EP107 – How To Find The Right Agency

Author Halli Biggs 19 min read time

Hi all and welcome to episode 107 of the Marketing Freaks podcast! In this week’s episode, Jon is joined by our Head of Client Services Dan Lifton to delve into the significance of working with the right digital marketing agency, both from a business perspective and on a personal level. 

In today’s fiercely competitive digital landscape, businesses and individuals are striving to unleash the full potential of online platforms. However, navigating this complex terrain can be overwhelming. This is where finding an agency to assist can be your guiding light, empowering you to achieve your goals.

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So what should you look out for? A reputable digital marketing agency should possess a diverse range of expertise. What you/your business needs to decide is whether those skills align with your goals. If that’s SEO, PPC, Paid Social, content creation or analytics, you need to consider their industry experience and whether they have worked with businesses similar to yours. 

It’s vital to look for case studies, ask deeper questions and obtain client testimonials that highlight their ability to deliver results. A glimpse into an agency’s portfolio can speak volumes about their capabilities and creative approach, so take the time to review their past projects and campaigns. Look for evidence of innovative strategies, compelling content, and measurable results.

It’s also important to evaluate how responsive and transparent the agency is during the initial stages of engagement. Are they attentive to your questions and concerns? Do they actively involve you in the decision-making process? Look for an agency that values open and transparent communication and demonstrates a willingness to understand your unique business needs. If they’re not passionate about working with your business… 🚩

If you want to find out more on what to look for in order to find the right agency, take a listen to this week’s episode! 

We hope you find this one useful. 





Jon (00:10):

Hello everybody and welcome back to the Marketing Freaks podcast. In this week’s episode, I’m joined by Dan. We’re gonna be talking through how to select the best agency partner for your business. So what the best selection process is, how to ask the right questions, how to understand whether you are set in front of a good agency or a bad agency. So really hope you find this one useful. If you do come and subscribe, all the usual podcast places. Let’s get started. So today we’re gonna be talking about how to find the right agency partner for your business. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> beyond just hiring us <laugh>. Um, but there is I think some gen genuine points that we’re gonna raise and discuss mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, first question or first point is really like, why is it so important to find the right partner? It might sound obvious, but it’s an important point to cover. I think

Dan (01:02):

There’s a few, a few things. One’s from the, the business point of view and one’s also from the, the personal side as well. So like yeah. From a business point of view, like, you know, you are gonna have probably some lofty goals, potentially some objectives to hit. So it’s important to understand and find the right agency that’s gonna, you feel confident and trust that are gonna

Jon (01:22):


Dan (01:23):

Deliver. Yeah. Because at the end of the day, that’s what you’re judging the agency on.

Jon (01:27):

Yeah. You’re doing it for a reason, aren’t you? And usually that reason is

Dan (01:30):

Yeah. Performance. Exactly. And then the, to counter on that with the personal side, it’s the person that’s in charge of that decision to pick the right agency. That decision reflects on that person as well. For some reason it say it didn’t work out, or if it does work out, you know, it’s look

Jon (01:48):

Like a hero.

Dan (01:49):

You look like a hero. So they, they really intertwine up. Like when you are looking for that agency partner, you’ve got to make sure in your own mind and gut that you trust the decision you’re making and you trust what that agency has been telling you. And I think what we’re gonna run through is, well, how the hell do you know, what’s a really good sales pitch? Versus these guys know what they’re doing in the day-to-day. They’re not just all fluffing and no substance.

Jon (02:17):

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. And and a great agency might be great for a certain subset of clients, but doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be, if they’re great for them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be great for you. Exactly. Traditionally, um, clients and, and brands and agencies intertwine via a traditional pitch process mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I don’t think that’s always the best way to select an agency. It might be for some businesses, but I think there’s definitely some holes and gaps in it. Yeah. What are your thoughts?

Dan (02:49):

No, I agree. And I think our best, well our longest serving clients have all come from like a non-traditional pitch process note kind of really like a, or Yeah. They’ve seen us somewhere and they just wanna have a chat and we go through multiple stages. Right. Yeah. I think the issue with the traditional pitch process is like, it’s a bit like judging a book by its cover. You have this potentially one moment where you are looking at an agency in the eyes and looking at their sales pitch and being like, God, that looks really good. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like that’s really impressive. Oh,

Jon (03:21):

Those promises is

Dan (03:22):

Exciting. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it gets, you know, your, your juice is going and your adrenalin’s running, but you, you’re judging them in one moment. Yeah. Minimal conversations outside of that potentially. Yeah. There’s no chemistry. Is that the team that’s gonna actually be working with you?

Jon (03:36):

Yeah. Yeah.

Dan (03:37):

Sometimes you send your best sales guys in and you’re really polished. It’s, you

Jon (03:41):


Dan (03:42):

You would it’s

Jon (03:43):

A game. Yeah.

Dan (03:44):

But for a, a client selecting an agency partner, is that enough for you to put your hat on? They’re gonna be a success. I don’t think it always is. I think you need to build a little bit of chemistry, a little bit of understanding of Okay, I’ll with those results, show me a few examples like Yeah, yeah. You know, and go through a bit of a, a process, um, which builds that trust Yeah. And confidence as opposed to, I’ve got three agencies here, that one was good, let’s go with them.

Jon (04:14):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s, I think it’s uh, the, I think the risk is, uh, we’ve all, we all know agencies where they have an amazing sales Yeah. Presentation, like genuinely and good

Dan (04:27):

For and good on them.

Jon (04:28):

Really, really good. Great sales presentation, great sales pitch. And the reality is extremely different. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to what is in the pitch. Yeah. That’s the risk, isn’t it? Yeah. So, um, I think that’s the thing that sometimes can be avoided through a non-traditional pitch or selection process. Yeah. Probably slightly easier. So referrals are a great one. Yeah. Like you say, like actually if you, historically you look at the best client relationships we’ve ever had, nine times out of 10 have come through a referral.

Dan (05:03):

Yeah. And a bit of that relationship’s been built before the decision has even been made. Yeah. They want us to work with them and they’ve selected us as a partner. Yeah. It’s like it starts everything off in the right foot and you build that cuz chem, I spoke about this before in another podcast episode. Yeah. Chemistry in cultural affairs, part of that, um, process. Yes. And referral kind of, I think opens the door to be able to understand that a lot better than in a 45 to Yeah. In a pitch for example.

Jon (05:34):

Yeah. Definitely agree with that. The other point, um, of bug bear case studies. Yeah. Right. So this is a great example. I think everyone will have a case study with a big percentage number on the front of it. Yeah. We’ve got them mm-hmm. <affirmative>, whoever we’re pitching against will have them. Um, you, you know, they don’t, they don’t always paint the big the the full picture. So I think with case studies, actually the really important thing is asking. Okay. It’s the story behind how, uh, an agency or a team arrived at that. Yeah. What did they have to beat to get to that? What challenges did they have to overcome? Was it plain sailing? Was it really difficult? Yeah. Like how did the client feel about it? Yeah. Just

Dan (06:16):

Understanding that context Yeah. Is

Jon (06:18):

Key. Yeah. And actually look and, and will they, will they just show you all the positive, um, shiny stuff with big numbers on that look looks great on the surface? Or will they tell you little stories about something that didn’t work out and why it didn’t work out? Yeah. And what, what you’ve learned as a team as a result of that and how that will make you better at servicing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. This piece of business, there’s the dog <laugh>, that means someone’s delivering something. Yeah. <laugh>, sorry for the

Dan (06:48):

Rudin. That was his 2 cents.

Jon (06:50):

Maybe he wants to come in, should we learn Right? Brief pause. Done.

Speaker 3 (06:54):

Hold the, hold the thought. Come on Ronnie,

Dan (07:00):

Come on Ronnie, come on. You can be the guest star.

Jon (07:02):


Speaker 4 (07:02):

Knows it’s, um, he knows it’s nearly overtime

Jon (07:06):

For those listening to the audio version, tune in now to the YouTube version to see what’s happening.

Dan (07:11):

<laugh> uh, adding the context. <laugh>, where

Jon (07:13):

Were we before we got rudely interrupted?

Dan (07:15):

Yeah. So we’re kind of talking about, I guess it’s kind of like challenging the agency and understanding Yeah. The meat on the bones. And we, uh, again, I, I go back to it, we had a conversation earlier this year around like, what should you ask an agency in a pitch process? And yeah, part of it comes down to the selection process as well of like challenge them, challenge us with real insightful questions that will make you understand us better. Like, you know what, what’s your chemistry? Like the mic’s nearly gone, what’s the chemistry like, you know, um Okay. A client tell us about a client that’s recently left you and why. Yeah. Like, you know, um, there’s lots like that

Jon (07:53):

Where, that’s a great question. Yeah. Because you’ll see the reaction to it as well. Like the reaction will be as telling as the answer.

Dan (07:59):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And it’s, it’s just things like that, you know, what’s how, what’s your communication cadence like and if the person in the room can’t actually tell you because they’re actually just in charge of making this beautiful sales deck.

Jon (08:10):

Yeah. Then it’s gonna be different

Dan (08:11):

Now. So I think it’s just around those things and you are just having some meat to the bones, which I’m sure Ronnie would like right now. <laugh>. Yeah.

Jon (08:18):

He would. Yeah.

Dan (08:19):

Um, yeah, so I think it’s just around that really. Yep.

Jon (08:22):

The, I think also the other thing is really truly understanding what it is you want Yeah. From an agency relationship. Can you answer that question? Yeah. Is it, obviously everyone wants results and profit and performance and revenue obviously mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? That’s obvious. But what else is it, do you want an agency who’s gonna push you? Do you want an agency that’s gonna come up with loads of ideas? Do you just need to buy in some resource? Cuz you’re a little bit tight and you need to hire in six months time, but you know, it’s gonna be a bit of, yeah.

Dan (08:51):

There’s gotta be a reason for that commitment. And also cuz you think selecting an agency partner, there’s time, there’s time involved, so you need to, and that’s like a cost to people. So you need to have that question like fully down and answer and if you don’t know, know it before you even start that, that process. I think the other thing that’s interesting is like you’ll get back from that. Like if you’re saying we want an agency that’s gonna push us, for example. Well there’s your criteria and the selection of like, did they challenge the brief?

Jon (09:25):


Dan (09:26):

And if they, or did they challenge us at any point or question us on anything during the pitch or depending whatever your selection process is like and if they, that then lines up with that goal outside of your metrics based stuff and you’re like, yeah, oh yeah, they’ve really liked how they challenged us or like it was an uncomfortable conversation but I liked it. Yeah. Like

Jon (09:45):

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

Dan (09:46):

That’s when you start to know more of like, am I making the right decision?

Jon (09:49):

It informs the entire conversation, doesn’t it? Yeah. Yeah. And uh, yeah, it sounds like a really obvious point, but knowing what you’re genuinely, genuinely looking for,

Dan (09:58):

What are you going into this for?

Jon (10:00):

Yeah. Is really important. So what signs should people be looking for? What would you say the difference in a sales or pitch scenario? You know, whatever it is between a good and bad. It’s hard to say, isn’t it? Yeah.

Dan (10:13):

I think some of the good things, like I think the chemistry and the cultural fit is key. And like, is the agency that’s pitching actually excited about wanting to work with you? Do they

Jon (10:22):

Really want your business?

Dan (10:23):

Do they want your business or are they just here to tick a box and you know, do they actually need your business or want it? Yeah. Because you’ve gotta be passionate about bringing that in. Yep. Um, you, and again, a question around that you could ask is like where we fit in your roster as well because Yeah. You know, you might be down the bottom one near the top. It depends, but Yeah. Are they actually, I think that’s a big one. Are they actually, are they shown the excitement throughout the process to want to work with you? Yeah. And it’s, it’s pretty, it sounds very simple but I think that’s a good way of determining it.

Jon (10:54):

Yeah, definitely. Um,

Dan (10:56):

I think like, yeah, just understanding like processes, are they open about their, you know, the onboarding process is gonna be like the community, it just openness I think in transparency. Oh yep. If you wanna talk to any of our clients, go for it. You’ll know if someone’s very hesitant to not even give an inch.

Jon (11:14):

Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Dan (11:15):

That’s when you can kind of, if a bad agency would be like, they couldn’t really give you a clear comms process of like how regularly we’ll speak with you. Yep. The staff turnover might be high. Yep. Which also, which indicates multiple things. It could be just the, the time for them to go could be they overwork them, they take loads of stuff on, there’s, there’s loads of things that could Yeah. Factor that you

Jon (11:38):

Can, but you can dig into it can’t you? You can

Dan (11:40):

Dig into it on LinkedIn and things. Yeah.

Jon (11:41):

Um, yep. Yeah, I think what um, can they back up the claims they’re making? Yeah. And how do they back them up and do you have confidence in how they’re backing them up?

Dan (11:51):

I think the industry knowledge one’s key as well. Like, you know, sometimes some, sometimes you have to, you take on a client and it’s the first time you’ve worked with them and that’s the only way you’re gonna actually get the sector experience. But you know, if you are in that pitch, you don’t really know the indu, the sector that well. It’ll probably shine through as well. Yeah. I think it’s just, I think if they don’t know that sec industry sector is when you’ve got some other alternatives, it’d probably help you Yeah. Understand whether they’re there for the there. Cause they kind of want the business but they’re not Yeah. They’re not good enough to be like, you know what, actually this isn’t, we wouldn’t be the best fit for you.

Jon (12:26):


Dan (12:26):

Which I think that’s also a trait of a good agency being able to say no. Yeah. And like, no, you shouldn’t select us, but we know these guys who are good at it.

Jon (12:34):


Dan (12:34):

If pe if agencies are doing that,

Jon (12:37):

I think that’s, yeah. I think, um, is the agency in the room also trying to assess whether or not this is a good fit for them? Yeah. In a completely non arrogant way, but um, are they trying to work out whether this is gonna be a good fit and they can genuinely do a good job Yeah. As much as you are working out whether or not they’re gonna be the right fit for you. And it’s a really, it’s a really interesting nuance that I think. Yeah. Um, also do you have confidence in the people doing the job Yeah. Or who will be doing the job and their ability to do the job. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if we are pitching, normally I’m the first point of contact. Yeah. We have the chats, you know, yada yada yada because I run new business Yeah. For this business. Um, but it shouldn’t really be about whether or not Okay. They need to understand and believe what I’m saying mm-hmm. <affirmative> because I guess I informed the philosophy of the business, right? Yeah. But ultimately it shouldn’t matter what I, what they think of me. They should, they should have confidence in who you Yeah. Rosie, Chris happy, like the people doing the work mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, not me.

Dan (13:48):

Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a massive thing is like if an agency gives you direct access to the team earlier, early on, even in the pitch process, we always try and have who we think is gonna be on that account in the pitch process. Yep. They just get such a good understanding and again, it’s a good sign of like, this is, this is the team and we know what we’re talking about. Yeah. This isn’t gonna be, here’s our best guys, but actually your feet so small, here’s our juniors that you’ve never met before you spoke to Yeah. But yeah, off you

Jon (14:18):

Go. Exactly. Um,

Dan (14:20):

Which isn’t a nice thing. I think it’s being out front on any things Yep. Deciding of a good agency. So Definitely. Yeah. I think it’s like that trust, it’s the trust thing isn’t it? Like can they trust you? Yep. I think that’s the decision when you’re a client in put myself in the client sheets, like your guts a really powerful thing. It’s like, have this agency one show me they can deliver, but two shown that they’re the right fit and I can trust what they’re Yes. Saying. Yep. Cause if you’re not, if you’re not sure, they’re, they’re probably all say

Jon (14:51):

Not hundred

Dan (14:52):

Percent, not hundred percent sold on it either.

Jon (14:53):

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. So I think the, the common themes in this have been, there’s so much around like that chemistry trust mm-hmm. <affirmative> gut feel confidence. Yeah. And demons, demonstrable evidence. Yeah. And openness. Yeah.

Dan (15:09):

And if you’re not getting that or if you get a, there’s something in the back of your mind in anything in life,

Jon (15:16):

Take further or walk away just

Dan (15:18):

Yeah. Do a bit more due diligence or just walk away from it. Yep. And knows the most powerful tool in that situation.

Jon (15:23):

Yep. But it should be to wrap it up, I think it should be like ultimately it’s about a win-win scenario, isn’t it? Yeah. Like, you get the relationship you need, you get the, uh, performance that you need as a business and the e the agency partner get a great client mm-hmm. <affirmative> relationship and it should be win-win. Yeah. It should be win-win. That’s the goal. Definitely. Well look, thanks Dan. Good chat as always. Um, thanks everyone for listening. Hope it’s been useful and we will see you on the next one.

Dan (15:53):

Yep. See you later everyone.

Jon (15:56):

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed that episode, please do come and subscribe. Join us for future episodes where we talk about the ins and outs of running paid media and driving improved conversions of revenue for your business. See you next time.