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How To Choose The Best Email Marketing Agency For Your Business

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How To Choose The Best Email Marketing Agency For Your Business

 

Looking for an email marketing agency to handle your email marketing operations?

Whether you need an agency that will develop and manage your full email marketing strategy, or just want to outsource various tasks to someone so your team can focus more on what matters, you need to find the right agency that will get the job done.

Picking an email marketing agency is an important decision.

You need to find an agency that can get you the results that you’re after and is a good fit for you and your team.

You don’t want to waste time on an agency that doesn’t provide the quality of service you need. And if they can’t get the results you want, you can end up wasting a lot of money.

Even worse, you’ll be forced to explain to your superiors why you made a bad decision, wasted company time and money, and failed to deliver.

And you need a process for doing so.

Well, we’re here to help!

We’ve created a guide that will walk you step by step through the entire process of finding and evaluating the perfect email marketing agency for your business.

And though we’re an email marketing agency (and we’d like you to choose us), we aim to provide a full and unbiased guide that’ll enable you to pick the best agency for you – even if it’s not us :(.

So let’s get to work so you can find an agency that’ll help you get the email marketing results you need!

Finding The Best Email Marketing Agency – An Overview

To pick the perfect email marketing agency, you’ll need to take a strategic approach to find and evaluating potential candidates.

This guide is broken down into 5 steps.

In Step 1, you’ll get crystal clear on your email marketing needs and goals. Clarity on your goals will help you eliminate bad candidates so you don’t waste time. They’ll also serve as the criteria you’ll use to evaluate good candidates, identify who to interview, and make your selection.

In Step 2, you’ll use some simple search techniques to find email marketing agencies and build a big list of potential candidates.

After Step 2, you’ll likely have a list of 50 or more email marketing agencies to choose from. Interviewing every candidate is a waste of time – time you probably don’t have. So in Step 3, you’ll use the criteria outlined in Step 1 to whittle your list down to the best, most relevant agencies. 

In Step 4, you’ll reach out to your smaller list of candidates and set up consultation calls. These calls usually last 30-60 minutes. You’ll evaluate the candidates in greater depth so you can narrow your list even further.

In Step 5, you’ll set up interviews with your final candidates. Together with your team, you’ll discuss how the agency plans to help you achieve your goals and provide you with the level of service you need.

Sounds simple enough right?

Then let’s get started with Step 1…

 

To succeed with email marketing, you need to identify and monitor the right metrics to be able to tell how effective your campaigns are.

Similarly, to find the best email marketing agency for your business, you need to start by identifying the metrics that are important to you.

Starting with…

What Email Marketing Services Do You Need?

What are your email marketing needs?

Do you need a company to take over your entire email marketing operation? Or do you just need to outsource certain aspects of your operation?

By identifying the services you need, you can eliminate any candidates that don’t provide those services and make your list of candidates more manageable. 

Maybe you just want an agency to perform an audit and analysis of your current email marketing strategy. Maybe you want someone to help with deliverability issues.

If so, there’s no point in spending more than you have to. Some agencies require a heavy investment in order to hire them. Others give you more options to create a plan that suits you.

By determining your needs, you can build a list of agencies that:

  • Offer the services you need.
  • Allow you to create customizable service packages that best suit your needs.

What Are Your Email Marketing Goals?

What do you hope to get out of your partnership with an email marketing agency?

Do you just want to outsource specific tasks so you and your team can focus on more important aspects of your business and marketing strategy?

Or do you want an agency who can take over your entire email marketing operation and help you build a strategy from the ground up?

In other words, what does success in your partnership with an email marketing agency look like?

Obviously, this is the most important aspect of hiring an agency. The goals you choose will determine what services you need the agency to perform, how much money you’ll need to invest, and how you gauge the success of your partnership.

But it will also help the agency come up with the best strategy to suit your needs.

Most of our clients come to us for help with one or more of the following goals:

Each of these goals has different requirements with regard to campaign execution, automation, resource allocation, and the services needed to achieve them. Before we can create a marketing strategy, estimate costs, or create a timeline for when they can expect results, we need to know more about a client’s business and their marketing goals.  it.

And you need to be clear on what you hope to achieve so you can properly evaluate candidates and find the agency that’s best suited to help you succeed.

After all, every agency will say they can increase your email marketing revenue, create a great newsletter template, etc. But how many have actually done it? And how consistent are they in their ability to achieve those goals?

What’s Your Email Marketing Budget?

One of the simplest ways to determine who your best candidates are is by determining your budget.

Some agencies require their clients to invest a hefty minimum up front. Some agencies require their clients to commit to long-term contracts.

Maybe that’s what you’re looking for. But if you can’t (or don’t want to) meet their minimum investment, and if you don’t want to be tied up in a long-term deal with an agency you haven’t worked with before, then you’ll want to find someone more flexible.

So you and your team need to be clear on how much you’re willing to invest in outsourcing your email marketing. What’s your ideal price point? And what’s the maximum you’re willing to invest?

Clarity here can help you eliminate candidates outside your budget. It can also help you make a decision between good candidates with different price points. And, once you pick an agency to hire, it can help you put together the best service package for your needs.

Ultimately, it’ll enable you to find the best agency that can provide all the services you want at the best price !

What Are Your Top Priorities?

Now that you’ve outlined your goals, required services, and budget, it’s time to prioritize.

You may not be able to find an agency who can deliver on all of the services you want.

And even if you can, there may be other disqualifying factors. Maybe they’re too expensive; maybe they don’t work with your ESP; maybe they don’t feel like a good fit professionally.

Or maybe you’ve found several really good candidates, and now you have to choose between them.

You must also consider the fact that different people in your organization are going to have different priorities when it comes to which agency you work with.

Management may be most concerned with finding an agency that’s within the allotted budget and can increase revenue.

Marketing may be more concerned with finding an agency who provides the specific services they need and can easily mesh with your current marketing infrastructure.

Your sales team may prioritize agencies that can create detailed market segments and help them identify warm leads to convert.

At the end of the day, you and your team must make a collective decision about which agency is the best fit for everyone. To do that, you’ll need to prioritize. 

Have a meeting with every department that’s involved in your email marketing operation. Ask everyone to come up with a ranked list of their top priorities, as well as what criteria constitutes a must-have for them.

The must-haves can help you eliminate certain candidates. And the ranked criteria can help you make a final decision when the time comes.

By knowing what’s most important, you and your team can pick the agency and service package that most closely meets your needs and goals.

 

Today, email marketing agencies aren’t hard to find.

There are a whole host of agencies that specialize in email marketing; some specialize in specific industries, others with specific ESPs (email service providers).

In fact, finding agencies isn’t the problem – not getting overwhelmed by all of the potential candidates is.

To make things easier and help you find the best candidates, we recommend using 3 methods:

Google Search

You’ve likely already thought of turning to Google to look for an agency.

And for good reason – it’s the easiest method.

A simple search of the phrase “email marketing agency” will provide you with many links to websites of prominent email marketing agencies.

But don’t just stop there.

You can narrow your search and find more suitable candidates by getting a bit more specific.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce company, you can try Googling the phrase “ecommerce email marketing agency” to find agencies that specialize in your niche.

Review Sites

One of the greatest places to search for email marketing agencies is Review Sites like Clutch or Email Vendor Selection.

While Google is a better source for specificity, Review Sites allow you to better gauge the quality of each email marketing agency you come upon.

Most Review Sites provide a brief description of the agency and their services, reviews from real customers, and a rating of the agency.

First, you can filter by Rating and limit your search to the most highly-rated agencies.

Then you can read the brief description of the company to see if they’re a good fit.

And for each candidate that comes up in your search, you can read reviews from real customers to get a better sense of what working with the agency is like.

Recommendations

While Review Sites provide useful information from customers, it’s hard to gauge exactly how useful these customer opinions are.

In other words, you don’t know the people who reviewed the company. And you can’t fully trust their opinion.

Which is why getting recommendations from people you trust is one of the best ways to find candidates.

Not only can you ask people in your network to recommend agencies they’ve worked with, you can also ask them more specific questions about what working with the agency is like and whether the agency is a good fit for your goals and needs.

Try reaching out to any business contacts who’ve worked with email marketing agencies.

Post messages on Facebook and LinkedIn asking for recommendations from your social network.

 

By now you should have a list of email marketing agencies that seem like they might be a good fit.

But it’s likely that your list is pretty long. 

And interviewing every candidate on that list can be long and difficult. You probably don’t have time to meet with 20 or more different companies. And it’ll be difficult getting every relevant member of your team to find time in their schedules for all of these interviews.

So, let’s do some deeper research to eliminate more candidates and pare down your list even further.

What Services Do They Offer?

Visit the website of every agency on your list and check out their Services Page.

Your first goal should be to check whether they offer the services you need, especially the ones ranked as a top priority by your team.

Some agencies offer a wide range of services. Others specialize in a smaller, more specific set of services.

Obviously, you want someone who can meet all of your needs. But if you already have a solid email marketing operation in place and you just want an agency who can help you with a specific aspect of it, then you might be better off going with a specialist.

In our opinion, you should avoid any agency that offers additional marketing services that fall outside the realm of email marketing (SEO, PPC, etc.).

If you want an agency that can improve your email marketing, then you should choose one that focuses solely on email marketing. Specialists are more likely to get you better results. They’re also more likely to have a dedicated team that will provide you with more attention and a better customer service experience.

If you need additional digital marketing services, then you might as well hire a full-service digital marketing agency.

Some services you might want your agency to provide include:

Email Marketing Strategy & Audit

The first step in email marketing is to audit your current operation. An agency can perform an audit that identifies what’s working, what’s not working, and what you can improve. Then they can help you build a better marketing strategy that gets the results you want.

These services include:

  • Email Marketing Audits
  • Email Data Review
  • Email Design Review
  • Email Marketing Strategy Development
  • List Growth And Nurturing Strategies
  • Email Testing And Optimization

Email Template Production

A well-executed design and perfectly coded email drives action and generates revenue. An agency can help you create HTML email templates that are mobile-friendly and designed to your liking.

Template production services include:

  • HTML Coding
  • Testing Cross-Device Compatibility
  • Installation Into The ESP Of Your Choice
  • Training On Using The Templates In The ESP Of Your Choice

Email Campaign Management

A good strategy is useless if it’s not executed properly. If you don’t have the staff, time, resources, or expertise to handle your ongoing email marketing campaigns, then you’ll need an agency that does. A good agency will take time to learn what you want and how you work so they can manage your campaigns to your liking and get the results you want.

Campaign Management services include:

  • Content coordination
  • Campaign development, production, and deployment
  • Deployment through the ESP of your choice
  • Data management
  • A/B testing and reporting
  • Account management

Email Segmentation & Automation

Every lead has different needs, and will require a different messaging strategy to convert them to customers. You’ll need to create automated email sequences that are tailored to your specific market segments. An agency can help you identify your key segments and create a targeted messaging strategy that increases your conversions.

These services include:

  • Action-Triggered Email Program Development
  • Cart-Abandonment Program Development
  • Upsell Program Development
  • Winback Program Development

ESP Migration & Vendor Selection

Need help finding a good/better ESP for your email marketing operation. An agency can help you identify which ESP will be best suited to your needs and goals. They can also help you get set up and migrate your current operation to your new ESP.

These services include:

  • ESP Vendor Expertise
  • ESP Vendor Selection
  • ESP Data Migration

Email Deliverability

You can’t nurture and convert customers if they never receive your emails. An agency can help you increase your reach and navigate any technical issues that are preventing your emails from reaching the customer’s inbox.

These services include:

  • Email Deliverability Audit
  • Email Deliverability Optimization Program

What ESPs Do They Work With?

Many of our clients have a specific ESP that they work with.

And they’re looking for an agency with experience and expertise working with their ESP (luckily, we have experts in all ESPs).

An agency that knows your ESP will be easier to work with, provide better results, and be able to avoid or troubleshoot any technical problems that arise.

If they don’t list the ESPs they work with on their site, you may need to call and ask.

And if they don’t work with your ESP, you can cross them off your list.

Evaluate Their Portfolio

Now that you’ve identified candidates that meet your basic criteria, it’s time to get a better sense of their work by checking out their portfolio.

It’s important to note that some agencies will have a very limited portfolio on their website, or may not have one at all. This is due to the fact that many clients require agencies to sign NDAs and be discreet about their work together.

So you shouldn’t eliminate a candidate just because they don’t have a Portfolio Page on their website. You can always ask for samples when you hop on a consultation call or interview them in person.

But if they do have a Portfolio Page, take some time to check it out. It can give you insight into the quality of their work and what you can expect from them.

Some things you should look for include:

Have They Worked With Clients In Your Niche?

As discussed, some agencies specialize in working with clients in certain niches.

While clients who work in multiple niches aren’t necessarily bad candidates, they should have some experience in your niche. 

Ecommerce companies have different needs and goals than SaaS companies. And getting results with email marketing is different in both of those niches. 

Ideally, you want to work with a client who has a fair amount of experience working with clients in your niche. The more clients they’ve had in your niche, the better.

What Results Have They Helped Clients Achieve?

You’re looking for an agency that can help you achieve your email marketing goals.

So it makes sense to hire someone who’s helped others achieve those goals.

The agency’s portfolio may not list accomplishments. Some just list the name of the company with a screenshot of their work.

That doesn’t necessarily make them bad candidates. Nor does it mean they haven’t gotten good results. There could be other reasons.

Our agency, for example, works with clients that require us to sign NDAs that limit what we can say about our work with them. And there could also be other reasons for not sharing specific results.

But if they do list results in their portfolio, that’s a good sign and a good way to evaluate candidates.

Do They Have Experience With The Services You Need?

If you want to hire an agency to help you develop a newsletter, then be sure they have experience creating newsletters.

Their portfolio gives you a chance to evaluate their newsletter-creation skills.

Check to see if they’ve created newsletters for previous clients. The more, the better.

Also evaluate the quality of the newsletters (or other services) they’ve created. Is it similar to what you had in mind? Is it better?

Look For Case Studies

Case studies are a great way to dig deeper into an email marketing agency’s work and determine if they’re the one for you.

Case studies can give you deeper insight into:

  • The agency’s ability to get the results you’re after.
  • The methodology they employ to achieve those results.
  • What working with the agency is like.
  • The quality of their services.
  • And more…

Some agencies have a dedicated Case Studies page on their website or blog.

You can also call them up and ask if they cand send you a pdf or presentation detailing their work with a client in greater depth. If possible, ask for a case study of work they did with a client in your niche or revolving around your specific needs and goals.

But, while case studies are useful, you shouldn’t eliminate a candidate if they don’t have any.

Many agencies work with clients who make them sign NDAs and require discretion about their work together. It’s the nature of the business.

And there are other valid reasons an agency may not have case studies. 

In any case, case studies can help you learn more about an agency and determine whether they’re a good fit or not. So if you can find some, great. But it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

 

You should now have a shorter, more manageable list of candidates than you began with.

But there’s one more critical step to take before you start scheduling full interviews – the Consultation Call.

A Consultation Call is a 30-60 minute discussion (via phone, skype, etc.) between you and an agency representative where you explain what your goals and needs are and get a better sense of what they have to offer.

The purpose of a Consultation Call is to:

  • Decide which of the remaining candidates to interview, and which to eliminate.
  • Learn more about the agency, and give them the opportunity to learn more about you and your needs.
  • Set an agenda for your interview so both parties can do their research, come prepared, and have a more productive session.

To get the most from your Consultation Calls, you’ll want to…

Ask About Special Considerations

Do you have any special needs or requirements that your agency must satisfy?

For example, do you need a company that’s willing to sign an NDA and be more discreet about their work with you?

Or, as previously mentioned, do you need a client who works with your specific ESP?

Create a list of special considerations (if any) that you need the client to satisfy. Many of these may not be listed on their website, so you’ll need to ask.

If they don’t meet these criteria, put that agency on the chopping block!

Ask Important Questions

Come prepared with a big list of questions to ask the candidates on your call.

Build a list of questions based on the needs and goals you outlined in Step 1, as well as any questions that popped into your mind during your research.

For more inspiration, check out this list of questions to ask your agency by Hubspot. Or this big list of 51 questions from Figmints.

The answers you get from the agency will help you eliminate bad candidates and enable you to come prepared should you invite them in for a full interview.

Ask For Referrals

You can’t expect the agency representative to be 100% honest and forthcoming with you.

After all, they have a job to do – sell you on their service.

That’s why you should always ask for 2-3 referrals.

Referrals are people who’ve worked with the agency in the past who are willing to let you call or email them and ask a few questions.

While referrals will obviously have good things to say, they’re more likely to be honest about any problems they had with the agency or areas of improvement.

So be sure to ask the referrals:

  • Any questions about the criteria that are most important to you.
  • If they experience any problems or issues working with the agency.
  • Where they think the agency can improve.
  • What they liked best about the agency.
  • How responsive and communicative the agency was when they worked together (and did it stay that way throughout their contract).

Ask For A Price Estimate

Now’s the time to get a sense of how much working with each agency will cost you.

While some agencies list price estimates or starting points on their website, it’s impossible for an agency to truly gauge how much their services will cost until they know more about you.

So after you’ve given the agency a chance to assess your email marketing needs and the services you’ll require, ask them to provide an estimate of how much their services will cost.

 

It’s time to bring the finalists in for interviews with you and your team.

Everyone in your organization who’ll be involved in making the decision and working with the agency should be at the interview.

Before the meeting, share the information about the agency you gathered on your Consultation Call so everyone can come up with questions and an agenda for the meeting.

Listen to the agency’s pitch and plan.

Ask detailed questions.

And, together with your team, make your decision.

Go Get Your Agency!

There you have it – every step and consideration involved in finding an email marketing agency that will help your business achieve its goals.

Don’t rush through. While the process is simple enough, it requires a lot of painstaking, meticulous time and work.

But by investing the time and doing your homework, you’ll avoid the dreadful consequences of making the wrong decision.

You can avoid embarrassment. And you won’t have to explain to your team why you made a bad decision that wasted company time and resources.

Instead, email marketing will become a valuable driver of company profits. You’ll get to claim victory and be heralded as an email marketing savior!

So don’t waste any more time.

Get your team together. Start with Step 1. And go find the email marketing agency your business needs!

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About Author

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Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies.

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