How to Choose the Right Marketing Company
Choosing a marketing company may seem daunting. You need to understand your marketing goals, the needs of your company and select the agency best positioned to help you accomplish your objectives, usually within a set, predetermined budget. What company you choose, greatly depends on a series of factors, including: the media best suited to support your organizational message, the scope of your needs, your budget and whether you’re looking for a short-term solution or a long-term relationship. It’s an important decision, and one you shouldn’t rush into. Selecting the wrong marketing company can be an expensive mistake in terms of your actual bottomline and stunted growth. So, first we want to talk about what the beginning stages of finding the right marketing company might look like, then we want to delve into how you can make it all come together.
Baby Steps: The Initial Stages of Finding the Right Marketing Solution For Your Business
1.) Deciding An Outside Solution is Best for You
There are times when you might not actually need to hire an entire marketing company for your project. Your other options are assigning projects to existing team members, hiring a freelance specialist or creating an internal position designated to the task at hand.
If you need help with a smaller project, a freelance marketing specialist may be your best bet. If you have a small business and you will need consistent marketing needs, hiring someone internally who can learn the ins-and-outs of what you do might be the ideal option for you. You’ll want to consider the possibilities and ensure that agency support is best for you before taking the leap. Once you’ve decided on hiring a marketing company, it’s time to get to work.
2.) Do Your Homework
This probably won’t come as a surprise, we advise that once you’ve determined outside marketing help is necessary, that you do your homework on all potential marketing partners. You’ll want to do a little extra digging when it comes to testimonials. Although positive testimonials are good indicators of a good experience, they don’t provide the full picture and are, sometimes, illegitimate.
You’ll want to check any other reviews, like Google reviews and Yelp. They may not exist given the nature of the service, but checking won’t hurt and, if some do exist, those can provide valuable insight. You’ll also want to check out sites like Clutch.co, a tool specifically designed to connect companies to the agency best suited to their needs. It can also provide information on what it’s like working with your top-candidate agencies.
3.) Consider the Case Studies
One of the best ways to see if a marketing company is a good fit for what you need is through reviewing their case studies. These will show you how they’ve helped other companies, should provide the numbers to back up your investment and should showcase how their specialties may (or may not) match the demands of your operation.
For example, if you’re needing help with your website, seek out agencies that have case studies showing they’ve created websites that are user-friendly and designed to help their clients track business metrics and the success of the website itself. There should be an attitude of continued improvement, so you want a partner that is willing to look under their own hood to see what’s working and how they can improve the service they’re delivering.
Another thing to keep in mind: seek out agencies that have 2-3 focused specialties parallel with what you need. The best companies know their strengths and sell their strengths. No company is the best at everything so choose one that sells their best services and, of course, those should be in line with your objectives.
Bottomline, reviewing case studies is a great opportunity to see how your potential new partner delivers results to their existing clientele. It’s also a way to compare their strengths against what you’re looking for. If case studies aren’t readily available on their website, reach out to a representative and request the studies or other RIO reports.
4.) Consider the Bill
Just like other products and services, pricing structures in marketing can run the gamut. Much like anything else, if marketing agencies are offering services at suspiciously low costs, then it’s likely that there’s not a high demand for their services, or they’re cutting costs in ways that may affect the quality of their goods and services. Or, worse even, they don’t have adequate experience in the industry.
Likewise, some agencies have prices at the opposite end of the spectrum, which will leave you wondering: is it worth it? Well, sometimes but not always. And you definitely want to feel confident that you’re getting your money’s worth. Our advice is to go in with a set budget in mind, and only deviate from your initial plan if you’re blown away by a company’s offering, thus justifying expanding your budget somewhat: more bang for your buck.
Essentially, you need to start negotiations with a plan in place, and reasons to back up your spending.
5.) Vet Your Options
You want to treat your potential new marketing partners, much like you’d consider your options when hiring in-house. Along with experience and services that meet your needs, you want to choose a partner that you want to work with. This will make the experience more enjoyable overall. It will also make it smoother when there are inevitable roadblocks you have to navigate. Collaborating with someone you actually like is a lot easier than with someone you are frustrated with. Basically, you should speak with each potential partner and check for shared values and good chemistry. You want it to be a good cultural fit, along with matching services and experience to the goals you need to meet.
Making it Come Together: A Guide to Selecting the Right Marketing Partner
Once you’ve selected a marketing company, or narrowed down the list to just your top choices, there are some steps you’ll want to take to complete the process and ensure the transition from candidate to partner is a successful one. Don’t just leave it up to your new marketing team to establish the success of the partnership. Of course a good marketing partner should do everything they can to make sure they are meeting your needs, but at the end of the day, it’s your organization’s growth that stands to grow (or not), so you’ll want to be the one to set the seal on your success.
1.) Create the Right Budget Structure
Okay so you’ve decided on a company, or have it narrowed down to a couple. Now it’s time to negotiate. Once you know who you’ll be working with, you need to create a budget structure that works for your organization. There are usually different pricing structures depending on what you need. For example, some companies choose to hire a company and put them on retainer, which basically means you pay a monthly fee for consistent service in the areas you need. While many times you can opt for a project-based structure, meaning you pay a flat fee for a specific project with well-defined tasks to be completed by the marketing team. Here are some of the options out there and the advantages of each.
If you need a specific marketing project completed and you don’t have the experience in-house then this option might be best for you.You’ll pay a flat fee for a service specifically outlined without a long-term contract. Basically, if you need overarching support, this probably isn’t the option for you. If you need a specific project done by a team of experienced marketers but you don’t want to sign-up for ongoing services: consider the flat-fee structure.
Retention via Retainer
If you want to build your brand and you want a team that can get to know your message and market it well over a significant period of time: then opting to put your marketing team on retainer might be the best option. For example, if you’re looking to improve your SEO, that’s going to take time and knowledge of your industry and what your company offers. By paying a monthly fee, you are allowing your marketing partner to create a long term plan and assign a team of dedicated members to flesh out what your company offers… and get that message to people who need it.
You can also choose an hourly pay structure, which means you’ll pay your marketer based on a set rate and time spent working on your goals. For example, you might be hiring an agency to complete photography needed for packaging on a new product. This isn’t necessarily the only time you’ll work with the agency, but your partnership is such that you shouldn’t consider a retainer structure. You can agree on a rate and what you end up paying will depend on how long it takes to complete. It’s similar but different from project-based because the total you spend can vary from what is initially agreed upon.
You Get What you Pay For
A couple of other budget structures out there orbit around the performance of your marketing partner. For example, a performance-based program may have a base fee with an allowance for continued earning if the project delivers results. You can agree to pay the flat-fee and many marketers will be confident enough to opt-in for the possibility of bonuses if their work meets, and exceeds, your needs. This is a great sign, by the way.
Another example of this is the media spend structure which charges based on multimedia results. I.e. how many times a commercial plays on television or how many times a link is clicked.
2.) Prepare Your Team for Success
Don’t forget about your staff! It’s critical that your key team members are well-aware of your new marketing partner, what they’ve been hired to do and how they’re expected to support the group effort. You’ll want to include these team members in the initial stages so they have a front row seat to what’s needed from them and have plenty of time to prepare for it. “Team work makes the dream work” and denying access to the talent under your own umbrella limits your own potential and limits creativity you can (and should) tap into.
On a more pragmatic note, every marketing agency is going to need something from you. They’ll be a stream of questions for information and resources and you and your team need to be ready to deliver. Marketing partnerships are marriages, not free-for-alls. Prepare your internal team to support the needs of your new marketing partner: so they can learn the ins-and-outs of your business… and help you take it to the next level.
3.) Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
When you have your team up-to-speed, you have an agency lined up and you have a budget agreed on, the project will commence. This is no time to zone-out. No one knows your company better than you so you are your most valuable asset. Our point is you should collaborate with your marketing team. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll have to release the reins somewhat and let the professionals do their work, but you also want to pay attention to what’s happening and provide insight when needed. A few things you should take it upon yourself, or members of your internal marketing department, to track:
- Your company’s marketing goals and whether they should shift over time.
- Prepare for challenges and failure and have a game plan ready-to-go should they happen.
- The success of the project itself: have you made progress on your ultimate goals and if not, why? Is it time for a shakeup, is more time needed to determine success or are there signs your efforts are working and buckling down is the way to go?
- Create timelines and milestones you expect to hit so you know the progress of your project and are honed-in on whether you’re getting the results you need.
- Always remember what’s on the line. What will happen if you don’t succeed? Use this to create momentum driving you and your team to the finish line.
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