Choosing the Right Marketing Agency can Boost Business
Business is down. Business is up. You have no business yet because you are just now launching your company. The reasons to enlist the aid of a marketing agency are numerous. So are the choices you have when you begin your search process. One thing is certain: if you choose the wrong partner, you’ll waste valuable time and money in a relationship that did not help you meet your goals.
Before you start your search, look inward. You have to know who you are and what your needs are before you can look outside for agencies that can get the job done for you.
QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ANSWER
Identify your short-term and long-term business goals.
Where do you want to be in six months? A year? Three years? If you don’t have a general vision for your future, it will be impossible for an agency to help you on your journey. Good agencies will be interviewing you, too, and the good ones will want to know.
Designate a point person.
Who will be working most closely with representatives from your agency? Most agencies will designate an Account Director to provide a consistent go-to contact for clients. Many individuals at your company may interact with the team at the marketing agency, but one key to strong communications is having a point person at both ends.
Prioritize your needs.
What do you believe are the greatest needs you have today for marketing services? What projects are on the runway waiting for launch? Rebranding? New website? New product introduction?
Determine what you will outsource.
What do you want an agency to do for you? A one-off brochure and you’re done? Or everything under the sun for all time? Where do you need agency assistance? Do you have a writer and only need a designer? Do you have everything handled except for a social media strategy? What is your team lacking?
Check your checkbook.
What is your budget for marketing? Have an idea what you are willing and able to spend.
QUESTIONS FOR AGENCIES
Start your research.
You will no doubt do some research before you contact a few agencies to schedule a meeting. You’ll talk to people you trust and ask what agencies they’ve worked with or heard good things about. You’ll check out a few agency websites and get a sense for what they offer and how they see themselves. Compile your short list, then schedule your agency interview and collect answers to questions like these and impressions of the people you meet.
What services do they provide?
If all you need is an agency to produce billboards, find the best billboard agency. If you need a full-service agency that does everything from website design and social media to digital marketing and brand strategy (and billboards, of course), evaluate their performance with other companies.
What is their specialty, their area of expertise?
If the agency is “best in class” for some projects, learn more about them. What recent work are they most proud of? Ask to see it!
Does their website feature case studies?
Ask about them, too. Why did they choose to highlight these projects? How old are they?
Will they give you names of clients you can contact?
Great testimonials from customers are hard to ignore. So are the “We had some issues” comments.
How would they describe their client-retention rate? High? Low?
Some turnover is to be expected. Ask about their longtime customers and why they are loyal. Learn more about some short-time clients to see if they were satisfied.
What does the agency know about your business?
Strong agencies do their homework before meeting with prospective clients. Did they prepare for you? Do they know what you do? Are they curious? Do they exhibit an understanding of your organization’s niche?
At this early stage, do they have a vision for you?
Sure, it may be presumptuous for agency representatives to recommend a course of action in this first meeting. But an agency that has done some research on you may well come to the meeting prepared to talk about next steps and projects that they might recommend. That shows the agency is already engaged, wants your business and has confidence in its expertise.
What would a relationship look like?
Would the agency assign one person to handle your account? How do projects get produced and approved? Are there contracts, statements of work, estimates, timelines and straightforward billing practices? Does the agency outsource its work or keep it all in house?
After the interviews are over, it is decision time. Which agency feels like the best fit? Organizations and agencies have personalities and cultures. (We certainly do at Kinetic, which come through on our social media and website.) Some get along just fine. Others will be in conflict. Select one that seems to understand your business (or is smart and willing to learn) and how you like to work.
Once the partnership is in place, let the marketing magic begin!