Agency Shopping? 10 Questions to Ask

This blog was featured in The Business Journal’s blog, where Jane Olvera Quebe will be a contributing author. 

Being on the advertising agency side for the last 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to answer lots of really good questions from potential clients. I’m also often amazed at the questions the clients don’t ask but should. Here’s a compilation of the top 10 questions I highly recommend you ask any agency you are considering as a business partner.

1. What is your philosophy on the role of an agency partner? With this question, you should uncover the driving principles of the agency and a values system that ideally aligns with your organization.

2. How will you measure the success of our marketing and advertising efforts? An agency should have a good idea about relevant key performance indicators for your business as well as be open to your input on how you would like the agency to be measured.

3. What makes you the best agency partner for our business needs? The agency should be able to demonstrate an understanding of your business and your goals and draw some connections on how it is best suited to serve those needs. Perhaps it has other motivations for working with you which would be good to know.

4. What are the talents and experiences of my day-to-day contact for project management? The person that will serve as your liaison to the agency, often called an account manager, will be critical to the health of the agency-client relationship. You should be sure this person is involved in the interview process and answers this question directly.

5. How will projects be tracked to ensure they are delivered on time and on budget? An organized agency should have project management solutions that are suitable to the workload you will be putting on the agency. The solution should allow for real-time updating and visibility to the entire team.

6. How much time will be invested on my account by senior team leaders? Often senior members will be involved in the pitch and then you never see them again. It’s important to understand upfront what their roles will be over the course of your project or relationship so that proper expectations are in place.

7. What services will be handled in-house and what will be outsourced? In-house or outsourced are both viable solutions for project execution. In the spirit of transparency, we recommend you ask this question in advance so that you know up front how various projects will be handled and what time or budget implications occur as a result.

8. What are some outcomes that you’ve been able to deliver for client projects similar to mine? Agencies may have previous experience with your specific industry or may have experience with projects that are similar to your needs. The agency should be able to articulate examples or case studies that give you the assurances it can execute the work, or you could ask for relevant references that you could call to complete your due diligence.

9. What can I expect from your billing protocols and processes? The last thing you want is any surprises when it comes to financial matters, so it is best to ask questions about billing practices up front, even asking to see examples of client billing if that’s important to you.

10. What is your current credit standing and reputation with vendors, media, the community, etc.? You are going to be entrusting your advertising and marketing efforts with a business partner that will be handling your brand and your money. It’s in your best interest to ensure the agency has a good credit rating as well as positive reviews, BBB rating or other third-party measurement tools that help provide insight.

Remember, you are in the driver’s seat on the agency-selection process and it behooves you to ask the tough questions before you engage in any kind of working relationship. Agencies you are interviewing should be more than willing to answer these questions transparently; if they aren’t, then that should tell you something in itself.

Happy shopping!

Jane Olvera Quebe, President

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