Before hiring and working with a marketing or advertising agency, there are several questions to put forward that determine suitability.
The hiring of a marketing agency is unlike most purchases. In many cases, you are not hiring a supplier or vendor either. You are hiring a trusted partner to help you achieve your marketing goals, often through collaboration where a relationship is present.
Of course, choosing the right agency might not always be an easy task. Are you even willing to make a partnership-level commitment? There are implications which require discussion within your organisation and marketing teams before the prospect of hiring an agency can be considered.
Following this discussion, the next step is to approach the marketing agency. Here are 10 questions to ask your next or future pharma marketing agency.
Question 1. What is the background of the agency?
Conduct some initial research on the marketing agency before you engage. Once you have a basic understanding of the agency, you can ask more detailed questions to learn about the agency's background. About some of the more specific details that might not be available on the website or digital channels. Find out when and why the agency was established or how many clients does the agency have. Who are their largest/smallest clients? What are the agency’s plans for the future? Whatever you feel is important for your decision-making process. Most agencies will be happy to disclose these details and such details are important to you as they will help you build a clearer picture.
Question 2. What is your philosophy and approach to pharma marketing?
There are a number of approaches to marketing philosophy and strategy. Many marketing professionals will see the marketing function as a means to sell products, others a means to promote the organisation, with others further seeing the marketing function as a means to build relationships with target audiences. Whatever your approach, you will need to find an agency that, although can challenge you on certain tactical and strategic elements, is on the same page as your organisation. By gauging their marketing philosophy and approach early on, or even their views on pharma marketing ethics, you can see if the agency is suitable for working alongside your organisation – essentially becoming another arm of your team - and not disrupt your current efforts, should this be the aim hiring the agency.
Question 3. How does your agency define excellent work?
A very general question, but one that is open-ended to get a feel for the agency’s work, and perhaps more importantly, the standard of work. Excellent work usually follows a basic process of analysis and objective setting with strategic consideration following tactical execution and measurement. With this question, you are looking to gauge if the work created is truly excellent and if that “excellent” work can be demonstrated via results, or in the case of limited results, why. If excellent work means "award-winning" then you may have found a cause for concern. Always look to gauge the quality of the agency's work.
Question 4. How will you work with us day-by-day? Week-by-week?
It is always advisable to understand how an agency – located off your premises, not always instantly contactable, who may also work with other clients – prefers to work with organisations. Also, perhaps more importantly, is to understand how the agency will work with you on a continued basis. You will need to know who your main point of contact will be as well as the complete agency team which you will get access to. You will also need to understand the project management style and systems, as well as the agency's processes to determine whether they align with yours. Even understanding how regular your meetings will be and their format will be useful.
Question 5. Will the agency’s senior team work on the account?
The agency is there to provide expert, often specialist, knowledge. This expertise often sits with the senior team members of the marketing agency and you will require that the senior team members be part of the team that will work on your account, at least in some form. Assess the structure of the agency team. The previous questions assess the nature of the agency, whereas this question of personnel looks to specifically gauge the pool of talent that will work alongside you. Look for deep expertise at the marketing agency in the areas in which you are short within your organisation, and then find out if these subject matter experts are likely to be involved within your campaigns. Senior management teams are often what distinguishes marketing agencies from another.
Question 6. What are the key challenges in the pharma industry and the methods of overcoming those challenges?
How long have the agency or the agency’s key staff worked in the pharma industry? If you are looking to hire a pharma agency to work with your organisation operating in the pharma industry, they better know the pharma industry. Discussing key pharma marketing challenges, therefore, is a great way to determine whether the agency understands pharma marketing, and subsequently, understands your customers.
Secondly, by asking for solutions you can gauge the strategic capability of the agency in this context. These are real-life problems you and the agency will likely tackle, so an insight into how they tackle such problems is highly valuable in this early stage of the relationship where you might not fully know the agency's capabilities.
Question 7. What would you call a successful campaign? How do you quantify and measure results?
Possibly the most important question to ask a marketing agency. As a marketer, you are already familiar with the practice of marketing, where no campaign is the same and results per campaign vary making predicting future results highly challenging, if not impossible. This said, you must have a shared understanding with your agency about what successful campaigns look like.
This is no doubt a numerical figure, and you will want a pharma marketing agency to define what this looks like, as well as the performance that’s required to achieve this figure. ROI is the aim of all marketing agency partnerships. Although marketing campaigns are often unpredictable by their very nature (especially when campaigns require the input of at least two parties), measurement is required to monitor campaigns to ensure the success of the project, or to learn from poor campaigns to dictate future campaigns.
Question 8. Describe a typical marketing campaign conducted by the agency.
Another open question that attempts to open up the agency’s approach to its marketing strategy and tactics. Further revealing the marketing agency’s insight into the pharma industry as well as their attention to the finer details of the marketing campaigns. This question in particular can give you an idea of historical campaigns and also how future campaigns, such as those in question with your organisation, might look like. An almost job interview-type question that is required at this stage.
Question 9. What are your initial thoughts on our organisation/brand?
Every marketing agency you will be looking to hire will broadly be tasked with generating customers or increasing awareness, essentially building your brand. To do this effectively, the agency must be sold on your brand or products/services. Any marketer that doesn’t believe in what he or she is promoting will not fully do justice to the campaigns that are being worked on. Every employee within the organisation needs to believe in the mission and values of the organisation. Do they ask the right questions? If you feel that the marketing agency does not or does not provide you with enough detail on what they think about your organisation or brand, that agency may not be a perfect fit at this stage.
Question 10. Does the agency genuinely want your business? Do they want you to succeed?
This is quite a probing final question because the answer is almost always a "yes" but it is your job to find out why. How passionate is the agency in wanting to work with you and your organisation? If an agency wants to work with you and your organisation, they will make this known which is a sign that the agency will really want your campaigns to succeed and will work tirelessly to make this happen. You might also be able to identify those just looking to add another logo to the roster.
Don’t forget to do your research first…
There are several benefits of working with a marketing agency. But you need to decide what is right for your organisation. Before asking your pharma agency or most likely your future pharma marketing agency the questions above, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself. Such as "what are their website and supporting channels like?” or “do they have experienced marketing experts in the team?”
Do you like the look of them?
It’s not easy choosing the right marketing agency. Get to know the agency or agencies you are looking at or considering working with. This could be as easy as sending the agency an email to introduce yourself or even reading the team’s thoughts on the blog.
As a pharma marketing agency, we are happy to do either with you – there are a number of ways to get in touch or subscribe to Orientation Marketing Insights below.