by Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
As the owner of a small business who wants to ramp up your marketing strategy, you’ve already tried the do-it-yourself route and found the complexities and time so overwhelming that you’ve added a marketing manager to your staff. However, that manager, you’ve realized, doesn’t really understand the path your marketing strategy should take and has only added onto your payroll and human resources costs.
You have decided it’s time for Plan C (while wishing, alas, that you had made it your Plan A): Hiring a small business marketing agency to grow your customer base.
In addition to sparing you the time it takes for DIY marketing or waiting for a manager to produce results, the reasons for hiring a small business marketing agency are many.
They include: Getting expertise with the marketing niche you need and desire; the experience in executing marketing plans that an agency brings to the table; the money you save by hiring an agency that caters to your specific needs; no or little need for training employees already in your workforce; and, acquiring marketing plans that can be developed and executed immediately.
Other benefits? You’re free of the employment and human-resources-related costs of hiring your own manager; you can gain tax deductions rather than add tax liabilities from hiring your own personnel; and, you can expect efficiency and expertise just a call away when short-term and urgent projects arise.
Once you’ve decided to outsource your marketing duties, your chief chore now is knowing what to look for when you hire a small business marketing agency. Here are four important factors to consider:
1) What is the agency’s track record?
Ask the agency for a list of its current clients and to show you how it has delivered results for those customers. Many small business marketing agencies highlight on their websites a roster of businesses for whom they’ve toiled. If there’s a mix of small and local businesses as well as national brands on such a roster, this means the agency is familiar with a wide range of marketing strategies that can help you reach and retain more customers. The agency’s website also may offer testimonials from satisfied customers who are on that clientele list.
If you’re a small business, particularly in a smaller marketing area setting, you also can rely on a network referral to find the right marketing-agency fit. Most likely you often attend chamber of commerce meetings or similar business social mixers. Network with your colleagues at these events and ask them which marketing agencies they may have hired or recommend.
2) What services does the marketing agency offer to you as a client?
Long gone are the days you could place an ad in the Yellow Pages or local newspaper and simply wait for leads or customers to come your way. In today’s digital age, you need ways for people to find you on the internet, knowing that a majority of them will be doing so on their smartphone or tablet — and that your web strategy should include keeping the look of your formal website as it transitions to mobile platforms (responsive technology).
A modern marketing strategy requires many components, which is another chief reason you’ve decided to turn to a marketing agency.
Such components can include content development specialists, market research, metrics and data analysis, keyword research and search-engine marketing, website development or re-development. And there are more, including creative collateral development and production, targeted print and email programs, social-media specialists, video production, public relation needs and reaching out to the community via sponsorships.
See if the agency you’re considering can offer you a range of all of these components, whenever you might need one of them.
3) What does your agreement with the agency offer?
Will the pact give you a breakdown of media channel costs, set timetables for getting things done and include ongoing optimization of programs? Is it turnkey or are there other costs involved? Will it include periodic review consultations with the agency to see how the strategy/plan is going?
When you contract with a company for marketing services, the pact should entail three key phases: Assessment, or identifying which media channels will be most effective at delivering your message; implementation, or the agency’s creative team designing graphics, websites and any social media for your overall content-marketing strategy; and, analysis, or tracking the channels and tools you decide to use to see if they’re delivering optimal results.
4) Finally, do you think this is a group of people that you and your company will enjoy working with?
Use your first impressions or gut instinct when first consulting an agency to determine whether your company’s personality jibes with its personality. Ask such questions as what the agency might have done when it found out a client’s marketing strategy wasn’t working and what extraordinary steps the agency might have taken to fix that problem. This and similar questions will help you decide whether this a firm that will be easy to work with and feel free to contact whenever needed.
As a small business, you most likely will find that a local marketing company is best at getting the job done. Pleasing you means they’ll get referred to other local companies. A local agency also is most likely to meet with you face to face on occasion, as opposed to some larger marketing firm where all you ever hear is a voice bantering on the phone.
The voice you want, after all, is one that is loud and clear — one that delivers a marketing message that drives customers, and leads, to your business.