Navigate the Agency Maze: How to Evaluate and Select a Marketing Agency

by Thomas Myroniak

You’ve decided to get some expert marketing help for your brand/products to drive sales, build awareness, or scale your business…so where do you start?  A quick and simple Google search for “marketing agency” returns a mind-boggling 1,320,000,000 results!

Navigating through the extensive network of marketing agencies available today can be a daunting task for businesses looking to elevate their market presence and optimize their advertising and promotional strategies. Selecting the right marketing agency is critical, as the right choice can propel your business towards growth and heightened success and the wrong choice can have disastrous results.


To help guide you through this process, here are some things to consider about how to critically evaluate a marketing agency before deciding to ink a partnership.


Clearly Define Your Marketing Needs:

Before getting too far into the selection process, have a clear understanding of your marketing needs. All too often businesses take the READY – FIRE – AIM approach, wasting an unbelievable amount of time and other resources only to come back to the starting point and THEN define what it is they are trying to accomplish.

Identify the goals you are aiming to achieve – be it enhancing digital presence, content creation, SEO, or lead generation and how you might measure success.

Having a clear vision will enable you to pinpoint an agency that has the required expertise and fully aligns with your objectives.


Review Their Portfolio:

Check out the agency’s past work and case studies. This will provide insight into their capability, expertise, and experience in managing campaigns and strategies analogous to what you have in mind for your business. Check for the results they have delivered and how effectively they have solved various marketing challenges.

If they don’t want to share past results, that should be a red flag.

Evaluate Their Expertise in Your Industry:

Ensure that the agency holds experience or expertise in your particular industry, or at the very least a solid understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities it presents. An agency well-versed in the nitty-gritty of your business can formulate more attuned, relevant, efficient and successful marketing strategies.

They don’t always have to be subject matter experts in your field, but it sure helps as copy is being written, images are selected, scripts are developed, etc. unless you’re ready and willing to do that yourself.

Ask Questions About Their Team:

Understanding the competence, expertise, and approach of the team you will be working with is vital. Check for their qualifications, experience, and past campaigns to ensure they have the ability to deliver the results you’re after.

Some agencies will pull the bait-and-switch, promising high-level talent to do the work on your account then hand it off to lower-paid members of the team who might not have the same level of expertise, skills and knowledge needed to be effective.

Make sure to ask who will be involved in the day-to-day operations – and get it in writing.

Consider Their Communication and Reporting:

Transparent communication channels are fundamental in any partnership. Ensure that the agency adheres to transparent, regular, and comprehensive reporting standards that meet your requirements.  Do you need to have a login to see live data streams?  A weekly report emailed as a PDF with top-line KPIs?

Make sure that you understand their communication and reporting protocols to ensure you will be kept abreast of all developments and results.

Validate Their Technology and Tools:

An effective marketing agency should be well-equipped with cutting-edge tools and technology. The utilization of modern marketing technologies like AI, data analytics, and CRM tools signifies their ability to stay ahead in the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.

Ask them why they’ve selected the tools they’re using versus other competitive options and what developments are on the horizon that might require them to change.

Check Their Reputation:

Reputation is paramount. Look at reviews, testimonials, and feedback from their previous clients. If possible, connect with a few to garner direct feedback regarding their experiences and the outcomes of the partnerships.  While history isn’t necessarily an accurate predictor of future performance, it certainly gives you an idea of what you might expect.

Evaluate Their Pricing Model:

Understanding and comparing pricing models is pivotal to ensuring that the collaboration is financially viable. Is it hourly billing, a monthly retainer, project-based pricing, service-based pricing, performance-based pricing, percentage of ad spend or some other pricing model?

Whichever it is, ensure that their pricing aligns with your budget and that they offer a tangible ROI. Know upfront what production costs will be for any photography, video production, editing, design, etc.  Beware of any hidden costs and ensure all financial aspects are discussed upfront and clearly outlined in writing.

Cultural Fit:

The alignment of cultural and ethical values cannot be understated. Ensure that the agency’s culture fits well with yours to foster a harmonious working relationship. An alignment in work ethics, values, and approaches toward work ensures smoother collaboration and better understanding.

Review their mission and/or values statement and ask them for examples of how they live up to them.

Assess Their Flexibility and Scalability:

Your chosen agency should be able to adapt to changes (within reason) and scale its strategies in tandem with the growth of your business. Ensure that they are flexible in adapting to new trends, technologies, and sudden shifts in strategy if needed.

Create an RFP:

After narrowing down your potential list, create an RFP (Request for Proposal) to send to prospective partners.

Creating an RFP involves crafting a clear, comprehensive document to solicit proposals from marketing agencies, guiding them to present their best strategies and pricing for your project.

  1. Introduction: Briefly outline your company and the purpose of the RFP.
  2. Overview: Define the scope, objectives, and desired outcomes of your marketing campaign.
  3. Requirements: Detail your expectations, deliverables, and any mandatory elements like target audience, channels, or technologies to be used.
  4. Budget: Specify the budget range or limitations to guide agencies in tailoring their proposals.
  5. Instructions: Include guidelines for proposal submission, such as format, length, and deadline, ensuring uniformity and ease of comparison between submissions.
  6. Evaluation Criteria: Clearly state the parameters (e.g., cost, experience, strategic approach) that will determine the winning bid, ensuring agencies understand what’s valued most.
  7. Terms and Conditions: Detail legal and procedural aspects, like the confidentiality of information, rights to materials, and contractual obligations.
  8. Contact Information: Provide a point of contact for agencies to seek clarifications or submit proposals.

Remember, clarity and precision are crucial in an RFP to enable marketing agencies to formulate and submit proposals that align closely with your business objectives and expectations.


Obviously, embarking on a journey with a marketing agency should not be taken lightly. Thorough evaluation based on the aforementioned aspects will ensure that you select a partner that not only aligns with your needs and values but also can drive your business toward its desired goals. Consequently, investing time and effort in choosing the right marketing agency will pave the way for a successful, productive, and mutually beneficial partnership.

Remember: It’s not just about hiring an agency; it’s about forming a partnership that will contribute to the sustainable growth of your business.

For a free, no strings consultation about how Urge Media can help build your brand and drive sales, email or call 502-702-1832 today.