How to Select an Email-Marketing Agency


Email Marketing can be daunting. Whether you’re overworked or overwhelmed, sometimes you just can’t do it alone. This guide will help you figure out if it’s time to call in some help. And if you decide to get help with your email marketing, we’ll let you know what to look for in an agency or consultant, and how to manage the relationship.

What should you look for? What questions should you ask? And what should you expect from a good agency-client relationship? Let’s get started.

Should I Hire an Agency?

Email marketing is a specialized skill. Whether you or one of your employees is an experienced email marketer or you’re starting from square one, your in-house skill set will help determine what you’re looking for in an agency. Time is also a big factor. Do you have enough of it to involved yourself with every detail of an email-marketing campaign? Do you have the necessary time or inclination to teach yourself? Think about these kinds of questions are you look at the list below, which includes some signs it’s time for professional help:

You want to start marketing through email, but you have no idea where to start and don’t have the time to learn. If that’s the case, get help now.

You’ve done some email marketing, but you want to take it to the next level. It can be hard to ramp up revenue or increase efficiency. An agency can help guide you in the right direction, or take over the whole darn thing.

You know what you’re doing, and if you just had a few more hands, you could really go places. An agency or consultant can seamlessly help you knock it all out.

You need help with one step. Your team is filled with creative wizards, but you can’t tell if their flowery prose is selling your flower pots. Or maybe there’s a left-brained stats freak whose campaign needs a shot of creativity. Contracting out analytics or creative agencies or consultants might be the way to go.

People aren’t actually getting your email, or you’re not getting their responses. These issues can ruin a great campaign. Someone else can make sure you don’t miss those opportunities.

Your email list is out of control or non-existent. An expert can help you grow your list responsibly. They can also track things like customer behavior, so you can better target each individual recipient with the appropriate message.

Any of these problems sound familiar? If so, don’t fret. Next, we’ll talk specifically about what these email-marketing agencies can do for you.

What Can an Agency Do for Me?

Overview of agency services

Your next decision is what type of services you need when it comes to email marketing. That information will help you determine whether you’re looking for an interactive agency, an email marketing consultant, a deliverability expert, or something else. Here’s a basic rundown of services that agencies provide:

Strategic Consultation
Tell them your goals, and they’ll give you a plan of action.

Marketing Campaign Management
They can take over the whole thing if you want them to. Just provide the direction, and they’ll run your campaigns for you.

Creative Development
They’ll write, format, and produce your emails. Pretty emails have to come from somewhere, and sometimes it’s an agency.

Acquisition and List Optimization
They can grow your list using email best practices to increase revenue while limiting bounces, unsubscribes, and complaints.

Vendor Selection
Vendors send out your emails. An agency will look at what your needs are and help you pick the vendor that will best meet them.

Content is essential, but it’s also paramount to make sure everyone on your lists gets your emails on time.

Campaign Metric Analysis and Optimization
Metrics tell you how well your campaign is working. You can then tweak and optimize it as needed to reach your goals.

Integration and Customization
Your email marketing needs to be consistent with all your branding, both online and offline. It’s also important for your marketing to work together across all platforms.

When you first make contract with an agency, ask to see an overview of what they offer. Some firms specialize in just one facet of marketing, so it’s important to make sure they meet all your needs. Be specific about what you want–diligence is vital when picking an agency to work with.

Selecting services

Sometimes, you may not be able to put your finger on exactly what your company needs. Time to figure that out.

When selecting an agency, you have to ask yourself some tough questions. Sit down with your team and have an honest discussion about where you are today–and where you want to be tomorrow–when it comes to marketing your business. You should then talk about how you can reach those goals over the next year or two. You don’t have to spell it out day-by-day, but the clearer your vision, the better an agency can detail your prospective partnership.

Here are some tough questions to ask yourself and your team:

  • What’s your overall marketing plan?
  • How does email fit in it?
  • What’s working with our current email marketing? What isn’t?
  • Should we start our campaign from scratch, or revise what we already have?
  • Do we need our own IT department involved?
  • Who else do we need to talk to within our company?
  • When should this start? And when should it finish?
  • What’s our budget?
  • What’s our forecasted volume per month? Per year?
  • What sort of return on our investment (ROI) are we looking for?
  • How will we measure success?
  • What are our biggest challenges to overcome in the next six, 12, and 18 months?

Once you hammer out some answers to these questions, write up a brief summary–or at least be prepared to talk about it when meeting with potential partners. The answers to these questions will guide your initial conversations.

How Do I Narrow Down the List?

Now it’s time to get some information from the agencies you’re considering. This is only the start of the conversation. Here’s what to look for in a possible partner:

Make sure they understand your business model, along with your company’s missing statement.

Check out their previous work and see if it appeals to you.

Talk to them to see if you get along. Culture is important. Develop a mutual understanding of your brands and how you each do business.

Try to meet as many people in the company as possible, especially those you’ll be working with directly.Personality shouldn’t be understated, as you could be seeing a whole lot of these people.

Gauge from your own interactions, or talk to some of their other clients, and make sure these guys will get in touch with you if something comes up. Don’t wait until you’re already getting complaints from customers.

Asking the right questions

Tell potential email partners what you want when you sit down with them, but remember also that good conversations are about asking good questions. Here are some sample questions that you should tailor to your own business to get an even better sense of how these people can meet your needs:


  • In addition to email marketing, do you have any other marketing services?
  • Is email marketing a core part of your business? Do you specialize in any particular area of email marketing (creative, analytics, strategy)?
  • What makes you different from the other folks I’ve talked to?
  • Do you work with any of my competitors?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What email service providers do you work with right now? Could you work with others? Which email programs do you like and why?
  • How much will this cost me? Do you have a minimum? Hourly rate?


  • How do you come up with a strategy for email marketing?
  • Its this one-size-fits-all, or do you have specific ideas for my company?
  • Can you show and/or tell me about other email-marketing programs you’re recently developed or managed?
  • Can you help me convince my boss that email marketing is a good idea?
  • What are some concrete ways my company can increase revenue with email marketing?
  • What problems do you see with my current email-marketing strategy?
  • What are some major challenges in email marketing? How can we overcome them?
  • Can you talk about the current state of email marketing and which emerging trends may affect it? In what ways?


  • Do you offer creative design services (email, landing pages, Facebook)?
  • What’s your creative-development process? How much input will I have?
  • Will my emails look good on any platform or client? How do you check?
  • How can you help me make my content better? Can you do it for me?

Production and Fulfillment

  • How many email campaigns are you managing for your clients right now, per week or month?
  • What if I have an emergency after hours? Can I get in touch with you?
  • What if I have a last-minute request? Can you always fulfill it?
  • Can you send out emails on my behalf if I want you to?
  • What other platforms can we use (social media, mobile, web analytics)?


  • Is there a deliverability expert on staff?
  • Can you guarantee all my emails will send where they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to?
  • Can you adequately troubleshoot any problems I may have? How do you monitor my emails to ensure things go perfectly?

Development and Integration

  • What development resources do you have on staff or work closely with?
  • Can you help me with database integration with my email service provider?
  • Can you work with my IT guys to code for our website if needed?

Once they answer all of your questions, make a list of two or three finalists. Look at the cost, and decide which is the best fit for your company. Some agencies work on a per-project basis, while others work on retainer. Regardless, once you’ve made a decision, iron out a contract and make sure all parties understand the expectations of this partnership.

I’ve Got My Agency. Now What?

Congratulations. You’ve got yourself a partner! Now it’s time to focus on developing this relationship and making sure you achieve all your goals. Treat your partner as an extension of your marketing team. Some things to keep in mind:

Remind yourself and your partner what your goals are. Make sure everyone on the team is on the same page.

Make sure everyone knows who they should be in touch with, and how to do so.

When you start a new project:

Define goals. Get that out of the way right off the bat.

Be specific. Your agency partner can help you, but provide as many details as you can.

For each project, be sure to decide together:

  • How to work together
  • Priorities
  • Milestones and goals
  • Timeline
  • How often you’ll receive updates on progress

Stay in touch with your partner. Just like any relationship, you have to spend time together. Weekly status calls or daily updates are often a good idea for agencies.

That’s it. You’re now in a productive partnership with your new email-marketing agency. Good luck!

Keep reading for information on MailChimp’s Expert Exchange Program and directory of agencies.

MailChimp’s Expert Exchange Program

Are you a MailChimp user who’s looking for an expert? Maybe you want someone to create a few custom templates for you, help you wire up your interface, or even just handle migrating your list from another email company to MailChimp. MailChimp’s Expert Exchange Program (EEP) can help. And we’ll even help foot the bill.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a company and let us know who it is. You might have an agency, designer, developer, or freelancer you’re already comfortable working with. If that’s the case, ask them to email ( We’ll get them registered as an official MailChimp Expert right away.If you’re not already working with someone, read through this guide and check out our list of MailChimp Experts. Select one, email them, and explain you’re interested in working with them as part of MailChimp’s Expert Exchange Program.
  2. Agree on project scope and cost with your expert. Decide exactly what your expert’s going to do, and how much they charge for that service.
  3. Have your expert send MailChimp a copy of your paid invoice via email ( We’ll take up to 50 percent off your monthly bill for up to six months, or until we’ve reimbursed you for half of the cost of your project–whichever comes first.

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