Major corporations might have the resources available to operate their own marketing departments, but the vast majority of businesses are often lacking the resources and expertise to successfully drive marketing initiatives. For most companies looking to generate leads and increase brand awareness, it’s critical they hire a marketing agency. If how to choose a marketing agency eludes you or you need a practical blueprint to follow, here are some valuable questions, practical steps and advice to guide you to success.
Why Do You Need a Marketing Agency?
Ask yourself why you need a marketing agency to put you and your organization in control of how the agency you choose will perform. When hiring an agency without defining the reasons you need one, it places all the control in the hands of the agency.
Before you choose a marketing agency, identify your reasons. Here are a few common ones:
- You’re busy
- You need to focus on other things
- You want someone outside of your company to give a different thought process
- You’re really not sure what to do
- You don’t have the expertise in the projects you want to take on
- You’re just getting started and don’t have the hiring resources or manpower to build an internal team
What Are Your Marketing Goals?
With a solid understanding of why you need to hire a marketing agency, your next step should be to develop goals and objectives you hope to achieve through marketing.
Without clearly defined goals the marketing efforts of your business will have little chance of achieving anything beyond depleting the funds in your marketing budget. Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
It is important that you are able to present your marketing goals in a clear format, because you will need to communicate your goals to the marketing agency you hire. An example of a SMART goal you might present to your prospective marketing agency would be that you want to increase pipeline driven by marketing by 15% by the end of H1 in 2020 through paid advertising. This goal is specific as it discusses how you expect to achieve this, it is measurable, relevant and it has a deadline attached. Now, is it attainable?
That all depends on if you hire the right agency.
What Are Your Expectations?
An important aspect of establishing your marketing goals includes defining what you expect from the agency you hire. There are essentially two approaches a marketing agency can take in assisting your company: They can be a consulting partner or they can focus on execution.
You want a consultant in strategy
A consultant is someone who provides counsel and makes recommendations on how your organization can achieve its goals. This approach allows your organization to grow its marketing prowess through the advice of outside experts. You’ll get an objective viewpoint from your consulting agency, giving you new ideas on how to tackle problems.
In this instance, you’re likely implementing the strategy yourself. But you’ll be making informed decisions based on conversations on strategy and best practices passed along from a team of experts who has seen almost everything. Good consultants will give you clear guidance and data points to back up their recommendations.
You need tactical execution
This approach is more about taking the pressure off of your internal team. Busy organizations often choose this approach, trusting the agency to come up with the right solutions and execute them.
With this type of approach, you’re trusting the agency take care of what needs to be done. But it’s important to keep in mind that communication is still necessary. New product launches, target pivots, or major partner announcements should all be shared with your marketing agency so that they can achieve the best results and define new strategies as your company changes and grows.
Both approaches have their advantages, depending upon the goals of your organization. But both strategies are a partnership where both the agency and the company hiring said agency need to have mutual trust and good communication.
What Characteristics Do You Require in a Marketing Agency?
A marketing agency needs to have the right expertise, skills and equipment to meet your organization’s defined goals. When you define which of these characteristics or attributes the agency you choose must possess requires asking questions like:
- Does the agency have knowledge of the latest martech solutions?
- Do they do SEO?
- Are they more focused on brand awareness or lead generation?
- Can they help with creative ideas and strategies?
- Is content creation a high priority?
- Are they focused only on digital marketing?
These characteristics go back to the SMART goals you defined earlier. You need to be specific about how you attain your goals. If you want to improve your organic SEO ranking, you shouldn’t hire an agency that only does PPC. Every agency is different, so make sure you’re equipped with the knowledge of what are non-negotiables in terms of your strategy.
What Type of Contract Do You Want?
Hiring a marketing agency is meant to enhance your brand and increase your bottom line. Carefully defining contract terms and expectations should flow from the goals, expectations and characteristics you have in mind.
If the marketing agency is going to act as an extension of your marketing team, then you will want to seek an agency that will work on retainer. In contrast, you might choose to hire an agency on a per project basis, if the marketing agency will work more like an order taker.
Where Do You Find an Agency?
There are a number of different ways to locate a marketing agency. Establish a list of places to search, including:
- Online Searches
- Reputable Directories
- Advice from Trusted Partners
Along with establishing where you will look for a marketing agency, you also need to define what criteria to include in your request for proposal (RFP). These criteria are easy to develop from clearly defined goals, expectations, and characteristics you desire to be present in the agency you choose.
How Many Agencies Should You Interview?
“Psychologist George Miller suggests that the magic number is seven, plus or minus two. That’s how many options our mind can process at a single time, according to Miller’s landmark research from the 1950s.” – Foundr
Though this principle commonly applies to customer conversions, it contains solid advice for deciding how many agencies to interview. Where strict adherence to Miller’s advice would lead your company to interview from five to nine agencies, stick to the lower end in order to prevent decision fatigue. The following steps should be a part of the interview process:
- Must meet basic established criteria to obtain an interview
- Present clearly defined questions based on your goals and objectives
- Provide potential agency choices with clear directives
- Clearly define contract expectations
- Ask for contract options for six months, nine months and one year
The key to a successful interview is to establish a high level of clear communication. A marketing agency that communicates well is critical to achieving the goals you established for your organization. This should be a major item on your list of hiring criteria.
Choosing a marketing agency shouldn’t be a daunting task. Simplify the process by asking and answering critical questions related to the needs of your organization. These questions will establish the reasons you need an agency, the goals you hope to achieve, the expectations you have and the characteristics the right agency will possess. Following these guidelines, how to choose a marketing agency can produce the right results.Ready to discover how DemandZEN can work with your organization to make your SMART goals a reality? Reach out today.