Can you believe we’ve made it to the fourth quarter already? As you use these last few months to gauge the progress you’ve made this year and plan for next year, it’s wise to start thinking about your 2020 vendors – including your marketing resource.

Whether it’s your first time looking for a firm or you’re considering a new partner, the vetting process is critical. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all firm. So how do you know how to choose the one that can best serve your unique needs and business goals?

Vetting marketing firms goes beyond asking logistical questions about proof of results, core competencies, and business structure. There are also less apparent indicators that a firm is experienced and matches the needs of your business.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you go through the process:

1. Are they asking enough questions?

The right marketing firm will have a thorough list of questions during your initial meeting to figure out what your exact goals are and what they can provide to help you meet those goals. In order to provide results, they must be able to create a customized strategy for your unique needs rather than simply selling you a templated approach. A firm that isn’t highly inquisitive most likely isn’t taking every aspect of your business and your objectives into account.

2. Are they willing to challenge your ideas?

You should be looking for a true partner in the firm you choose. Having a partnership means that the vendor is not afraid to interject when something you request goes against your best interests. You’ll ultimately have the final say, as the client, but you want a partner that explores the “why” behind every initiative, instead of a “yes man” who will do anything for an extra dollar.

3. Do your company cultures align?

Knowing whether or not your culture meshes with your marketing firm’s is important for ensuring a successful partnership. Culture not only informs communication styles, but also gives you a glimpse of what their values, work ethic, and level of accountability are like. If their culture appears negative and their employees unhappy, it doesn’t bode well for your working relationship or the results they’ll offer you.

The vetting process can be long but taking the time to find the right one is always worth it. A well-experienced firm with good instincts and a track record of success will be able to provide significant competitive advantages and help take your company to the next level.