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At Kaya, we talk to a bunch of different companies and found out something interesting: a lot of them wait a while before they decide to work with a digital marketing agency, or they end up switching agencies because they didn't really click with the first one they chose.

From these chats, we've picked up some cool tips and stories on hiring a digital marketing agency. We're keen to share what we've learnt with you:

  1. When to hire a marketing agency
  2. How to choose a good marketing agency

When should I hire a marketing agency?

The “right” time to hire a digital marketing agency depends on your startup's stage and marketing experience. Consider the following scenarios:

You have not done any paid advertising

It's best to get started with a small budget and manage the ad campaigns yourself, as marketing is a fundamental skill that founders should develop. Moreover,

  • You can experiment faster by testing different ad creatives, target audiences, and messaging. By staying nimble, you eliminate the need for time-consuming liaising and project management.
  • You can gather early signals to evaluate if a given channel is working before making a significant investment. Most marketing agencies require a minimum budget before taking you on.
  • You can establish a baseline against which you can evaluate the performance of your marketing agency's work.

💡 Pro tip: Do a competitive analysis to find out where and who your competitors are targeting on Google ads, Meta ads, LinkedIn ads and more. We built a spying tool to automate this competitor research, get FREE access here!

Here are other tools you could use:

Keen to learn more about paid advertising? Many founders have found this guide useful.

You have done some paid advertising

If you have seen some promising results and are ready to scale, it's a great time to engage a digital marketing agency.

If it's not working, engage an agency to do an audit to see if this is due to a technical gap or a fundamental channel misfit. Most marketing agencies offer a free audit, so this is a great opportunity to assess their technical expertise.

How to choose the best startup marketing agency?

Step 1: Internal planning

  • Designate an Internal Point of Contact to oversee the marketing agency's work: This person will be responsible for communicating your product updates, company strategy, and project managing the agency.
  • Determine marketing goals and measures of success/KPIs: Be specific and prioritise which KPI matters most to you in the near and long term. For eg, in an ideal world, we would like to increase conversions while decreasing the cost per conversion. However, achieving these two goals requires different strategies, and you will need to decide which one matters more to you at the moment.
  • Determine your budget: Keep in mind that great marketing is the product of trials and errors. Start with a budget that you are comfortable with and increase it as you see promising outcomes.
  • Feel free to reach out if you'd like an analysis of how much budget is required for your specific product, industry, or channel.
  • Clearly define your product USPs, target audience and past learnings

Step 2: Shortlisting agencies

How do you find the best marketing agency?

To gather a list of agencies, you can:

  1. Reach out to your network for recommendations: Get suggestions from fellow founders from similar industry, post on forums like Reddit
  2. Search online: Go through company pages and review sites like Trustpilot

As a startup, traditional agencies may not be the best fit for our unique challenges. We need a different breed of marketing agencies.

Here are 4 things to consider when choosing a marketing agency:

  • Speed of execution: Assess how quickly the agency can launch a new campaign and deliver on their commitments.
  • Expertise in three verticals:
    • Domain knowledge at the product or industry level: This is not always possible if you're working on deep tech or greenfield products. If so, make sure you assess if the agency can grasp your product and USPs within the first 1-2 calls. Don't compromise—people who can't understand your product or target audience will not generate results regardless of how strong their marketing experience is.
    • Channel: The agency should have technical experience in the channel you're testing, think: Google/Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads, social media ads, etc. Here's when your practical marketing experience comes in handy. Ask them about specific challenges you face and evaluate if they're an expert in that channel. (PS. A quick search on Reddit will show you just how many marketers accept projects where they have no prior experience.)
    • Growth from 0 to 1: Early stage success in paid marketing requires more than just campaign execution. Look for a partner who has product thinking and growth hacking skills.
  • Data and transparency: Most (if not all) agencies market themselves as data-driven. To determine if an agency is truly data-driven, ask them about their reporting process, how frequently you can track performance, and assess their level of analytical thinking when discussing your projects.
    A good agency will be able to distill insights and learnings for you, which can be tremendously useful when you eventually bring marketing in-house.
  • Flexibility: Startups require flexibility as strategies and priorities can change rapidly. Ensure the agency is willing to adapt and work in an agile manner.

Step 3: Interviewing

When interviewing the marketing agency, you should make sure:

  • You're speaking to the person who will manage your account (not a salesperson)
  • They're a cultural fit
  • You're a priority. If you are a smaller client in their portfolio, you may receive less attention and slower service.

Get the full checklist here (opens in new tab)

Final thoughts

Is a marketing agency worth it?

With over 90% of startups failing within the first 3 years and marketing being one of the top-two reasons for startup failure; the answer is YES.

Having a great marketing partner can increase your chance of success, especially if you put in the time and effort to choose the right marketing agency for your startup.

To hire the best startup marketing agency, define clear goals, research potential partners, evaluate their domain, industry, and technical expertise, as well as ensure cultural fit.

How can Kaya help? We're your extended growth team.

We provide a platform and services to help startups grow 10x faster without having to hire a traditional agency or freelancer. We launch, track, optimise, and see results as soon as two weeks 🚀 

Get free proposal

Leave Traditional Marketing Agencies & Freelancers Behind

We understand the frustrations of working with traditional marketing agencies: slow processes, inadequate reporting, communication issues, and restrictive contracts. That's why we created Kaya as a superior alternative.

Ready to experience the difference? Simply fill out a short form, and within 3 days, you'll receive a comprehensive, tailored proposal that will accelerate your startup's growth.