Outsourcing marketing for your business is a big decision. If you think it’s time to hire a marketing firm to professionally handle some or all of your marketing, there are some things you should consider. After all, this firm and its people will be charged with bolstering and promoting your brand online and getting it in front of the right audiences with the right message. It’s important to choose the best firm for the job and one that you enjoy working with week in and out.

From my experience on both sides of managing a marketing services business and having hired numerous firms in my past marketing role at a popular Mid-Atlantic brewing company, I offer you this checklist to consider before you hire a marketing firm:

1. Do you know what you want to accomplish?

Imagine walking into a car dealership and saying, “I have a fantastic credit score and want a new car. I don’t care what model or color, I just want to drive away in a new car.”

You’d never do such a thing! Why? It’s simple — because you have objectives in mind, such as your monthly payment, how you’ll use it, the gas mileage or range of the vehicle and more.

Yet I see this scenario play out often when it comes to digital marketing: a client says they want to market their business with a healthy budget, but they haven’t identified goals or objectives they want their marketing to achieve.

To find the best marketing firm for your business, invest time in identifying your goals and come prepared to your initial meeting with a clear vision of what you want to see from the relationship.

Do you want more sales? More leads? Better marketing collateral? A new website? Just like most business transactions, if you show up unprepared, you are setting yourself up to be exploited.

2. Do the services the marketing firm specializes in match your goals?

Is the marketing firm a generalist marketing agency — a one-stop shop for all of your digital marketing needs — or do they specialize in only one or two services? Do they have relationships with other firms to fill in the gaps?

For certain services, like Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you may want a dedicated expert. These services require a lot of specific knowledge, and there are specialized skills involved in setting up a successful program.

Other times, you’ll find that a marketing firm offers a range of digital marketing services because they utilize the same or related skill sets.

For instance, at BJC Branding, we offer email marketing, lead generation landing page programs, and web design because our team members are experts at maintaining brand/messaging consistency between those three marketing channels. 

If a marketing firm doesn’t provide a service you need, they may have trusted partners to whom they can refer you, or with whom they have direct relationships.

These referrals can be helpful and convenient, and allow you to maintain consistency in your marketing program. If you know, like, and trust your marketing firm, it’s highly likely that they’re placing you in good hands, but it’s always a good idea to do a little research just to make sure. Personally, we vet every partner before we consider offering their services to our clients because, at the end of the day, our reputation is on the line.

3. Can you review the marketing firm’s previous client types and work?

The marketing firm you choose should have experience with businesses of your size in your industry.

For instance, if you run a plumbing or HVAC business, then you probably aren’t in the most effective hands hiring a marketing firm that specializes in retail or restaurants.

Take a look at the marketing firm’s website to find a “Clients” or “Portfolio” section where they display examples of their work and their results for other clients.

Also, check them out on Google, and LinkedIn to see how business owners like you have experienced their services. What good and bad things have others mentioned? How many real online reviews does the company have on various sites? How are they handling their own marketing?

These are key ways to see if the marketing will be a good fit for your business.

4. How involved do you want to be in approvals and project management?

Sometimes, you’ll hire a marketing firm to take care of the tasks you don’t want to handle or that you don’t have the expertise to do well. In fact, we have a considerable number of clients who hire our firm for a full-service email marketing program that requires limited involvement on their end.

Other times, a client will let us know they want to be involved in each step of the process.

Either situation works, but it’s important to let your marketing firm know how involved and accessible you will be so they can plan their resources and timelines accordingly, especially if you are planning to provide key elements for your program and important approvals for projects.

If you don’t live up to the expectations you agree to, the marketing program can quickly get off track and become a failed effort for you and your marketing firm. Plan accordingly around areas such as approvals before posting to social media or scheduling emails. Make sure you’re on the same page about due dates for deliverables and how to handle issues that may arise from being out sick or on vacation.

5. Do you feel a good, positive connection with the firm’s marketing team?

Your team at your marketing firm may not be W-2 employees for your company, but you will have to work with them on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis.

Make sure that you ask to meet directly with whom you’ll work day-to-day. This is important because, depending on the size of the firm, you’ll build rapport with the sales team, but once you sign, you’ll be passed along to an account manager or project manager. 

If your personalities don’t mesh from the onset of the relationship with the direct team members, then you may have issues down the road. No amount of client referrals or success stories can beat the gut feeling that you simply can’t work well together, so be sure to ask some personality or cultural fit interview questions before you hire a marketing firm.

6. Do you feel comfortable with the contract terms?

A reputable and professional marketing firm will provide you with a formal contract and scope of work to get the program started.

In these proposals, they’ll usually include some legal terms that speak to the length of the contract, cancellation process, and indemnification from future lawsuits.

Be sure you read these terms, as they are legally binding once you sign. If you sign on for a twelve-month commitment and decide to cancel after three months, then you will be legally bound to them for another nine months.

If need be, send the agreement to a lawyer to review if you feel overwhelmed by all the legalese.

Hire a marketing firm that will bring your business to the next level

If you find a good firm with talented people who understand your business, there’s a good chance you’ll see substantial dividends from working together. Keep these considerations in mind and trust your gut, and you’ll find a reputable marketing firm that can help your business grow. If you have questions about hiring a firm, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at BJC.