Three Questions to Ask Your Next (or Current) Search Partner

By — 08.06.15

3 Questions

If you’re using an agency or third party search vendor, changing partners is something you probably only think about when there’s a problem.  Consider how you selected your agency in the first place: a referral from a colleague, a persuasive RFP presentation, a Google search?

Undoubtedly, your agency had a list of criteria when considering you as a client. You should also put them through the same rigors when determining if they’re the right fit for you.

So what kind of questions will help you establish a strong, mutual partnership with your agency?  Here are three ideas to get you started:

 

Question #1: Who is your ideal client?

With this question, you want to uncover how strategically aligned the agency is to your business.  The agency should have a clearly defined picture of who they want to work with, and what problems they help their clients solve.  Do they work with similar companies in your space?  Do they specialize in a certain vertical or industry? Years of experience and success with clients who look like you is a strong indicator of what you can expect in terms of performance.

Another consideration: based on your current trajectory and goals, are you a high priority client for the agency?  You want to ensure your agency is as committed as you are to hitting your numbers.  Ask questions like: “Tell me about a client you worked with in a similar situation to ours.  What results were you able to achieve?  Can I talk to them?”

 

Question #2: What kind of visibility/reporting can I expect?

Every agency seems to have a different philosophy when it comes to reporting.  At the highest level, you want to know what your agency is doing and the results they deliver.  Do they provide weekly reports in Excel?  Emailed recaps of activity?  Weekly calls?  Do they take in any other channel data and surface overall trends in a dynamic dashboard?  Is reporting real-time and customizable?

The answers will vary depending on which agency you talk to, so it’s important to do your research and find the right balance of reporting that gives you the information you need, right when you need it.  You may ask yourself the following question: is my agency showing me anything I couldn’t find on my own?  If their reporting isn’t as good as you logging into the account yourself, you might have a problem.

Finally, avoid agencies that use a black box approach.  Any agency limiting your access to data is not likely acting in your best interest.  If they aren’t showing you results or if they’re not sharing their strategy with you, what are they really doing with your account?

 

Question #3: Who are your primary competitors and what sets you apart? 

Your agency should not be afraid to go head-to-head with their competitors, or even share them with you.  They should have a well-defined understanding of what they bring to the market that’s truly unique.  As an advertiser, you want to know that what you’re getting from your agency can’t be found anywhere else; whether it’s technology, resources, specific knowledge of your industry; the list goes on.

This question should also shed light on the agency’s investment in R&D, a critical consideration given the rapidly changing landscape of digital advertising.  If your agency’s solutions aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse. What can they tell you about their investment in innovation and how they’re staying ahead of the curve? There are many “me too” agencies out there; if your agency can’t bring something unique to the table, why are you working with them?

 

Takeaways:

Asking questions like these early in your agency evaluation process will quickly turn a leap of faith into a strong foundational partnership.  Every advertiser is different, so spend some time thinking about the most important qualification criteria for your business.  You’ll find this soul searching will help you better define your requirements, and quickly discover which agency is best suited to deliver on them.

Have a good list of qualifying questions for your agency already?  Share them below in the comments.


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