In some ways, it has never been easier to market a business. Social media companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, provide a platform almost any business can use to reach millions of potential customers. However, getting noticed among a sea of competing messages is not as simple as pressing send on a post or a tweet. That’s where a marketing agency comes in. This guide will help you find the agency that can help you reach your marketing goals.
Marketing Agency Types
There are five broad categories of agencies to consider:
Ad agencies are responsible for producing memorable campaigns for your products and services. They plan, ideate, conceptualize and create multi-level marketing campaigns for print, television, radio and the internet. Most of these agencies either focus on small to medium-sized businesses or are multinationals that work with large corporations.
Digital Marketing Agency
A digital marketing agency focuses on internet-based campaigns. These companies may specialize in creating content, pay-per-click marketing campaigns, search engine optimization and social media ads designed to increase the online reach of clients.
Public Relations Agency
Owned media refers to web properties that your business controls that are unique to your brand, such as your website, blog and social media channels. Paid media is marketing that you pay for, such as Facebook ads. Earned media is exposure or publicity acquired by using methods other than paid advertising. It includes shares, reposts, mentions, reviews, recommendations and content aggregated on third-party sites.
Most types of marketers focus primarily on owned or paid media planning. PR agencies focus on promoting campaigns through earned media. Examples include sponsored blogging content, social media posts from influencers and native placements on publisher websites.
Creative agencies specialize in designing graphics, packaging and other media that help your brand stand out visually.
Media agencies assist businesses with determining the best platforms to advertise on and the best times to run ads. This type of marketing agency can help you decide which television or streaming programs to run ads on, when the best time to post marketing materials to your social media is, where to put up billboards and other such decisions.
What To Look for in a Marketing Agency
There are several factors to consider when choosing the best agency to represent your business:
Because marketing is so important to the success of your business, you don’t want to just pick the cheapest agency you can find; however, no business has unlimited funds, so price still matters. Familiarize yourself with the available payment options. Some services require a monthly retainer. Others may accept payment on a per-project basis. Some offer both options. A monthly retainer makes it easier to predict what your cost will be and provides more of a guarantee that the agency will be available to you when you need it. However, you are locked in with that company until the contract expires. If you would like to try before you buy, a per-project rate may be beneficial.
Look for a marketing agency that adds value to your business. If possible, avoid any that take a cookie-cutter approach to planning campaigns. Ask if they use templates or customize their strategy to fit the particular needs of your business. The best agencies strive to understand each client and craft a unique marketing approach that helps that client stand out from the rest.
Much like with price, you don’t want to just pick the agency that promises you the earliest delivery date; however, you don’t want one that is juggling too many clients and keeps putting your project off, either. Ask companies how they break down deliverables over the length of a project. Ideally, you should be able to count on specific deadlines being met for the majority of the project while still allowing some flexibility.
Experience and Reputation
Look for an agency with an established track record of producing results for clients in multiple industries. Ask for references. Look at the work the company has done for other clients. Talk to those clients to find out how happy they are with the work. Seek out online reviews and pay attention to what the reviewers say the agency did well with and what it did not. Talk to your business contacts and find out which marketing agencies they have used and what they liked and didn’t like.
An agency with experience in many different industries should have a well-rounded skill set, but it is also a good idea to ask about relevant experience in your specific industry. If the agency doesn’t have any, ask how it approaches marketing a client in a new industry. A marketer with a good plan for tackling a new industry may be preferable to one that specializes in your industry but offers every client the same approach.
To be able to assess how well a marketing campaign has performed, you need to be able to measure the results. Ask the marketing agency you are considering what tools it uses to measure results and how it defines success and failure for campaigns. What does the firm do to improve future campaigns based on past results? Which data does it analyze to determine whether campaigns are succeeding? Is it focusing on traffic or revenue?
Because digital marketing is so important to the success of all businesses, you need to make sure the agency you are considering knows how to get results on the web. Assessing the agency’s company website is a good place to start. Is it attractively designed? Is it easy to navigate? Does it link to social media accounts that have recent high-quality content? When you search for relevant keywords, does its site rank high in search results? An agency that can’t get its site to perform well may not have the SEO skills you need to succeed.
A modern marketing agency needs to be up to date on the latest website development technologies. Your website is the centerpiece of your digital marketing strategy. It must be designed, constructed and hosted effectively. Find out what kind of experience the company you are thinking about has with working with cutting-edge technologies.
How hard is it to get ahold of someone at the company when you need to? Who is available to take your call if your main point of contact is out of the office? Do the hours of operation mesh well with yours? Is it easy to find contact information on the agency website? Does it guarantee an acceptable time frame for callbacks or email responses?
Identifying the Right Marketing Agency for You
Now that you know what to look for in a marketing agency, it is time to go through the step-by-step process of choosing the service to work with:
Make a List of Your Must-Haves
Identify your pain points. Are you struggling with implementing a customer relationship management system? Is creating engaging content your top priority? Whatever it is that you most want to accomplish, the agency you choose needs to have the expertise, experience and understanding of your business to help you reach your goals.
Assess the unique circumstances of your business. How many new leads can your sales force respond to promptly? What is the market you are entering like? Are you brand-new and need an agency that can get your name out there? Are you trying to squeeze into a space occupied by many competitors or are you focusing on an underserved niche?
Set Your Budget
Before you can determine whether a marketing agency meets your pricing criteria, you must first set a budget. Start by determining the overall amount you want to spend on marketing. Then, break that down into the amount you want to spend on media, production and agency fees.
Determine Your Key Performance Indicators
KPIs are how you measure the success of your marketing campaigns. Examples include the number of new leads you want to generate in a month, the conversion rate you hope to achieve or the total sales you want to reach. Have this information ready when you meet with an agency so you can determine whether they can commit to reaching those goals. If you receive feedback that your goals are not realistic, then you may want to consider how well an company can work with you to establish achievable goals.
Assess for Cultural Fit
You will be spending a lot of time working with your chosen marketing agency, and the results it produces will be critically important to your business. The company must be a good cultural fit. Does it share your work ethic? Do you trust the marketing team? Will you be working with one main point of contact or a team of specialists? Do you like the people you will be working with? You will have a better experience if you genuinely enjoy working with the team at the agency you choose.
Make a Short List
Make a list of all the services the agency you are considering offers and match those up with your needs. Create a shortlist of companies with offerings that fit with what you want, and then narrow it down by applying the above criteria.
Choose an Agency
Select the company that seems like the best fit. Give the agency a project that is substantial enough to evaluate performance, but not so large that switching gears if it doesn’t work out is going to be a major setback.
Using your KPIs, evaluate your assessments and the assessment provided by the marketing agency to determine how well it did at meeting your expectations for the campaign. If it still seems like a good fit, consider signing on long-term. If not, you may want to try another option from your shortlist.
What To Watch Out For
Now that you know what to look for, it is helpful to also know what signs to watch out for that indicate a marketing agency is not a good fit:
The Agency Promises Instant or Unrealistic Results
Look out for agencies that claim they can immediately boost your results or that promise results that are unrealistic. A good way to gauge this is to compare what the different services you are evaluating are promising. If one company is promising you much better results, much faster than everyone else, this may be a sign you can’t trust what it is trying to sell you.
The Agency Claims Ownership of Your Intellectual Property
Any creative work that you do with a marketing agency should be considered your intellectual property. A company that isn’t willing to establish that you retain control and ownership of all of your IP after your relationship ends is probably best to avoid.
The Agency Does Not Value Research
A well-researched and executed marketing strategy is vital for a successful marketing campaign. If the agency you are considering doesn’t seem interested in putting in the work to come up with a strategy or tries to sell you on a boilerplate solution used with other clients, you may want to look elsewhere.
There Is a Lack of Transparency
If you visit the website of an agency you are considering and there is no address, no information about the people who work for it and no client list, then you should probably immediately cross it off your list. A company that seems like it may have something to hide probably does.
How Tier 11 Is the Anti-Ad Marketing Agency
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