6 Questions To Ask A Digital Agency Before Inviting Them to Pitch

by Chelsea Blacker on 15/11/2011

Yesterday I wrote a post about how to target agencies for a pitch.  That’s all great, but then you have to actually make the phone call and suss each agency out, while their sales team tries to suss you out.

Questions to Ask A Digital Agency Before Inviting Them to Pitchdetective work for digital marketing pitches

It’s your first chat with a sales person at Agency X – be sure to ask these questions to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on under the hood.  Yes, you could just invite them to pitch anyways, but doing your homework now will mean you make the best decision in the long run.

1) How many people are full time employees?  Do some research before hand on Linked In to get a sense of how many employees currently are registered as working at the agency.  You’d be shocked by the difference at some.

In the same breath – the best are not always the biggest – and there are many independent consultants/small teams which produce amazing results the big boys don’t always compete with.  I’d be wary of those agencies which project a big image when you can suss out that they’re quite small, and be  open minded to smaller agencies which are happy to share their real populations.

2) Is all the work carried out and are all the full time employees located in your head office?  Some agencies outsource over 50% of their work to India, so be warned.  I don’t know how to confirm if work is outsourced; perhaps if you get to speak to a current client, ask that client if they are 100% sure the work is done in the agency or perhaps outsourced.  Regarding full time employees, that will be obvious when you visit the office.

3) Where have you guys been featured in the press or spoken at events lately?  If the agency isn’t out and about, it could be because they’re overworked and not spending enough time investing in the development of their staff.  It could also be because after 5:30pm, they can’t be arsed.  You want an agency which can be arsed to be an authority in their field.  Personally,  I struggle to see how not sharing knowledge and not participating in industry events can be a positive.

4) What do you do to ensure your staff is on the cutting edge?  Whatever answer the sales person give you, be sure you remember it and ask a real employee the same question when you meet them down the line.  Does the employees answer match what the sales persons originally told you?  If not, and the outlook is a bit bleak, be concerned.  Ask the real employee which events in their industry they have attended recently, and ask them what they learned form it.  Fuzzy answers will be easy to tell.

5) Do you also do ____ as a service? Pick a few services which are clearly not on the agencies website (perhaps app development for Facebook, conversion optimization for mobile, or media buying) and ask the sales person if they do those services.  If the sales person keeps saying yes, you may want to take a step back.  Most agencies cannot do everything under the sun and don’t have experience doing everything under the sun – so don’t believe the hype.

6) Can I meet the person who would be running my campaign at the pitch?  I have met some sales people in agencies who are so good, they literally cast a spell when they walk into a pitch.  It’s magic.  Repeat after me: DO NOT BE SPELLBOUND!!! These are sales people, 90% of the time they will say YES to everything and NOT care about you once you’ve signed a contract.

You MUST meet the team you’ll be working with When you’re organising your meet and greet, tell the sales person you want it in your contract that whomever you are introduced to really will be the account manager, seo manager, etc for your business. This will make the sales people think twice before pulling the best looking/most charming manager into your meeting and then dumping you with Fred from Slough whose keyboard crunches every time he hits the letter K because of his affinity for Walkers.

Final Tip:

Visit the agency’s offices.  It’s like shopping – but for digital services!  You get to ride around London being swooned for business, snooping around offices, and feeling wanted.  Enjoy the experience.  You’ll get an instant feel for each agency based on how the office is presented (trading desks or separate offices?), what people wear (suits required or jeans & t-shirts?), and if the receptionist seems happy.

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