You feel stuck. Your marketing has hit a wall. You know you need help to grow and break through the marketing clutter, but you don’t know exactly how. And your current direct response advertising agency isn’t moving heaven and earth to find out why.

It could be that your advertising–which used to work–no longer delivers. You feel like your marketing is not as good as it can be, and you are certain some part of it is broken—you’re just not sure which part. You need a marketing doctor because your marketing plan is sick. Or you may need a marketing surgeon because some part of your marketing needs to be strategically removed and replaced with a healthy marketing plan.

If your business depends on leads, customers and sales that your advertising drives directly to your business (no storefront), then you are in the market for a professional direct response advertising agency.

So, how do you know when a direct response advertising agency is a good fit? After nearly 30 years in the Direct Response advertising world, we have some tips on what you should look for when hiring an agency.

Tip #1: Research their core competencies.

A good Direct Response Advertising agency will not be a one-trick pony. Although many advertising agencies promote the fact that they can do everything well, they may have a core competency in only one particular media. You can find out by asking for their list of long-term clients and seeing what types of media these clients are actively using to drive sales. If your customer base is nationwide, inquire about the current campaigns the agency is managing on national radio, national cable television, network television, podcasts and Pay Per Click. If you only do business in certain markets, then don’t be afraid to inquire as to what type of advertising that agency is buying in your target markets. A solid Direct Response Advertising Agency won’t shy away from telling you about the experiences they have had in both the media and markets you want to be a part of. In fact, they should also be asking you questions about your company, which relates to our second tip.

Tip #2: Make sure they are good listeners.

A great Direct Response Ad Agency will also be a team of great listeners. That’s because they truly need to understand your business inside and out. They need to hear about your customers, what has worked in the past, what has failed, what you need to accomplish, what needs to change and how you sell. They should have plenty of questions, seek to understand your corporate and sales goals and most importantly listen to your answers. If they start giving you rates and budgets before knowing what you need, how you sell and how you process inbound customers, then watch out. As a rule, if you start getting advertising rates, packages and promotions without feeling like this agency really understands how, where and why you do business, then beware. Pause. They should also be asking you questions regarding the problems you solve for your customers. A great Direct Response Advertising Agency is going to want to get into the minds and motivations behind your best customers.

  • What do you offer that creates desire and demand for your product or service?
  • What gives you a competitive advantage?
  • What makes you different?
  • What do you have to offer that other companies don’t?
  • Why should someone respond to your ads?

In addition, they should understand your particular selling process. When and where do you realize the best ROI? When are you staffed with your best salespeople? At what times are responses to your ads not handled or going into voicemail? They should be asking tons of questions and then actively listening and learning about your business. Calvin Coolidge said, “It takes a great man to be a good listener.” In order to be a great Direct Response Advertising Agency, they have to be amazing listeners and then be able to communicate clearly to you what they understand you are saying you need.

Tip #3: Find out how long they have been in the business.

We live in a world of start-ups. That’s fine when someone has a new technology and seeks funding from investors. But when it comes to a Direct Response Ad Agency, you want to find out how long they have been actively involved in the Direct Response space. It’s key because so much of the Direct Response world is about having the right contacts and insights as to where and how to get you the maximum amount of exposure for the least amount of money.

The media market is constantly changing. TV, Radio and Internet properties are buying each other out, consolidating, changing reps, merging and creating new offerings almost weekly. You need a team that is in the trenches week in and week out. The professional overseeing your company and campaign should be battle-worn, battle-ready and equipped with the experience to guide you to safe harbors.

Tip#4: Find an Agency that is not afraid to be honest with you.

Sometimes an idea you have has been tried; your agency should be open enough with you to say whether or not they feel it has the opportunity to work before you spend any money testing it. This relates back to Tip #3 and their experience. Business author James Altucher is quoted as saying, “Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.” You want your agency to listen to all of your needs and ideas and then help you navigate to bring the best ones to life.

This comes into play when it comes to copywriting, creative development, media planning, campaign management, refining results and even budgeting. They should tell you when you are spending too much or too little. They should warn you of pitfalls they have seen hurt past campaigns. They should communicate when the market is not favorable and deliver options to you, instead of just spending your money without concern for the end result.

Tip #5: Make sure you get along well with the key team members serving you.

The Direct Response Advertising Agency you hire should feel like an extension of your company. You should feel like you can pick up the phone, call, email or text and get an immediate response like you hired a team of marketing professionals inside your company. They should be responsive and ready to serve you. Sometimes personalities conflict. That’s ok. It’s just the world we live in. The truth is that Direct Response Media Planning and Buying is NOT easy. It’s a stressful, fast-paced, up and down roller-coaster-of-a-ride.

But you, as the client, should not feel as much of the twists and turns. That’s the agency’s job to take that stress off of you. So, if you feel like you just can’t work well with them in the beginning, then don’t hire them. There will be times that that media market will stress you both. You need open communication lines to understand each other and the challenges the market can throw at you. You should feel like you can share concerns and that you will be heard. You should really enjoy the relationship.

A good media buying agency has your best interest at heart. They should be proving it on a weekly basis with your campaign’s performance. You should really like working with them even when times get tough (e.g., most Mays and 4th quarters). No agency hits a home run every single week. However, if your communication lines are open and strong, then you will know you both are in it for the good of your company and the long-term success of your campaign.

Tip #6: Find out how your campaign performance is measured.

A solid Direct Response Advertising Agency should be able to communicate and show you how they measure the success of each campaign. From digital to broadcast to print, you should be able to watch the results of your campaigns come in, in real time. There is so much cutting-edge technology available to see how your television ads impact your Google search and call volume. Combine that with how radio, PPC and social media drives clicks, apps downloaded, calls generated and sales.

Here at DX Media Direct, we use a variety of third-party tracking software that allows clients to view their responses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s critical that all parties can see the same data at the same time. When questions come up about performance, you can point to specific dayparts, advertising outlets, creative and costs to determine what is really winning for you. Your Direct Response Ad Agency should help you understand what they are measuring, how they measure performance and what they are doing to refine the media plan week in and week out.

Knowledge is power. Measuring performance and managing the media mix is your agency’s job. However, your ability to see what is happening will give you comfort and internal data to review key performance measurements like conversion ratios by day of week, time of day, media outlet and media type. This is critical. Don’t miss it.

Tip #7: Make sure your Direct Response Advertising Agency can also help your craft your Direct Response messaging and creative.

The best media plan and execution in the world will fail if your creative is not solid or is poorly developed. In the traditional advertising world, the creative agency is usually separate from the buying agency. Many creative agencies don’t touch the media buying portion. They especially don’t want to execute a Direct Response campaign if they are not seasoned at doing it. There are a number of reasons why, but it comes down to being accountable for performance.

Your Direct Response Advertising Agency does not necessarily have to produce your creative, but they need to be able to warn you if your direct response copywriting, for example, will not perform and be able to fix it before you launch. If they feel great about the creative you’ve had produced at another agency is going to perform, all the better. But sometimes clients try making old creative work because they’ve invested money in it, and with a few changes the new agency can help increase response by 25% to 75%. You want that intel. You need that input. You will succeed more often than not if your agency can help you fix what is broken.