What to consider when appointing a marketing agency

Read time: 5 minutes

Elle Rankin Co-Founder

Once you’ve secured investment, you will be ready to put into action your growth plans. A key element of your ability to launch or scale relies on getting your product or service in front of customers.

Marketing (and sales) are critical here and will often account for a significant portion of the investment that you have raised. As with any spending, doing your research will maximise your ROI and increase success for all involved.

Out of all the marketing agencies out there (and there are a lot), I can’t stress how important it is to pick a partner that is right for you, especially as a start-up or young company. On average, companies younger than 5 years typically spend 20-25% of annual revenue on marketing, opposed to 10-15% for more established organisations. You need to be picking an agency that helps you spend your budget wisely and gives you the very best ROI.

I often come across companies that have been burnt by bad or simply mismatched agencies and this is usually a pretty even split! So, how can you navigate the process and appoint the agency that is right for you?

Set your expectations.

Before approaching any agencies, think about what your business requires from an external partner. An advertising agency will not be the best choice to build an e-commerce website, and a social media agency won’t be a winning bet for commercial sales strategy.

Consider your business goals and work back from there to shortlist agencies that are experts in those respective fields. If you aren’t sure what deliverables you require, starting off with a strategic marketing partner will be your first step.

Also, consider the speed of delivery. If you are an organisation that moves fast, your marketing partner will need to keep up. Obviously, there are realistic conditions to this – but a good agency will work openly with you on timelines and set joint expectations to achieve quality output.

Be realistic about budget.

Marketing is a direct investment into the growth of your organisation so you don’t want to cut corners. The old adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is fitting here – especially when it comes to your strategy, brand and website as these form the foundations that you build your whole customer base on. You will work very hard in the first few years to build a brand and build loyalty, so don’t let yourself down on something that is within your control.

If you think a proposal is too high, be open with the agency and even request a break-down of the costs. At made of möre, we treat our clients’ budgets as if they were our own and never shy away from sharing the ins and outs of our costings. Having the breakdowns will give you a clear understanding of the different offerings from various agencies and allow you to plan properly for costs.

Share your goals.

The only way that a marketing agency can help you achieve your growth goals is by knowing what they are and understanding your business.

Think about it this way… you wouldn’t let a doctor diagnose you without an examination or consultation. Forcing a marketing agency to ‘diagnose’ what activity you need before they understand your business is foolish and can result in expensive misdirection. Additionally, if an agency tries to propose costs and plans to you before a level of ‘discovery*’, you must question how relevant to your business the proposal is.

If you are approaching multiple agencies, prepare a light brief of who you are and what you believe your marketing goals to be. Allow time for opening discovery* sessions with the agencies so that they can ask questions and therefore propose the activity that will actually yield results. Also, include your sales team in this process as having a symbiotic relationship will drive exponential success here.

Be open.

Any shift in your business objectives, or a change of product, pricing, people? Let the agency know! It is a waste of your time and budget to continue delivering activity if the landscape has changed. Also, be open with feedback and amends, if you don’t like something explain why and listen to agency reasonings (sometimes the expertise may change your mind!).

Sharing information must be reciprocated by the agency, keeping you fully up-to-date on project status, scheduling and results. Whether through scheduled catch-ups, reports or a shared digital location, the agency should be comfortable sharing positive and negative updates with you in a constructive way.

Ask about the day-to-day.

Whether a short-term or long-term solution, the agency you appoint will be looking after a key part of your business. Get to know the agency’s values and even ask for references from current/past clients (if they can’t provide any… that is a scary place to be!).

Consider the people you are introduced to during your initial proposal sessions and ask if that is the team you will be working with on a daily basis. Ask what the level of communication will be, and how they will be keeping you up-to-date with open actions and results.

For example, our agency model is set up to have our core internal processes, but our account team can flex into client processes too, as long as they are right for the job. For example, I am added into numerous client Asana, Slack, Box and Sharepoint accounts so that I can integrate into THEIR processes. An agency relationship should make your life easier.

Consider resource requirement.

There are three core categories a marketing agency will fall into:

Fully outsourced marketing –

If you don’t have dedicated resource internally, this is the route for you. By using an agency function in place of an internal team you are able to make your budget go further. Partnering with an agency allows you to utilise strategy, copywriting, design and development, etc, without full-time members of staff in each department. You also usually benefit from a higher level of expertise than you would be able to afford if hiring the individual roles internally.

Project –

If you want to just dip in and out of a marketing resource, a project approach will be better for you. Most full-service agencies also work on a ‘ad hoc’ basis, so you can brief specific projects as and when you need them – i.e. a new landing page, a brochure, a suite of social media posts. You will require someone internal to manage your day-to-day marketing output.

Specialised –

Do you have a solid internal marketing function, but are in need of quite a specific output – i.e. PR, PPC, SEO? Then focus on finding an agency that is an expert in that area and have them work alongside your internal team, or even your full-service agency (any full-service agency worth their salt will be able to partner respectfully with any other partnerships you have).

If you aren’t sure which is right for you consider who you have managing your marketing internally currently – is this person doing ‘a bit of marketing on the side of their day job’? Are they able to cope with the demands of a growing marketing plan? Do you even have a strategic marketing plan that you are all operating too?

At the end of the day, a marketing partner should be there to add value to your business. They should challenge you and must be in sync with your company objectives. Therefore it is critical that you pick an agency that is going to drive the results needed to move your business forward.

Don’t be a magpie, won over by flashy proposals or logos of clients they have worked with before. Take the time to speak to the team involved… and trust your gut!

Not sure which type of agency approach is right for you, or feel that perhaps your current processes aren’t working? Feel free to get in touch with me at for a second-opinion and friendly advice on how to get the very most from your marketing output.

*A discovery session is an open forum session that a marketing agency will likely ask for prior to starting any project. Pre-proposal this could be a shorter session with yourself to get an initial understanding of the business objectives, operations, and historic activity. Depending on the level or work, further discovery sessions may take place with deeper questions or with wider stakeholders in your business for knowledge transfer.

Runway Recap

  • Spend on Marketing is a direct investment into the growth of your organisation so don’t cut corners
  • When approaching agencies, prepare a light brief of who you are and what you believe your marketing goals to be, and be open to their questions!
  • Don’t absorb marketing into other functions in your business, getting your brand or positioning wrong will stifle your growth