How To Choose The Best Email Marketing Agency

Written by: Scott Cohen

Published on: 06-10-2024

Scott is the CEO at InboxArmy and has more than 20 years of experience in email marketing.

In 2024, effective email marketing is essential for any business – but getting it right is difficult. From designing eye-catching visuals to automating workflows, creating successful email marketing campaigns is really complex.

That’s why you need to hire an email marketing agency. They’ll do the hard work for you and build a strategy that earns you loyal subscribers and boosts your revenue.

Finding the right agency for your business can be a difficult decision. To help you make your decision, we’ve put together a list of important factors to consider before you hire an agency. We’ll also explain why it makes sense to use an agency instead of doing your own email marketing.

14 Factors To Consider When Choosing An Email Marketing Agency

The right agency for you depends on your business type, marketing goals, budget, and many other factors. However, there are several things all businesses should consider before hiring an agency.

Let’s take a look at the 14 most important considerations.

1. Email marketing audits

The bedrock of all successful email marketing campaigns is a thorough audit of your existing strategy.

An audit helps the agency establish a baseline of how your campaigns perform and their strengths and weaknesses. They can then use this data to create an effective strategy for your business.

So, it’s vital that the agency you choose offers either email program audits. Many agencies offer to audit your campaign for free so that they can show you how they’d improve your strategy if you hired them.

On the other hand, some agencies include the audit within their paid services. In these cases, the audit will be carried out once you’ve hired the agency. (Learn more about InboxArmy’s audit services here.)

Paid or free, if an agency doesn’t offer audits as part of its email marketing services, you should look to avoid hiring them.

2. Agency specialization

Some agencies offer broad services that cover all types of businesses. Other agencies are more specialized and may focus on specific sectors, like B2B, or specific aspects of email marketing, like email development.

To ensure you choose the right agency for your business, find out exactly what the agency specializes in and check that it aligns with your needs. This way, you can find an agency that will help you achieve your specific goals.

3. Know-how for email marketing tools

It’s important to consider the tools an agency has experience using for its email marketing efforts.

Many agencies will specialize in one or a select few email service providers like Mailchimp and Klaviyo. Some will white label or resell these platforms as well, and require you to use their account on the platform instead of your own.

Other agencies, like InboxArmy, are more vendor-agnostic and can ably support a large number of email marketing software platforms and do not require (or even offer) that you use their email marketing tool.

The important question you have to get an answer for is whether the agency you’re considering can support the email marketing platform you’re currently using (or desire to move to), and whether they require you to use their platform. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. Just make sure the tools and offerings match your business requirements.

4. Agency portfolio of work

Often, the best way to assess an agency is to take a look at a portfolio of their previous work.

Their portfolio should include samples from email marketing campaigns the agency has worked on in the past. It should also detail the steps taken by the agency to achieve success for their previous clients.

This will give you a good idea of how the agency would build an effective email marketing campaign for your business.

5. Long-term or short-term contracts

Agencies will vary in the length of contracts they offer to clients. Some will offer the ultimate flexibility of no monthly contracts or project-based work; others will want you to commit to a long-term contract of 12 months or even more.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. If you want flexibility, agencies that offer shorter term contracts are the way to go. InboxArmy offers both project-based contracts as well as 3-month contracts to start that roll into monthly ongoing contracts with a 30-day out clause. This kind of flexibility allows you to get a feel for the work and the relationship.

If you choose to enter a long-term contract, try to ask for a trial period first. If no trial, negotiate for an early exist clause within the first 3 months that allows you the option to leave if the agency relationship isn’t working out.

6. Email marketing team

You’ll work closely with the agency’s email marketing team for the entire duration of your campaign, so you must be sure they’re the perfect fit for your business.

Remember, these are the people who will be providing your email marketing services. You need to be 100% sure they can deliver what they promise.

7. Company principles and values

The agency you choose should have the same values and principles as your own business. While these will vary between businesses, there are some general values and principles to look out for, such as:

  • A subscriber-centric approach: Look for agencies that aim to provide value to your subscribers and build lasting relationships with them. This is one of the keys to long-term email marketing success.
  • Goal-oriented marketing strategies: The right agency should align its campaigns with your clear business objectives.
  • Data-driven email campaigns: The agency’s email marketing services  should place a high value on data. They should be committed to constant testing, analysis, and optimization of your email campaigns.
  • Ethical and legal practices: A reputable agency will always comply (and push you to comply) with marketing regulations and laws like CAN-SPAM. They’ll prioritize security and data privacy, and be transparent with their policies and procedures.

8. In-house vs subcontracting

Some agencies will take on your campaign but then subcontract the work to another company. This means they’re essentially acting as a middleman.

Make sure you understand this arrangement upfront. You’ll want to have great communication with your agency account team and feel comfortable with the work being done and the results being garnered.

9. Customer reviews

Reputable agencies should be gathering reviews and feedback from their current and previous customers. These customers are usually the best source of unbiased information about their email marketing service.

Use customer review sites like Clutch and Trustpilot. Search for reviews that mention specific email marketing strategy tactics like audience segmentation and personalization.

Additionally, read reviews that focus on things like customer support and value for money.

10. Agency size

If you run a relatively small business, you may prefer to work with a similarly small agency. Usually, smaller, boutique agencies have fewer clients and are able to give you their full attention.

In terms of scalability, however, small agencies are limited. If you run a medium-to-large business, or your small business expands, it’ll struggle to scale its operations accordingly.

You need to choose an agency that matches the size of your business. They should have enough bandwidth to scale their operation as your subscriber list grows and your email program becomes more complex.

11. Agency expertise

When you hire an agency, you’re paying for their expertise within the field. If an agency is staffed by experts, they’ll be up to date with the latest email marketing trends, best practices, and regulations.

They’ll also be highly skilled at key email marketing disciplines like:

  • Email design
  • Copywriting
  • Automation
  • Segmentation
  • Workflows

Hiring an agency with expertise makes it more likely they’ll be able to build a winning email marketing strategy that earns you subscribers and boosts your revenue.

12. Communication and collaboration

Excellent communication is an essential asset for any good agency. If an agency’s communication is poor, they won’t be able to understand your target audience, business objectives, and desired outcomes – let alone boost your profits.

Similarly, the agency you choose needs to be able to collaborate effectively with you during your campaign. This means incorporating your feedback and insights into the campaign so that it aligns with your vision perfectly.

But how do you test this before you start working with an agency?

When you’re making your initial inquiries, see how quickly the agency responds to you. Consider how effectively they communicate the benefits of their services and how clearly they outline the plan for your business.

This should give you a good idea of how they communicate with paying clients.

13. Testimonials and case studies

In addition to customer reviews, look out for testimonials from previous clients and case studies highlighting the agency’s past successes. Typically, you can find both of these on the agency’s website.

The key is to look out for case studies that deal with similar businesses to yours. These case studies are particularly helpful as they show you the exact email marketing strategies and tactics the agency has used to achieve success in the past.

For example, let’s say you run an online sneaker store. If the agency has a case study detailing how they used email marketing to boost another sneaker store’s sales, there’s a good chance they could do the same for you.

14. Pricing

When it comes to pricing & Costs, the right agency for you depends on the size of your business and your marketing budget.

You’ll want to ensure the long-term costs of hiring an agency can be covered by your budget.

Many agencies provide the prices of their services on their websites. This makes it easy for you to work out the costs of hiring them and whether it’s cost-effective for your business.

Many other agencies offer bespoke services tailored to your business. In these cases, you’ll need to request a quote for the specific services you require.

Regardless of approach, a reputable agency will be fully transparent with its pricing. Whether they offer standard or bespoke pricing plans, ensure they tell you exactly what you’ll pay and what you’ll get for your money.

What Does An Email Marketing Agency do?

Depending on the defined scope of work, an email agency could manage the end-to-end email marketing requirements for their clients. The agency team will consist of email strategists, designers, coders, platform managers, account managers, and others who specialize in email marketing.

Typical agency services include (but are not limited to):

  • Developing and executing on email marketing strategy.
  • Setting up email automations and workflows from scratch.
  • Building and deploying email campaigns from start to finish.
  • Diagnosing and remediation issues with email deliverability.
  • Re-building and coding email templates for the purposes of an email service provider migration.
  • Design and coding customized email templates.
  • Offering a dedicated team for the cost of an employee.

It’s important to understand the scope of work you’re looking for your potential email agency to cover.

Why Should You Hire An Email Marketing Agency?

Now you know how to choose the right agency for your business – but why should you hire one in the first place? Can’t you just handle your own email marketing strategy?

You could. But there are many reasons and benefits for why it makes more sense to hire an agency.

It saves time and resources

As a business owner, you already have a million things to deal with on a daily basis.

Email marketing requires a wide array of tasks like subscriber list management, performance analysis, and creating engaging email content for your email campaigns. Keeping on top of this takes up lots of time and can quickly eat into your business’s resources.

With an agency handling your email marketing, you’ll have more bandwidth to prioritize other aspects of your business. This can lead to better efficiency and increased productivity.

You gain access to knowledge and experience

You might be an expert within your niche. Still, it’s unlikely that you’re an email marketing pro.

The best agencies have years of experience building effective campaigns for businesses across different industries. This depth and breadth of knowledge can be used to your advantage as they can put this expertise to work for you.

It’s more cost-effective

Hiring an agency is an investment but it could save you money over time.

For example, if you wanted to take care of your email marketing in-house, you’d need to:

  • Spend time and money hiring your team.
  • Spend time and money training your team.
  • Continually allocate more of your budget to email marketing as you scale up.

All of this will likely end up costing you more than hiring an agency. Also, there’s less to manage when you pay a single monthly or annual fee to an agency instead of juggling multiple expenses.

Easy compliance with rules and regulations

If you’re not an experienced email marketer, it can be tricky to keep up with the laws and regulations that should be followed, like the CAN-SPAM Act in the US, CASL in Canada, and GDPR in the EU.

Email marketing agencies are well-versed in these laws and regulations, and will ensure all of your customer communications comply with legal requirements.

Knowledge of cutting-edge software

High-quality agencies have experience with, and in some case subscriptions to, the latest email marketing software. As experts, they know which new platforms are worth investing in to make their campaigns more successful and give their clients an edge over their competitors.

Plus, some agencies develop their own email marketing software designed to streamline certain processes like audience segmentation.


What questions should I ask during the consultation period?

During the initial consultation period, you should ask the agency questions like:

  • What is your onboarding process for new clients?
  • Can you show me some of your case studies for businesses like mine?
  • How will the success of my campaign be measured?
  • How will I be able to provide you with feedback?
  • What are your turnaround times for creating campaigns?

Should I cancel my email marketing platform subscriptions when I hire an agency?

No. Not unless you choose an email marketing agency that requires you to use their software. Before you cancel any platform subscriptions, ask the agency for their advice. At InboxArmy, we require our clients to have their own email marketing platform subscriptions and give our team access to build and manage accounts. This way, in the event you decide to stop working with us, you still have full access to your email marketing program.

Do I need an agency if my subscriber list is small?

Hiring an agency can still be a great idea if your list is small. Agencies can help you increase your subscriber numbers and your email marketing program moving in the right direction!

Final Thoughts

When choosing the right agency for your business, there are plenty of things to consider. Although it may seem laborious to weigh up all of the factors in this article, trust us—it’s more than worth it.

Considering things like expertise, customer reviews, and specialization means you’re more likely to find an agency that can help you achieve your marketing goals. Then, you can focus on the rest of your business while the agency like InboxArmy creates and executes your winning email marketing strategy.

About Author

Winner of the ANA Email Experience Council’s 2021 Stefan Pollard Email Marketer of the Year Award, Scott Cohen is a proven email marketing veteran with nearly 20 years of experience as both a brand-side marketer and an email marketing agency executive. He brings to our clients a unique blend of experience building and managing larger CRM and retention teams, sending millions of emails and SMS per week, and award-winning copywriting chops. For more information, follow him on Linkedin

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