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21 January 2020

How to Choose Marketing Agency

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A good marketing agency can attract new customers, build loyal relationships with them and thereby increase sales, bad - at best, will waste your money. Our article on how to distinguish the first from the second: tips, criteria and nuances that should be considered when searching and choosing a marketing agency.

# 1. Marketing Goals and Budget



What goals do marketing agencies usually set. Source of the image

Marketing goals. According to an Ascend2 survey, 64% of companies turn to advertising agencies to increase sales (profits). This is correct from the point of view of the final result, but incorrect from the point of view of the process. It’s more correct to specify how you plan to achieve an increase in sales.

At the same time, the clearer and more detailed you write down the goals, the more productive the process of communication with marketing companies will be.

  1. For example, your goal is the best site. If you already have a site, but people don’t visit it, usability, redesign and SEO will help you, if there is no site - market analysis and comprehensive services for promoting the project from scratch.

  2. Or maybe you have a restaurant that is not on the network. In this case, it is probably best to use banners, outdoor advertising, radio, posters, flyers and SMM promotion.

  3. To launch a new product or service, an analysis of the target audience and a strategy for influencing them are needed.


Marketing budget. A detailed description of the goals will also help calculate the estimated budget of the advertising campaign. In addition, you can find out the average marketing budget by industry in our previous article. To do this, you need to divide the goals into tasks (specific actions) and see how much such services cost. For example, advertising on Facebook costs from $ 5 per day, the creation of one SEO-text - from $ 20, complex promotion - $ 5 thousand per month.


On average, companies spend 7-8% of their revenue on marketing. Source of the image

# 2. Types and specialization of agencies


Types of Marketing Agencies. Another advantage of clearly defined goals will be an understanding of which marketing agency you need. So, if you are the owner of an online store or a digital startup, then you most likely need a company specializing in integrated promotion on the Internet.

If you want to increase the popularity of a business page on social networks, then you need SMM services. Other tools are needed for promotion outside the Internet: radio, television, print media and magazines, outdoor advertising, banners, flyers, etc.

Usually agencies specialize in a certain direction and only the largest players provide comprehensive promotion services at all possible sites. This is important, as some studies say that full-service companies offer the best value for money. However, there is another opinion: narrow specialization allows for greater efficiency in the chosen direction.

In any case, each option has its pros and cons:

  1. For example, if you have never launched a marketing campaign, a full-service agency will provide a more holistic and consistent view of what, how and when to do it. This will avoid many problems for beginners, which will save time, money and nerves.

  2. On the other hand, a highly specialized agency (or boutique agency) offers deeper knowledge in a specific niche, which is important for those who have a general understanding of marketing and need to be promoted in a specific direction (social networks, television, SEO, etc.).


Target markets. When choosing the best marketing agency for your business, you should also consider which country or city you are targeting. Because there are subtle differences in user behavior, even when it comes to one region. The simplest example is the penetration of social networks:


The penetration of social networks by country. Source of the image

So, the largest penetration (over 95%) in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, while in neighboring countries, India and China, the popularity of social networks is below 50%. This is essentially one region (Southeast Asia), but the difference is more than tangible.

There are more subtle differences:

  1. For example, in Indonesia the most popular social network is YouTube, the most popular instant messengers are Line and WhatsApp.

  2. In the Philippines, the most popular social network is Facebook; the messenger is Facebook Messenger. Line and WhatsApp are not popular in this country.

  3. In Malaysia and Singapore users prefer Instagram and Snapchat.


The company you hire must either work in the region you need, or be well versed in such nuances. You can find out in which region the agency usually operates from cases, blogs and publications on social networks where the company shares its beginnings and successes.

# 3. Sources for finding candidates


Search engines. The easiest way to make a list of potential candidates is to use Google, Yandex, Baidu, Yahoo and Bing. It is enough to indicate the “marketing agency” and the name of the direction and region that you need. The top ten in the search results will show which agencies are well versed in search engine and SEO algorithms, which is good if you need such services, and it is of little significance if you need something else.

Referral Recommendations. The recommendations of colleagues, partners, friends and acquaintances can also help find a good marketing agency, but provided that their words do not have personal gain or direct competition. Ask about the companies with which your colleagues or acquaintances have worked and achieved their goals.

Company Web Listings. There are many sites on the Internet where various companies offer their services. Advertising services are presented on AgencyList, GoodFirms, Clutch, as well as on Craigslist, OLX and other bulletin boards. Often at such sites there is a brief description of the company, contacts, reviews about working with the company and user ratings.

Agency Ratings. There are many organizations that conduct independent research of marketing agencies every year. Their results are presented on sites such as The Drum Recommends, where you can check the annual list of the top 100 companies and filter the results by user reviews or recommendations.

Social networks. All good agencies are represented on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as WeChat, Weibo, QQ and Qzone, if they work in China and Southeast Asia. The quality and popularity of the page on social networks is another important criterion when choosing a marketing agency: it will be very strange if a company that specializes in digital marketing has a page with poor design and low user activity.

# 4. Portfolio, track record and website


Company Portfolio. The best way to find out what a marketing agency can do for you is to see what it has done for other customers. Therefore, well-packaged use cases are the main sign that the agency in question is worth attention. Of course, provided that there is something to see.

What to look at in the portfolio:

  1. Are there any projects in the direction you need (market, tools).

  2. What niches the company specializes in. What kind of business does it usually work with (industry, size, target audience, estimated price).

  3. How well are used cases described (initial state, goals, objectives, markets, tools, metrics, final results, etc.).

  4. Are there customer contacts through which you can contact them and ask about their experience and results.


Cases can be found in the portfolio, blog, or by phone call or feedback form.

The site of the company. Any marketing agency today should have a good, regularly updated website. It should be modern, interesting and contain all the elements of an effective inbound marketing strategy: an active blog, responsive design, clear navigation, SEO content and much more to create brand awareness and attract new business.

At the same time, the website of an advertising agency does not have to be in the top of search results on Google, even if the company specializes in SEO. It is possible that the agency prefers to spend time not on promoting its site, but on promoting customer sites. However, even in this case, the site of the marketing agency should be of high quality and have a nice design.

# 5. Reviews and case studies



An example of an informative review with a name, place of work and position

Reviews & Awards. Usually reviews can be found on the company's website. It is clear that such assessments are likely to be only positive, but with their help you can understand the strengths of the agency: things that are most often thanked for in the reviews. Moreover, if the text of such a review uses dry expressions and vague wording, and also there is no information about the author’s place of work and position, then, most likely, the review is fake. In addition, the digital agency should use remarketing and retargeting in its work, as this gives the maximum result.

In addition to the company’s website, reviews can also be found on:

  1. Online listings of companies where they offer their services. For example, AgencyList, GoodFirms, Glassdoor, Clutch and others.

  2. Sites where employees evaluate employers. These are sites such as Vault, JobAdvisor CareerBliss, WorkAdvisor and others.

  3. Social media pages. It is mainly LinkedIn and Facebook.


In addition, you can find the contacts of current and past clients of the advertising agency and call them. Good agencies have nothing against this practice unless a non-disclosure agreement is signed with the client, which is quite rare. Contacts of past customers are usually on customer lists and cases.


THE PENGUIN AWARDS - marketing awards that no one has requested

As for business awards, they should be treated with skepticism. Since most of them are either purchased or insignificant papers and cups that are issued by unknown sites and organizations. In 2018, they even came up with a comic reward for such prizes «THE PENGUIN AWARDS».

Case studies. The best way for an agency to show its level of expertise is through case studies. This can be large market research, meta-analyses of several studies of other companies, training content, detailed use cases, analysis of current trends and employee columns where they share knowledge and experience.


What type of content attracts new customers best. Source of the image

The BrightTALK report shows that such materials show better than anything that this company is well versed in marketing. Moreover, the most valuable among them are detailed and accurate descriptions of use cases. Such content is usually found in a blog or in a separate section on the company’s website, sometimes a description of cases is given out after a call to the manager.

If there are no case studies, look for another marketing partner.

# 6. Call and face-to-face meeting


The last step in finding a marketing agency is a personal conversation with their representative on the phone or a personal meeting, during which you should ask your interlocutor about the following things:

  1. Past experience. What companies have worked with, in which niches and in which markets. Are there any cases, contacts of current and past customers, case studies and more.

  2. Collaboration algorithm. How everything happens - from the first call to the criteria for achieving your goals. Work schedule, language.

  3. What indicators of efficiency / productivity does the agency use: SEO (Google Analytics, Mos, Hubspot, KISSmetrics), CRM (Salesforce, Hubspot), email marketing (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Hubspot), inbound marketing (Hubspot, Marketo), social media ( Sprout Social, SEMrush, Hubspot) and more. Will you have access to marketing data.

  4. Agency team. What kind of specialists work for an advertising agency, are they freelancers or fulltime employees, how busy are they, will there be a special person in charge of our project. Will the employees involved in your project be involved in other projects.

  5. Contract and cost. For how long is the contract concluded (avoid long periods), what tariff plans are offered (avoid hard tariffs, they must be flexible and depend on the specific task).

  6. Free audit. Most marketing agencies are willing to spend some time free of charge exploring the client’s business in order to understand what to talk about with him and then engage him in collaboration with a conversation.


If you have employees who are versed in the marketing goals you need, get them involved in the conversation. If there are none, arrange with as many free audits as possible to get a comprehensive assessment of your project and advice on it.

# 7. Putting it all together


Checklist for those who want to understand how to choose the best marketing agency:

  1. Decide on your marketing goals and objectives.

  2. Decide on target markets, niche and type of advertising agency.

  3. Make a long list of potential customers. Look for candidates in search engines, social networks, listings and ratings, as well as using referral recommendations of colleagues, partners, friends and acquaintances.

  4. Analyze candidates, excluding those who do not have a portfolio, detailed use cases, a pleasant site and an updated page on social networks.

  5. Examine the reviews and information trail of the remaining candidates. Trust the reviews whose authors indicated who they are and where they work (it is desirable that there is a link to the page on LinkedIn, Facebook and / or Instagram).

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