What to Ask a Digital Marketing Agency Before Hiring

Djanan Kasumovic
Last Updated:

Hiring an agency for your digital marketing needs is a critical investment. Like any relationship, transparency from both sides is necessary in determining whether you and your chosen company are a good fit. 

Although checking the agency's website and related online reviews helps you establish its background and credentials, you should get to know the company better by asking questions about its planning and work process. Its representative's answers can indicate if and how you can work well together. To make a well-informed decision about your future collaboration, you can ask these 22 questions for digital marketing agencies, which we divided into 6 selection criteria.

digital marketing angencies selection guide

6 Criteria for Choosing Your Digital Marketing Selection + 22 Questions to Help You Probe:

Expertise and experience in your industry and niche

These questions will help you determine an agency's familiarity with the nature of your business, its market, and its competitors. Industry experience can be advantageous in imparting messages through campaigns.

  • "Have you worked with businesses like ours?" or "What company types do you work with and with what markets?"

An agency that has worked with clients in your niche or industry can better understand your business challenges and intricacies than a service provider, which may have a different specialization. For instance, when selecting from various real estate marketing agencies to help promote your waterfront property in Maine, it's advisable to find an agency which has done marketing for a similar property type. 

Also, while many agencies boast B2B and B2C marketing, some marketers specialize in just one. Pick the agency whose market matches yours.

  • "How much experience do you have in marketing within our niche/industry?"

The older players aren't always the wiser ones. Agencies that have been around for a while and demonstrated innovation through the years can also make the best picks. Their histories include incorporating innovative tools or AI-enhanced features or merging with another agency whose capabilities boost their own "superpowers."

  • "Who else are you currently working with in our industry?" or "Do you have a current project in our industry? With whom?"

Respectable agencies won't engage with your brand if it directly competes with their existing clients. They would typically let you know about this and offer their services at another time in the future. However, working with agencies specializing in your field and posing no conflict of interest gives you a double benefit. They can update you with the latest trends and customer behavior affecting your niche. Moreover, an agency’s marketing specialists can recommend and apply strategies based on competitor knowledge.

Strategy Development

The next set of crucial questions for digital marketing agencies aims to uncover their strategy and problem-solving tactics. You can ask the following questions to determine how an agency will use technical tools and human creativity to present a data-backed solution customized to your goals.

  • "How will you understand our needs?"

Competent agencies will use interviews, business intelligence, market research, and SWOT analysis to deepen their understanding of your business. These will provide insights into your pain points, struggles, and objectives. 

  • "How do you plan to do things differently?"

Standing out in New York or any saturated market can be challenging for brands, influencers, and even marketing firms. Marketing specialists can typically tell you what will or wouldn't work for your brand based on their experience and research outcomes. But more than that, you'll want an agency that won't settle for the status quo but will craft ways so you can make a few waves and stay competitive.

  • "When have you failed?" or "How do you handle unexpected problems?"

Ask your prospect to cite a specific unsuccessful project, then let its reps discuss their takeaways from that experience and if they had applied any lessons to their later projects. Also, inquire what their action plans are when dealing with urgent or unforeseen situations, such as changes in client requirements, technical glitches, integration issues, and other challenges that may delay a task or campaign’s completion. 

  • "Can I see examples of your work?" or "Can you walk me through your process for X case study?"

Most agencies use their websites to feature their successful projects as case studies. Some companies like No Good, which caters to B2B SaaS clients, narrate their strategy and campaign implementation in detail. Meanwhile, others, such as full-service firm SmartSites, do so only briefly. These two questions will help you understand more thoroughly and verify an agency's methodology and competence to replicate its past success in your unique challenge. Besides its published case studies, you can request references to get insights into past client experiences.

Collaborative style and work process

Finding an agency with the same core values and culture as yours will have no value unless the relationship is built upon efficient communication and coordination. Discover how communicative and proactive a digital marketing firm is with these questions:

Digital Marketing Selection Criteria tips

  • "What would you need from us to start the project?" and "What will be our responsibilities in this project?”

Professional agencies will tell you what they need from you for each stage of the project beyond the fees. Otherwise, ask. They will typically name the digital assets and work systems they'll need access to, such as your customer relationship management system or Google Analytics account, depending on your needs.

  • "Who will be our main contact person?"

You need to know the specific member of the agency whom you can reach for the duration of the project or each of its phases. This way, you know exactly whom to ask for status updates and other concerns, even if you’re in Seattle and your agency is in the UK. If possible, request to be introduced to your potential team so you can build rapport. 

  • "What communication tools do you use?" along with "How often will we meet or get briefings about the progress of our campaigns?"

Some agencies, such as PurpleFire and Hey Digital, open a Slack account that gives you access to its team upon signing up. Your account manager may also provide direct communication through messaging apps. Additionally, find out the frequency of meetings within a week (biweekly or weekly?) and how they plan to report to you. Pick an agency that will schedule meetings and progress updates based on the needs of your campaign and your preference. 

  • "How would you describe your project management process?" or "How do you involve clients in decision-making?"

Most marketing service providers outline their workflow on their websites. Nevertheless, request them to explain their process given your problem and targets. Ask the agency how it requests and acts on your feedback. Also, know how many revisions the agency allows for creative work and how much you can review, redirect, or edit work.

  • "Can you handle several projects at once?" (for instance, handling email drip campaigns and writing video scripts) and "How do you ensure quality control and time management?"

Your agency's answer will reveal your team's structure and delegation style. It will also shed light on its team members' individual capacities, prioritization, project management tools, and contingency planning.

  • Will you outsource any part of our project to freelancers or partner agencies? With whom?

Verify if your agency will handle everything in-house or contract part of the project to freelancers. You must know the team members, who the agency will assign to your project, and their backgrounds. For people who will produce your marketing copy, photography, or video, ask the agency if you can request their portfolios to see if they have the creativity and capabilities you're looking for. The "Our Team" section of a digital marketing firm's website typically shows the composition of its organization from its account managers, strategists, content writers, graphic designers, website or app developers, and art directors.

Tech stack and platform partnerships

Your future partner agency shouldn't only use various software and online solutions—it should use them efficiently to speed up work, improve data security, and enhance the buyer's journey or user experience. Understanding why they use certain tools can provide more insights into how they work. 

  • "What software do you use?" or "What marketing platforms do you specialize in?"

A professional and well-experienced agency should be able to name its tools and quickly but clearly describe its function and benefits to your project. Some jobs, such as SEO and social media or email marketing, require giving agencies access to your platforms. Ensure that your tool is part of your potential partner's tech stack.

  • "Do you have official partnerships with Google or other platforms?"

When hiring an agency to handle paid advertising, for instance, a company with Google, Amazon, and Meta partnerships would be more familiar with optimizing your ad's content, format, and timing, and most importantly, how much to bid or spend for each. Being used to these big platforms is a big plus.

  • "How will you use your proprietary software on our project?"

Digital marketing firms typically promote themselves online by featuring their proprietary tools, some of which run on artificial intelligence. When you meet your candidate firm's representatives, you can request more information about a tool's capabilities and how they will use it to fulfill your project requirements. For instance, when you work with the team at social listening platform Talkwalker, its proprietary BlueSilkGPT provides social monitoring, consumer intelligence, and performance forecasts in the next 90 days, all of which can fine-tune ongoing social campaigns.

Success Indicators

Professional marketers track and measure campaign performance and report the results regularly. They share what's working or not working, the reason behind any growth or decline, and their action plan to sustain improvement or remedy any failure.

  • "How do you monitor progress and measure success?"

Ask the agency how they define success for your project and what reporting deliverables you can expect. Request a template or sample of their marketing reports and study what metrics they measure. Better yet, ask the agency's reps what key performance indicators they consider significant for your project. Influencer marketing agencies typically use platforms whose access can be shared with brands for tracking campaign performance.

  • "When will I start seeing results?"

Your prospective partner should be able to clarify how much time it needs to deliver results that will bring about expected improvements in customer engagement, sales, and other targets. SEO agency Victorious has a dedicated webpage detailing the standard duration of its full SEO program—12 months—and the activities it will conduct for clients each quarter.

Pricing model

This final batch of questions for digital marketing agencies will help you know how your service provider will bill you for its services. Get your figures straight to determine if the costs fit your budget and avoid unexpected expenses.  

  • "How much will our project cost?" or "What services does your package cover?"

Help your agency arrive at an accurate price for your project or long-term partnership by preparing a comprehensive brief of your marketing requirements. Ask for a quote as itemized as your project brief—with corresponding costs specified for each service its team will render. Also, how will they charge you if you want to add something to your project scope? Some agencies advertise their service plans on their website, from startups or small businesses to enterprise-level packages.

  • "How do you bill for your services?"

Digital marketing service providers with pricing information on their websites typically charge fees monthly, giving discounts for full-year payers. Verify the payment schedule with your chosen partner and ask if there are other fees you should know about. There may be costs that an agency’s online pricing page doesn't explicitly list in its payment breakdown.

  • "Is there a minimum contract period?"

Check the terms of your agreement—you wouldn't want to be stuck with an agency you can't work with for one reason or another. Look for agencies that provide flexibility instead of locking you in a year-long subscription or plan. One exception, however, is SEO programs, whose results typically only start showing from the sixth month and up.

  • "Do you have a cancellation policy?"

Inquire about the agency's policy for terminating your service agreement if things don't work out. Find out under what circumstances you can cancel your contract, the notice period or how far in advance you must request the cancellation, how to request it (by email or registered mail?), and any related fees.

No Longer Vendors But Partners

As the role of digital marketing agencies shifts from being merely "vendors" to business partners, hiring organizations have also begun to view marketing as a strategic, long-term exercise instead of a project-based activity. You may not find a "perfect match" even after using our guide, but sitting down with your future marketing partner and getting to know them more thoroughly using our suggested questions can ease plenty of doubts and help you make the most appropriate selection. 

It's still advisable to come up with "finalists" and choose from among them based on their responses to your interview. Partnering with digital markers can be a game-changing experience and elevate your brand's growth. Hopefully, our question guide can help narrow your choices to the company best suited to take you to the next level.

About the Author
Djanan Kasumovic, Head of Growth at Influencer Marketing Hub and a Master of Science in International Marketing and Management from the Copenhagen Business School, is a distinguished reviewer known for his strategic insights into digital strategy transformation. With a keen eye for leveraging digital marketing trends, Djanan evaluates IMH content with an analytical and purpose-driven approach, ensuring every piece is optimized for maximum impact. His expertise ensures content not only goes live but thrives in a competitive digital landscape, allowing readers to make the right choice while contributing significantly to Influencer Marketing Hub's position as a leader in influencer marketing education. His incisive critiques and deep understanding of digital marketing are instrumental in driving content that resonates, engages, and informs while fostering continuous growth and innovation.