6 Questions To Ask Before
Hiring A Marketing Agency


Hiring a marketing agency is one of those things you need to get right, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses with limited resources.

While your store or range may be getting by with or without a dedicated in-house marketing person, it’s important to think about the opportunity cost of continuing on the do-it-yourself path. Outsourcing marketing to an agency can actually save you money.

Why You Should Consider Outsourcing

For many businesses, not just those in the shooting industry, turning to outside experts can be the most effective and efficient way to achieve goals. You may have fallen prey to the common misconception it’s too expensive to hire outside help, but outsourcing marketing can be good for the bottom line.

“The truth is working with an agency can be far more cost-effective than hiring a full-time marketing employee,” said Jordan Arcibal, co-founder and partner of Elevate Advertising in Denver. “With an agency, you get a full team and a variety of skills for a fraction of the price of what you would pay an employee.”

Another common misconception is ranges and FFL retailers don’t need to do marketing.

“As a range, you can’t afford not to do some level of marketing,” Arcibal added. “There are so many messages the public hears about range/retailers — if you’re not putting out useful information about your range or services you’ll be drowned out by external sources.”

You may have also decided marketing isn’t worth the effort due to all the restrictions search engines, social media platforms and others have placed on the shooting industry. But if you take the time to find the right agency, “there are a handful of unique strategies outside the traditional methods that can effectively target existing and new shooters alike,” Arcibal advised.

Before Starting Your Search

Before interviewing potential agencies, know your goals, budget and preferred communication style. If you don’t know what they are, you won’t be able to work with an external partner effectively.

“The biggest factor with taking on an agency is making sure they understand the long-term business goals of the brand,” said Will Morgan, marketing director of Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools. “The agency needs to be an integral part of the brand by driving measurable results and providing value through forward-thinking and growth. Not just hitting the contracted deliverables.”

Since digital marketing agencies come in all sizes and shapes, choosing the right agency to work with is another Herculean task altogether. To help in your search, here are some questions to ask when evaluating whether an agency is a good match for your business.

1. What are the core capabilities of your agency? Where do you shine?

Not all marketing agencies are created equal. Some are niche-focused, specializing in a specific area like social media marketing. Others consider themselves a full-service agency, offering a variety of services under one roof. This is why it’s important to know what your business’s goals are before starting the search.

Benchmade Knife Company works with Portland, Ore., creative agency, The Program, that specializes in marketing strategy, campaign creative and content creation. These areas of focus aligned with Benchmade’s goals.

“We’ve worked with a number of agencies over the years,” said Kendra Tobler, marketing and communications manager at Benchmade. “It’s not uncommon to seek new partnerships as business needs and goals shift.”

A case study on The Program’s website states due to classification restrictions, paid media was not an option for promoting Benchmade’s body of work. Instead, they worked to expose every opportunity for content placement across owned and earned channels to ensure visibility. Additionally, they shot and edited native content backed by a detailed content strategy to ensure a positive brand sentiment and website conversions.

2. Do you have experience working in the shooting industry?

For Benchmade, Tobler said finding a marketing partner with shooting industry experience wasn’t their top priority.

“Our priority was finding an agency that specialized in premium content,” she confirmed. “Having experience beyond the shooting industry can also lend a fresh perspective. Ultimately, for us, the skill set was more important than the niche.”

On the flip side, there are numerous benefits to working with a marketing agency that does have experience in the shooting industry.

“Working with an agency that has shooting industry experience provides new opportunities to target old and new audiences, such as implementing a new shooter program,” Arcibal informed. “Agencies should use best practices from other industries that are proven methods and apply them to the range/retailer space.”

There are also potential risks to consider when determining if shooting industry experience is important to you when looking for a marketing partner.

“Your brand could be at risk of being blacklisted from social or internet platforms if not conducted the right way. This would have a long-term negative impact on future marketing efforts,” warned Arcibal. “Additionally, the shooting industry is a tight-knit community that helps support each other.”

When working with an agency not within this community, there can be missed opportunities for valuable referrals and partnerships.

3. Do you have relationships with any competitors I should know about?

Finding an agency with experience working with clients in the shooting industry may mean they work with your competitors, either currently or in the past. This one may or may not be a deal-breaker, but consider whether you’re comfortable with an agency managing marketing campaigns targeting the same audience you’re investing in.

“It’s the agency’s responsibility to recognize the brand’s limitations and help create solutions.”

Will Morgan, Marketing Director Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools

4. Our biggest pain points are XYZ, how can your agency help us solve those?

Again, this goes back to having an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, short-term and long-term goals. A marketing agency can, and should, conduct a competitive analysis and brand audit for your business, but at the end of the day, no one knows it better than you do.

Communicate what your biggest challenges are and ask prospective agencies how they would address them.

“If a brand is looking to take on an agency, it is likely due to bandwidth and therefore is sourcing work to an agency,” Morgan said. “It’s the agency’s responsibility to recognize the brand’s limitations and help create solutions.”

“The other reason I consider working with an agency is they offer a skill set a brand may not be savvy of, or can assist in eliminating the barrier to entry of a new demographic. At the end of the day the agency needs to lessen the workload of any brand and work to create a long-lasting partnership,” he added. “It requires immense onboarding and bandwidth to put trust into an outside party and something you only want to do once in a while, so make sure you do your homework and pick the best partner suited for long-term growth.”

5. What are your expectations of me as a client?

While you’re hiring an agency to do the work for you, maintaining two-way communication is key to any successful partnership. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what assets they will need from you and when to ensure projects stay on time and on budget.

6. Do you have case studies or references?

Any experienced and reputable marketing agency will be able to provide case studies and/or references to help aid in the decision-making process. On The Program’s website (theprogrampdx.com/case-studies), case studies are prominently featured in the navigation menu for easy access.

Elevate Advertising has a page dedicated to how they serve the gun range and retail industry, including clients they work with.

If this information isn’t readily available on an agency’s website, don’t be afraid to ask for case studies or references. More importantly, take the time to review them.

Do Your Due Diligence

The key takeaway is it’s up to you to do your due diligence. Just because an agency has experience in the shooting industry doesn’t mean they’ll be the best fit for your store or range. Other factors such as budget, expertise or proximity to your location may be more of a priority.

Making the decision to outsource your marketing shouldn’t be made hastily, so don’t rush when it comes to finding the right partner.

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