You’ve decided that passing the marketing torch to an agency is the smart move. Maybe you re-read that famous business book by Michael Gerber and got inspired by its premise:
“Most entrepreneurs are merely technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure. Most entrepreneurs fail because you are working IN your business rather than ON your business.”
Whatever your reasons for outsourcing marketing, I wanted to give you the best 19 questions to ask.
Some are personal considerations where others are questions to ask the agency owners.
We don’t have a moment to spare so let’s get to it!
You, the CEO, are the most valuable resource to your company. So, if you’re reading this, you’ve concluded that marketing is not your forte, or that other key goals, such as "improving customer satisfaction," are more deserving of your attention in 2019.
You’ve accepted that your company can grow faster if an all-inclusive marketing agency takes over content generation and, perhaps, even some of the business development.
However, you can't completely outsource it! It’s important to consider what parts of marketing you will continue to do by yourself, what parts the agency will own, and finally, what parts will be a continuous collaboration.
1. Determine what parts of sales and marketing you want to own?
Notice that all of the things you own should be activities you love or because no third-party can do it as well as you.
2. How much will it cost to keep that job?
For example, let’s say you want to edit every blog article the agency writes. If the agency produces 4 posts per month, how long do you expect it will take you to edit them all? Don’t forget to include the time to email, meet and discuss the articles with your agency.
Now, take that estimate of hours and multiply it by your hourly rate to see what it’s going to cost you to keep that job.
If you still want the job, jot down the main qualifications for this job, and when you meet with the agencies, see which can meet, or better yet, exceed, these written qualifications.
3. Determine what parts of sales and marketing you want to share?
The non-negotiable shared responsibility between CEO and agency is strategy. No matter how specialized the agency is, whether they’re experts in “SEO” or “MSPs” or “PPC”, this is your company’s messaging and you will always have the king’s seat for determining that.
Strategic planning aside, you may think that by writing, or by doing some other part, that you'll improve outcomes, but bear in mind that shared work means shared responsibility for outcomes.
Great agencies have their own systems and, if you throw a wrench in it, you may delay, or worse, break the machine.
Remember Gerber’s wisdom when you most need to hear it! Try not to work “in” marketing, instead, work "on" it.
More marketing means more revenue which results in more profits, right?
Then why does “spending as little as possible” on sales and marketing seem correct?
Let’s peel back the onion on the case for “cheap marketing” to see if it really holds up.
I agree with one thing on your mind. You shouldn’t trust most agencies.
Maybe you had a bad experience, or you’ve heard horror stories from peers. Bottom line is, you fear that marketing can’t deliver, or almost as bad, they will deliver but you won’t know which campaign worked and which failed.
But “spending less” still doesn’t magically reveal marketing’s impact on success, it just hurts our probabilities of winning. Remember, some of your clients find it hard to believe that spending more on IT will save them money down the line. They don’t see the long-term implications of shortcuts, but you do and you can show them.
We need to find the real answer to our mistrust of marketing or else we’ll shortchange ourselves.
So how do we fix it? By doing two things. First, we need to calculate the right marketing budget for the goals you've set, and second, we need to pick the right agency for the job.
Now, let me be clear, overspending is also a risk, but fortunately, it’s way easier to prevent by doing some calculations up front.
The questions below will help with the math. They revolve around discovering your customer’s lifetime value; in other words, understanding your managed services clients’ value is a determining factor for choosing the right acquisition costs.
4. How many new managed services clients can you reasonably expect in 2019? Be realistic. What number will make you happy and, at the same time, is a quantity your services team can deliver?
5. What’s the average managed services client’s gross sales during 12 months?
6. On average, how many months do you retain a client? Again, use good judgment here.
7. What is your gross margin? A good benchmark is 32%, but maybe yours is better (hopefully not worse).
Answer those questions in an email to email@example.com and I’ll reply with a spreadsheet and a detailed explanation of the ideal marketing budget.
In addition to having a great reference, these are additional aspects to consider when selecting an agency.
8. Do they have a case-study with an MSP like yours?
9. Can they show their impact on sales?
Showing campaign impact requires smart people and the right technology. My technology of choice is HubSpot. If the agency you’re evaluating doesn’t use HubSpot, or a bundle of other software like it, then I agree with you, just “spend as little as possible.”
10. Do they approach marketing scientifically?
Remember math class? The answer wasn’t enough to satisfy the teacher. The darn teacher always wanted to see how we arrived at the answer, because, if we made a mistake somewhere, they could identify it and help us fix it. Marketing is no different, or at least it shouldn’t be.
11. Do you like them? Treat this as a long-term relationship.
12. Have they showed initiative?
For example, they’ve read your website and come with good questions to your meeting(s).
13. Do they understand your goals?
If they don’t ask about your goals and instead talk about tactics, run away, fast.
14. Do their services combine inbound marketing and outbound?
It should include both because inbound is for long-term organic growth and outbound is for short-term impact. You want inbound because, over time, it will reduce the need for expensive outbound campaigns.
15. Is the moment when a lead is handed over to you clear or vague?
Would you like the agency to do more? In the case of my client, once a lead is generated, we follow up individually to set up an initial meeting with our client.
16. Is the proposal cheap, fair or expensive? Either extreme is not good.
17. Does their proposal include a marketing SLA?
18. Ask them about onboarding for you. Impressed or not?
19. Are they innovative and continuously learning?
Don’t undervalue this question. Marketing is not unlike IT in that it’s evolving continuously.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for the checklist and I'll send it over.