Top 5 Questions to Ask When Searching for the Right Marketing Firm


In Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the eponymous main character trespassing in the bears’ house tried out each bear’s bowl of porridge, chair, and bed before finding the ones that were just right for her. If you’re reading this, you’re likely on the hunt for the best marketing agency, or firm, to help your business grow — be it more customers, capacity, or capital you need. But you shouldn’t have to try out a bunch before finding the one that fits you just right. 

Granted, with so many options out there today, the search can be daunting, and it does take considerable time and effort, as it should. However, by first understanding what’s available and what you should be looking for, you stand a much greater chance at finding the perfect agency for you — from the people, to their assortment of services, to their quality of work.

Now, if you’ve never worked with one before, you might be under the impression that marketing firms are like the ad agencies of the last century, especially those romanticized on the popular AMC series Mad Men. While much of the excessive drinking, smoking, and inappropriate behavior associated in that era is thankfully long gone, the biggest difference between agencies then and now is what they offer. 

Focused mostly on ad campaigns that promoted products and services through traditional channels like tv and billboards, the “ad agencies” of yesterday have evolved into today’s marketing agencies which offer a more comprehensive approach and broader range of services and strategies to attract customers in a digital-heavy, omnichannel world. This evolution has spawned a countless multitude of agency types, each delivering a different assortment of services, which has made it increasingly difficult for businesses to choose the right one for their needs. 


To help you with your search for the optimal agency experience, one that gets you the results and growth you long for, here are five top questions to ask when looking for an agency:


 1. Is a specialty firm or full-service firm right for me?

Some agencies concentrate on only one service, or “specialty,” such as social media, website development, or print. Then there are agencies that can do anything and everything you might need, including all you need to elevate your digital footprint and traditional media, including print, tv, radio, billboards, and more.   

While a specialty firm may claim to have a more complete understanding of their area of expertise, their siloed approach can pose a problem when it comes to presenting a cohesive, consistent message across all relevant channels. Specialty firms don’t allow for much creativity or flexibility which can make it difficult to expand your strategy and reach when desired. 

On the other hand, a full-service agency can weave all your messaging together everywhere you tell your brand story, which is much more conducive to achieving goals and getting real results. Able to handle all your needs, a full-service firm lets you avoid having to work with multiple agencies and departments at the same time and the hassle of multiple onboardings, more meetings, and bigger headaches.

At M:7 Agency, knowing that their combination is greater than the sum of their parts, we believe that all of a business’s messaging — whether to potential and existing customers, employees, the media, stakeholders, or the community — should be seamlessly integrated for maximum effect. Like peanut butter and jelly, marketing and communications are just better together, which is why we also offer extensive communication services, such as public relations and crisis comms. 


2. Should I hire a niche agency or one that works with several industries?

Niche agencies work solely with one industry, such as non-profits or educational institutions, while non-niche agencies work with a wide array of industries. 

A niche firm should be well-acquainted with your industry and audience, knowing where, when, and how to best persuade them. Thing is, if you look at the websites, social media, ads, and other marketing content they produce, you’re apt to find that it is incredibly similar in look and feel, verbal and visual, from one client to the other. Along with these cookie-cutter solutions, a niche firm is likely to develop tunnel vision, turning out stale, recycled ideas, and not being up on the latest best practices and strategies found across industries. 

Testing and honing solutions over dozens of different industries, non-niche agencies, like M:7, tend to be much better at providing the one-of-a-kind deliverables and outside-the-box ideas that are often essential to growth. Unless you’re ok with the status quo in your industry, a niche firm won’t deliver the goods. A full-service one, however, will give you what you and your brand need to stand out from the competition


3. Which is a better choice — big agency or small one?

With big buildings and big payrolls, big agencies are typically able to handle most services and deliver a high-quality product, but it may come at a price — both literally and figuratively. Not only are you likely to pay premium fees for their work, but you can also easily get lost in the shuffle, feeling more like a walking dollar sign other than a human being just wanting to grow your business. 

Conversely, small agencies should be able to afford you greater attention and consideration of your time and wallet but may not have all the capabilities to meet your needs or give you the level of quality and expertise you deserve.  

At M:7, we don’t think you should have to choose one over the other, which is why we offer the best of both worlds — the high-quality, fully integrated services you’re likely to get from a big agency along with the responsiveness and cost-effectiveness of a small agency. 


4. What have they done in the past for others?

Before trusting a baker, hair stylist, or architect, you’d be wise to do your research first, from viewing samples of their past work to finding out what others think of them and their product quality, reliability, and trustworthiness. The same goes for choosing a marketing agency. 

This is why you should always do a deep dive into their website, portfolio, social media, and client testimonials before starting a conversation with a new firm. Get a good grasp of how they use visual and verbal in not only their clients’ content but also their own. From this you can better ascertain if their deliverables and services are right for you and if they’re capable of bringing your marketing vision to life. For a taste of what M:7 Agency has done, check out our work here

Still, you may not know all that an agency can do for you and if they’re able to adapt to your unique needs or budget constraints unless you talk to them personally. When interested in learning more, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact them by phone or email with your questions. If they don’t respond in a timely manner, then they’ve already demonstrated their unreliability, and you should move on. 

You can contact M:7 Agency at (412) 974-6016, by email at [email protected], or through our website, and you can rest assured that we’ll reply to your message promptly.


5. How do I find the right marketing firm in my area?

Now that you have a better understanding of what’s out there and what you should be looking for, you may also be asking yourself, how do I choose the right marketing agency near me? Local firms offer the convenience of being able to easily meet and work together in-person that distant firms cannot. Online meetings are all well and good but they’re not best for real collaboration and creativity. Furthermore, a local agency will have a much better grasp of the local market and economic climate. 

You can start with a search engine query of “marketing agencies near me” or “marketing firms near me.” Your search will result in dozens if not hundreds of choices, which you can quickly narrow down by examining their websites and pairing it with what you’ve learned here. Word of mouth from friends and local businesses who’ve worked with an agency also goes a long way when wanting to work with local talent. And, when you do wish to pursue a meeting, because they’re local, they should be happy to have you come in to discuss your goals. 


If your business is in Greater Pittsburgh, the tri-state area, or the surrounding region and you’re looking for a marketing agency, Pittsburgh has a lot to choose from. As one of the top marketing firms Pittsburgh has to offer, M:7 Agency stands apart by meeting the optimal criteria outlined above. We’re a full-service, fully integrated marketing and communications agency that works with businesses of all shapes and sizes across a wide variety of industries. Offering big agency quality and omnichannel services with a small agency personal touch, we have the experience, know-how, skills, and offerings you’re not likely to find all in one place anywhere else. 

Are we for everybody? No. We work best with those who want to grow, have a vision, and most importantly, are ready to execute that vision. This is the only path toward real results and optimal success. If this sounds like you, check out all the creative, communication, and strategic services we offer at M:7 Agency, and reach out today to discuss your marketing particular needs and goals.