You’ve decided that you need help with your marketing efforts and hiring a content marketing agency is the best fit for your company. You already know the essential questions you should ask, and understand that you need a content marketing plan to reach your goals. But beyond those basic questions any company should ask before hiring an agency, you need to dive deeper before handing the keys over to someone who will be talking about your solution in the marketplace.

If you hire the wrong agency, you may spend tons of extra time fixing their work so that it accurately describes your technology. In the worst case scenario, the agency could hurt your brand with your customers by making you look like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Technology marketing is a unique challenge. It requires an expert blend of art and science, which can be tough to find. Even if you’ve found a content marketing agency that claims to “know tech,” how do you know if they can really deliver the right message to your audience (an audience that almost certainly knows technology better than a marketer)?

Here are five things you should do before hiring a content marketing agency:

1. Review their background

Every company should do this before hiring a content marketing agency, but it’s particularly important for tech companies to take a close look at the agency’s background. Have they worked with technology companies before? And if not, have they at least worked in several other industries that require them to explain complex products and solutions?

You’ll also want to review the background of the specific account managers and writers who you’ll be working with at the agency. They should also have some technology chops. Ideally, they’ve been marketers themselves at a technology company in some previous iteration of their career.

2. Get samples

If you need a whitepaper created, take a look at other whitepapers they’ve done. If you need an infographic, ditto. When you look at these samples, take yourself out of your current role and put your customer hat on. Make sure the content you’re reviewing provides the right blend of technical explanation and engagement. No one wants boring, even technologists. If you can imagine – and be happy with – the same type of content going to your customers, then you’re ready to move on to the next step.

3. Read their case studies

It all comes down to ROI, right? You’re giving this content marketing agency part of your budget, and you need to know what you’re getting in return. Reading their case studies is a good start. Talking to their current or previous customers is even better, since you’re less likely to get the typical marketing spin you’ll find in a case study. If an agency doesn’t have any case studies or can’t scrounge up a customer or two for you to talk with, that’s a red flag. Think carefully before moving on in the vetting process.

4. Request work on spec

That’s right, ask for a freebie. You’re allowed to do this (the worst they can do is say no). Now, you shouldn’t expect to get a 10-page whitepaper for free, but asking an agency to write a 500-word blog entry on spec is perfectly fine. If it passes muster, you should pay for it afterward. This is a great way to judge two things: how well the agency understands and can communicate your message, and how hungry they are for your business.

5. Ask what questions they have

The standard interview question for candidates joining your team works well when hiring a content marketing agency. It’s unlikely that any agency you’re considering will have all the answers right out of the gate. What you want to know is if they ask the right questions. You want to feel confident that if you assign them a story and a subject matter expert, the agency can conduct an interview and produce something compelling. Or, to think of it another way, the best content marketing agencies will take a journalistic approach to the work they produce.

With a little due diligence and a thorough vetting process, you can make sure that you hire a content marketing agency that meets your needs on your very first try.