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    How to Interview a New PPC Agency [Infographic]

    Properly vetting a new PPC agency is just as crucial as if you were interviewing candidates for a senior-level position. You should be asking a lot of the same questions, requesting similar proof of experience, and doing the same research, like you would a job candidate.

    An effective PPC agency is a true partner who’s looking after your best interests and working to excel your business, not an entity that’s interested in the bare minimum in exchange for a paid invoice. Whether you’re poised to hire your very first agency, or need to make some changes to what you’ve currently got going on, there are essential characteristics you should look for, and qualifying questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line.

    Characteristics To Look For In An Agency

    Before you can carve out your list of questions for your potential new PPC agency, you have to nail down the attributes that are most important to you, the team, and the company.

    1. Experience in your business’s field + size

    An agency who’s been there done that will be much more valuable than one who’s learning alongside you, or worse, demanding a ton from you as they try to get ramped up. The best agency is one who has experience with one of your competitors. Also be sure the agency has dealt with budgets similar to yours. If they’re used to working with piles of cash, it could be challenging for them to yield favorable results with less money.

    2. Continuing education

    We’re preaching to the choir here, but it’s always worth it to point out how quickly the world of digital marketing moves. You want to make sure the agency is aware and excited about that aspect of the space and attending conferences, as well as partnering with technology companies that will help you get the best return on your investment.

    3. Ambition

    This characteristic touches on continuing education but goes a lot farther and deeper. You’re hiring an agency so you don’t have to do the work yourself or bog down your team with it as they try to focus on other internal initiatives. You want to make sure you’re getting an agency who doesn’t need babysitting or constant direction and who will work hard and independently to bring you good news.

    4. Ability to work together

    Some companies might call this a “culture fit.” You want to make sure the PPC agency sees the relationship as a partnership, not a serve and report or limited communications relationship. You’re not interviewing for your new best friend, but you should expect a lot of interaction with the agency and your assigned team, so you want to set yourself up for a pleasant, non-combative experience.

    5. Responsiveness/communication style

    This would certainly play a part in your ability to work together, but it’s such an important piece of the agency-client relationship that it deserves its own call out. You want an agency that is a true partner and who's available to you when you need it. You also want an agency who communicates clearly and fully and doesn’t try to hide when progress falls short.

    6. Proven track record

    When interviewing for a new piece of business, everyone’s going to put their most impressive foot forward. As the interviewer, you want to make sure the agency has the walk to back up the talk. That can come from work samples, case studies, testimonials, and your own due diligence.

    Questions to ask the agency

    The questions part of the interview should be carried out in person or over a call, where possible. If the agency asks to see the questions beforehand or answer in written form, always ask for a follow-up call to review so you can dig deeper. Again, going back to this “hire” being as important as a senior level candidate, you’d never give a job prospect ample time to research and perfect his or her answers. A great agency won’t need time to come up with preferable answers, they’ll have the examples, stories, and proof readily available. Where applicable, ask for proof in the form of case studies, reports, and testimonials straight from the source. Don’t feel like you have to take the agency at their word. Just like a new candidate, you’d want to see proof of past work and talk to references.

    • Who will be working on my account or campaign?
      • During the initial courting meetings, the agency will likely send in the big guns, but not necessarily the people who’d be working on your account. This question will help you determine:
        • If the agency knows how to create teams to meet your needs, or if they’re trying to templatize solutions
        • If you’d be getting veterans or newbies and who might have certification on relevant platforms
        • What the agency plans on outsourcing, how many resources the agency plans on dedicating to you and if the value matches the cost

    You should also ask how many other accounts each person is working on. This will reveal if your account will receive the time you expect and are paying for. Some analysts work in 100+ accounts, so do the math, and you’ll see your business only gets direct attention a few minutes per week.

    • Tell me about your process.
      • Getting a step-by-step overview of the day-to-day of how the agency plans on managing your campaigns will tell you a lot—which tools they’re using, how often they’re checking in on things, what their reporting looks like, etc.—including which parts aren’t handled by humans or internal staff. The answer to this question will also give you a glimpse into how the agency treats the client relationship.
    • Who are your other clients, and could I speak to someone there directly?
      • Want to make sure you’ll be happy with what you get? Talk to the people who are already working with the agency. Sure, the agency’s website might have glowing reviews and favorable case studies, but who wouldn’t put the most positive remarks front and center on the home page? Find out how long the company has been with the agency (client retention rate can speak volumes), what results have been like, how the relationship has worked, and any other questions that will help you decide if this is the best agency choice for you. On the list, you should also look for businesses in a similar (but non-competitive) vertical, and businesses with similar budgets, which tells you the agency truly does have the appropriate experience to handle your needs.
    • How long have you been in business, and what does your staff look like?
      • Dig into the backgrounds of the people who would be working on your account—where else have the worked, are they familiar with your industry, have they received accolades outside of the agency for work they’ve done? Younger agencies lacking senior experience are more apt to automate or outsource certain functions, too, since they don’t have the history or expertise a more seasoned agency would. You want to be sure you’re getting the right human attention and expertise, and not just paying someone to push buttons on a platform.
    • Have you or a client ever terminated a contract early?
      • In other words, have you ever been fired? Or on the flip side, has a client ever created so much trouble, they just weren’t worth it (and why?). Again, the relationship with your PPC agency is so imperative; you want to make sure you’re committing to the right match.
    • What tools or software do you use?
      • This will tell you if the agency is “outsourcing” too much, if they’re advanced in their approach, what your reports will look like, etc. You may also want to dig in more to exclusive partnerships they may have with platforms and the creators of PPC software. Those types of relationships can give clients a huge leg up, and also prove a huge amount of trust these key players have in the agency.

    Of course, there are many questions you could ask a PPC agency, and it’s smart to tailor your queries to match your exact needs. But, the six questions above get at the heart of what you’d want in a partner who’s essential to your business’s success.

    Homework To Do On Your Own

    The job’s not over once you’ve asked a few questions of potential PPC agencies. You’ve got a little bit of take-home work to do just to ensure you’ve done your due diligence. It’s unlikely a PPC agency is out to give you false information maliciously, but it’s good to do a little recon work on your own. In this case, a little bit of research can turn up the answers you’re looking for. Here are a few starter questions:

    • Is the agency recognized within the marketing community?
    • Does the agency have a presence at relevant conferences? Do they lead or speak at any of the conferences?
    • Has the agency written any respected books or articles? Do they share information freely through a blog?
    • Who are the leaders of the company, and are their thoughts and quotes solicited for outside articles?
    • Check sites like Glassdoor to see what employees have to say about working there. Unhappiness or resentment is likely to come out in someone’s work.

    With all that being said, don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. Focus on the potential of this new relationship and have faith that when you come across the PPC agency of your dreams, you’ll just know. 

    Breanna Lambert

    Breanna has 10+ years’ experience in marketing, though the tides & trends have pushed her almost exclusively into digital. She lives in the hills above Boulder, CO and spends her downtime outside exploring with her husband, son, and pup.