February 22, 2019
Let’s start with the obvious here. What is a growth agency, and more specifically, how is it different from a traditional agency, social agency, digital agency, or any other type of agency?
A growth agency is a one-stop shop focused on expanding your business.
Another big distinction (and a big impact for your budget) is that a growth agency is focused on measurable outcome, not output. If you’ve never given it a lot of thought, you may be asking yourself, “what’s the difference, doesn’t output lead to results, or outcomes?” Let’s explore in a bit more detail, starting with the definition. An outcome is the way a thing turns out. Output is the amount of something produced by a person.
Here at Bamboo, we prefer measurable outcomes, and that’s why we’re a growth agency!
While some agencies might have a team of creatives intent on dreaming up the next big award-winning campaign, the creatives at a growth agency tweak, re-think, and test creative to squeeze value out of every penny possible. “Growth agency” is essentially a name for an organization that combines talents like paid social, user acquisition, creative services, and more to deliver growth-oriented results to clients.
Hiring a growth agency is an important decision. Even more important than a regular employee hire because you’re partnering with a whole new team of people who you haven’t vetted and entrusting them with core operations and the financial future of your business. For that reason, you want to make the most of the interview and consideration phase when bringing in a growth agency. While there are standard questions you’d want to ask any potential partner, there are more specific questions that apply to growth agencies that you’ll absolutely want to touch on and we’ve put together the 7 most important ones when interviewing prospective partners.
1. Why choose a growth agency instead of a specialized agency (like social or design)?
Even if you already know the answer to this one (Hint: Top growth agencies can deliver value far beyond what a specialized agency would), the answer a candidate gives can be quite telling. True growth agencies (not those moonlighting under a self-assigned title!) understand not only how the ad and marketing industries work, but also evaluate the broader landscape from all perspectives in order to provide solutions and strategies for all business KPIs. This can include everything from auditing the industry and competitors, to mapping out user flows and building (and refining) customer personas, and even to optimizing spend and operational resources across different activities.
Growth agencies know measurable outcomes happen when everyone is working cohesively toward the same goal. Where a social agency might develop and execute a plan in their expertise silo, expecting the client, or other agencies, to plug everything else into their work, a growth agency offers a full team of people who approach problem-solving through multiple lenses, from measurement and analytics to media planning to branding and creative. Each person is dedicated to their individual role, but they all work towards a shared outcome. And a great growth agency not only has talented managers leading each team, but encourage those managers to effectively communicate learnings and insights across departments (and other client agency partners) to better equip other teams and to avoid duplicating work.
2. Who would work on my account, and when can I chat with them?
Most likely, the first meeting with a potential growth agency will include the big guns – VPs, C-suites, and maybe even a founder or two. There’s nothing wrong with that, you always want to make a good, strong impression in a new relationship, but it’s highly unlikely any of those people will touch your account on a regular basis, so be sure to get time with the team who will actually be pushing the needle.
You’ll want to ask about past experience and how it might apply to your account, but personality fit is a big one, too. If you’re not meshing with someone, don’t be shy about asking to meet other teammates as well. This question also gives you insight into how the agency would create a team to meet your needs. Depending on what you want to accomplish, in addition to your account manager, you’ll likely have people from search, social, and creative working together to meet your business goals. Because growth agencies are built on the foundation of everyone in-house working together, you should ask for examples of when the team really came together to use each department’s expertise to solve a problem.
3. What does a successful client/agency relationship look like to you?
Hiring a growth marketing agency means entering into an important relationship, and you want to make sure everyone is on the same page about how things should go. How often will you meet? What does an agenda look like for a typical meeting? How are reports delivered? Who is the day-to-day contact? What does the agency expect from you when it comes to time commitments, approvals, etc.? If there is a process you’re not so keen on, don’t consider it a make-or-break. Communicate your preferred working style or process early on and ask how the prospective agency would accommodate this and what solutions they would employ to get there. Top growth advertising agencies build processes around what’s worked well, but like everything they do, they can adapt and create to meet your unique needs.
4. How do you measure success?
A strong answer to this question is qualitative and quantitative. A great growth advertising agency will want you, the client, to be happy first and foremost. To achieve that, you’ll need open communication, unburdened collaboration, and transparency, among other things. But this desire should never come at the expense of strong, forthright and data-backed counsel. Hiring a team of “yes” men and women never works out well in the long run. Don’t be afraid to challenge the candidate to tell you how they communicate bad news (and just the good) or when they fundamentally disagree with a client’s proposed approach.
On the other hand, the quantitative answer might include mentions of any programs, including proprietary software, the team uses. An overview of reporting is always helpful so you know what to expect, and so that you can ask if the growth marketing agency has the ability to surface certain numbers if they’re tied to your KPIs.
5. What verticals do you have expertise in?
It always helps if a growth agency already has familiarity with your industry, especially since the digital advertising space changes so quickly. An agency that offers insider knowledge can provide a competitive value you might not find with an agency that has limited experience in your vertical. For example, Bamboo’s work with innovative brands in direct-to-consumer, mobile, subscriptions, fintech, and marketplaces, has taught us best practices, tips and tricks, and insights specialized to those industries. However, we will caveat that by saying that if you fall in love with a certain agency that doesn’t have a ton of previous work in your vertical, don’t count them out because of that. As we talked about before, a good growth agency has the ability to adapt to new challenges and provide solutions to any and all business goals.
6. Who else have you worked with, and could I talk to someone there?
Just like you’d call a reference or two for a new employee candidate, you can and should do the same for the growth advertising agency you’re considering. Pro tip – Ask for a reference that the growth agency, and more specifically, your account manager, is actively working on so you can get an accurate temperature on how things are going. A good growth marketing agency will be more than happy to provide references, and case studies, like these. If the agency has experience in your vertical, be sure to take a close look at that proof of work, too.
7. How much does your biggest client spend per month with you?
This is a great question to help you figure out where you, as the client, would fit into the growth marketing agency when it comes to attention and prioritization. If your budgets are small and the growth agency you’re exploring says their average client spends 3x what you can, you’ll want to switch gears and find an agency that’s used to working with smaller budgets to make sure you don’t slip to the bottom of the list, and to ensure the agency you choose to work with understands how to be nimble on limited funds. Inversely, if you have generous budgets and your growth agency candidate has only handled small budgets, it might not yet have the experience you need to hit your KPIs.
It’s always exciting taking on a new partner who brings in fresh talent, ideas, and expertise. Strong vetting of a potential growth agency will ensure the transition is smooth and low-stress so you focus on results and measurable outcome.
At Bamboo, we love what we do! If you’re looking for a new growth agency, we’d love to chat.
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