10 Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Agency Before Hiring Them

When we sit down with potential clients, we come prepared with a list of questions because, as a digital marketing agency, we want to familiarize ourselves with their brand and their goals. The more we learn about their business up-front, the better we can match them with services that make sense for their marketing objectives. But not everyone who sits down with us brings that same energy to the table.

While wrapping up a discovery meeting, we always ask potential clients if they have any questions for us. Yes, we get asked about prices and project timelines. Beyond that, the majority of potential clients go radio silent. We’re doing a great job explaining ourselves, or they’re just not sure what to ask. To be honest, it’s probably a combination of the two.

If you’ve never hired a digital marketing agency before, you probably don’t know what to ask or what to expect. And that’s okay. You can’t anticipate the unknown, but you can come to your initial meeting prepared. We recommend that you run their team through a list of questions to get better acquainted with their company. Ask away about price structure and your specific project, but don’t forget to take a deep dive into the pool of unexpected questions too.

Marketing Team at Board Meeting

1. Do you have any experience in my industry?

One of our strengths is that we’re used to working alongside a wide variety of clients. Our team has done work for some of the most obscure industries. We know how to do the industry research needed to make your project successful too.

Every industry has its own terminology, nuances, and standards. It can be helpful if a digital marketing agency has worked with other clients in your field. However, having no industry experience shouldn’t necessarily disqualify an agency that checks all the other boxes.

Be aware that not every digital marketing agency is prepared to take on your project. Your specific industry may be out of their scope of work. Depending on your field, it may be beneficial to work with an agency that specializes in what you’re looking for. We’ve come across a handful of marketing firms that focus on a particular industry like real estate or dentistry.

2. How involved will I be in my project?

You certainly have expectations when entering into a relationship with an agency. But this relationship isn’t one-sided. This is a partnership—a two-way street. Whatever agency you choose to work with will likely have expectations for you too.

It’s best to establish these client responsibilities up-front. Some digital marketing agencies may expect a lot from you. Others may only request your final approval. By getting this information early on, you’ll know how much time you will need to carve out to review designs, sitemaps, content, and other creative assets.

We like our clients to be hands-on with their projects because we value their feedback. We’re continually emailing and speaking on the phone with our clients. Some of our clients probably thought we were clingy early on in the relationship, but they soon realized that collaboration is the most efficient way to achieve a product you love.

3. Do you have any case studies or examples of your work?

A digital marketing agency should have something that demonstrates their work’s quality, whether it’s a collection of case studies, a design portfolio, testimonials, client referrals—anything.

If an agency doesn’t have any items to show, they may be new to the marketing scene. Lack of proof doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t consider them, but you should take into account that they will be using your project as a test flight. Ideally, their price structure should reflect their inexperience.

As for 20Twenty Design, our staff has years and upon years of experience. Actually, we’d love it if you familiarized yourself with our body of work. We have testimonials and a lineup of projects in our portfolio. Our case studies live within our portfolio, too, so feel free to click around if you’re interested in the numbers behind our work. And not to brag, but our clients have said some pretty nice stuff about us.

4. Will some services be outsourced?

It’s important for you to know whether the work will be done in-house or if it will be outsourced to another company. Outsourcing is acceptable, but only for certain services.

For example, we sometimes encounter challenging website issues that we’re just not equipped to handle. The IT world isn’t our strong suit, so we pass these problems onto someone more qualified. We often rely on GSD Technologies for some extra assistance. They’re an IT provider who also happens to be our sister company.

But outsourcing core services is most definitely a deal-breaker. We’ve heard of digital marketing agencies that tote awards for website design but outsource the actual web build, copywriting, and search engine optimization. Not cool.

It’s also alarming when core work is outsourced to foreign companies. It really brings the ethics of the digital marketing agency into question. Instead of paying an in-house employee to work on these projects, they usually pay an overseas company at a lower rate. That just doesn’t sit well with us.

5. How often will I receive performance reports?

We often hear horror stories about businesses pouring thousands of dollars into their marketing efforts without ever seeing insights or analytics. They’ve been left in the dark about their website’s performance, they don’t know if people are opening their email campaigns, and they have no idea how well their social media platforms are doing.

That’s definitely not our style. In our perspective, the more information you have, the better. Make sure your agency can provide you with frequent reports. Better yet, ask your point of contact to explain the reports to you.

We send out monthly reports because we want to keep you informed about your performance. We’ll gladly sit down with you or give you a call to discuss the metrics. You can ask us any questions you may have along the way too.

Website Reports Next to Laptop

6. Do you handle traditional and offline marketing too?

Before moving forward with a digital marketing agency, you should see what their other capabilities are. Don’t assume that the people who designed your website can also design and produce printed products for you, or get your business in local networking groups.

Sometimes, an agency only does digital work. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can make things a little more complicated for you as a client. If your company needs business cards, you may have to get someone else involved in the mix.

From our experience, that can get a little messy—too many hands in the pot. For consistency’s sake, we think it’s best for everything to come from the same place. And when you work with us, it does. We handle both digital and some aspects of traditional marketing, so you’ll never have to worry about print pieces clashing with your online look.

Graphic Designer Sitting at Desk with Logo Design Color Swatches

7. Will I own all of my creative assets?

Before working with a digital marketing agency, make sure you have clear and full ownership of your brand assets once they are paid for. This includes your logo, graphic designs, tagline, and your written content. Otherwise, you may be bound by your contract’s legalities and may not have rights to your own branding.

Ownership is a widely debated thing in the design world. However, agencies aren’t legally required to give you intellectual property ownership rights. It’s something we do out of courtesy for our clients. The only thing we ask is that we’re able to reference your creative assets in our portfolio and on social media.

Check the terms and conditions within your proposal. If it isn’t addressed within a proposal or contract, ask them to add it in. You don’t want to ask permission to use your logo once it’s paid for. That’s just weird and embarrassing.

8. Will I own my website?

We can’t tell you how often we encounter potential clients who can’t access their own website. Before hiring an agency, be sure that you have ownership of your domain, the content on your website, and any associated third-party accounts like Google Analytics. That way, if you choose to take your business elsewhere, you want to be sure the transition is seamless.

This story is a worst-case scenario, but this cautionary tale really puts things into perspective. A few years back, we encountered a local business that wanted a web redesign. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to help them.

Their site was hosted with a guy who did freelance work. He owned their domain too. Sadly, this man died unexpectedly. He had full ownership of their website, and the business owners couldn’t even do so much as log in. What ensued was a long, uphill legal battle to reclaim ownership over their own digital brand.

We don’t think the late web designer had any malice in his ownership of the site, but it majorly complicated things for the business. Ultimately, it was an expensive oversight that could have been prevented had ownership been placed with the right people.

9. What happens if we want to part ways later on?

Things change, and that’s okay. It’s your business, and you have every right to run it as you please, at least that’s what we think. Unfortunately, not everyone within the marketing industry shares this perspective.

Some digital marketing agencies purposely make it difficult for you to leave, even after you’ve fulfilled your contract. We recommend that you ask this question upfront. You don’t want to get the runaround if you decide to go elsewhere, and you don’t want to be stuck with any unclear cancellation fees.

Once your contract expires with us, you’re free to go about your business however you please. We’ll be sad to see you go, but we understand that you have to do what’s right for you. There are no hard feelings here.

10. What are your values?

It’s not always easy to see eye-to-eye with a digital marketing agency. They may place importance on something that’s not on your radar whatsoever. Some boutique agencies are especially choosey about their clientele, so don’t assume that every agency is willing to take you on as a client.

That might sound a little harsh, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be uncompromising on your values. For example, a health-conscious marketing agency probably won’t take on a cigarette manufacturer as a client. It’s nothing personal—your values just don’t mesh with theirs.

Ask the agency what their values are and reflect on whether they align with your brand’s values. In general, we like working with passionate people who want the best for their brand and the people they interact with. As for our values, we have three guiding principles:

• Clarity: We’re straightforward, honest people who genuinely want to collaborate
• Creativity: The best marketing results happen when you embrace the unexpected
• Curiosity: Our work evolves because we never stop learning or asking questions

To get the results you want, you need to establish a long, productive relationship with a digital marketing agency. In essence, you don’t just need a good agency. You need one that’s good for you. Whichever agency you choose to partner with should have a strong body of work and the flexibility you need to be successful. That’s going to look different for everyone. It’s better to be picky and find the agency you want to work with long-term instead of a temporary solution.

By asking these questions, you give the agency a chance to explain why they’ll be a good fit for your brand. If you’re curious about how 20Twenty Design will mesh with your company’s goals, we encourage you to chat with us. Ask us these questions, get to know our team, and see if we’re the right fit for you.