Marketing agencies are an extension of your team. Firms work alongside you to grow your brand, supplement your internal team’s talents and alleviate projects from your to-do list to make the work day a little easier.
As such and with the financial and time costs that can be associated with changing agency partners frequently, it’s important to carefully approach choosing a marketing agency for your business or non-profit.
Full-Service vs. Specialty Agency
Is your agency candidate full-service or are they specialized in a particular niche such as graphic design or public relations?
Full-service firms offer a one-stop shop for marketing services and simplify the number of vendors to coordinate and manage. These agencies are also ideal for managing robust integrated marketing campaigns, often providing better coordination of efforts and a more unified “feel” across different mediums.
Niche agencies offer specialized services and expertise that often aren’t available from a full-service agency. These firms are typically on the cutting edge of best practices in their field and can be much more efficient in their delivery of services. Speciality firms can make great additions to your marketing team, especially if they have a track record of working well with other agencies that may be needed and if they can continue to facilitate your future needs as your business grows.
Once you’ve narrowed the scope of your agency candidates, you’ll want to ensure they have the credentials to meet your expectations. Has the agency been established for a significant period of time? Does the firm have credentials or work samples in managing the types of projects for which you’ll be retaining them? A “fly by night” shop that just opened may not offer the longevity to support your business’s needs in a long-term partnership.
Inversely, an agency or specialist with substantial experience does not always correlate with best available service. Does the agency engage in continuing education to stay current on industry trends and best practices? Choosing a website developer with decades of experience may sound great, but ensure they’re prepared to build a website that adheres to today’s best practices with ideal mobile device experiences and fast content loading.
Does your agency candidate sound like they’re selling snake oil? While a firm should be confident in their abilities, beware of firms that make unrealistic promises. In the SEO space, I’m immediately concerned when someone promises to have your website “ranking #1 on Google”, especially without the research to gauge keywords’ competitiveness and the disclaimer that SEO efforts often take months to earn significant ranking improvements.
The best agency partners offer realistic goals, provide transparency and have the type of long-standing client relationships that just aren’t possible with a “quick sell” mentality.
The Vibe Check
Sometimes it just comes down to the “vibe” check. Does the agency you’re considering match the values, culture and pace of your business? For example, if responsiveness and strict adherence to timelines is critical to your business, make sure you select a firm that can match those expectations. If your business caters to executive-level professionals, ensure the agency can create messaging and visuals that speak well to that audience.
Beware of agencies that spend more time talking about themselves than your business’s needs. Clearly, firms will want to express the qualifications that enable them to help you, but the discussion should revolve around your needs and include intelligent questions that indicate they made an attempt to learn more about your business before the meeting takes place.