How to Choose the Best Ad Agency


The world of digital marketing can be an exciting one to get your business involved with, but teaching yourself to strategize, implement, monitor, and adjust paid marketing efforts can be challenging. Even so, hiring an in-house team presents its own challenges, too. Partnering with an ad agency bridges gaps between your business goals, identifies new marketing opportunities, and so much more.

With so many agencies out there, how do you choose the best one? 

Can working with an agency elevate your in-house marketing efforts? 

As CEO, and I missing business growth opportunities by not utilizing paid advertising?

Located in thriving Santa Cruz, California, the Sage Digi team comes from over 20 years in leading strategy at Google, Yelp, RetailMeNot, and Stripe. We’ve seen first-hand account build-outs from Digitas, Carat, McCann as well as boutique agencies like Sage Digi, Razorfish, and HawkSEM. We’d love to share our collected takeaways.

Own Your Advertising Objective

Always remember that you deserve a marketing team who is dedicated to nurturing strategy, execution, attribution, and growth. One major thing to ask from an agency is regular support, strategy, and leadership. Who at the agency will make sure the entire team is focused on the right metrics? For that, you need an agency partner that brings significant tech experience and vision to the table.

Create your business’ quarterly marketing goals and share them with your strategic partner to weigh-in and own those goals with you. Some examples for a B2C marketer might be:

  1. Optimize search campaigns to get a 3:1 return on ad spend.
  2. Grow brand name recognition by 15% among age 34-45 via YouTube, discovery, and in-market Audience targeting.
  3. Future-proof the business. Agency to provide case studies and project scope for making website improvements that prepare the business for technology changes.

Consider Agency Size

Just like any other business, advertising agencies come in all different sizes. From small, closely-knit agencies to large agencies with distinguished teams, there are pros and cons of working with each.

For example, smaller agencies move quickly because there is a very clear sense of ownership. Boutique agencies are often driven by a founding team that are aligned by a mission and each person in the business brings a differentiated and critical skillset to the table. They like to move quickly because time is their greatest asset. For a smaller agency, you may need to employ two specialist agencies in order to meet all of your business’ needs i.e. one partner for search engine optimization and another for deploying the best Google ads campaigns.

On the other hand, larger agencies can provide a one-stop-shop to advertise across all channels like Print, Radio, TV, and Digital. They can provide ease of relationship management. They also have large buying power and can sometimes negotiate lower minimums for accessing television.

On the downside, large agencies may lack deep expertise in technology because technologists do not make career transitions into large agencies. In general, the talent shift moves the other way as the best agency workers move to work in technology companies.

Learn More About Sage Digi

Industry Experience

Some agencies promote themselves as focusing on a specific industry or niche for clients. This helps them stay up -to -date with industry updates, especially as technology rapidly evolves.

From data consulting to media planning, keeping a competitive edge on best practices is a long-term investment. Make sure your agency is able to answer core questions around new features and new technology. Don’t be afraid to ask potential agencies what type of clients they have, what they see as the future of marketing technology, and ask for case studies that show success above industry benchmarks. Some common sources of benchmarks are Wordstream, Google, and Nielsen.


This point is huge. Working with an ad agency is more than a partnership – it should be a professional working relationship. Your marketing strategies are long-term investments, so make sure you’re receiving peace of mind, clear communication, regular updates, and total transparency with your chosen paid agency. As a business owner or CEO, you want complete transparency with working partners to ensure your brand is achieving maximum results.

One common way some agencies mask their billing practices is via technology or platform fees. Ask them what type of fee you might be paying for access to platforms like programmatic technology. There is usually a 25%-100% mark-up that will erode your performance.

Questions to Ask Potential Paid Agencies

Are you ready to drop a line to a few agencies on your radar? Here are some helpful questions to ask your potential agency partner to get a better feel for the agency’s professionalism, overall customer experience, and dedication to being excellent while serving your needs.

  • How do you predict my business will perform on Google Ads? What are the benchmarks?
  • How often do you meet with customers? What data will you provide at those meetings? Can I see a sample report?
  • What is your pricing model and how does that compare w the industry?
  • What automated bidding tools do you like to use and how do you stay on top of the newest options?
  • How do you track success, create benchmarks, and identify points of growth/opportunity?

From specialized boutique agencies to the mega big-six with offices scattered around the world, don’t let the glitz, glam, and overwhelming size of agencies influence your specific business marketing goals. Stick to one that is incentivized and motivated to grow your company.

Connect with us to discuss where your marketing efforts are, where you’d like them to go, and how Sage Digi can get you there!

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