7 Things To Consider Before Hiring An Agency

Posted on February 1, 2019

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Written by: Darian Kovacs, 9 July 2018

Darian brings over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations. Darian has been published in Forbes, Adweek, Entrepreneur and is often providing workshops and consulting for law firms, real estate developers, retail and health brands. Through his Vancouver based agency, Jelly Digital Marketing & PR, he provides award-winning work in the areas of Public Relations, Social Media, Digital Ads and SEO.

We often say that there’s something magical about public relations in business. And a lot of time and resources go into this marketing method. But what is so special about it, and why should businesses invest in it?

Hiring an Agency

7 Things To Consider Before Hiring An Agency

Hiring a digital agency for the first time is a massive leap of faith for companies.

Whether a company is outsourcing because of a need for cost-effective expertise or additional assistance, it can be daunting when receiving proposals for the first time.

However, with these few questions, deciding which agency to trust, and ultimately hire, will be smoother.

  1. Retention Rate

Questions to ask:

  • Do you know your average retention rate? What is the retention rate attributed to?
  • Will there be staff rotations in between campaigns?
  • How will training be handled?

An average retention rate across all industries is roughly 90%; give or take for some like fast food and grocery stores, which see a retention rate closer to 0%.

For marketing and PR agencies, it’s a little closer to 30%, according to Forbes. It costs a lot in both person-hours and opportunity loss to continually train incomers through an agency’s revolving door of employees.

For a client, there is double the frustration when an agency runs through employees as quickly as a Hummer does fuel. These frustrations can run the gamut from a new employee getting to know the ins and outs of their client to the client not knowing who to call when an emergency happens.

Unfortunately, when agencies have lower than average retention rates, clients soon find themselves looking for the door too.


  1. Business Ambitions and Goals

Questions to ask:

  • Does the agency plan to stretch itself and service new areas?
  • Will the agency physically be in multiple places?
  • Where does a company fit in with an agency’s overall plan?

It can be tough to put faith into what seems to be the right agency, only to find out that they have limited experience in the areas that matter most for the prospective company’s needs.

Asking whether the agency sees themselves expanding their roster internationally, nationally, or locally will provide a lot of details on the future of the contract.


  1. Ownership and Investment

Questions to ask:

  • Who owns the company?
  • Why did the agency take on investment?
  • How do the investment team push ownership?
  • What are their interests and philosophies?

All companies, even advertising agencies, reach a point where they might consider outside funding to help them achieve their goals, fuel growth, or keep the doors open. But – as any company on the receiving end of investment can attest – outside investors can have a significant impact on how an agency operates.

From pushing the agency’s ownership to make decisions, to staffing, strategy, and growth, investors can have a significant impact on the agency-client relationship.

This challenge can be overcome, however. By meeting with and learning about any active business investors, a prospective client can discover whether the agency’s composition works for them.


  1. Certifications

What to ask:

  • What certifications do your staff have?
  • How much time is permitted for staff to increase their education?
  • When do the certifications expire?

Surprisingly, many companies do not think to ask about the training of an agency’s staff. They wouldn’t hire an electrician without a valid ticket or an MD without a doctorate to work on your body.

Seemingly, many are more than willing to engage a marketing agency’s services without the certificates to prove their credentials to work on their baby, their company.

By ensuring that the marketing experts have earned the job titles and continued to re-up their knowledge year after year, a company can rest assured knowing that they are working with a team that dedicates themselves to excellence.


Agency Client Relationship


  1. Tools and Software

What to ask:

  • What tools will be used to communicate?
  • How do you report results and how often do you do it?
  • Do you use automated reports or are they custom-built?

An agency should provide its clients access to tools that not only streamline communication but open up the project management process.

Along with access to the tools, agencies can go a step further by providing a comprehensive tool training guide–or even personalized training–so that clients feel wholly empowered to use them in the most effective way possible.


  1. Billing and Costs

What to ask:

  • Am I being billed hourly or am I on a retainer?
  • How does your staff track their hours?

Whether it’s how you invoice or how staff communicate the hours worked, the billing process is an essential opportunity for agencies to prove they are open and transparent.

If a client doesn’t know the payment terms or how an agency’s team is reporting their hours, how can you trust any other information that the agency gives its client?


  1. Locked In

What to ask:

  • Am I locked into a contract for a full year or month to month?
  • Where does the salesperson go once I’ve signed?
  • How long have most clients stayed with you?

Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of ghosting by a salesperson who recently got you to sign on the dotted line, so why is that acceptable in the marketing agency world? It’s not.

An agency should be providing their client with a full onboarding experience where they can answer any questions that the client might have.

After-contract care is a hallmark sign of an agency that cares about what they do and wants to see their clients succeed.