Finding Your First Marketing Agency

Small businesses using their in-house team for every project can only get by for so long until their team becomes stretched beyond capacity. At that point, things begin slipping through the cracks.  If a company is having trouble generating leads, meeting quotas, or lacks expertise in a specific marketing area, it may be time to call for reinforcements.

A marketing agency won’t solve every single problem, but they can offer the resources, band-width, and knowledge to help a small business fill gaps or take their work to the next level. At first, a small business may be cautious about hiring a marketing agency because of budget limitations, but different compensation models work for different projects. Additionally, the cost of hiring, onboarding, and paying benefits for a new employee may outweigh the cost of an agency.

Hiring a marketing agency for the first time can be a daunting task - but clients who know how to play their part in the agency-client relationship can see real rewards from working with an agency.


When working with an agency, clients need to be…

Finding and selecting your first marketing agency can be difficult. Make sure to keep these tips in mind when going through the process.


It is vital for clients to have alignment internally before engaging an agency partner. Client-side marketers can do this by researching their current marketing problem:

  • Evaluate overarching brand objectives,

  • Define project-level goals,

  • Define their B.A.N.T. (budget, authority, need, timeline),

  • And gather the viewpoints of various stakeholders on the situation.

Leadership needs to be honest with themselves and how their brand is perceived by customers and open to change/input.

Javier Santana, Co-founder of Launch, states that “You would be surprised by how many companies are misaligned—not because they don’t try, but because scheduling is a challenge.” Santana advises companies to “schedule some time to internally discuss thoughts about the project and learn from each other. Most importantly, align on what you hope to get out of the project. This will help the discovery process and help avoid surprises and inconsistencies when your agency partner performs stakeholder interviews.”



Evaluate potential agency partners through researching their previous experience. Clients hire agencies to fill a gap in capacity or capability - so it’s important that the candidates have industry expertise as well as the proper skill set.

Once research is completed, clients can proceed in a couple different ways:

  • A formal pitch process (RFP)

  • A date (or conversation)

  • Agency matching service like AgencySparks

Each option gives the client a chance to relay their process, demonstrate their communication style, and ask questions about the agency’s team, previous work, and reporting process.

The “date,” however, helps the client assess whether or not the agency is a “good fit” and has chemistry or a good rapport. Even if the relationship does not work out, a conversation is more respectful of the agency’s time and allows the client to adequately assess solutions/viewpoints.

The Evolving Pitch Process - Why Brands Should Approach Agency Selection Differently


Time is money - especially for marketing agencies. When clients are looking for an agency, they must be transparent with potential contenders about the status of a project. Only implement a Request for Proposal (RFP) if the agency has a strong chance of winning the work. Asking a plethora of agencies to submit spec work or respond to a proposal requires a lot of resources and effort for each agency - so it’s important to respect their time.

Santana warns that, “Blasting 5 agencies with a blind RFP will likely eliminate those agencies that could be the best partners, since your selection process is most likely based on pricing first.”



Once clients select an agency, they must onboard their new partner to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. In other words, designate an internal team member to act as an agency liaison and develop a streamlined approval process for the agency’s work.

Santana advises clients to “identify the primary stakeholders and assign a primary point of contact who has the time and dedication to work in a partnership.”

It takes time and energy to manage a relationship - though the agency will take a lot off the plate, a team in charge of the project will ensure deadlines stay on track.


When it comes to agency relationships, shifting timelines and budgets is unfortunately just the nature of working with an extended team.

If there are clear communication guidelines and expectations between the team managing the project and the agency account managers, then many common agency-client issues can be avoided.

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