A couple of months ago I wrote an article about the new paradigm in marketing. The gist of the article was that the emergence of digital format advertising and marketing has turned the marketing world on its ear. That goes for traditional advertising and marketing agencies, for businesses and marketers…and even for consumers.
Marketing your business effectively – especially digitally – has become exponentially complex. Even if you’ve never worked with an agency in the past, chances are, you have to now. And if you have been working with an agency but have been disappointed by lackluster results, it’s probably because the type, size or personality of your current agency just isn’t a good fit for what your business really needs.
So if you’re shopping around for an agency, what should you look for?
What type of agency do you need?
First, it’s important to understand that there are numerous types of agencies out there. Our industry is becoming increasingly fragmented, where agencies are becoming more specialized than ever before. Specialties include advertising, branding, creative, SEM/SEO, digital/interactive, market research, direct marketing, print, social media, public relations, and media planning/buying…just to name a few. And within each, there are subspecialties. So how do you decide what type of agency to work with?
Consider the following:
- What am I trying to accomplish?
Be clear about what you want your marketing efforts to actually achieve. For example, some types of agencies will be great at helping you generate leads (e.g. digital or SEO/SEM agencies), while other types of agencies will be great at helping you position and differentiate your business (e.g. branding or creative).
- Who am I trying to reach?
Be clear about who you want to attract. It’s important that your chosen marketing strategies and channels are those where your target customers are. Different types of agencies will employ different marketing models, so be sure that whatever model an agency specializes in works for your target audience.
- What are our in-house marketing capabilities?
It’s likely that one or more people on your existing team is responsible for marketing your business. But chances are quite high that your in-house marketing team does not possess every marketing specialty that your business needs in order to thrive. So choose the type of agency that has expertise in areas that you don’t already have on your existing team.
What size of agency do you need?
Generally (and I am really generalizing here because there are many exceptions), the rule of thumb is that the bigger the agency, the more ‘full service’ they will be. They’ll offer a wider variety of advertising and marketing services than a smaller agency, and they are typically more spendy. If you want a one-stop agency that can handle all aspects of your marketing, and if you’re able to afford it, look for a larger agency with more than 100 employees.
On the other hand, smaller agencies tend to have deeper expertise in one or more specialized area of marketing. And while they may be just as spendy, you’ll likely receive more individualized attention and they’ll take a more customized approach to your marketing. If you want to be more hands-on with your marketing activities and if your marketing strategy requires that you focus your efforts on a specific model, go with an agency with less than 100 employees.
What personality do you need?
Arguably the most important factor to consider when choosing an agency is whether their vibe is aligned with yours. First decide how important each of the following are to you, then interview the agency to see how well they ‘fit’ your requirements. We recommend that you interview at least three different agencies before committing to one.
Does the agency need to be in the same town or region as you in order to do a great job? In this digital age, you can communicate with your agency and they can communicate with your customers just as effectively whether their office is located down the street or on the opposite coast.
- Terms of engagement
Some agencies require a certain length commitment from you because they must invest a lot of time (and profit) in onboarding a new client; they need to keep you on board long enough to recoup that investment. So you, too, will want to consider how much of a commitment (i.e. investment) you’re willing to make to that new relationship.
- Amount of interaction
Consider how involved you will want to be in your various marketing activities. And be realistic about how much oversight you would like to have vs. what your schedule will actually allow. Will you want to (and be able to) discuss every Facebook post or blog article before it goes live? Or will you be satisfied to simply receive a monthly progress report?
- Depth of experience
Will it be more important that your agency has deep experience in your industry or would you rather they have deep experience in the specialized area of marketing you need? It is unlikely that you’ll be able to get both in one agency, so decide which you prefer.
- Internalization of your brand
Can the agency demonstrate to you that they understand your business goals, not just your marketing goals? Do they understand what keeps you up at night? Do they understand what makes you tick, and more importantly, what makes your customers tick? At the very core, all marketing agencies communicate to your customers on your behalf, so you’ll want to have some assurance that they genuinely ‘get’ you.
Bottom line: you can and should be in love with your marketing agency. If you’re not feeling good about what they’re doing for you, it’s time to start looking around for a new one. Your marketing soul mate is out there…I promise!
If you’d like help interviewing marketing agencies, just give us a call. We’d be happy to guide you through the process of choosing the right marketing partner…even if it turns out not to be us!