The executive’s guide to hiring a digital marketing agency: How to Hire the Right Agency for Your Brand

How to Hire the Right Agency for Your Brand

The right agency is situational depending on many factors, including:

  • Your specific brand needs;
  • The in-house team you have already;
  • Your marketing budget;
  • Your brand goals.

Contrary to what social media or Google search results will tell you, there is no picture-perfect digital agency that can get outsized results for every brand.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find the right team for your specific needs. There might not be a perfect match for every brand but there is one for your brand—with experience in your specific industry. Not quite a turnkey approach but they will already know how to work with your budget, meet your goals, and capture your target audience’s attention.

After a decade of hiring for various roles and industries—and running the industry’s leading digital matchmaking service—here’s how John approaches hiring:

“Hire an agency that has experience in your industry and consider slightly overpaying them. When you find your ideal partner, communicate with them constantly, and hold them accountable to the metrics you agree beforehand that are most important to your brand’s success.”

Don’t worry—we’re going to unpack this throughout the remainder of this guide.

How to Identify the Top Agencies

Identifying the best agency is a tough task if you’ve never worked at an agency or hired an agency before. Finding the right agency for your business’s unique needs and setup can be downright daunting if you have no framework on where to start.

This is a large part of the reason Credo exists. Check out how we help you identify the best agencies for each and every client –

To point out the obvious, you’re looking for an agency to help you solve your marketing pain points. Whether that’s enough hands on deck to execute campaigns, supplemental expertise that you don’t have in-house, or simply more growth to make sure you keep the lights on (and investors happy), you can rely on an agency to help fix these issues.

Therefore, you need to trust the agency. Don’t just hire the cheapest option. In the end, you always get what you pay for. And yes—as John says—perhaps even overpay a bit for the right team that suits your needs. Consider it an investment in the success of your brand!

A Pre-hiring Checklist of Questions

John has written about this in more detail here and here, but if you’re considering hiring an agency or marketing strategist you need to ask these questions first:

    1. “Do you have experience working with businesses like ours?”
      Specifically, your business model and target audience.
    2. “What does the beginning of an engagement look like?”
      They should have a defined onboarding period.
    3. “What are the milestones for projects like ours?”
      Before a proposal, they shouldn’t have them. After the proposal, they should.
    4. “What are the marketing challenges a brand like ours typically runs into?”
      Their answer tells you if they have experience in your industry.
    5. “Who will be working on our project and what is their experience?”
      This helps you understand how they operate their business and the expertise of the team members who will do the work.
    6. “Can we start with a test project and scale up from there?”
      They should explain that marketing takes time and that a lower budget over a short period of time usually gets has little to no tangible impact on results.
    7. “What access do you need to our data before pitching our project?”
      Top agencies will ask for data so they can pitch the right project to you.
    8. “Will you refrain from working with our direct competitors?”
      They should agree to this. It is not an unreasonable or uncommon request.
    9. “What sort of guarantee do you offer?”
      They shouldn’t offer one. Marketing is dynamic and ever-changing.
    10. “What are the metrics you recommend we use to define success?”
      They should collaborate with you on these, but also suggest new ones in addition to those you already track internally.
    11. “What have I not asked you that I should know about your agency?”
      Always good to know what they value—and their company culture.

Now—with those questions asked and answered—you need to understand all of these points directly related to working with that agency:

    1. “Who will be our point of contact at your agency?”
      They should be in these meetings if you are not hiring a solo marketing consultant or digital marketing strategist.
    2. “What if we are not satisfied after a few months of working with you?”
      They should have a good remediation process.
    3. “How often will you invoice us?”
      Most agencies invoice monthly, but if it’s a project then they may structure payment as half at the start and half at the end. This is common.
    4. “If we want you to come onsite to visit us, how is that compensated?”
      This depends on the agency and their answer should gel with yours.
    5. “How often do you raise your prices?”
      It’s always good to know how they handle this so you can set expectations.
    6. “Can you give us case studies of former clients similar to us?”
      If they don’t have any to offer, look elsewhere.
    7. “How long can we expect it to take before we start seeing results?”
      Their answer should depend on the channel.

These are the questions we recommend that you ask and get answered, but you should also recognize that there is no single right answer for most of these questions.

At Credo, we take the question: “Can they do the work well?” off the table with pre-vetted agencies who have passed our rigid application process. Then, these questions let you concentrate on finding the right fit for your brand by any metric you choose. 

These questions can guide you as you hire—not only quantitatively—but also qualitatively. Keep reading to learn more about the intricacies of quantitative and qualitative hiring.

That second part is important and often missed. The biggest reason why an agency fails is not that the agency cannot do the work. It is because personalities or expectations clash. On the other hand, it could be a lack of personnel to implement the strategy you need.  

In the end, if you can get through these questions before you enter into an engagement, you will start with a high degree of certainty that it will succeed and help grow your brand.


This page last updated on January 17, 2023 by John Doherty

Start your search today!

Ready to finally find the right marketing partner to help your business grow?

Drive results for your marketing needs with the Credo network. Get started today (it's free and there is no obligation)!

Get started today

Loading... Loading...