You probably have a solid list of reliable fact-finding questions to ask of potential agencies or consultants. Between their website, client recommendations, and LinkedIN, you may have even them all answered before you ever meet in person.
If you're interviewing potential marketing partners, move beyond “Tell me about your clients and experience," with these four must-ask questions. They'll reveal more than a website ever could.
1. What do you think of our current [ad campaign] [website] [blog]?
Don’t be afraid of the discomfort this question may cause. By asking this on-the-spot question, you get an idea of how the team thinks. You may have a consultant who tells you that it’s either wonderful or awful, both of which tells you a bit about how fast the are willing to swing their sword.
Of course, there is no right answer here. Treat it as a method to see style and delivery and decide if it matches your culture. Ideally, you'll get a thoughtful analysis of strengths and a nugget or two for improvements you may not have considered. If this happens, the team is likely a solid choice.
2. What did you do before [Social Media] [SEO] [Mobile Apps]?
If a firm tells you they have 20 years of social media experience, a follow up question is in order. If you're talking to anyone with tenure, they likely got their start circa Web 1.0 which means their experience has likely evolved just as drastically as marketing has.
Ask them to share the story of their evolution; it will tell you what strengths and points of view you can expect. Did the person get their start in traditional PR? They will likely have strong writing skills and a messaging strategy focus. Did they start in media buying? They could bring desirable analytical and negotiating skills to your project.
3. Would our business be the smallest client you have? Largest? In between?
Let’s get down to it: will your calls and emails be answered right away? You already have an idea of the agency’s other clients from the logo reel on their website, it’s worth asking how they work together. You may not get every detail of their professional relationship, but good consultants will leave you with an understanding of 1. what kind of work they deliver for other clients, and 2. how the size of your business compares.
There is no rule that says you can’t be an agency’s smallest client successfully. Asking the question sets the expectation that you are looking for a responsive partner and you understand that you’re not the only client. Even though a good partner will make you feel as if you are.
4. What’s your three year plan?
I know, let’s not talk about having kids on the first date. While you may not making a three-year commitment by asking this question, you are making it clear that the time invested in working together is valuable to you. You don’t want to hire someone only to have them leave consulting in six months.
Solid teams who intend to build a business by doing good work for clients will give you a snapshot of the kinds of clients they wish to work for and a high level view of where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Written by Parissa Snider
We're a marketing team launched in 2013 and based in Baltimore working with clients across the U.S. and beyond. We solve problems, leverage budgets, create content, launch products, generate leads, and help grow businesses.