How to select the right marketing agency for your business
13th January 2015
It’s a big choice
We all need to make choices about the suppliers we source services from for our businesses. Perhaps one of the most important choices you need to make is selecting the right marketing agency.
For many SME businesses, marketing services are pivotal to plans for growth and continuing success. Marketing isn’t just another service. It is often a meeting of minds. You need to look at marketing as you would any other professional service. It’s valuable; a good marketing agency is as essential as a good legal firm. Here is a process that helps to select a marketing agency that is a good match for your business.
Write a brief
A brief is essentially all the information you know. It’s a top level document that helps to focus you on key points. It should include (but not be restricted to):
- Objectives – what are you trying to achieve and how will you know if the marketing has been a success?
- Scope – The boundaries of your requirements for example email, SEO or content or maybe it’s full service
- Timelines & deadlines – Any known time driven priorities such as a forthcoming trade show or event
- Budget – Set the budget so you know straight away if agency services costs are realistic for you
Understand what you want from an agency
Part of selecting the right agency is developing an understanding what you want. Think through what you are really looking for. Some of the key elements include:
- Skills – Do you need a complete set of marketing skills or do you need to append skills you have in-house? Do you need to support a marketing manager operating alone? Or do you need to support a small team with design?
- Location – Do you want to focus on a local agency, marketing to local businesses, or do you want to cast the net wider in search of the right agency and customers?
- Services – Are you looking for a full service agency to plan a strategy and deliver tactical execution or do you need a specific element like content, a website or email marketing?
- Experience – Is knowledge of your industry important or not?
Create a shortlist
Shortlist potential agencies. Research the market, and of course as much as possible, make sure they fit with your brief and the understanding of your wants. If an agency has caught your eye in your Inbox, or you’ve seen effective marketing you like, find out which agency did it. Search the web and ask your peers or trusted contacts who they would recommend.
Filter the list down to 2 or 3
Screen the agencies by undertaking a short engagement campaign. This phase is not a long project, it’s information gathering. Meetings are not necessary at this stage, so emails and phone calls or voice conferences will suffice. Be open; share everything, including your brief and wants, and aim not to waste your time or anyone else’s. You should boil the shortlist down to 2 or perhaps 3 likely candidates.
Once you have got it down to the final few, it’s time to fully engage to see which one is the best choice.
Meet to exchange information face-to-face if location allows, view credentials and past work. Find out about their track records; naturally, expertise in the services you want is highly desirable. Experience in your industry, sector or niche are also of significant interest.
Invite proposals but avoid a process which involves agencies spending too much unpaid time on pitches. Beware of being persuaded by sales people against your better instincts and judgement. If agencies clearly aren’t suitable, bow out and disengage as soon as you know.
Don’t treat marketing like paper clips!
Marketing agencies are not ordinary suppliers like stationery companies, so don’t treat marketing like paper clips!
Avoid asking for creative deliverables as samples of work or as gestures of goodwill. A stationer’s might provide a sample ream of paper but it is unrealistic to expect the marketing equivalent from an agency.
The best marketing comes when you engage with an agency in a partnership. To help cultivate this relationship, be respectful in negotiation, if you feel it’s necessary. When you buy marketing you are buying intangibles such as ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’. It’s not like a traditional product and nailing an agency to the floor on pricing is likely to be counter-productive to building an enduring partnership.
Avoid breaking confidences by sharing costs or proposals from other agencies in an effort to get the price down. Trust is a delicate and essential business mechanism. If you break a confidence by sharing a proposal it sends the wrong type of message to the third-party.
Find out more to decide if Xander Marketing is right for you
If you are looking for a full service agency with a track record of delivering great work for SME businesses, don’t forget to include Xander Marketing on your shortlist. To gather information to help you decide whether we might be a suitable marketing partner for your business simply call us today on +44 (0)330 223 2770 or request a free marketing consultation.