10 questions for choosing the right B2B marketing agency

By: Scott Armstrong

Finding the right B2B marketing agency is a lot like trying to find a new employee – except that this employee is actually an entire team.

Still, the process is very similar. You need to know the right questions to ask as well as what qualities you are looking for in an agency, so you can find one that is the right fit for your company’s specific needs. 

To help you in your journey of assessing which marketing agency is the right fit for you, we’ve prepared a list of 10 insightful questions you should be asking prospective agencies.


1. What is your engagement model? 

The answer to this question can provide information that can help you determine if the agency has the capability and capacity to adequately support your team and address your current needs. It can also help you evaluate the degree of interaction you’d like to have with the agency. There are four types of agency engagement models:

– Agency retainer:

 You have an agreement with the agency for a certain number of hours that they will work, but the hours are not fixed to one project. Usually, in this case, the business wants a natural extension of their marketing team, but is not specific about where they would like those hours dedicated. In this scenario, you are not the agency’s sole client. The scope of an agency retainer is usually smaller than other engagement models. 

– Agency project:

 The differentiation here from an agency retainer is that the agreement between the business and agency entails work to be dedicated to a specific project under a general time frame. Agency projects are usually a bigger scope. 

– Off-site dedicated staff:

 In this situation, the business is asking for dedicated staff that works solely for the client, but is physically on location at the agency. Here, the business is taking an agency worker to add to their team rather than asking for a certain number of dedicated hours. 

– On-site embedded staff:

 This is a similar engagement model to off-site embedded staff, the only difference is that on-site embedded agency staff work at the client’s office.

Determining which agency engagement model is right for you is all about understanding your specific needs. A good agency will be able to help you evaluate your business and make a recommendation on what engagement model will work best for you.


2. Who will I be working with and why?

You want to know the qualifications of the people that will be working directly with you and why they have been assigned to your account. Were they chosen because they fit well with your company culture or do they bring a certain type or level of expertise? The answer will indicate what kind of service or behaviour you can expect from the agency team.


3. In what areas/disciplines is your agency the strongest?

Agencies like to present themselves as well-rounded, but the truth is each agency has their own strengths and weaknesses. Pose this question to the agency up front and give them a chance to talk themselves up. 


4. What is your advantage over other B2B marketing agencies?

Unlike the previous question, you’re not necessarily asking about skills. The agency might have exceptional customer service or contacts with prominent influencers. Anything that would make them more effective in working with you.


5. What is your experience dealing with the challenges that I’m facing? 

It’s natural to feel inclined to ask an agency if they’ve worked within your industry or line of business. However, an even better question is asking if they have experience dealing with the challenges that your business is facing. This all begins by taking a step back, addressing what your needs are and communicating this to the agency. The right agency doesn’t have to be an exact match (especially if you have a niche offering), but the right agency should have worked with another client with similar business challenges. You want to get experience that transcends industry norms — this is the best way to gain a competitive edge. 

questions for choosing b2b marketing agency


6. What do you need from me in order to make this relationship work?

You shouldn’t expect the agency to do everything. You are still the brand owner, after all, and you need to be an active participant in order for the agency’s campaigns to be effective. But how much participation will the agency actually need from you? 

Some agencies will request you to have an active role, while other agencies would prefer you just set general direction and let them work. Pick the one that meshes best with your own work style, but be open to changing things up if the agency requires it (or if things don’t go well).


7. How will you measure the success of our campaigns? How will you communicate this to us?

We’ve come a long way since what John Wanamaker proclaimed over one hundred years ago: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” In today’s marketing landscape, you should have KPIs and metrics in place before you begin work with an agency. While not all agencies will have a formal process in place, mature agencies will already have proven methods to track campaign KPIs and report the results to you.


8. How quickly will I be able to see results?

This is a bit of a trick question. When you’re hiring an agency, you’re looking for a partner to help fulfill capability, capacity, and accountability gaps. You should be careful of agencies that promise something too easy or something that you could have easily done yourself. As well, be wary of any agency that promises you “instant results” or similarly fast growth. The best agencies know that marketing is a long game, and most effective campaign strategies will take time to see real results. 


9. What is the size and scope of your usual client projects? 

This is a question about fit. The answer will indicate whether or not the agency has the potential and capability to address your needs and complete the work. Examining what the agency’s typical clients look like will signal to you whether this will be a fruitful partnership to enter into. 


10. What’s the first thing you will do for us if we sign on with you?

If the agency was paying attention to your story during the briefing process (and did their own research), they’ll already know what the primary goal of your relationship will be. You don’t want them to fix all of your marketing problems (yet). You want them to focus on the most urgent or important. 

The agency might want to gather more information or make preliminary strategic or tactical recommendations. Any of these are fine, as long as you can tell they’re aware of the main goal and are moving towards it. 

And don’t be afraid to ask for references to get a better idea of what the agency’s experience looks like. References are always a good client ask.


All of that to say — don’t be hesitant to dig for more details. While expertise in a certain area is important, so is the overall fit for your brand in other words, it’s okay to be picky. After all, finding the perfect agency is just a matter of time. 


About Brainrider

At Brainrider, we’re here to support your company’s growth. We’re focused on helping you achieve your business objectives and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement so you’ll always stay ahead of the curve. Think of us as a natural extension of your marketing team — we’ll help you plan, execute, and scale content, web, and digital marketing programs that drive better results. Contact us here to learn more. 


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Scott Armstrong

Scott Armstrong

Co-Founder and CEO

Scott Armstrong is the Co-Founder and CEO of Brainrider, a B2B marketing agency focused on delivering better marketing results. With over 25 years of experience, Scott has established himself as a thought-leader and trusted advisor in the B2B space.