Essential Questions to Ask When Hiring a Marketing Agency

Learn what you should look for in an agency and the questions you should ask to understand their approach to marketing.

A private equity firm can see great success in their marketing efforts by working with the right agency. But not all agencies are created equal. 

(Just for clarity, I do not operate an agency. Rather, I help private equity firms hire and train an in-house role to oversee marketing and manage relationships with agencies and freelancers.)

When hiring an agency to help you market your firm, you need to understand 1) where they fit in the overall marketing landscape, and 2) their general approach to marketing.

Below are some questions you should ask and an explanation of why:

  1. What type of agency are you?
  2. What will you deliver as part of this relationship?
  3. Which promotional channels do you recommend?
  4. How do you think about audiences?

Question #1 - What type of agency are you?

Generally, the private equity marketing landscape is split into two segments: 

  • PR agencies
  • Marketing agencies

PR agencies focus more on publishing press releases and connecting you to the press. From a strategic standpoint, PR helps you portray a professional brand.

Marketing agencies, on the other hand, focus more on helping you create awareness by producing deliverables to promote your firm to intermediaries/founders. These deliverables might include:

  • A new website
  • Social media content
  • Blog posts
  • Company videos
  • And more

PR is great for staying in front of intermediaries, and marketing is good for creating awareness among both intermediaries and founders.

Question #2 - What will you deliver as part of this relationship?


The real goal in asking this question is to make sure you're not working with an agency that is overly focused on deliverable production. If they are, they'll create a lot of marketing materials (videos, articles, web pages, etc.), but will have no strategy to promote those materials to your audience. 

Over-investing in production at the expense of promotion is a big problem. It’s like buying inventory you can’t sell.

Don’t fall into this trap. You want engagement, not just deliverables.

So when evaluating an agency, verify that they have a plan to promote any deliverables they produce for you or at least have an idea about whom you might hire to help with promotion.

Beware the allure of the “one-stop shop”

Many agencies will offer a full suite of marketing services across various channels.

Working with a “one-stop shop” can feel really enticing—”If you have a need, we have a service!” But be careful that the relationship isn’t reversed where if they have a service, then you must have a need for it. Not every marketing technique/channel makes sense for private equity. In most cases, you won’t really need a full-suite agency. Better to work with a few specialized freelancers.

Question #3 - How do you build audiences?

It doesn’t matter how good your marketing materials are, if you don’t have an audience to market them to, you might as well not have them.

You need to have a clear plan about how you will get in front of people. That plan has to be more than “email newsletters, SEO and posting on LinkedIn.” These are channels, not audiences. 

The question you need to ask: How will we curate an audience or otherwise attract them into the fold so they come and stay? A good agency will have an answer for you.

The Best Way to Get Results from an Agency

If you’re leaning towards hiring an agency, it’s probably because you feel they will be able to add a ton of outsourced bandwidth and essentially take the “figure out marketing” task off your list of to-dos.

While there are many good agencies out there who can deliver great results while working semi-autonomously, there isn’t a single one who doesn’t need internal input from their clients. 

If you really want to get the most out of an agency, you need to have a dedicated internal resource to manage that relationship and make the strategic calls on:

  • Which messages to share
  • Which channels to market on
  • How to tie marketing back into business development

If you don’t know how to hire for that role, please reach out on LinkedIn, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you about it.

Connect with Jack on LinkedIn to learn more about how content marketing can differentiate your firm.

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