Choosing the Right Agency: From Dumpster Fires to Rainbows

A good agency relationship isn't a myth

“I had no problem whatsoever hiring an agency for my business. We started right away and there were no issues at all.” — No one ever


The excitement of growing your business to the point where you need outside help can sometimes overshadow the necessity for pragmatism and thoughtful decision making. It can be pretty easy to get distracted by the shock and awe an agency can offer and then be left feeling burned when the miracle metrics promised don’t materialize.

The good news? We’ve got your back. We’ve gathered data from our 17 years in business to help you figure out how to find the right agency with minimal drama and maximum results.


Super Kick A$$ Questions for Success

Do you want sunshine and rainbows but end up with sadness and dumpster fires? Fear not! If you answer these questions BEFORE you reach out to an agency, you’ll find your path to success is more unicorns and less…fire.

1. What skill set do we need?

This is a good starting question because if the answer is “Nothing” then what are you doing here, you weirdo? The reason you’re thinking about hiring an agency is because you’ve seen evidence that your current skill set isn’t getting the job done to move your business forward.

Think about the services you REALLY need. As much fun as it is to shout out “E’RYTHING!” it’s not often cost effective or practical to go full-suit right off the bat.


2.  What are our goals?

A lot of partners have told us their goals over the years and the difference between success and failure is specificity.

“Generating leads” is not a goal, but “Generating 12 new leads a month through email and content marketing” is. The key is to be specific! If you can’t be specific about what you need, how will your agency deliver?

A caveat here: A good agency is also a good partner, so they should be able to help you crystallize your goals after preliminary conversations and then continue to help you set new ones as your partnership progresses.


3. What do we NEED to do first? What can wait?

This is a fun one—basically brainstorm ALL THE THINGS! You want to get things done, obviously, but what and when? Get your team together and brainstorm like whoa. Put all of the answers on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper or in skywriting—whatever you need to do to get it all out of your head.

Once you see this wonderous list of goals you’ll probably start to notice themes—try to group your goals into these themes, or buckets, so you can truly start to identify what needs to be done. You may have a lot of goals related to content marketing or a lot of goals related to website updates—pull 3-5 main buckets out of your brainstorming and then put those 3-5 buckets in order of importance.

Start with those!


4. What is our cost of inaction?

The cost of inaction is the consequence of what will happen if you don’t make any changes. Will you continue to lose leads if you don’t optimize your site? Will you drop in ranking if you continue not to tend to your SEO?

Think of the impact that inaction would cause your business and decide whether or not it’s tenable both short-term and long-term.


5. What is our budget (realistically)?

Knowing what you need to accomplish is clutch but so is knowing what you can afford to have done. This is where things get a little tricky because, as a business owner, you may not know how much the things you want to get done will cost—most agencies don’t have a rate card on their website that you can check before you reach out to them.

A lot of our Inbound clients aren’t sure what their goals should be so we created a nifty little tool to help them (and you!) figure it out: our lead generation calculator. Having a number like this in mind can help you and your agency figure out what type of budget makes sense.


6. How much time are we willing to spend with an agency?

Another factor that can mean the difference between success and failure with an agency partnership is investment from your team. This is kind of a trick question because it involves answering a FEW questions to get to the answer:

1. Are you willing and able to communicate with your agency?

2. Are you available for calls, meetings, and other tasks that may be necessary for the services you need done?

3. Do you need an account manager?

4. Is your leadership team bought into the idea of an agency and are they willing to be available if need be?

It’s important to think about how much time you have to invest in your relationship with your agency so you can be upfront with them about how much of your time they can have. Weekly meetings too much? Make sure you help them understand what is feasible for you.


7. What do we want the relationship to look like?

Some clients like steady communication, some like monthly check ins. Some clients want the final word on all decisions and some just want their agency to tell them what is happening and then go do it. Think about where you are on that spectrum and communicate that at the start of your new agency relationship. Help them help you!


8. How do we want to measure success?

Is it new leads? Website traffic? Social engagement? First page ranking for specific keywords? Just like your goals, your metrics should also be specific. What are vanity metrics and which metrics will help you understand your ROI?

An agency worth their salt should be able to track these metrics and share the results with you to ensure you’re getting a return on your investment.


9. What is our preferred form of communication?

What kind of communication does your team need and want to ensure you know what’s happening and to feel confident in the process?

Remember that a good agency should have a calendar of communications set up but it’s also ok to let them know if it’s too much or not enough and work with them to make sure that you’re getting what you need. Doing this at the beginning of the process means that you’ll start out on the right track.


 10. Who will be in charge of this on our side?

Too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many chiefs at the table. Too many horses in the stable. Whatever charming colloquialism you use to describe too many people all up in your business, having a single point of contact for your team will help create an efficient communication pathway and will reduce the aforementioned mess that can come from too many bristles on a brush (<– that’s not a real one).



Seems pretty simple at a glance, but answering these questions before you reach out to an agency for services can mean the difference between success and failure. An agency is only as helpful as you allow them to be. Arm yourselves with the knowledge you need to attain the goals you want to achieve and your agency can help get you there faster and in a more organized way.


Did we leave any questions out? Let us know in the comments!


lead generation calculator