The other week I was in a mentoring meeting with my local SCORE chapter giving advice to startups on marketing planning and setting up marketing operations. In walks a startup web design company. I was excited because I have been wanting to make a strategic partnership with a good local development firm.
As I read the pre-meeting notes and start to formulate some questions about their business and write down some ideas on how they can possibly grow their business. I was there at one time, so I thought I would have some great advice.
As they walk in I smell smoke and I see Rico Suave walk in. His shirt is unbuttoned, no undershirt and the only thing missing was his gold chain. He jumps into his sales pitch. Remember, SCORE was designed to give free small business advice, not practice your sales pitch.
I ask a couple of typical questions about digital marketing because I have concerns about the service they are providing. What platform are you using (WordPress, Drupal, SquareSpace, etc)? Do you give your clients a portal for a blog (because blogging for business is extremely important)? Do you help identify keywords that will actually get your clients found?
I want to ensure that these guys can help, not hurt small businesses.
“We have a very targeted market, we only provide 2 packages of web design. The Silver package and the Gold package.” So, I take it the answer to all of the above was no, they do the minimum to get you online. My problem is simple, it takes more than just “being online” these days.
So this leads to the question, “Should I hire a small business marketing agency to help my company grow?”
Why Hire A Small Business Marketing Agency?
Okay, I get it. You are a small business and budget is super tight. That might be why you are considering purchasing a marketing package from the jokers above. It might also be the reason that you are doing the marketing yourself and not with a skilled marketing team. But is this actually going to hurt your business? Let us look at a couple reasons you should, at least, consider a small business marketing agency.
They Are The Expert
You are the expert in your business, a small business marketing agency is the expert in driving leads and increasing your revenue, a marketing guru if you will. Not all marketing tactics are created equal and a small business marketing agency will help identify the right marketing tactics for your business. You have a great product that adds tons of value to your target market, let the experts handle your messaging.
Let You Work On Your Business
Do you ever feel as if there is not enough time in the day? Did that hit a little too close to home? You know how hard it is to start and maintain a business. I do not have to remind you about that. Hiring a small business marketing agency allows you to focus on the things you do best; running your business, helping customers, innovating new products, the list goes on. Get back to the things you do the best. Running your business.
Able To Measure Results
Marketing Without Data Is Like Driving With Your Eyes Closed – Dan Zarrella
Imagine spending $1,500 on a direct mail campaign and not knowing if it drove any revenue into the business. Did you hit your return on investment requirement? Who knows. If your small business marketing agency does not including tracking and measuring your results, then it is time to find a new agency. In fact, your agency should be using free tools like Google Analytics to improve your social media marketing. It is simple, your marketing agency wants to keep your business, they will show you their value. Let data run your marketing campaigns.
Invest In Your Business
It surprises me how many businesses do not see marketing as an investment into their future. I am going to be 100% transparent here, marketing takes the time to see results. Do you know what else takes the time to see results? Wealth. So if you think that you are going to build your business without investing in it, you are mistaken. Marketing is an investment in your future and your business.
They Are A Marketing Team, Not A Jack-Of-All-Trades
Marketing continues to become more and more complicated. In order to truly be successful and handle the daily needs of the business, your company needs more than one person focused on marketing. Marketing takes expertise in software applications, graphic design, copywriting, SEO, social media, and the list goes on. A marketing agency will give you the marketing team your company needs to be successful.
How To Pick A Small Business Marketing Agency
Alright, you are still reading this article. You must be convinced that you need to hire a small business marketing agency. You are ready to start looking for the right agency to represent your company. There are some things you should be looking for in your small business marketing agency.
I am going to shy away from the norm on this one. You are probably thinking that you need to find a marketing agency that has been in business 15 years. Yes, that does help, but we all had to start with that first client, that first company that took a chance. You were there at one point.
I am talking about industry knowledge. Do they really know marketing? Do they understand the basics? Let’s face it, there are marketing agencies out there that would not know what market segmentation is if it hit them in the head.
Research the owners of the agency and get to know their background. Did they, at least, work in marketing before they started their agency, do they have a degree in business or marketing, do they know what they are doing? Experience goes a long way, you can not pick up one paperback book and call yourself an expert.
Have you ever hired an employee that just does not get what you are trying to accomplish, they do not fit? Mabe that is why you started your business, you just did not fit in your last corporate job.
A small business marketing agency is an extension of your business. It is very similar to hiring a new employee. Ask yourself, “can I work with these guys or gals? Do they get what we are trying to do?” You have worked hard to build the vision of your company, make sure that your agency gets it. If your agency does not fit within your culture it could hurt your overall business and put you behind the 8 ball.
One word of advice while you look for a new agency. Remember why you are hiring them. They are the expert in their field, take their advice and do not micromanage what they are doing, let the results speak for themselves.
Practice What They Preach
I am not trying to pick on marketing agencies out there, but I have come across many agencies that say you need to do one thing and do another. For example, I was talking to an inbound marketing agency a while back. We were talking about blogging to generate more leads. When I got home I checked out their site. They had one blog post written nearly 3 months ago.
The point that I am trying to make here is that if they say it is important, they should be doing it to grow their business. Practice what you preach. If you want me to believe you are the expert in your area, you should be doing that tactic.
Now I get it, things come up, people get busy. I do not blog as much as I would like for my business, but I still do it. I believe it is important, so I make time. If they are unwilling to invest the time doing something, they probably do not believe in the services they are trying to provide. I would never tell my clients to blog if I did not do it myself.
Rely On Data & Analytics
I have a theory about small business marketing agencies that do not rely on data and analytics. They do not know what they are doing.
As you talk to a marketing agency, if they do not bring up data at some point, run for the hills. How do you really know they are doing what they say they can do for your business? I know we hit this point before but measuring results is critical to the business.
Ask for sample reports and get to know what your KPI’s (key performance indicators) are before you start with an agency. How do you know the campaigns your agency is putting together are working?
They Are Not A Drive Through
Have you ever heard of the contractor that starts work, takes a bunch of money, and never shows up to do the work? I am sure you have heard these stories on the news. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some small business marketing agencies out there that do the same thing.
If your marketing agency takes your order and walks away, it might be an indicator of things to come. Every new client should get at least 2-3 hours of meeting time, face to face or by phone or Skype, in order to get to know the company they are working for.
Marketing services are not like a McDonalds. Marketing is not a one size fits all. If you find an order taker, they really do not know what they are doing. Your small business marketing agency should be able to drive the conversation and strategy. They are the experts, right?
“I can get you to rank #1 in Google for the term XYZ. Guaranteed,” said no reputable marketing agency ever. There is a lot that goes into every campaign and no marketing agency can predict what Google and your competition are going to do. Let’s face it, there are no guarantees that anything will work.
Now, can a marketing agency guarantee that they will work hard for you, they will keep you up to date, and will help you execute a plan? Sure. But as you know, no plan is set in stone and no plan guarantees success.
If you find a slimeball that guarantees that they are going to get you to the top of Google, please tell them to return to the used car lot. They give us all a bad reputation. Marketing is about results, not sales tricks and tactics.
Have A Real Person Answer The Phone
Okay, this one is a little personal. While in the corporate world I took over an account that had a marketing agency in place. If I needed anything I had to fill out a form on their website to get the request started. I could never get my account manager on the phone to discuss my needs. It was as if they had a robot taking my request, interpreting the request, and executing (sometimes) on my request.
Every small business marketing agency that is worth anything will assign an account rep to you and your business. From the small boutique shop, it could be the owner, to the large agency that assigns an employee to your account, you should have a person and a phone number to call.
Ask to meet your account representative before you sign anything. You might get along great with sales (they are taking you to dinner and giving your free stuff), but your account rep might not fit your culture.
Provide Scheduled Status Meetings
How often do you meet with your small business marketing agency? Never? That does not sound right. You should have scheduled status meetings to ensure things are going smoothly on both ends.
These meetings should be a two-way conversation. Your agency should be able to tell you what is going on, how your campaign is tracking, and what is driving results.
On the flip side, you should be able to tell your agency what is coming up and give a heads up on needs you might have in the coming months. This will help avoid last minute changes and surprises.
The meeting can be as short 30 minutes once things are moving but should be longer as your company gets all set up.
You get what you pay for. The main problem that I have with these marketing agencies that push services based on the low price is they are really not providing any value to their clients. Let’s face it, no two businesses are the same, you need a holistic marketing approach. Your business deserves more than just the standard “package”.
When your business finally grows to the point that you need a better solution it is going to be hard to work with the standard package you purchased because Rico Suave sold you a piece of garbage.
So the question becomes, is your small business ready to hire an agency to run your marketing? Just make sure you do your research and find the right agency for your business.