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How do I hire a digital marketing agency 

Discover how to hire the right digital marketing agency with these 11 steps. From setting goals to negotiating contracts, find the perfect partner for your business needs.

How do I hire a digital marketing agency

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There are thousands of digital marketing agencies in the world. So how will you know which one to select for your business? 

Considering there are hundreds of thousands of digital marketing agencies in the world, how do you find the right one for your business? Choosing the right digital marketing agency isn’t just about picking from a big list. You want one that’s really good at what they do, isn’t too invested in your business, and won’t break the bank.

Even though hiring an agency can feel overwhelming, the outcomes of getting a digital marketing firm onboard are worth it. A good agency can boost your revenue and help achieve your online business targets.  

Here are the best steps to follow to help you hire a digital marketing company. 

10 steps to hiring the right marketing agency

It’s important to select the right digital marketing agency because it greatly impacts your business growth, brand reputation, and much more. Here is a step-by-step process to help you hire the best marketing agency partner for your business.

1. List your marketing goals

Before starting your search for a digital marketing agency, it’s very important to completely understand your business goals and aims.

You can only see whether the agency aligns with your business goals when you have a clear understanding of your own business goals and objectives. With crystal clear goals, the agency can craft a unique strategic approach that is specifically tailored to your needs. A customized approach also has a higher chance of success than a generic approach.

In addition to measurable goals, it’s a big deal to communicate your brand’s identity, tone, and voice to the agency. Conducting a thorough assessment of your corporate identity and creating brand guidelines (if not done yet) ensures consistency and success in executing digital marketing strategies.

Having measurable goals allows both you and the chosen agency to track progress effectively and determine when targets are met, ensuring a fruitful partnership.

2. Look for potential marketing agencies

After defining your business needs and goals, your next step is to research potential digital marketing companies. Here are some ways to find them:

  • Gather recommendations from your team, seek word-of-mouth referrals, and network within your industry.
  • Check association directories like the American Marketing Association (AMA) for reputable agencies.
  • Ask for recommendations from non-competing businesses or vendors you currently work with.
  • Look at successful brands to see which PR and marketing agencies they use.
  • Utilize Google search and read reviews and rankings from platforms like Influencer Marketing Hub.
  • Explore agency aggregator sites, directories, and testimonials on Clutch.
  • Engage with industry-specific social media groups and marketing communities like Big SEO.
  • Consider using a search consultant to narrow down a list of qualified agencies.

Once you have a list of potential agencies, create a shortlist of the top candidates to contact directly. This approach will help you focus on agencies that align with your needs and are likely to be a good fit for your digital marketing campaigns.

3. Evaluate agency expertise and offering

When making your shortlist of marketing companies, don’t just rely on their websites. Look at their portfolios and what clients say about them. Ask for case studies and references you can check.

Make sure they talk about real results, not just general goals. Also, check if they’re good at communicating and can understand your brand’s message.

Consider what type of agency and services would suit your business best:

  • Traditional agencies do things like ads on TV, radio, and in print.
  • Digital agencies handle online stuff like SEO, social media, and e-commerce.
  • Specialized agencies focus on specific services or industries, like web design for e-commerce.

Picking an agency that fits your needs well is key to finding the right marketing partner.

4. Check references and testimonials

Talking to past or current clients of the agency can be really helpful. Their feedback can give you a clear idea of the agency’s quality of work and how well they perform. Look for public testimonials and references provided by the agency during your screening process.

It’s also a good idea to check online reviews about the agency’s online marketing services. Take a look at their website and social media channels to see how they present themselves. A digital marketing agency should be good at marketing themselves to build credibility and trust. After all, if they can’t market themselves well, how will they market your business effectively?

Considering all these factors helps gauge the agency’s authority, expertise, and trustworthiness, making it easier for you to make an informed decision.

During the screening process when you check references and testimonials, ask the following questions: 

  • How many years of experience does the agency have? 
  • What kind of experience does the agency’s team have?  
  • What case studies and client references can they share?
  • Does the agency have a varied portfolio of clients? 
  • Are their clients all the same? 
  • Does the agency seem to use a cookie-cutter approach with their clients when you look at their social media platforms, content, and website design? 
  • How does the agency measure or benchmark success? 
  • How many positive online reviews do they have compared to negative reviews? 
  • Have they responded to the reviews? And what were their responses like? Professional? A blame-game for the bad reviews?

5. Schedule a consultation

To narrow down your list of online marketing services, schedule face-to-face or virtual meetings with the candidates. This allows you to get a better sense of the agency and quickly identify any potential misfits. Look out for immediate misunderstandings, misrepresentations, or if they don’t align with your needs.

Topics you can discuss during the meeting include: 

  • Your company, business goals, and expectations  
  • The agency, their mission, and the services they provide
  • Marketing plan and strategy 
  • Measuring success   
  • Reporting  
  • Handling of client disputes 
  • Past clients 
  • Potential costs 

During these meetings, assess the agency’s capabilities and how well they would integrate culturally with your business. Pay attention to how they handle tough questions, their transparency, and their communication style. Evaluating their mission, values, past clients, and work quality for clients is crucial.

Additionally, passing the “beer” or “airplane” test — meaning your marketing director would enjoy working with them — is a strong indicator of a good fit.

6. Ask the right questions

The topics you pick for the consultation phase will help guide the questions you ask the agency about their digital marketing services. 

Here are some key questions to ask: 

  • What’s the size of your agency? 
  • How much experience do you have? 
  • What services do you provide, and what does each entail? 
  • Do you stay updated with the latest marketing trends and tech? How? 
  • What tools and processes do you use to get results
  • How much help or assistance will you need from our in house team? (if you have one) 
  • How do you measure success? 
  • How often do you measure success? 
  • How soon after you start on our marketing campaigns can we expect to see results? 
  • What are the deliverables for content creation, linking, adverts, paid search, and graphic design that we’ll receive?  
  • Who will be managing our account? 
  • How do you communicate with your clients? And how frequently? 
  • Is there a case study or two of similar businesses you’ve helped? What were the successes, failures, and learnings? 
  • What are some recent failures, and what did you do to remediate them? 
  • What’s the cost of your services? Are there extra costs for subscriptions, etc.? 

The questions you ask can help you decide if the agency is a good fit. If you like their answers, you can negotiate better. If not, you can drop them or keep comparing with other agencies.

7. Review offers and pricing

After talking to the agencies on your shortlist, it’s time to look at their offers and pricing. Understanding how digital agencies price their services helps you gauge the value you’re getting for your money.

Ask the agencies for detailed proposals or service agreements with costs broken down. Compare these offers to see which ones fit your business needs best.

Digital marketing agencies use different pricing models, like hourly rates, project-based fees, retainers, or a mix. For instance, hourly rates work well for tasks like social media moderation. Project-based pricing is good for specific projects like website redesigns. Retainer-based pricing is for ongoing services like social media management or email marketing. Mixed models combine different pricing approaches for various tasks.

When reviewing proposals, consider how well the agency understands your business, their communication skills, and their marketing strategy. After comparing, choose the agency that ticks all your boxes.

8. Read contract terms carefully

Read contract terms carefully

Before you make a final decision, it’s crucial to understand the agency’s contract terms and how this reflects in the pricing. Look carefully at the: 

  • Terms and conditions
  • Duration of the contract
  • Termination clause and the notice period 
  • Payment terms
  • Scope of services, specifics of the deliverables, and deadlines (interim and final) 
  • Content ownership 
  • Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) terms 
  • Investment increases 
  • Penalties 
  • Any other legal considerations 

It’s important to have your legal department or a legal advisor review any extensive or complex contracts before signing. If you need clarification on the terms of agreement with the marketing agency, consult with your legal team. Only sign the contract when you are fully ready to commit to a partnership with the agency.

9. Negotiate your final offer

It’s wise to negotiate an offer, even if it seems good initially. You can try to lower the price, extend services, or secure a fixed rate for a longer period. Don’t accept the first proposal without review.

Carefully go through the business proposal or contract and pinpoint any areas you’re not completely comfortable with. Ask for clarifications or amendments, and negotiate until you reach an agreement that works for both you and the digital marketing agency.

Before signing the contract, double-check to ensure that all changes and new terms are accurately reflected. This ensures that you’re entering into a partnership with clear expectations and terms agreed upon by both parties.

10. Make a decision

Before signing anything, think about whether you’re happy with the agency’s skills, past work, communication, and the value they offer. Don’t rush or pick the first agency that seems okay. Take your time.

If you don’t want to work with an agency, let them know politely. Keep it short and nice.

If you do choose an agency, stay involved. Check how they’re doing regularly and make sure they’re still meeting your needs. If things change, you can end the contract, but follow the rules in the contract when you do.


  • How do I find the best digital marketing agency?

Start by listing your goals, researching potential agencies, and evaluating their expertise and offerings.

  • What should I ask during agency consultations?

Ask about their experience, services, success metrics, client communication, and case studies.

    3) How do I review agency offers and pricing?

Request detailed proposals, compare pricing models, and consider their understanding of your business.

    4) What should I look for in a contract?

Pay attention to terms, duration, termination clauses, payment terms, scope of services, and legal considerations.

    5) Should I negotiate the final offer?

Yes, negotiate to ensure the best deal in terms of pricing, services, and contract terms before signing.

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