I was talking to a friend the other night who was recounting his experience of hiring a marketing company (his attempt to anyway). He said they told him that they would “walk along beside him” to build his online presence. The salesy pitch didn’t translate into why he should hire them or how they were different from other firms or even the results he could expect. The result was that he walked in the opposite direction…away from them but also further away from his business goals.
Let’s face it, for many small business owners; marketing can be daunting—maybe even intimidating. Coupled with any negative experiences with previous agencies, this can translate into businesses not taking the necessary steps to achieve their branding, digital marketing, and lead generation goals they must have to generate business. But, finding a true partner who digs deep into who you are as a company and then successfully translates that into your overall business strategy and marketing goals, can be a tall order. Here are some things to look for when choosing a marketing partner.
They do their homework
Any number of web designers and graphic artists might be able to produce beautiful marketing pieces, but if doesn’t brand your company and distinguish you from competitors or doesn’t even depict what you do or who you are, they may have skipped doing upfront market research before they started the design. This is an integral part of a process that shouldn’t be skipped. Otherwise, the design might be pretty, but one that doesn’t offer you an ROI.
They listen to you
True collaboration starts with a conversation. It’s easy to jump to design ideas and show off how creative they might be during an initial meeting. But if they deliver the wrong creative approach, they might not have listened carefully. The great design relates back to what ails you most. It might be pretty – but if it doesn’t work for you, what does it matter? If they talk too much, that means they aren’t listening.
They understand your story
Every company has an essence – the heart of who they are that makes them different from other competitors. Do the marketing materials you have truly show the passion you have for your company and tell the right story? Do those materials quickly tell your customers the “why” and “how” you do what you do? Perhaps the agency you used just fulfilled an order for you without truly understanding your essence. If so, they missed an opportunity to integrate your story into their design. A true marketing partner would want to understand your story before they create the first marketing piece and carry that story throughout all the materials – digital or print—that they create.
They share iterations and progress often
If the agency you work with disappears until they have the finished product in hand, then they aren’t collaborating with you. You should not be surprised at the final product as you should have seen several iterations ensure the end product fulfills your vision and meets or exceeds your expectations. True collaboration as a partner should involve you and others at your company throughout the creative process as you are the stakeholder that stands to win or lose business based on the results.
They understand your sales process
Creating marketing materials of any kind should directly correlate to your sales process to achieve maximum ROI. If the two are disconnected, aren’t automatically tracked, or substantially not helpful to sales reps at your company, then it will be hard to show an ROAS (return on ad spend). Again, this relates back to your strategy and the agency having a firm understanding of the business results you need to stay competitive.
If you don’t have a sales process, then they should help with that too. After all, creating a real business strategy might mean more than just creating new marketing materials. It often means creating a strategy that spans to different areas of your company. If they can’t do this, then they aren’t true business strategists who are essential to be a great marketer.
They give you options instead of recommendations
This is sometimes tough to distinguish. We expect the ‘experts’ to come in and offer their recommendations of what you should do. Obviously, if you knew what to do, you wouldn’t need their help. However, a true marketing partner should offer options that will lead to the best results that also fit into your culture, budget, timing, marketplace, etc. There are plenty of tactics that marketing professionals can use – some might be unnecessary to achieve your desired results or simply be out of your budget.
Sometimes the word ‘recommendation’ is used to manipulate you into spending more money that may not optimize your results. Of course, listen to what their experience has taught them with other companies using similar strategies. If you don’t, then you might redline essential components of the marketing plan that could steer you off-course. After all, no one wants to waste time, money and effort.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when looking for a marketing company that might help you make the best choice. Overall, they should be more concerned about your success and how they can help you get there than with their bottom-line. They shouldn’t just be walking beside you; they should be carrying you forward to the path of marketing success.