to achieve. You might want to grow your business from 1.3 million to 1.5 million in revenue this year. That means you want to add 200k in new revenue. Think about the REAL value that you would need to invest to generate that new 200k in business. You might be able to invest 100k to generate 200k. Should you spend the full 100k upfront? Probably not!
Invest a few thousand dollars a month and see if you get leads that will lead you to 200k. If the campaign fails, this wasn’t wasted money— because you had a test budget!
The question is WHAT did you learn? You need to be the judge to see if the campaigns you ran had potential; it’s your money. Pick a number you are willing to invest in and see what you can learn each week. Remember, if you invest very little, you will need to wait a much longer time to see if this plan works. You can spend 100k over 90 days to try something out or you can invest 100k over 10 years. You might get the same results… Time plays a factor in testing. Pick a budget that makes business sense for you.
Q: Why is it important to know what your timeframe is for getting started? I feel like you are pressuring me to decide.
A: No one wants to rush you into making a decision. The reason why understanding your timeframe is important is because an agency must understand its own resources and commitments and how they will be able to help you with getting started. Resources are always limited and if you want to start today, the agency will need to have the bandwidth to support that. If you want to start in 90 days, an agency may or may not be able to wait. Understanding your timeframe to plan ahead is a very important part of making sure an agency is a good fit.
All in all, finding the right marketing agency for your business is extremely difficult. After all, it is an investment of money, time, effort, and resources that go into entrusting a group of professionals to make the vision for your business become a reality. Ultimately, if you want to find the best match for your business, you’ll need to offer the most details about your business, its goals, its stakeholders, timeline, and budget, and be prepared to ask questions!