As business owner, acclimating to the culture of a new work relationship with an external digital marketing agency is not unlike experiencing a new country for the first time. Everything is different, the language seems difficult to master and there is an underlying fear of the unknown.

Full time employees are familiar, like an old friend, offering a quicker transition to comfortable. However, with contracting, the intermittent nature of one-on-one contact can make the culture gap quite daunting. In reality, having an external marketing agency is the way of the future, especially with remote working becoming a thing of the norm now. A digital marketing agency can be a cost-effective “all-rounder”, helping your business achieve your objectives, providing you with access to a whole marketing team for around the same price as one employee per year.

Much like your experience with hiring employees, you may not get “the one” straight away, but that doesn’t mean it is not for you. Finding the right agency, could just be the answer you have been searching for.

Here’s a few questions to ask when you are looking for an agency to work with on your business marketing.

How will you communicate with us?

You’ll want to know how they communicate, is it just email, do they have a ticketing system, is there a platform for all communication to keep it together or do you just catch up over the phone one a month? It is important that you know the way(s) in which your agency will communicate, to manage your expectations and theirs.

When can we expect to see results?

This is a great question to ask, the way they react to this is very telling. If they are unfamiliar with your business or industry and provide you with big fancy result response, you might want to ask some further questions about how they will achieve that. However, if they answer honestly, asking about your expectations, budgets, timelines, and the underlying strategy that works towards your goals now and into the future, you’re onto a winner. Big, fast buck quick result promises may sound alluring, but when things sound too good to be true, they generally are.

What kind of analytics and reporting can we expect?

You’ll want more than just a monthly report that pulls together vanity metrics, your data and the analysis of it, is going to be critical to your success or failure in marketing. So make sure your new agency has plenty to say about reporting and analytics, especially the transparency of the data you will be receiving.

Will I have one point of contact, or will it change?

Business is built on relationships and trust, so you will want to ensure that you have no more than one primary and one back up point of contact, so the shared information is always current and relevant for your marketing. It’s important to not have to meet a new contact each month, leaving you explaining all over again how you want to do business.

How much of the work will be outsourced?

There is no right or wrong answer here. It really comes down to your preference and your budget. Outsourcing marketing work is an important way that agency partners keep your costs down, so don’t be concerned about outsourcing. The main factor you will want to ensure here is that your point of contact is in your time zone, available to you if you need them in a pinch for something urgent and focused on you, ensuring your marketing is being developed and delivered how and when you want it. The quality of their work will speak for itself, and it is a simple process to discover their quality as you interview them by looking at their clients and getting some links to previous works.

What is your expectation from us to achieve our goals?

You’ll want to clearly define how you and your agency work together. If you have the budget, your agency can literally do everything for you. Apart from getting your feedback and approval, you won’t have to lift a finger. However, if you are budget conscious and know that your internal team can help with delivering certain things, like draft articles, raw video footage for editing, photographs of jobs well done, or “how to” manuals and white papers, then you will want to have this clearly defined from the beginning of your relationship with your new agency.

Can you develop a digital marketing strategy for us?

You don’t want to be throwing good money after bad, so ensuring that you work with an agency that can deliver a comprehensive marketing strategy that underpins everything you do is critical. While the upfront cost of getting the strategy developed can feel costly, the price of not having a plan in place will cost you far more in the long run. Your strategy is an investment in your success and will help you, and your agency, understand your market, your offerings, your direction, and your goals. It must be a regularly reviewed document that attends every marketing meeting with you, so you keep on track or correct your course as you learn.

Think of a digital marketing agency as your Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy — confusing, perplexing and sometimes even dragging you kicking and screaming out of your comfort zone, but ultimately, when you find the right one, you will never want to go back to how it used to be!