The demand for marketing operations professionals continues to grow. But that doesn’t always mean hiring full-time, in-house team members. Bringing in outside help is a great way to add capacity to your team, tackle complex projects, and get access to experts. And in this competitive job market, when there are more open roles than people to fill them, adding an agency to your team is an excellent way to add bandwidth and support your organization’s growth.
However, hiring consultants is no different than hiring employees. You need to find a marketing operations agency that fits your team’s needs. And just like managing employees takes time, managing consultants also takes time. Here are my top 10 tips for finding a marketing operations consultancy.
1. How long has the company been working in your marketing automation platform?
You want to hire a team with extensive experience in your tech stack. If they’ve only recently expanded into supporting your marketing automation platform, proceed with caution. They’re likely not going to have the internal resources to support you on complex projects or tricky issues.
2. Who will be assigned to your account?
Some agencies support you in a team model. It usually includes a project manager, a strategist, and multiple technical experts. Other agencies will assign a main consultant who handles the main technical work, strategy, and project management. Then they pull in other subject matter experts as needed.
Don’t be shy about asking your account rep who will be supporting you and how experienced they are. At a minimum, your assigned technical consultants should be certified in your marketing automation platform and any other key tools.
3. What does the rest of the team look like?
One of the biggest advantages of having an agency partner is that you have access to not just your assigned consultant but also their colleagues. Your consultant has an internal team of experts to turn to for advice and best practices. Even better, they likely have other resources you can use, such as developers, campaign ops specialists, and email marketers. For example, developers can build custom web solutions, help with webhooks, code email templates and landing pages, and more. You can also outsource campaign and email execution to an agency to free up your team’s time.
4. What best practices do they bring to to the table?
An experienced consultancy brings their own structure, best practices, and templates. For example, in a Marketo Engage implementation, they should have a standard process for guiding your team through key operational decisions. They can also import road-tested Program Templates and common operational Programs. This saves you a ton of time and reduces errors.
5. How do they structure the SOW, and do you understand it?
The Statement of Work (SOW) is the foundation of the partnership. So make sure it works for your company’s needs—and that it contains the information that your Finance team needs to approve it. You must understand exactly what’s included in the project so there are no surprises down the road.
I’ve seen several different types of SOWs:
- Project-based: This is a flat fee for each defined project. Make sure that it includes detailed deliverables and timelines. They may also include a number of “flex” hours that can be used to expand scope or work on other deliverables.
- Retainer-based: You have a set number of hours per week/month. The work can be project-based or ad-hoc.
- Time and materials: You purchase a bucket of hours, either for ongoing services or for a specific project, and they bill you as the hours are used. If you are required to use all the hours scoped, make sure you can use leftover hours on other tasks if necessary. In other cases, the SOW may allow you to only pay for the hours you need, even if it’s fewer than originally scoped.
Regardless of your SOW structure, the agency should also be sending you regular updates on how you’re progressing through projects and billable hours.
6. Can they pivot when needs change?
Even the most well-structured SOWs will fall by the wayside when your company’s needs shift. You want to work on projects that are going to move the needle. Ask about their flexibility to shift priorities as business needs change.
7. How do they communicate and how responsive are they?
You need to make sure that their communication style works for you. Find out how easy it is for them to schedule meetings. If you have to wait several days to get on their calendar for an urgent issue, your progress will be slowed. Bonus points if they use Calendly or another self-service scheduling app, which reduces the dreaded email chain.
If your company relies heavily on Slack, I love to use Slack Connect and shared channels so you can have real-time chats instead of long email threads.
8. Can they meet your security and legal requirements?
The last thing you want is to go through the vetting process and pick a great partner only to get roadblocked by your own internal team. Work with your Information Security and Legal teams to find out what their requirements and processes are for vetting agencies. Make sure ahead of time that your partner can meet those requirements.
9. Do they have references for clients that are similar to your team?
Ask to talk to happy clients—and here’s the key—whose organizations are similar to yours. If they’re much larger or smaller or have different needs, you may not get a good feel for how the consultancy will work for your organization.
10. What is the escalation policy and out clause?
Hopefully, if you follow steps 1-9, you’ll pick a partner that’s a great fit for your business. But you should always prepare for the worst so that you can right the ship if things go astray. What’s their internal policy for escalating issues? And will they put an out clause in the contract in case you decide that they’re not a good fit for your organization?
Whether you’re looking for a team to handle a marketing automation platform implementation, need help on specific projects, or just need some extra highly-skilled hands, hopefully these tips will give you a framework for finding a great partner for your team.
Do you have plans to add consultants to your team? Any tips or pitfalls you want to share? Comment below!
P.S. Want to hear me chat about the Four Pillars and scaling your marketing ops team? Listen to my Ops Cast episode!
A version of this article originally appears on Marketing Nation
Amy is the founder of MarketingOpsAdvice.com. She is passionate about helping marketing operations professionals grow their careers and work smarter. Amy is a 4X Marketo Champion with 10 years’ experience in high-growth B2B SaaS companies. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Cajun Terrier, Helo. Pronouns: she/her