There are many marketing firms for hire however; hiring a marketing agency should not be taken lightly. The right agency can help find new customers by boosting your brand awareness and generating new leads. On the other hand, selecting the wrong team could end up being a big waste of money and resources.
In-house or Outsource?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to marketing – doing everything in-house or outsource to an agency. It is not an all or nothing proposition however having been on both sides of the fence, I believe that hiring an agency is a necessity in today’s market. Here are four reasons why.
- An agency provides external perspective. Most in-house teams are focused on the day-to-day tactics and it is easy to lose sight of the broader picture. You begin to drink your own Kool-Aid especially if executive leadership is strong and adept at inspiring employees. An agency will provide an external perspective and keep things real in context of what is actually happening in the market.
- The fast-paced digital world is rapidly evolving. In house teams do not have the bandwidth to keep up with new emerging technologies or new developments in the digital world.
- Unless you work for a huge company with seemingly unlimited budgets, your team will need diversified skill sets at different times. For example, you may need a go-to-market strategist during a product launch or new writers to breathe fresh air into the brand.
- Successful marketing is programmatic, not sporadic. An agency provides predictability and programmatic marketing – even for the “boring” stuff. For example, a PR team will ensure you have a regular newsbeat, track deadlines for awards submissions, and follow editorial calendars.
What makes one agency stand out from the rest?
The agency that invests the time to understand your business. Not only your specific business objectives but also how you fit into the greater market.
Here are ten questions to ask when hiring an agency..
- Do you handle both strategy and execution? There are many firms out there ranging from specialists such as social media specialists or branding firms, to agencies that integrate disparate programs into a cohesive strategy. Most firms are able to execute campaigns however not all are able to develop a competitive strategy. The right choice will depend on your goals the level involvement that you want in the processes.
- Do you understand industry trends? - A good agency is able spot trends and quickly understand how they impact your business. Acting as your external eyes and ears, agencies that excel monitor what is happening in your market. The team is regularly talking to your customers, partners, and subject matter experts and are able to spin your story in context of emerging trends, so that your marketing and earned media is continually relevant.
- How quickly can you pivot? Look for an agency that has a talent pool that can pivot quickly. Markets are not stagnant and sometimes you need to pivot quickly to capitalize on an opportunity.
- What percentage of your business is retainer versus project-based fees? Be prepared to pay a retainer because project work does not garner long-term results. Ask the agency what percentage of their work is project-based versus retainer based. Also, ask how long they have had their clients. Most agencies will take on projects however agencies that have a continuing relationships over a long period of time show that they get results and have excellent client relationship skills. Project work tends to be more process oriented, not necessarily knowledge-based. You want the agency that “gets it”.
- What types of data tools do you use? Ask the agency to talk about their data tools and methodologies. Agencies that are used to spotting trends use a number of tools and are expert at conducting market research.
- Do you have experience across multiple industries or is your focus on a single industry? Agencies that have experience is many market segments can recognize signals that may have implications or similarities in other industries. Sometimes specialists that only work in one market are too narrowly focused or too busy with operational tasks to quickly see the broader implication of market changes.
- Do you have experience conducting and analyzing surveys? With services like Survey Monkey, it is easy to conduct online surveys. The challenge comes in developing the survey and interpreting the data. Look for an agency that can think outside the box an interpret data in different ways.
- Do you have experience developing integrated programs? Many firms run PR and content programs in siloes. Combining PR with content marketing is a winning combination. Agencies that can leverage the work from one program to another get better results and better ROI from content investments.
- How often do you report metrics? Keeping track of results is very important from a small campaign to content ROI. Ask them how they measure and communicate the results of their programs.
- Is your pricing transparent? Prices from one agency to another can vary greatly. Make sure their pricing is transparent and that you understand what you are getting from your budget each month.