5 Tips to Select the Perfect Marketing Agency Partner

Matt Hensler
by Matt Hensler 16 Jan, 2023
Swipe left, swipe right-if it were only that simple. It takes time to find the right partner in our personal lives, but often people don't put the same thought process into the business world, especially when choosing a marketing agency. The brand and agency relationship is a true partnership, and it should be a fit.

Some agencies take clients for the money, and some brands pick agencies because they will work with their limited budget, but to find a compatible partner requires time and work or it could be a costly mistake.

Over the years, business owners have asked how do you know if I should get an agency? Or how do I know if the agency is the right fit?

I have owned a social media agency, worked at agencies and worked on the brand side selecting and managing agencies, so I understand the value of the right mix for a successful relationship for both parties.

Below are five tips for starting an agency relationship with advice from some industry leaders.

1.    Research

We're curious by nature, so do due diligence. Ask for case studies, client references or to talk to employees. Check employer reviews. I worked with an agency pitching new business, and the brand asked them about their low Glassdoor rating. The agency had high turnover, low pay and long hours, so they ended up losing the business.

"Ask about employee retention rate," said Shari Gold, CEO & Founder at Gold PR. "Clients value continuity and invest a lot in their agency partner. 65% of my team has been with me at least five years due to Gold PR's commitment to our culture."

Frequently changing account managers will be a nuisance, and likely upset the client. Also, inquire about their client retention rate. If an agency has had long-term clients, they are happy.

2. Chemistry

Gold PR, Motion, and Horizon Media leaders all agreed that chemistry is vital. I turned down business when I could sense it was not a fit.

"Ask who would be working on the business," said Kimberly Eberl, Founder & CEO at Motion. "Not only knowing the team but having chemistry with them is crucial to a great agency-client relationship. Clients have told me that they liked, but we won because they felt they would enjoy picking up the phone and talking with us, working with us."

Gold said, "one time, I had a client, who has been a client for ten years, ask 'is this an agency team that if I got stuck with at an airport overnight that I would hang out with?".

"Spend some time with the day-to-day people that will be running your business," said Julie Nayerman, Director of Business Development at Horizon Media. "Chemistry and compatible working styles are critically important to a successful agency relationship, which is often hard to judge from a pitch team comprised of senior leadership."

3. Expertise

There are public relations agencies, social media agencies, advertising agencies, search agencies, marketing agencies that focus on B2B tech and the list goes on and on. A focused industry agency can be a good idea but don't limit it to that, because skills can be transferable. However, you need to know that your agency knows your industry.

"Niche agencies provide an extra level of expertise in an industry," Heather Hammack, General Manager at STK. "As a GM of a restaurant, it's essential that our agency partner knows the ins and outs of the industry and trends to help us work as a collective team."

4. Expectations

I'm a firm believer in setting expectations-it makes everyone happier. Discuss working hours, expected response time, key performance indicators (KPIs), reporting and status updates in advance. There's nothing worse in a relationship than one person assuming something opposite of the reality.

"It's important for companies to set expectations on reporting to align with client KPIs. Clients are demanding more accountability," said Gold.

5. Network

Every agency has connections, but the right contacts can help a brand define success. Ask what types of relationships an agency has that can help the brand grow.

Chicago-based, Lodge Management Group relies on the community.

"Localization is critical for us," says Alicia Rhoads, Marketing Director at Lodge Management Group. "Deep roots in the community, its history, culture, people and politics make a win for success, in addition to connections to up and coming influencers and players who are changing the landscape faster than ever before are a must. "

It takes time to find the right partner in any situation, but following these tips from industry leaders will help save time and money in the long run.