When You Need a Little Marketing Help

Marketing_Social Media imageThere comes a point in the life cycle of many businesses when advertising needs outgrow the “homespun” and it’s time to call upon the services of a professional agency or consultant. Even small businesses can benefit from the third-party perspective and marketing savvy that experts can offer. There’s a misconception that agencies are too expensive for small companies. That’s not necessarily true. What you want, though, is to find an agency or consultant that focuses specifically on your needs and that has the expertise and insights to generate real results.

Here are some practical considerations that you should take into account when selecting an agency, or contractor, to help you with your advertising and marketing needs.

Know what you want

You need to know what you’re looking for, before you can tell if you’ve found it! Identify your objectives. What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for one-time development of image materials (i.e. logo, letterhead, web site, newsletter templates, etc.), the development of a campaign, an ongoing relationship? Do you have specific sales targets you want to reach?

Establish your budget

What you want is integrally tied to what you can afford to spend. Establish your budget before developing your list of potential resources. Ask business contacts if they would be willing to share with you how they establish their budgets. Or, develop your budget based on a percentage of the anticipated sales volume you expect the campaign to achieve.

Know where to look

Referrals can be the best source of information about qualified agencies or individuals to work with. Ask colleagues or business contacts about the experiences they’ve had with various vendors and who they would recommend. This can provide you with a list of “first contact” vendors to start your search. Beyond referrals, there are a number of sources of information about advertising or marketing agencies:

  • The Internet
  • Social networking sites
  • Competitors
  • Companies whose advertising you’ve admired
  • Colleagues
  • Associations
  • Trade publications

Evaluate carefully

Knowing at the outset exactly what you’re looking for is critical. Just as when you’re selecting an employee, you should outline specifically the traits, characteristics and skills that an agency must have to meet your unique needs. Some factors to consider:

  • Industry experience. Sometimes you want someone with industry expertise. Sometimes you want a “fresh perspective.”
  • Size. Do you want to be a “big fish in a small pond” or a “small fish in a big pond”? There are advantages of working with a large agency – experience, reputation, broad range of expertise and resources. There are also drawbacks. With a smaller budget you may not get as much attention as the larger clients. You may be working with “junior” staff members who are “cutting their teeth” on your account.
  • Cost. The size of the agency is often directly related to the cost of the agency’s services. Larger agencies have higher overheads and, consequently, may be priced out of your ability to pay. On the other hand, these higher costs are also associated with access to a broad variety of high-level skills and resources.
  • References. Ask each potential vendor to provide you with a list of current and former clients. Contact each client and ask for additional referrals. Find out if these clients have been satisfied with the work produced for them. Do clients feel the work done for them was a good value and investment? Did they experience any problems working with the agency?
  • “Fit.” You have to “like” the people you will be working with. It’s important to know whether the people you’re meeting with are the people who will actually be assigned to your account. If not, ask to meet these people. Consider how well the people you will be working with understand your industry and your company. Do they ask good questions? Do they listen carefully to your responses? Are they comfortable disagreeing with you based on their expertise and experience (you do not want a partner that simply does what you say – you are not an advertising expert; if you were, you wouldn’t need to work with any agency!).

Finally, we recommend evaluating your potential agency, or consultant, in terms of their own marketing efforts. If a firm claims to be a social media expert, their own social media presence should reflect that expertise! Similarly, if you’re hiring a content writer, take a look at their website or other materials to see how professional their own content is. In today’s digital environment, anybody can claim to be a marketing expert; not everyone is!

Recommended Reading:

Best Practices in Influencer Marketing

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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