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Illustration showing a clipboard with various reviews for different companies under a magnifying glass. How to hire a marketing firm blog post

How To Hire A Marketing Firm: 7 Tips

TJ Kiely

Nov 29, 2023

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Having a marketing strategy is essential for business. For many, working with a marketing firm helps them expand their time, resources, and knowledge to drive better, faster results.

However, hiring a marketing agency isn’t a decision to make lightly. This firm will be representing your brand and ensuring the right message lands in front of the right people at the right time. It’s a tall order, one that can be quite costly if you fail to choose wisely.

Use these tips to learn how to hire an advertising agency that will not only deliver results but also keep your brand image intact:

Why Hire a Marketing Agency?

People at a marketing firm working as a team

Brands and businesses can’t survive without marketing. While many companies have internal marketing teams that know the brand inside and out, working with a third-party marketing firm can serve as an extension of your business.

Working with a marketing agency gives you:

  • Access to expert skills and experience
  • More time and resources to grow your marketing
  • Fresh perspectives and outside-the-box thinking
  • Industry-grade tools and software
  • Scalability without hiring additional employees
  • Turnkey marketing
  • Lower marketing costs (in some cases)

That said, marketing companies can vary in terms of the services they offer, the type of clients they work with, and the results they deliver. The above benefits aren’t guaranteed, so you’ll need to do your due diligence to make a great hiring decision.

What To Look for in a Marketing Agency

When choosing a marketing firm, consider several factors to ensure they align with your business goals and needs:

  • Expertise and Experience: Look for agencies with experience in your industry or with similar projects. Check their portfolio and case studies to gauge their expertise.
  • Services Offered: Ensure they provide the services you need—whether it's digital marketing, SEO, content creation, social media management, etc.
  • Track Record and Reputation: Check client reviews, testimonials, and references. A good reputation and positive feedback are indicators of reliability.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Assess their creativity in campaigns or strategies. A fresh perspective and innovative ideas can set an agency apart.
  • Communication and Transparency: Clear communication and transparency are vital. Ensure they keep you informed and involved in the process.
  • Metrics and Reporting: A good agency should provide measurable results. Inquire about the metrics they use and how they report progress.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility: The marketing landscape changes rapidly. Look for agencies that are adaptable, flexible, and willing to adjust strategies when needed.
  • Cost and Budget: Discuss pricing structures and ensure they fit within your budget. However, don't compromise quality for a lower price.
  • Technology and Tools: Check the tools and technologies they use. Are they up-to-date with the latest marketing tools and trends?
  • Team and Culture Fit: A good fit between your company's culture and the agency's can make collaboration smoother and more effective.

Take your time to research and ask questions during the selection process. Meetings or consultations can help you gauge the agency's approach and determine if they're the right fit for your business.

How To Hire a Marketing Agency in 7 Steps

Follow these seven steps when you're looking to hire a marketing firm:

1. Understand the pros and cons of hiring a marketing agency

Marketing companies can bring immense value to your brand. But before you dive in head first, it’s worthwhile to compare the expected benefits to the potential downsides of partnering with a third-party marketing agency.

Interviewing a marketing firm

Pros of hiring a marketing agency

On the plus side, when you hire a marketing agency, your business can benefit in the following ways:

  • Expertise and specialization. Marketing agencies typically specialize in a specific area (e.g., digital marketing companies, print marketing) or industry (e.g., dental marketing companies, SaaS marketing companies), giving you access to specialized knowledge of how to market your product or service.
  • Cost-effectiveness. Outsourcing can sometimes be more cost-effective since you’re paying for fractional services vs. shouldering the entire cost yourself.
  • Time savings. Purpose-built marketing firms can handle tasks more efficiently, freeing up time for your internal team to work on other objectives.
  • Turnkey access to talent. Rather than spend hours on hiring and training, you can skip straight to marketing activities with a ready-made team.
  • Flexibility and adaptability. Marketing agencies carefully track trends in the market and consumer preferences, allowing them to adapt your strategy at a moment’s notice.

Cons of hiring a marketing agency

There are some not-so-pretty parts of hiring a marketing agency, too. Possible downsides include:

  • Communication challenges. Not having all of your marketing happen under one roof can cause lapses in communication, misunderstandings, slow turnarounds, and misaligned expectations.
  • Less control. Outsourcing to an agency means giving up some control over how your brand is presented, making it difficult to balance their professional suggestions with your own ideas.
  • Dependency. Relying on a marketing agency can make it more difficult to bring certain tasks in-house in the future.
  • Quality issues. There’s always the potential for quality to not meet your expectations, leading to reworks and delays in launching campaigns.
  • A lack of transparency. With marketing work happening outside of your organization, you won’t always know who’s working on your brand or the steps they’re taking to produce your results, which might make it harder to replicate your successes if you stop working with that agency.
  • Rigid contracts. If you’re in a stiff contract and your marketing firm fails to meet your expectations, you might be stuck with them, which can erode your budget and leave you without the results you expected.

Deciding to hire a marketing agency is no quick and easy decision. Exploring all possible sides of the decision in relation to your business will help you make the right choice.

2. Define what your marketing firm should accomplish

Let’s say you go to a computer store and tell the salesperson you want a new computer. They wouldn’t just place a computer in your hands and guide you to the checkout, right?

That’s because when you buy a computer, you have certain requirements — brand, size, price, processing speed, and memory, to name a few criteria.

The same applies when choosing a marketing firm. You wouldn’t choose just any marketing agency — you want a partner that will help you achieve specific goals and outcomes.

To do this, you’ll first need to define what results your marketing should produce. Simply saying “increasing sales” isn’t specific enough — it’s kind of like saying, “I need a computer.” Your marketing firm needs to know your specific goals and objectives, such as increasing website traffic, growing your email list, or redesigning your website, for example.

When you meet with potential marketing partners, make sure you have a clear vision of what a successful relationship will look like. Allowing creative freedom can be a good thing, but ultimately you want to know your partner aligns with your needs and will produce the results you expect.

3. Learn the agency’s scope of services

Marketing firm creating a social media strategy

Marketing is a massive ecosystem of activities, and not all agencies offer the same services. For example, some agencies may specialize in PPC ad campaigns, while others focus more on social media marketing. There are also generalized marketing firms that offer a variety of services.

Some marketing activities, such as video marketing, SEO, and PPC, are better provided by a dedicated expert. Each of these areas requires in-depth knowledge, and you’ll benefit from their specialized expertise.

If a marketing firm doesn’t offer a service you need, they may be able to refer you to other partners. 

Keep in mind that piecing out your marketing needs to various specialized agencies can get complex, not to mention costly. The more partners you work with, the more moving parts you have to manage, and this can take away from any time or cost savings you gain from outsourcing.

4. Review the marketing agency’s previous work and clients

One of the most fundamental steps of learning how to hire an ad agency is to see their past work. The way a small business markets itself won’t be the same as a regional brand or a global enterprise. Your shortlist of marketing agencies should have experience in working with businesses of your size and industry.

Your agency should be able to provide a portfolio of past projects or a list of client references. Likewise, this information might also be available on the agency’s website for you to review at your leisure.

Compare their creative styles to your own brand. Look up those campaigns online to see how well others responded to them. Check out the agency on LinkedIn, Google, or popular review websites to see what others have said about working with them. 

Whether you want to hire marketing for a small business or a large organization, these very basic steps can give you insight into a marketing firm before you work with them.

5. Meet the team you’ll be working with

Social media strategist at a marketing agency

Marketing agencies may look good on paper, but your connection with them might be very different when you meet them in person (or via Zoom). Working with a marketing firm isn’t like working with employees, you’ll still need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Learn who you’ll be interfacing with on a regular basis and who will be working on your projects. Learn how they handle client privacy and how they protect proprietary business information. Many agencies require their employees to sign NDAs, but you might consider furnishing your own NDA that meets your specific requirements.

Personalities can clash, which may lead to creative differences in the future. Pay attention to how you feel about the agency when interviewing them — it could save you some hassle.

6. Ask about their creation and delivery processes

Checking the box on marketing activities isn’t the only thing that determines your agency’s success. The ways in which those activities are implemented can make or break your marketing, which is why you should also consider how an agency delivers the end result.

Complex back-and-forths, clunky systems, and long approval processes can lead to bottlenecks, which will delay your launch. Ideally, the agency will work with your existing tool stacks, such as project management boards, communication apps, or file-sharing systems, to enable seamless delivery. This way, you have visibility into what they’re doing and can easily find their deliverables when you need them.

If the agency is implementing marketing activities on your behalf, you’ll need to consider an approval process that lets you have the final say before anything goes live. This helps you establish checks and balances so you can see what’s being produced on your behalf before your customers do. 

You should also inquire about any data or reports the agency can provide. Ask how frequently they report on their activities, how they track results, and how they will measure the impact of their efforts so you can track your marketing ROI

7. Know the contract and payment terms

One of the most essential parts of learning how to hire a marketing company is knowing what you’re paying for. 

Working with a new marketing firm can take time before you start seeing results. They need time to get to know your brand and audience, and many firms will require a minimum contract period that gives them time to tweak and refine their efforts. 

However, long contracts could mean being stuck with an agency that isn’t living up to your expectations. You might have to pay for services that don’t meet your goals, which takes away resources that could be put to better use.

Not all agencies will guarantee their services, so make sure you understand their contract and payment requirements before entering into an arrangement with no escape.

Meltwater: The Best Alternative to Hiring a Marketing Firm

Knowing how to hire a marketing agency can help you save time and money and ensure you get the best outcomes for your investment. However, hiring an agency isn’t your only option to ramp up your marketing efforts.

Meltwater Explore Screenshot

The Meltwater suite includes a social media management tool, social listening tool, consumer insights, and more and it gives you turnkey access to a full range of marketing automation. Beef up your operations with the data you need to make critical marketing decisions quickly, ensuring you know who your audience is, where they spend time, and what they’re engaging with so you can meet them where they are.

Consider keeping your marketing efforts in-house by using Meltwater's agency solution instead of hiring a marketing agency. Simply fill out the form below and talk to one of our experts!