How to kiss frogs and compare marketing agencies

Let me start this with a disclaimer. I work for The Revery. It’s a marketing agency specialising in inbound marketing, brand strategy and digital marketing for B2B techs.

This article is not a plug for us – it’s about real world experiences I’ve had from the client side of the fence. But if you want to know why we were named in CIO’s Top 25 to watch you can read all about it here.

Now we have that clear, let me wind back the clock to the many years I worked inhouse for some of Australia’s most successful private and listed companies. During that time I worked with a lot of agencies – digital, branding, advertising, the gamut.

I had some really successful agency relationships, where we were working as a team, striving for common goals and feeding off each other’s energy. I also had some really unsuccessful relationships where it felt like we were talking different languages and the agency just didn’t ‘get’ what we were about.

I’ve kissed a lot of agency frogs, figuratively speaking, and in the process have learnt a lot about how to spot a prince and avoid a toad. Here is my list for comparing marketing agencies and finding your perfect match. 


1. Which one ‘gets’ your business?

This is probably the biggest one for me. You need an agency that gets your business, the products you sell, your clients and your culture. I once worked with an agency that for a year kept referring to us as a superannuation company, despite being told repeatedly that super was only a small part of our overall product offering. They didn’t understand us or our offering and the relationship floundered. 

Tip: If agencies are asking you a lot of questions that’s a good thing. An agency who really wants to understand you, your business and the way you talk to your customers is going to produce better work than an agency that just makes assumptions.


2. Who is the team behind the team?

You will get to meet the directors, the head of content, the head of accounts, the head of everything. You might have a good rapport with them but are they the ones doing the work? Find out who will be working on your business on a day-to-day basis and organise a meet up with them. 

Tip: Cultural fit is really important. You’re spending a lot of time in partnership with your agency so making sure your team and their team ‘fit’ is an important step.


3. Compare results

Ask to see actual results from campaigns or projects they’ve run before. Don’t just take their word for it that they’re “very successful, with lots of happy clients.” See the numbers. What sort of traffic, leads, conversions are they creating?

Tip: Awards are nice but results are better. Ask them for detailed case studies from similar clients and make sure they are willing to set clear metrics to measure their work for you.

3. Do they walk the talk?

If an agency isn’t following its own marketing advice then it might be time to walk away. Ask them how they market themselves, what works for them what doesn’t work for them, why they chose one method over another. It’s always interesting to see how marketing agencies choose to spend their own money.

Tip: Even before engaging with talks with an agency you can get a good feel for how well they market themselves. Is their website user friendly? How often do they blog? What’s their social presence like?


4. Which agencies are commitment phobes?

Some agencies can be amazing on the first project. There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of love to share and a lot of out of the box idea creation. But after the first, second or third campaign things can become a bit stale. An agency that is in it for the long haul should be able to demonstrate how they keep striving for new ideas and better results. 

Tip: Ask for case studies from their long term clients. What was their journey, how did the agency continue to improve of their results?


My final tip: Don’t get bamboozled by smoke, mirrors and pricing tables. Price is important, of course, but a good relationship with your agency will always give you more bang for your buck than a fancy diagram.


Jennifer ChandlerComment