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6 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Conversion Agency

By Jon MacDonald
5 minute read | Last Updated: August 1, 2016

Hiring a conversion agency is no small task. To help, here is a list of questions to consider and ask a prospective agency before beginning any complex engagement.

Hiring a conversion agency is a big decision. As brands continue to allocate marketing resources toward conversion rate optimization, the number of marketing and advertising agencies touting conversion rate optimization as a competency is on the rise. So, how exactly can you tell whether or not hiring a conversion agency will really be able to help your brand reach it’s conversion goals?

Here are six specific questions for brand owners whose answers can help gauge whether there’s sufficient alignment between the brand and agency for both to achieve success.

1. What are your brand’s two-year goals for digital marketing?

A brand’s digital marketing goals should double as goal posts that enable the conversion agency to understand where your brand needs to go to score, and win.

The digital marketing goals also should play a role in assessing conversion agency fit and clearly defining what is expected of the conversion agency from the very beginning of the relationship. Similarly, a well-run conversion agency will use your brand’s long term goals to determine whether the brand is a good fit for their expertise, and will (should) be upfront and honest with your brand if they are not.

A successful partnership begins with values and expectations. Click To Tweet

Understanding long-term digital goals (yes, two years in digital is considered long-term) can also help your brand and conversion agency understand where and when they should quickly respond and adapt their conversion strategy to make use of new technology innovations—and which ones they can safely let sail on by.

2. Is your brand following the best in class partner model?

Since the first Mad Men, agencies have relied on the full service value proposition to entice new clients and expand the relationships with incumbent clients through pitching a smorgasbord of services. And back when there were fewer areas of expertise needed to execute marketing strategies, having everything under one roof probably made sense.

Not anymore.

Today’s digital strategies are increasingly complex, requiring not only consistent execution but also meaningful measurement and constant calibration. To be able to deploy the plan correctly and consistently, brand leaders increasingly are looking to work with best in class providers with a high level of expertise and accomplishment in individual areas such as brand identity, print, television, and, of course, conversion optimization.

Today’s conversion rate optimization strategies are increasingly complex. Click To Tweet

Assembling a team of best in class providers for each of the brand’s marketing plan initiatives enables the individual expert/service providers to shine in their area of competency, and lets your brand rest easy knowing that the best talent available is capable of delivering the results they are after.

3. Is the conversion agency a subject matter expert in your brand’s industry?

There is a distinct benefit to having an conversion agency on board who already understands the brand’s industry or audience (maybe even better than the internal digital team does) and who has already invested the time (often a lot of time) to become subject matter experts.

The benefit of having conversion rate experts who are also subject matter experts is you will know that proposed solutions are thoroughly informed and precise, and consequently more apt to produce successful results. Specialist firms also believe their clients should be paying for their agency’s deep expertise rather than subsidizing their agency’s learning curve.

4. Does a conversion agency size matter to your brand’s success?

When evaluating conversion agencies, size is often one of the first filters brands apply even though agency size has been proven to be a lousy indicator of success. With conversion optimization, a small team can accomplish big things and have a major impact.

With conversion rate optimization, a small team can accomplish big things and have a major impact. Click To Tweet

What most brands don’t realize is that even when working with large international agencies, the team that is actually working on their account is composed of just a few people, and those roles may or may not have the deep experience in the brand’s industry or with their customer.

The other scenario that often happens is the project is sub-contracted out to smaller, specialized subject-matter experts, partner agencies (whose premium bill rate is then conveniently marked up and passed on to the client).

For some additional perspective on this matter, consider Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft just conducted a worldwide agency search and chose two agencies to divide their marketing initiatives among—one has 43,000 employees and the second 7,500. However, Apple, a company that has some of the most focused and well tied together cross-platform marketing, has never retained a mega agency and has had a long standing relationship with a group of smaller specialized firms, including one firm that works only on their presentations.

5. What is the conversion agency’s definition of digital?

As conversion rate optimization has grown as a practice, several definitions of conversion rate optimization have emerged. What flavor of conversion rate optimization does that agency reflect? Is it focused on ecommerce, landing pages, user testing, best practices—the list of skills could go on and on.

A conversion agency that can demonstrate previous successes with actual data and metrics is crucial.

Finding a conversion agency that can walk the brand’s leadership through previous successes (with actual data and metrics vs. pretty portfolio pictures) and whose skills are aligned with what’s needed to achieve the brand’s long-term goals, is crucial.

6. What are the conversion agency’s core values?

Polls conducted by creative industry associations show that likability is one of the top three reasons brands will work with an agency. To see inside a conversion agency’s culture and know if they are a fit, get them talking about their core values. Can they clearly state their core values? Are they displayed prominently in the office for all to review?

Get a prospective conversion agency talking about their core values. Click To Tweet

Through this level of commitment (or lack of it) you will get an indication of how that conversion agency will conduct themselves and communicate with your brand, not only when everything’s great, but more importantly, if and when you encounter challenges or difficulties that inevitably arise throughout lengthy complex digital engagements such as e-commerce site overhauls.

Choosing the right conversion agency, like preparing for the NFL draft, is not a simple task. But through careful evaluation of values, skill-sets, expertise, and past successes, your brand can find that diamond even deep in the sixth round.