Marketing agency: What to know when finding one.

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Hiring a marketing agency lets you focus on your business’ strengths or clear out your overdue ‘to do’ list. Outsourcing can help your team lighten the load or pitch in where they don’t have the expertise. Often, it allows you to focus in on the work that only you and your team can complete, with less distractions.

If you’re looking for a new agency or to changeup an existing relationship, here’s what you need to know about looking for a new marketing agency.

What type of marketing agencies are there?

Marketing agencies provide a range of services. These depend on who you decide to work with, and may include:

• SEO Strategy and Management:

Developing strategies to reach those looking for the products and services you offer. This is so Google or other search engines can find your business.

• Content Strategy and Creation:

Writing (copy), designing graphics, videos and photography, infographics and other communication pieces. These items can help bolster your SEO, close sales, and attract people to your services or products.

• Traditional and Digital Advertising:

Creating and running your ads and commercials in channels such as TV, Radio, Display, Social Media and more. This helps get your name in front of customers who may not know who you are.

• Website Design and Development, Social Media:

Creating a digital presence to help your business gain credibility and make sales. These can be custom built websites, or on a CMS platform like WordPress, Squarespace, Webflow and others.

• Social media:

Marketing agencies can help you create a content calendar, build the posts and then serve them up on your social platform of choice. In addition to organic posts, some agencies will also perform community management functions for you, where they will respond to reviews, customer inquiries, and any discussions as they engage your target market.

• Marketing Automation:

Building communications that are sent automatically based on how your customers engage with your business. These companies are often experts in CRM tools to reduce the amount of work on your team, while using data to target the customers you want and generating repeat business.

There are other services available as well, and some agencies will be full-service while others will be highly specialized. But what’s most important here is to choose an agency that offers services that ladder up to your business goals and people that share similar values as your business and team. It can ensure every dollar you spend towards marketing is well spent.

How do marketing agencies charge?

One common misconception of working with an agency is that you’ll be locked into a long term contract. Depending on the size of your business, these may become too expensive or complex to manage. That doesn’t have to be the case. There are many options to consider in payment structures. Here’s a look at a few:

• Retainer.

A marketing agency can be paid with a specified amount each month, for various services. The benefit of a retainer is not requiring an estimate for every project, and can help when you have ongoing marketing needs that can differ. It adds some stability as you know you have a team you can rely on, and you can have a consistent monthly cost. In many cases, there may be a 1 year contract term for a retainer, but it can also be month to month.

• Project-Based.

A project-based fee may be ideal for companies starting out. It may be good for those who need a specific type of service. It enables you to pay a fee per project. The fees range based on the scope of the project. This can be found for marketing work where there is an end, such as Branding and Logo Design, Website design and development, sales brochures, etc.

• Hourly.

It is possible to hire a marketing agency or consultant to work hourly for your company. This can be done for longer term projects that your team can’t oversee, or items where you need someone specialized to come in for a length of time or even at different intervals. Fractional CMOs are becoming more popular, as some companies need marketing direction, but not at the cost of a full-time employee.

• Bonus terms.

In some cases, a contract includes bonus terms. There is a flat rate paid for the described services, and you could add a bonus incentive to tie the work to your results. A bonus tied to new customer targets is an example.

• Custom terms.

There can be other ways of working with an agency, such as ‘contra’ where services are exchanged or pricing is reduced for the product or service your business offers. You could also look at negotiating some shares in your company for marketing advisory services. Or even mixing and matching some of the payment terms above with what you need.

Whatever method you choose, ensure there is a contract in place that clearly outlines the terms, and you have a solid understanding of what happens if that contract is ended. And don’t be scared to negotiate.

On-site, off-site, or both?

What does it mean to be off-site? In many cases, the marketing agency will connect with you to uncover goals, measures of success, and requirements of what you need. They then take care of these services at their own location.

It is also possible to have a relationship where a or multiple team members work out of your location for certain days of the week or month. Having an inhouse or on site agency can be beneficial when you need them to have a deep understanding of your business, work with your customer data, or turn around projects quickly.

How to Work Best With A Marketing Agency

Your business’ success should be what the marketing agency is focused on. When sourcing a marketing agency, ensure you meet with more than one to interview them. This will give you an idea of how each one may operate differently from another, and it will also let you find out which one will work best with your approach.

Besides pricing and contract cancellation, questions you should be sure to ask them include:

• What Are Your Processes?

You need to ensure you’re good with how they operate and function. You’ll want an agency that can articulate how the work is completed with briefs (where agencies capture all the details from you), revisions (how often you get to see it and make changes), and deliverables (what pieces of work are handed over to you).

• Can You Share A Portfolio For the Same Line Of Work?

You will want to see that they have done this work elsewhere, even if it’s for a different industry. Ask detailed questions of what were some of the roadblocks, how did they overcome it, what was the original timeline versus the completed on, and what were the outcomes compared to the original brief. Also ensure you hear about their success stories and their pleasant surprises along the way.

• Who Owns The Work Once It’s Delivered?

It may sound funny, but with different pieces of marketing, you may not always own the work. Photography has different licensing agreements. You may unknowingly have an agency build your website, but you didn’t ask for all the hosting and domain to be placed in your company’s name. Identify these pieces up front so there are no surprises down the road.

• What Happens If They Aren’t The Right Fit During The Project?

It’s not always easy to ask, but you want to be sure that you and the agency are treated fairly at the end of the day. Some agencies may offer offboarding training as part of their services. Some may require billing up until the cancellation notice. Some may require a certain amount of notice. Be sure you’re clear on all the terms.

• What Do They Need From You To Make This A Successful Relationship?

As you’re interviewing agencies, this can help you prepare for when you’re ready to sign. Onboarding can take some time, so being organized with any brand guides, logo files, user admin rights, etc can help move onboarding faster. It’s also an opportunity for the agency to tell you what relationships have really worked for them, to see if your communication and approaches are aligned.

Working with a marketing agency can be the way to help scale your business without having to hire every type of marketer. The agency model lets you offload work your team may not have time or the skillset to do, while pushing your business ahead. Many businesses as they grow have multiple agencies they work with, so it’s not an uncommon practice.

So to set yourself up for success, be sure you know what your business goals are, what outcomes you’re looking for, and then line up some interviews with marketing agencies. Within a few interviews, you’ll have a good idea of who can help you the most.

Sensible Marketer Inc is a marketing agency specialized in helping services-based businesses. Whether you’re a startup, small or medium business, or part of an enterprise company, we offer traditional and digital marketing services to help your grow your customer base. Contact us for a FREE consult.

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