20 Feb 6 key things to look for in a marketing agency
It’s been a busy period here at RONIN. We’ve had a lot of client pitches since the turn of the year. We’ve met some great people from a wide range of companies operating in different markets with diverse needs and expectations and I’m pleased to say we have been appointed to do some exciting new work. It reminds us that customers aren’t particularly interested in you or your product. They are quite rightly, only interested in what you can do for them: How will you make their life easier? How will you solve their problems? How will you help them to achieve their goals faster? How will you save them time or money?
So if you’re thinking about hiring a design or marketing agency, these are the key things you should look for:
- Good listeners
Even if you are the business owner, it isn’t easy to know what sort of marketing you need and /or how to articulate what you want. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about this; you don’t know what you don’t know and it’s a very fast changing world. It’s very common for people to think they need one thing and it turns out to be something else. What’s important is that your agency gives you good advice. The first exploratory meeting should be free and they should ask you lots of questions about your business and your aspirations. If they just talk a lot about themselves, you should be suspicious; it’s two ears, one mouth. Unless they understand what it is you are trying to achieve, how can they advise you on what you need? At the same time, you should expect them to challenge your pre-conceptions about what type of marketing you want; it is evidence of their knowledge and most importantly, their creativity. You should feel inspired by them on both fronts. If you don’t feel confident, walk away.
Do they offer a full range of marketing services or a single discipline? If they are a single-service provider – just website design or just social media for example – that’s all they can offer you, whether you need it or not. So, related to the first point, be cautious about who you approach. Only if you are absolutely certain it is a new brand identity you need, for example, then you can approach a specialist branding agency. However, it is highly unlikely a new logo will solve all your problems, so you need to think about what happens after that. You also need to consider the component parts of the project. If you want a new website you’ll need to think about the functionality, navigational structure, and the text and images as well as the design. These are all completely different disciplines and a ‘web designer’ will often expect you to take care of writing the words and deciding where they should go, which is usually the most difficult part. So beware. Full service or multi-disciplinary agencies are popular these days for a number of reasons: you only have to deal with and brief a single supplier (It’s more time-efficient and cost-effective for you) and you get what you need rather than just what they have (your marketing is better integrated).
- Results oriented
A guy called John Wanamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” I’m not entirely sure who John Wanamaker was but he died in 1922 and these days there are all sorts of software tools to measure the effectiveness of your marketing. You can often see it all happening in real time. You should expect your agency to set themselves targets on your behalf and be able to show you the results. In other words to be able to clearly demonstrate what you get for your money.
- Business savvy
Do they understand anything about running a business? If your supplier has no business nous, you won’t get good value. You need them to understand what you are expecting commercially – greater market share, more sales prospects, expansion into new markets or territories. Otherwise the most you can expect is some nice graphics and fluffy marketing words, which have no relevance to what you are trying to achieve and which are unlikely to appeal to your potential customers. Find an agency where you can deal with the senior team, even the owner of the company. They will have empathy with and understanding of your real business challenges.
- Not just a bunch of poncey people
If you want help with your marketing, you’ll have to pay for it. If you’ve chosen the right agency, they will have experienced people who have been well trained and educated in their specialist fields. You are paying for their expertise, talent and hard graft as well as the material resources of the agency. You should expect to be charged based on the time it takes them to do the work. They will typically agree a fixed fee according to an estimated body of work or a detailed specification but you must have a fairly clear idea of what you are asking for before you make contact. If you are expecting to get a website built in a day for the minimum wage, don’t make the call.
- Good vibes
Will you get on? If don’t feel you’ve clicked with the agency at the initial meeting, it might just be a bit of first date nerves and you should talk it through – is it them or is it you? However, if you genuinely feel you aren’t cut out for each other, go with your gut and find somebody else. It’s an important two-way relationship and the fact is you will have ups and down along the way. You’ll need to help each other through the tricky patches and these are much easier to handle if you get on with the people you’re dealing with – and they get on with you.